Crime down for the Key year-over-year; couple arrested after allegedly robbing visitor’s unlocked vehicle; more details offered on how public can comment on Siesta parking and traffic issues; county staff still at work on making Beach Access 2 more ADA-accessible; SOSS2 seeking help with legal bills for federal lawsuit; and a few light moments recalled from Siesta Promenade public hearing
Crime is down year-over-year on Siesta Key, Sgt. Paul Cernansky, leader of the Sheriff’s Office’s substation, reported to about 90 Siesta Key Association (SKA) members during their first regular meeting of 2019.
The number of residential burglaries is down 77% from the same time period of 2018, and the figure for vehicle burglaries has dropped 30%, Cernansky said during his Jan. 10 remarks. “Thefts of all types are down,” he added.
In an effort to maintain those trends, Cernansky indicated, he has received approval for the addition of one deputy to the group of officers who handle issues on the island. Additionally, he continued, the Sheriff’s Office Mounted Patrol will be incorporated more routinely into island law enforcement rounds. “By and large, you’ll see a lot more of a Sheriff’s Office presence out here.”
Further, Cernansky explained that he has been at work on a plan to rotate shifts during the daytime, so the public will see officers at different times.
By the way, Cernansky certainly seems to be enjoying his new position on the Key. He told the News Leaderon Jan. 10, “I’m in paradise out here.”
He became the substation leader in October 2018, after then-Sgt. Jason Mruczek was promoted to lieutenant and assigned to the Animal Services Division.
And speaking of crime on the Key …
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Sarasota couple on Jan. 8 after they allegedly attempted to sell and pawn multiple items reported stolen during a Siesta Key vehicle burglary, the office reported.
Jonah Kimbler, 33, and Micah Kimbler, 29, were charged after Jonah Kimbler was seen on surveillance video as he visited two pawn shops, and Micah Kimbler allegedly listed some of the missing items on the Let Go website, the Sheriff’s Office report said.
The Let Go site allows users to buy and sell items secondhand, a Sheriff’s Office news release explained.
Jonah Kimbler was charged with three counts of Dealing in Stolen Property, Providing False Information to a Pawnbroker, Possession of Hydromorphone, two counts of Possession of Narcotic Equipment and two counts of Driving While License Suspended, a Sheriff’s Office news release noted.
Additionally, he was charged with Unarmed Burglary of an Unoccupied Conveyance. His bond on that charge was set at $7,500. The three counts of Dealing in Stolen Property carried a total bond of $22,500, and the count related to his alleged pawn shop endeavor was set at $1,500, the Corrections Division records noted.
Bond on each of the drug equipment charges is $500, Corrections Division records showed. The bond on the drug possession charge is $1,500, and each traffic violation carries bond of $1,500.
Jonah Kimbler remained in custody as of Jan. 15, the Corrections Division records said.
The Sheriff’s Office Corrections Division webpage noted that Micah Kimbler was released on Jan. 12 on a total bond of $15,000, reflecting two counts of Dealing in Stolen Property.
Both she and Jonah Kimbler were identified as unemployed at the time of their arrests, the Corrections Division information said.
The investigation is ongoing, the Sheriff’s Office news release pointed out, “and additional charges are pending.”
On Jan. 6, a visitor to the island alerted detectives that a Crux custom bicycle, a Dell laptop computer in a black backpack, clothing, Oakley prescription sunglasses and several other, miscellaneous items were missing and presumed stolen from the visitor’s unlocked vehicle, the report noted. The total value of the items was estimated at $4,235, the Sheriff’s Office report added.
The vehicle was parked in the 1800 block of Stickney Point Road, the Sheriff’s Office news release said.
On Jan. 7, at 8:30 a.m., the report continued, Jonah Kimbler entered Money Pro Pawn, located at 4555 Bee Ridge Road in Sarasota, with the Crux bicycle and a pair of black bicycle shoes “and endeavored to pawn them. He was refused,” the report said, so he left the establishment. Surveillance video taken at the pawnshop showed him attempting to make the transaction, the report added.
