Expo to be included with presentations and public comments
With further suggestions from Sarasota County commissioners this week, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis said he believed 90 days would be a reasonable time frame within which staff could plan a water quality summit for the public.
Chair Charles Hines asked that Lewis provide updates to the board members during their next two sets of meetings, so they can help staff refine plans for the event.
“We’ll provide regular updates as we go,” Lewis responded on Feb. 13.
During the commission’s regular meeting on Jan. 29, Commissioner Christian Ziegler had proposed such an event, in light of a symposium being held in Charlotte County that day.
“This is not something that we need to rush,” Zielger pointed out on Feb. 13, concurring with Lewis. “Ninety days is probably a good time frame.”
Both Ziegler and Hines suggested that staff secure a facility that could accommodate between 500 and 700 attendees in Sarasota County.
Ziegler also proposed that, along with a variety of presentations on the program, nonprofit groups be allowed to set up information tables in an expo-type format. That would enable representatives of those organizations to explain what the nonprofits do and have the opportunity to recruit new volunteers.
He envisioned members of the public walking through the expo area, he continued, and stopping at the various tables.
Additionally, holding the summit after the 2019 legislative session ends will enable the members of the county’s delegation to attend the event, Ziegler pointed out, so they can report individually on actions they took that were related to water quality. “And, hopefully, we’ll have funding and some projects that we’ve secured,” he added, to highlight from the session.
The Legislature is scheduled to convene on March 5 and conclude its business on May 3.
“The key is that the public is able to address us, too,” Ziegler said of the summit.
Commissioner Nancy Detert suggested that Lewis work with staff members to follow a format similar to a program held last summer at Mote Marine Laboratory on City Island in Sarasota. Along with three scientists on Mote’s staff, she noted, the session included a representative from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) and now state Sen. Joe Gruters of Sarasota. She added that representatives from the University of South Florida should be on the invitation list, too, for the presentations.
Detert emphasized her desire for a wealth of “hardcore information” to be made available to the attendees of the Sarasota County water quality summit. “The more information that the public has, the better off we all are, frankly.”
After the commissioners heard from the general public at the summit, she said, “We would have next year’s action plan [for the Florida Legislature session].”
Hines also suggested representatives be included from the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program and the Charlotte Harbor National Estuary Program, as well as from the Governor’s Office.
“Make it clear,” Ziegler told Lewis, that the commission is the host of the water quality summit.
When Ziegler asked whether county staff ever had hosted this type of event, Lewis responded that the closest analogy with which he was familiar were the conferences on sustainability conducted by county staff with the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension and Sustainability Department.
In November 2018, UF/IFAS hosted the county’s 13th Annual Sustainable Communities Workshop at the Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida Event and Conference Center on Cattlemen Road.
“I do believe that would be a model [for the summit Ziegler proposed],” Lewis added on Feb. 13, noting the “standing room only” level of participation at the conference.
“That took some time to put together,” he also noted.
Along with presentations, the event featured exhibits, he said.
After the Feb. 13 discussion, Hines told Lewis, “You have the consensus [of the board members], I think [on how to plan the summit].”