Siesta Seen

Contractor repairs damaged irrigation lines; Siesta Village maintenance ordinance gets a tweak; boat crash occurs in Big Pass; Cosentino apparently has ceased public remarks to the County Commission; Gaddie wins seat on county advisory committee; Condo Council speaker flooded with questions; and Terrace East representatives praise a county employee

Editor’s note: This article was updated just after 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 8 to remove two links in Siesta Seen that apparently no longer work; they were in the section about the Condominium Council meeting.

Traffic cones mark the vicinity where the cable installation began in Siesta Village in early November. Photo courtesy of Lisa Cece

A contractor based in Seffner — outside Tampa — sent a crew to Siesta Village this week to repair irrigation lines that were damaged as a result of the installation of fiber optic cable for MCI cell phone coverage, The Sarasota News Leader learned on Dec. 6.

Lisa Cece, the special district coordinator for Sarasota County who oversees Village maintenance issues, told the News Leader that the Vasi & Associates employees had taken care of the work, as she had been promised.

“I hope the damaged, smashed plants will respond and recover,” Cece added, now that regular watering can begin again.

In mid-November, the MCI project also resulted in broken wastewater and stormwater lines serving the Terrace East condominium complex on the southern end of the Village. Final repairs to the driveway and sidewalk have not been completed, Cece added, though she was hopeful that work would get underway soon.

“It’s coming together,” Cece summed up the effort to restore everything in the Village to its appearance before the cable installation began.

Speaking of Village maintenance …

While the News Leader had Cece on the phone this week, it took the opportunity to ask about a Sarasota County Consent Agenda item that the County Commission unanimously approved on Nov. 28.

A county program revived in 2015 paid for the beautification of Siesta Village. File photo

A memo provided to the board in advance of that meeting pointed out that on Feb. 21, 2012, the County Commission amended the ordinance governing oversight of Village maintenance “to reflect changes regarding procurement of maintenance contracts, determination of tax levy [and] cost sharing between the County and the SKVMC [Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp.] … relating to distribution of maintenance.” Then, on Sept. 25, 2012, the commission further amended the ordinance to reflect how payments related to Village upkeep would be handled, the memo continued.

The September 2012 amendment specified that invoices for services in the Village, with appropriate documentation, would be submitted to the county. Then, upon county approval of those invoices, the county would pay the third-party vendors for their work.

Cece reminded the News Leader that in 2012, the Maintenance Corp. asked for the amendment to the ordinance to ensure that county staff would procure all goods and services needed for Village upkeep, so the Maintenance Corp. would not have to handle any of the funds that are raised by a special assessment of Village property owners. The proceeds from the assessments make up the annual budget that pays for the upkeep.

Mark Smith. File photo

For some reason, Cece told the News Leader, the changes the group requested never were made to the ordinance. Therefore, Cece had worked to get that formality taken care of on Nov. 28. She called the process a matter of “cleaning house a little bit.”

Mark Smith of Smith Architects, chair of the Maintenance Corp., told the News Leader concurred in a separate telephone interview that the procurement process would not be changing as a result of the Nov. 28 commission vote. It is “the same thing we’ve been doing.”

He had to sign a document on behalf of the Maintenance Corp., in conjunction with the Nov. 28 board action, he added.

“We’re hopeful that [the Village] will continue to look good,” Smith said. Siesta resident Michael Shay, who manages the Maintenance Corp., and Cece “continue to do a wonderful job.”

Boating incident reported in Big Pass

Last week, “eagle eye” resident Michael Shay reported to the News Leader that he saw emergency vessels in Big Sarasota Pass on the night of Nov. 26. He later learned that a 911 call was logged at 7:33 p.m. that day, and it referenced the sandbar in Big Pass.

It took several days for the News Leader to track down all the available information, leading finally to a statement on Dec. 1 from staff of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

A boat makes its way through Big Pass. File photo

In the Dec. 1 email, Melody Kilborn, public information coordinator for FWC’s Southwest Region Office, wrote that she had just spoken with the investigating officer late that afternoon. “The information that I have at this time,” she continued, “is that FWC received the call at approximately 7:48 p.m. [on Nov. 26] from the United States Coast Guard (USCG) [regarding] a single boat accident in Sarasota.”

She added, “The vessel struck a seawall and came to rest on a nearby pile of rock. There were 4 adults on board at the time of the incident, one female and three males.” Of the four, she noted, three were transported to the hospital, and two of the three sustained injuries.

“Both of the injured parties are in stable condition,” she wrote. “[T]his is still an active and ongoing investigation and as soon as our officers have completed their thorough investigation, a report will be completed,” she noted.

On Nov. 27, the News Leader had contacted Ashley Lusby, the media relations officer for Sarasota County’s Emergency Services Department, to learn what she could report about the incident. She responded that the Fire Department transported two patients to the hospital. One was a 30-year-old male; the other, a 49-year-old male, she wrote in an email.

