Siesta Seen

County advisory committee chair highlights features of new master pump station; no trolley tipping allowed; Condo Council seeking new board members; Kompothecras gets a new permit to demolish Fandango’s; Audubon program coordinator finally has good news; and Lt. Cernansky’s promotion officially announced

The large tank in the upper central portion of the site — as shown before the project began — has remained for use in emergency situations at the pump station. Image courtesy Sarasota County

The decommissioning of the Siesta Key Wastewater Treatment Plant was one of the highlights the chair of the county’s Water and Sewer Advisory Committee noted on April 24 during the presentation of his group’s 2018 fiscal year report to the County Commission.

The written version of the fiscal year recap noted that the plant — adjacent to the Siesta Isles community — was taken off-line in May 2018. “The 1.5 million gallons of daily flow is now diverted and pumped through a pipeline to the Central County or Bee Ridge Treatment Facilities — depending on available capacities,” the report added.

During his April 24 comments to the commission, Chris Sharek stressed, “That was really important.”


The Water and Sewer Advisory Committee members took a tour of the new facility, Sharek continued on April 24, adding that the plant was transformed into a master pump station. He noted that a number of redundancies were built into the project, to ensure the station would continue to operate in an emergency such as a power outage associated with a storm. “We were really impressed with [that].”

Further, he told the commissioners, one of the tanks used during the operation of the wastewater treatment facility was converted to be able to hold sewage if necessary to prevent a spill.

Siesta Key Association (SKA) Environmental Committee member Robert Luckner kept that nonprofit’s members updated on the process of the conversion of the facility as it took place. The SKA also hosted county staff for two presentations about the project.

A county graphic shows the segments of the project that led to the decommissioning of the Siesta Wastewater Treatment Plant. Image courtesy Sarasota County

On a side note: Sharek told the commissioners that his committee had lost members because of term limits and people moving out of the county. New people are coming on board, he added, but openings remain available.”

The committee is supposed to have nine at-large members and one representative of the Students Taking Active Roles (STAR) program, according to its county webpage, but only five were listed on the written version of the FY18 annual report. When The Sarasota News Leaderchecked the webpage on April 30, six people — including the STAR representative — were listed.

Membership is limited to four three-year terms, the document noted, except for the student, who can serve only one year.

The purpose of the committee, the webpage explains, is to “[a]ssist the County Commission in the promulgation of rules, regulations, and policies relating to water and sewer, and provide recommendations.” The group meets bimonthly.

For more information, people may call the county Contact Center at 861-5000.

No trolley tipping

The Siesta Key Breeze awaits passengers in Siesta Village. Photo courtesy Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce

After hearing recent reports that some drivers on the Siesta Key Breeze had put out tip jars, the News Leader contacted Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) to inquire about the practice. (The trolley rides are free, thanks to the County Commission’s financial support and grant funding.)

“There is a zero tolerance policy on soliciting or accepting tips,” Lisa Potts, SCAT communications specialist, responded in an email. “This issue was brought to our attention earlier [in April] and was immediately addressed and handled internally through our trolley vendor,” she added. “We should not have the issue going forward.”
The county contracts with a private company to operate the Breeze.

Condo Council seeking new board members

Fire Chief Michael Regnier (left) and Condominium Council President Frank Jurenka (right) listen as County Administrator Jonathan Lewis answers a question during the Feb. 19 meeting. File photo

In an April 25 email blast, the leadership of the Siesta Key Condominium Council reported that the organization is seeking new board members.

“We advocate for issues of a general nature that impact our 90 or so Condo [association] members and provide [three to four] information Membership meetings per year,” the email blast said.

Among the issues with which the Condo Council was involved last year, the email blast continued, were Benderson Development’s plans for the Siesta Promenade mixed-use project at the U.S. 41/Stickney Point Road intersection, red tide, the efforts of Save our Siesta Sand 2 (SOSS2) to prevent the dredging of Big Sarasota Pass, and Dr. Gary Kompothecras’ proposal for a boutique hotel on Old Stickney Point Road.