Then at 9:40 a.m. on Jan. 7, surveillance video taken at Goldcoast Pawn and Jewelry, located at 3210 Clark Road in Sarasota, showed Jonah Kimbler entering that shop in an effort to pawn the same two items, the Sheriff’s Office report said. This time, he received $300 for the items, the report noted, but he had to provide his signature and thumbprint, “indicating he was the rightful owner of the items being pawned.”
On Jan. 8, the report continued, the owner of the bicycle and shoes identified them as part of the property allegedly stolen from his vehicle. Goldcoast Pawn and Jewelry then released the items to the owner, the report said.
As for Micah Kimbler: The Sheriff’s Office report on her activities in the case noted that on Jan. 6, she placed two advertisements on the Let Go website, one of which was for a “Red And Black Bike,” listing the price as negotiable. The accompanying photo showed the Crux custom bicycle, the Sheriff’s Office report said. Another photo showed the black bicycle shoes, as well as a white Kask bicycle helmet, which the victim also had reported stolen, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
The second ad Micah Kimbler allegedly placed on Let Go was for a set of jumper cables. That ad also had a photo of the equipment, the Sheriff’s Office report noted.
On Jan. 7, the victim of the crime contacted the Sheriff’s Office regarding the Let Go ads, the report continued. He was able to identify the bicycle as the one he had reported stolen, the report added. “He also confirmed there was a set of jumper cables” missing from his vehicle, which he had not included in his original report to the Sheriff’s Office, the report said. After the victim saw the photo of the jumper cables from the Let Go website, the report noted, he identified those as a set that had been in his vehicle.
During the investigation, the Sheriff’s Office news release said, undercover detectives began communicating with Micah Kimbler online. On Jan. 8, they agreed to meet with her to purchase the allegedly stolen items, the release added. When detectives arrived, “both Jonah and Micah were taken into custody. Upon their arrest, deputies recovered a needle, prescription pill, and various drug paraphernalia in Jonah’s possession,” the release noted.
Your thoughts on island traffic and paid beach parking
As The Sarasota News Leader reported last week, the County Commission will conduct a workshop on Wednesday, Feb. 27, regarding the potential of requiring people to pay to park at Siesta Public Beach.
The board also will discuss a bevy of other issues, all related to traffic congestion on the Key, according to county staff.
In late December 2018, staff promised to provide means for people to comment on the issues if they are unable to attend that February workshop.
Indeed, staff has set up a webpage with a form for people to use in providing their thoughts to the County Commission. If you go to the county website, www.scgov.net, you can type in the keywords “Siesta Traffic and Parking,” which will bring up a list that includes the webpage.
The form provided by staff seeks a person’s zip code, asks whether the person resides in the county full- or part-time, and allows up to 800 characters for a formal comment.
The Feb. 27 workshop, by the way, will be in the Third Floor Think Tank of the County Administration Center in downtown Sarasota, which is located at 1660 Ringling Blvd. The event will begin at 9 a.m.
A Siesta Key Association notice to members this week said the directors’ understanding is that the comments taken at the workshop will be akin to those people make during the Open to the Public sessions at regular County Commission sessions.
During the Jan. 15 County Commission meeting, County Administrator Jonathan Lewis emphasized that the February session has been designed for public input, to help the commissioners decide how best to proceed with Siesta parking and traffic problems.
In response to a question from Commissioner Christian Ziegler, who was just elected to the board in November 2018, Lewis said staff would re-circulate the list of options that Carolyn Brown, then director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, provided the board during a July 2018 meeting.
Lewis did add note that one item on that list was the hiring of a “beach parking expert.” He added that such action “might well be worth the investment.” The expertise of a consultant could keep the county from embarking on one path only to realize later that that approach was not a good one, he continued, and, therefore, having to backtrack. Hiring an expert, Lewis said, “would still be part of our recommendation.”
Work proceeding to enhance ADA access at Beach Access 2
In December 2018, the News Leader reported that county staff was working on a project to make the beach more accessible to persons with physical disabilities. The focus was Beach Access 2, at the western end of Avenida Messina.