The News Leader also contacted the Sheriff’s Office on Nov. 27, to ask whether its staff could provide any details. Mycah A. Schafer, media relations specialist, wrote in an email that two calls were made for help — one to the City of Sarasota and one to the county. The Sheriff’s Office did assist with the response to the incident, she added, “but essentially the call was in the city limits and FWC took over the investigation.”

Kilborn explained to the News Leader that the FWC has jurisdiction when boating accidents occur.

No more comments to the County Commission?

Mike Consentino addresses the County Commission on Jan. 25. File photo

For more than a year after the Sarasota County Commission voted to vacate a segment of North Beach Road, Siesta resident Michael Cosentino was a fixture at Sarasota County Commission meetings, chastising board members during the Open to the Public agenda item. Sometimes, he offered comments twice in one day.

Yet, Cosentino ceased those appearances after the board’s final meeting in August.

That day — Aug. 30 — Commissioner Charles Hines said he believed one of the county’s administrative rules regarding public comments allows the board to limit remarks by the same speaker if those remarks proved repetitive over a period of time. Hines continued, “There are a few speakers that continue to come to Open to the Public and ask the exact same thing over and over and over.”

As he understood it, Hines added, all any member of the public has to do to get the board to address a particular issue is win the agreement of one commissioner to place the discussion item on an agenda.

During his public comments, which started in July 2016, Cosentino consistently asked the commissioners to revisit their 4-1 decision to vacate that 357-foot-long segment of North Beach Road.

“The state Legislature has greatly restricted what we can do [in limiting public remarks],” Hines pointed out on Aug. 30, “and this commission has always been open to allowing the public to speak …” However, when the same questions are asked “meeting after meeting after meeting,” he said he wondered whether County Attorney Stephen DeMarsh could research exactly what latitude the board has in regard to dealing with redundancy.

As she had the previous day, Commissioner Nancy Detert — who was elected to the board in November 2016 — repeated her request for a copy of the county’s rules regarding its Open to the Public policy.

“I voted for freedom of speech, frankly, as a [state] senator and representative,” Detert told her colleagues. “We had counties that were shutting off public input because the meetings went for five to six hours.”

Yet, the Sarasota County Commission provides everyone who wishes to address the board a minimum of 3 minutes to do so during Open to the Public, she noted, and some of the board’s meetings do run long.

Commissioner Nancy Detert. File photo

“We are the employees of the public, but we don’t abuse our employees,” she said. “When you get to the point where people are going to scream at you or use bad language, there’s gotta be a line somewhere that we don’t have to sit through that.”

In an Oct. 24 memo to the board, DeMarsh wrote that after researching Open to the Public provisions, “we are aware of nothing in the United States or Florida Constitutions that requires the Board to conduct Open to the Public at all.”

He continued, “Although the Board has held Open to the Public as part of its agenda for many years, the only requirement to allow public comment outside of public hearings comes from the 2013 legislation that created Section 286.0114 [of the] Florida Statutes. That statute requires the Board to afford the public ‘reasonable opportunity to be heard’ on any proposition coming before the Board, with some exceptions.”

DeMarsh added, “The Board satisfies this requirement by allowing the public to comment on non-hearing agenda items during Open to the Public at the beginning of the meeting, and by asking for comment on propositions that are not on the agenda as they come up during the meeting.”

The News Leader inquired of county staff whether the Office of the County Attorney had provided any type of memorandum to the board that specifically addressed the redundancy issue. The only document staff provided the News Leader in response to that question was a copy of the Oct. 24 memo.

Gaddie wins seat on county advisory committee

Regular readers will recall that Siesta resident Cheryl Gaddie, who is well known in the region for the work of her firm, CG Interior Design, served for a period of time as president of the Siesta Key Village Association before it was absorbed into the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce at the end of 2016.

What they may not know about Gaddie is that she is a dedicated bicyclist.

The county’s website offers these details about the committee’s work and make-up. Image courtesy Sarasota County
Cheryl Gaddie. 2013 News Leader file photo

On Nov. 28, Gaddie was among five people who won unanimous County Commission approval as new members of the county’s Bicycle/Pedestrian/Trail Advisory Committee.

Her term and those of two other people will run through November 2019, according to a memo provided to the board. The others were appointed through November 2020. The reason for the shorter period of service for the three was to “maintain term staggering as required by the governing resolution,” Patrick Lui, the county’s bicycle pedestrian coordinator, noted in the memo. “The applicants are aware of the reduced appointment length,” he added.

In her application, Gaddie wrote, “Strong interest in biking for transportation” in response to the question, “Why do you want to serve on this Advisory Council?”

Gaddie previously served on the board, she noted.

Condo Council speaker bombarded with questions

Image courtesy Condo Council

The guest speaker for the Nov. 14 meeting of the Siesta Key Condominium Council proved quite popular, it appears from the minutes of that meeting.

Jeffrey Bajza, president of Ameriflood Insurance, addressed a variety of issues relating to condominium ownership.

