News Briefs for Sept. 7

Access 5 parking lot to be closed Sept. 10

Beach Access 5 is at the south end of Siesta Village. Photo by Norman Schimmel

The Siesta Beach Access 5 parking lot, at the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Beach Road will be closed from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10, during construction at The Terrace condominium complex, 5400 Ocean Blvd., Sarasota County has announced.

Users of Access 5 are reminded that the Access 7 parking lot is located a short distance south of Access 5, at Beach Road and Calle de Siesta.

Access 7’s parking lot will be open as usual a county news release says.

Signs about the temporary closure at Access 5 will be posted on Friday, Sept. 7, the news release notes.

Siesta Village crosswalk lighting specs not put out for bid just yet

Erroneous information has been disseminated regarding the status of Sarasota County’s efforts to provide better illumination for crosswalks in Siesta Village, The Sarasota News Leader learned this week.

Mark Smith, chairman of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, announced during the Sept. 4 Siesta Key Village Association meeting that the crosswalk lighting project had been put out for bid.

That was the word he had received, Smith said, from Peter van Roekens, vice president of the Siesta Key Association. Van Roekens, who has been working with Smith and SKVA President Russell Matthes on the project, was out of town and unable to attend the SKVA meeting.

Van Roekens also was the person who proposed the lighting initiative during the January SKVA meeting, to improve safety for drivers and pedestrians in the Village at night.

Smith told the News Leader he was uncertain where van Roekens had obtained his information about the bid.

On Sept. 5, Ryan Montague told the News Leader that while he had sent a draft report to his boss, Public Works Director James K. Harriott Jr., regarding the final lighting demonstration held in July and the type of equipment the Siesta Key representatives had agreed worked best, he was awaiting word from Harriott on when the information would go to the County Commission.

As far as he knew, Montague said, Harriott had not signed off on the report and sent it on to the board. Once Harriott signs such a report, Montague added, the staff members involved with a project typically are copied on it.

“I haven’t even received any comments from [Harriott]” on the draft, Montague said, adding that it was rare for Harriott not to offer suggestions to staff before a final report was completed.

‘Sustainable Floridians’ ambassador training to begin 

This September, Sarasota County Extension, a division of the University of Florida’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences, is launching an initiative designed to cultivate knowledgeable, motivated sustainability ambassadors, the Extension office has announced.

The program has been designed to “develop and support dedicated volunteers who have an interest in protecting the environment and giving back to their communities,” the news release says. Upon completion of the training, Sustainable Floridians are encouraged to collaborate with UF/IFAS Sarasota County Extension agents to provide education on sustainability by facilitating educational programs to the public, participating in outreach events, supporting youth activities, writing newspaper articles or blogs or conducting tours.

An eight-week course will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays, beginning Sept. 12. The topics that will be covered are Energy, Land Use and Transportation, Food, Water, Economy and Leadership, according to a county news release.

Space is limited, so advance registration is required. The registration fee is $75.

Most sessions will be held at the UF/IFAS Sarasota County Extension office at Twin Lakes Park, 6700 Clark Road, Sarasota.

The Sustainable Floridians program draws upon curriculum material developed by the University of Florida’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences and its Program for Resource Efficient Communities, the county news release says. The course will feature guest speakers from the community; its instructors will be UF/IFAS Sarasota County Extension Director Evangeline Linkous and UF/IFAS Sarasota County Community Development Agent JP Gellermann.

For more information or to register, contact the Sarasota County Call Center at 861-5000, or visit

Estuary program to help boost scallop populations

A scallop rests in seagrass. Photo by Dotty Motta, courtesy SBEP

The Sarasota Bay Estuary Program is providing technical expertise in an effort to help boost the scallop population in Sarasota Bay, it has announced.

The plan is to schedule four scallop releases beginning in the fall and continuing in early spring, an SBEP news release says. Two locations have been identified for the releases: North Bay and the vicinity of New Pass and Big Pass.

Other organizations participating in the effort are the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Sarasota Bay Watch and Mote Marine Laboratory.

The restoration technique that will be used was developed by the SBEP staff scientist Jay Leverone, according to SBEP.

The technique involves the release of millions of hatchery-produced scallop larvae into the bay’s most productive seagrass meadows.

“One of the ways to measure results is counting the number of scallops that settle on artificial collectors placed around the designated restoration site,” an SBEP news release adds.

Before he joined the SBEP staff, Leverone worked for more than 20 years as a scientist at Mote Marine Laboratory, where he conducted research about shellfish restoration, the news release points out.

The SBEP provided funding for various grants supporting his efforts, and it funded the first scallop restoration project in Sarasota Bay in 1993.

New College of Florida ranked No. 6 in the U.S.
for contribution to the public good

Washington Monthly magazine has ranked New College of Florida No. 6 out of more than 1,600 schools in its 2012 rankings of liberal arts colleges throughout the country, in comparing their contributions to the public good.

New College is the only public liberal arts school in the top 40, and it is ranked higher than Williams, Wellesley, Amherst, Oberlin and Smith colleges, a New College news release points out.

The Washington Monthly rankings focus on what colleges are doing for the nation, the news release says. They are based on a school’s contribution to the public good in three broad categories: social mobility, research and service. The social mobility category considers tuition rates and the availability of grants, scholarships and financial aid. The research category includes the percentage of students going on to receive doctoral degrees. The service category ranks schools by the percentage of alumni who serve in the Peace Corps, the percentage of students who serve in ROTC and the percentage of funds in federal work-study money that goes toward community service.

For the complete rankings, visit

Sarasota County Libraries ‘Books-to-Action’ program seeks
to empower readers to help the community

The Sarasota County Library System will inaugurate a program in September designed to turn the messages and themes from popular books into actions that will benefit the community, the library system has announced.

“Books-to-Action” begins by selecting and having the public read a book that has a social issue at its center, a county news release says.

The program’s first selection will be “The Memory Palace” by Mira Bartok. Book discussion groups will be held from 10:30 a.m. to noon, Friday, Sept. 28, and from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6, at Jacaranda Library, 4143 Woodmere Park Blvd., Venice.

The book explores the connections between a mother with a mental illness and her daughter.

“I am honored that you chose my book among many memoirs about mental illness and I hope that it inspires some of you to participate in some small way in helping those less fortunate,” said Bartok in the news release.

Volunteers from both book discussion sessions will prepare a potluck lunch for the residents of Beacon House, part of the Mental Health Community Centers Inc. Beacon House provides support services to adults with mental illness and disabling emotional problems.

“Books-to-Action connects people with local issues and resources through learning, talking and doing,” said Greg Carlson, Jacaranda Library manager, in the release.

“Beacon House looks forward to our collaboration with the library. A project of this type is exactly the type of partnership that works for our members,” said Michael Ross, Beacon House campus manager, in the news release.

For more on The New York Times best-seller, “The Memory Palace,” and its author, visit

For more program information, contact the Sarasota County Call Center at 861-5000, or visit