Staff was hopeful that the project could be completed before Christmas. After hearing from an island resident early this month that that was not the case, the News Leader asked county staff for an update.
The Sarasota County Public Works Department project, which includes relocating the handicap-accessible (Americans with Disabilities Act) parking space, was delayed from completion late last year because of the need for an Emergency Services (Fire Department) safety review of the proposal, Brianne Grant, county media relations specialist, told the News Leaderin a Jan. 14 email. “This was done to ensure that the new parking layout would not hamper [Emergency Services] operations,” she explained.
With Emergency Services staff having cleared the plans, she continued, staff is awaiting the final design of upgraded signage, which must correspond “with the accessible design of the parking. We hope to have this review completed within 2 weeks,” Grant added. “We do not yet have an anticipated date for project completion at this time.”
SOSS2 seeking help with legal bills
In its Newsletter 51, sent out on Jan. 14, Save Our Siesta Sand 2 (SOSS2) is seeking assistance to cover the expenses of the federal lawsuit it has filed in an effort to prevent the dredging of Big Sarasota Pass. (See the related story in this issue.)
“Our legal bills continue to mount,” the newsletter says. “We will be requiring expert witnesses to testify and have set a goal of $100,000. At the end of the year with matched funds we had raised approximately $57,000 towards our goal. We thank all those who contributed and especially those who have created our Matching Fund. But we are still short of our goal by $43,000 and we are counting on you to support our efforts. Remember our singular purpose is to prevent the dredge of the protective Big Pass shoal and we need your help to succeed.
Matching funds are still available so donate now at www.soss2.com/donate. Thank you again for your most generous help!”
Trying to lighten the mood
During the day-long County Commission hearing on Siesta Promenade, on Dec. 12, 2018, a few light moments ensued amid all the serious public testimony from residents opposed to the mixed-use project.
For example, one speaker, named Annie Brooks, told the board at the outset of her comments, “I’m a little nervous. This is not my thing.”
Brooks then talked of ordeals through which she has suffered, getting on and off the Key via Stickney Point Road. The current traffic situation was troubling enough, she emphasized, without adding the 414 new residential units, a 130-room hotel and 140,000 square feet of retail and commercial space planned at Siesta Promenade. (Benderson Development proposes to construct the project at the northwest corner of U.S. 41 and Stickney Point Road.)
At one point, Brooks noted that Commissioner Alan Maio represents District 4, which includes Siesta Key. “You want to be known as the Al Maio of traffic?” she asked him. “I wouldn’t.”
The remark prompted laughter among the people filling the Commission Chambers in downtown Sarasota.
“You seem so nice,” Maio told her with a smile, “and you had me till that.”
More laughter rang out.
“I’m sorry,” Brooks responded. “I didn’t mean it that way.”
She also told the commissioners that when Benderson Development bought the approximately 24 acres on which it plans Siesta Promenade, most of the site was zoned for 9 dwelling units per acre, as a mobile home park formerly stood there. The company was seeking approval of a Critical Area Plan on Dec. 12, 2018, which would allow it to build up to 25 units per acre.
Referring to Benderson Development President Randy Benderson, Brooks continued, “He knew what he was buying. He shouldn’t expect more. If I buy a Honda, I don’t drive out with a Porsche.”
After Brooks concluded her testimony, Chair Nancy Detert said, “Good job for somebody who was afraid to speak,” eliciting more laughter from the audience. “You got over that [fear] pretty quick,” she added to Brooks.
Along with such light moments prompted by speakers themselves, as the hearing went on, and Detert continued to call the names of people who had signed up before the meeting started at 9 a.m. that day, it was apparent a number of folks had left.
One card Detert pulled out of the stack was signed by Robin Williams. That person did not respond when Detert first called the name. A short while later, Detert gave Williams one more chance. When she still heard no response from the audience, she quipped, “Still dead?” referring to the famous actor Robin Williams who died in August 2014.
More laughter rang out in the chambers.
“Sorry,” Detert said.