The council’s four informational meetings this year focused on red tide; insurance and legal issues for condominium associations; and updates on a number of Sarasota County projects, including The Legacy Trail North Extension.

“In the prior year we covered Hurricane Preparedness,” the email blast noted.

“We also sponsor the Annual Condo Christmas Lighting Contest and perform Membership Surveys for issues of concern,” the email blast added.

“Our requirements are that you are a current Condo owner on Siesta Key and that you are a Condo Board Member or have served on a Condominium Board in the past and that you are willing to spend some time [on issues of import to condominium residents on the island].”

In addition to the membership meetings, the email blast pointed out, the council holds a board meeting each month from October through April.

“Send an email to the if you are interested and a Board member will be in contact with you,” the email blast concluded.

An update on the Fandango building

The building that once housed Fandango Cafe stands on part of the acreage zoned Commercial General on Old Stickney Point Road where a hotel possibly could be built. File photo

Regular readers may recall that in late 2017, Dr. Gary Kompothecras of the 1-800-ASK-GARY medical and legal referral service applied for and received a county permit to demolish the structure on Old Stickney Point Road that once housed Fandango Café.

In subsequent County Commission meetings, it became clear that Kompothecras wants to construct a boutique hotel on part of that property, which is located at 1266 Old Stickney Point Road.

The permit was set to expire on May 9, 2018, according to county records. Yet, the demolition never occurred.

A News Leader check of county permitting records this week found that in August 2018, county staff approved an extension of the permit deadline to May 12 of this year. He had to pay another fee, as well, the records note.

The company set to handle the project still is Graber’s Excavating Inc. of Sarasota. The expense of the work was put at $26,900 on the new county document — no change from the earlier permit.

Further, the new permit — like the earlier one — says “NO TREES to be removed,” and the driveway is to remain.

A News Leader check this week of applications submitted to Sarasota County for special exceptions — which Kompothecras’ project team said he would need for construction of the hotel — showed nothing involving Siesta Key.

Nesting news

A snowy plover egg is visible in the nest right on Siesta Beach. Photo courtesy of Kylie Wilson

After weeks of watching over snowy plovers on Siesta Key, Kylie Wilson, the Florida Audubon coordinator of the Bird Monitoring & Stewardship program in the county, shared a lot of excitement in her April 25 update.

“WE HAVE A NEST!!!” she wrote. “The banded plover Green/White, or as we have been calling her lately, Miss Sanibel, has laid an egg. This is our first Snowy Plover nest of the season in Sarasota!”

On April 23, Wilson noted, “I observed the pair copulating and then they began taking turns vigorously working on a scrape. Then today it had an egg! It only has one egg now but it will hopefully have three by the weekend. Once Miss Sanibel has laid a ‘full clutch’ she will begin incubating!”

This is a scrape Kylie Wilson observed on Siesta the week of April 15. An abundance of adult plover tracks also are visible around the scrape. Photo courtesy of Kylie Wilson

A week earlier, Wilson’s update had a decidedly different tone.

“I have only been seeing 2 pairs of plovers lately,” she wrote on April 19. “This is disheartening but there has been a lot of recent scraping and so these two pairs are still active.”

Scrapes are shallow depressions in which the birds lay their eggs in the dunes or on the beach.

Making the promotion official

Lt. Paul Cernansky accepts a certificate from Sheriff Tom Knight (right). Photo courtesy Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

On April 18, the Sheriff’s Office officially announced Sgt. Paul Cernansky’s promotion to lieutenant, noting that he has been assigned to the department’s Law Enforcement Division.

Cernansky joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2004, after he obtained his certification, and was assigned to the Patrol Bureau, a news release pointed out. In 2014, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and transferred from Patrol to the Tactical Unit, the release said.

After graduating from the FBI-LEEDA’s 286th Supervisor Leadership Institute in 2017, Cernansky transferred to Special Operations, overseeing the Siesta Key and Mounted Patrol Units, the release continued. He has taken several advanced courses, including those on narcotics and dangerous drug detection, surveillance techniques, Taser instruction, defensive tactics instruction, and sex crimes investigations, the release said.

Cernansky earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Central Florida, the release added.