For example, the minutes say, he reminded the members that condos are required by state statute to get a replacement value appraisal every three years. The initiative should produce one figure related to flooding and another regarding hazards, he said. Responsibilities of the association and owners differ, he pointed out. For example, electrical fixtures, appliances, water heaters and cabinetry are among the association’s responsibility in the event of flooding, but they are the owners’ responsibility in the event of a hazard. He distributed two handouts showing the details.

The Terrace is among numerous condominium complexes on Siesta Key. File photo

The NFIP (National Flood Insurance Program) provides a maximum of $250,000 per unit, Bajza said. Additionally, it will cover just the cost of bringing a unit back to the level at which it was originally constructed, he explained.

Owners who have flood insurance through the NFIP might want to purchase private flood insurance, using a $250,00 deductible, he noted.

From that point on, the minutes said, “there were so many questions that Jeff mainly departed from his presentation,” devoting the rest of his time to a question-and-answer session. Some highlights of those exchanges, follow:

  • If a unit has less than $250,000 in damage, the difference cannot be applied to owner improvements.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) oversees the NFIP. The NFIP was $25 billion in debt before Hurricanes Harvey and Irma struck during the summer.
  • Damage from wind-driven rain is not covered by a flood insurance policy. It will be covered by a hazard policy if wind damage is part of that policy. Irma’s primary damage resulted from wind-driven rain. Flooding is characterized as “rising water.” The unit has to “get wet” from rising water to qualify for a claim. Damage to the unit from another source of water is not an event for which a flood claim can be filed.
  • Hurricane insurance is part of the wind policy; it affects the deductible, usually in the 3% to 5% range.
  • If a unit on the first floor endures more than $250,000 in damage, the excess may not be covered by the master flood policy of a complex, even if the upper floor units are unaffected. The association or owners may want to consider buying excess flood insurance.
  • Mortgagors may require a complex association to purchase a policy providing coverage of $250,000 per unit or 100% of replacement cost, whichever is less, if the complex is located in certain flood zones.
  • Impact glass and age/condition/design of the roof are important determinants of the insurance premium rating. To get credit for impact glass, every unit in the structure must have it installed.
  • Flood-proofing ground-floor machinery (such as elevators and electrical systems) may earn insurance premium credits.
  • Having an elevation certificate may help older complexes get better rates.
  • Condos in the “V” zone should try to get re-classified to the “A” zone. This may result in a big reduction in premiums. The “V zone” is defined as “a coastal high hazard area that has a 1% annual chance of substantial flooding along with storm induced waves. The “A” zone is defined as “a special flood hazard that has a 1% annual chance of substantial flooding.”
  • Owner excess flood policies may not be necessary for upper floor units unless a catastrophic collapse is feared.
  • Purchase of private market flood insurance policies is on the rise nationwide; both condo associations and unit owners planning to purchase such insurance should consider getting a quote in the private market, as that market may offer better coverage at a better premium.

“INSURANCE IS A VERY COMPLEX MATTER. YOU SHOULD NOT RELY ON ANY OF THE ABOVE HIGHLIGHTS WITHOUT DISCUSSING THEM WITH YOUR INSURANCE CARRIER,” the minutes stressed.

The next Condo Council meeting will be held on Jan. 23, 2018. Typically, that session includes a presentation by the county commissioner representing Siesta Key, and it focuses on updates regarding county issues of interest to island residents.

Last year, Commissioner Alan Maio heard a slew of questions about controversial projects, including an effort to build a new hotel on the Key.

Plaudits for Cece

Lisa Cece. File photo

In late November, Peter van Roekens, secretary of the Terrace East Condominium Association, sent Matt Osterhoudt, director of the county’s Planning and Development Services Department, a note of appreciation for the hard work that Lisa Cece, special district coordinator for the county, undertakes to keep Siesta Village looking its tiptop best.

The letter’s dissemination followed Cece’s efforts to oversee a quick response to damage at Terrace East as a result of the MCI fiber optic cable installation project.

The main part of Van Roekens’ email was a commendation from Doug Lambert, manager of Terrace East. Lambert wrote the following:

“Lisa has been a huge help to me through the years whenever the need arises, whether it’s about illegal parking, downed trees, etc. Recently, with the break of the sewer line, and the storm water line directly in front of our building, Lisa has been a godsend as far as communication as to what happened, and the county’s plan, timing wise, on rectifying the problem. I’m confident, with Lisa behind us, that our sidewalk and parking lot, both affected during the break, will be in as good [as] or better shape than before the incident occurred.

“County workers are rarely acknowledged for their efforts, but Lisa continues to go above and beyond for not only us at Terrace East, but for everyone she comes in contact with through her position with the county. Please pass this on to her supervisors. She deserves praise for her continued efforts.”

Van Roekens also sent the email to County Commissioner Alan Maio and incoming Interim County Administrator Jonathan Lewis.

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