Siesta Seen

County engineer provides update on roundabout planned at Beach Road/Midnight Pass Road; August crime stats reported; county workers install new walkway north of Siesta Village; county staff addresses two Siesta Village maintenance issues; Adopt-A-Road team collects lots of garbage this year on Ocean Boulevard segment; Fire Department responds to call of sailboat in distress; and couple engage in dispute over dog ownership

This is the latest draft concept from FDOT for the roundabout at the intersection of Midnight Pass Road and Beach Road. Image courtesy Sarasota County

During a Sept. 9 presentation to Siesta Key Association (SKA) members about the multiple construction projects planned on the Key over the next year, County Engineer Spencer Anderson included the latest details about the roundabout scheduled for the Beach Road/Midnight Pass Road intersection.

Anderson presented a slide with what he stressed was the latest, draft concept for the design. The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will be responsible for the construction, he reminded the SKA members.

A single lane will come into the roundabout from each direction, Anderson explained, except for the eastbound approach on Beach Road. “We have a dedicated through [lane] and a left turn” built into the design, he added.

That modification of the plans was a response to “some concerns about traffic backing up all the way from Stickney Point Road through the roundabout and people not being able to get out northbound,” Anderson added.

He described the resulting configuration as “similar to the intersection you have there now.”

As of that day, he stressed, the timeline calls for construction in the spring of 2022. FDOT plans the work in conjunction with resurfacing of Midnight Pass Road from the Stickney Point Road intersection to Shadow Lawn Way, Anderson noted.

FDOT’s Five Year Work Program shows that the department has budgeted $3,238,901 for the resurfacing initiative. The total length of the project is 1.635 miles, the work plan notes.

This graphic provides details related to the planned roundabout at the intersection of Beach Road and Midnight Pass Road. County Engineer Spencer Anderson showed this slide to SKA members in September 2020. Image courtesy Sarasota County

For the roundabout, FDOT has budgeted $2,925,252. Its schedule calls for the advertisement for bids to be published on Feb. 25, 2021, with a closing date of March 29, 2022. Then, provided bids come in as FDOT staff hopes, the department says it would execute the construction contract on April 27, 2022.

It probably will take a year to complete the roundabout, Anderson told the SKA members.

The contractor will implement a maintenance of traffic (MOT) plan, Anderson pointed out, as contractors working on the roundabouts in downtown Sarasota have done.

“MOT” essentially means keeping traffic flowing while construction is underway; it is a requirement in county construction contracts that The Sarasota News Leader has reviewed.

Tracy Jackson, a member of the board of the nonprofit incorporation organization Save Siesta Key, asked Anderson how pedestrians will be able to navigate the roundabout, noting how congested that area of the island is.

“The pedestrians will be accommodated at every approach,” he told her. FDOT is planning the installation of Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons, he pointed out, a system designed to ensure drivers are aware of pedestrians planning to cross a road segment.

Such beacons were installed many years ago at the intersection of Beach Way and Beach Road.

This is a still from an FDOT video, showing a pedestrian using a Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacon system in the Miami area. Image courtesy FDOT

Then Anderson reminded the SKA members that, during earlier discussions he had had with them about the roundabout, he had talked about the potential installation of a HAWK system, which was put into place in June 2018 for pedestrians to use in crossing U.S. 41 in the area of First Street in downtown Sarasota.

“But there’s some challenges with those [systems],” he noted. “They could create some congestion for everybody” using the roundabout, he added.

Jackson asked Anderson whether the county has collected pedestrian counts for the Beach/Midnight Pass intersection.

He was not certain, he replied, but vehicle traffic counts are available.

August crime stats

On Sept. 9, Sgt. Arik Smith, leader of the Sheriff’s Office substation on the Key, provided his routine monthly report on crime to Siesta Key Association (SKA) members participating in the nonprofit’s regular meeting that day.

For the entire month of August, Smith said, the Sheriff’s Office received 279 calls for service on the island. About 5% of those involved people or property — what the FBI used to classify as “Part I crimes” before a new, national reporting system went into effect early this year.

A bicyclist waits at the intersection of Beach Road and Ocean Boulevard. Bicycle thefts are not uncommon on Siesta Key. Sgt. Arik Smith routinely warns the public to lock all vehicles not in use, including bicycles. File photo

“The most prevalent type of calls that we had in August,” he noted, regarded thefts, which represented 69% of the total. Three reports of stolen bicycles were among those, Smith pointed out. One bike had been left unsecured, he noted.

Additionally, two shoplifting cases occurred in Siesta Village, he continued, and a couple of watches were reported stolen. The suspects in the latter case potentially were working with a moving company, Smith added.

“We’re staying pretty good and pretty steady in what we see month-to-month,” he pointed out.

Since school began in August, “Things have kind of slowed down a little bit,” he said, quickly adding, “Knock on wood. … Looks like we’re getting back to a little more normalcy” in regard to traffic.

New walkway installed just north of Siesta Village

This is the new walkway from the northern end of Siesta Village to Treasure Boat Way. Contributed photo

Approximately a decade ago, county staff installed a Trex walkway on the east side of Ocean Boulevard between the northern entrance to Siesta Village and Treasure Boat Way. In early September, the News Leader learned, that structure was replaced.

In response to an inquiry, county Media Relations Officer Brianne Grant reported the following, courtesy of the Public Works Department:

“After receiving various pedestrian complaints and inspecting the boardwalk section of the walkway for ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] trip and fall hazards, the material was removed and replaced with concrete. Due to the age of this material and ongoing problems with the boards within the walkway area breaking, bowing, and deteriorating, the replacement with concrete ensures a safe and level surface. Public Works also notified the Siesta Chamber of Commerce, and the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corporation, with no objections. The sidewalk is under county maintenance, and the safety railing was re-attached with favorable public feedback.”

And speaking of Public Works initiatives …

On Sept. 20, the News Leader asked county staff about a couple of maintenance issues in Siesta Village that it had learned about from readers.

First, the light in the map kiosk in front of the Whispering Sands condominium complex, on the west side of Ocean Boulevard near the northern entrance to Siesta Village, had been out for some time, the News Leader was told.

Public Works staff noted that it received a report about that outage at the end of July. After the monthly inspection of the Village Public Improvement District was completed on Aug. 12, county staff verified that the breaker was on, and then the vendor replaced the fluorescent bulb.

Further maintenance may be necessary, however, Public Works staff added, as the potential exists that an electrical short in the kiosk led to the problem.

Bollards stand at both ends the crosswalk between Davidson Plaza and the Coldwell Banker office in Siesta Village. File photo

Second, the News Leader noted a report that the bollard on the east side of Ocean Boulevard at the crosswalk in front of Bonjour French Café has been missing. (Bollards at the Village crosswalks help illuminate pedestrians after dark, to make them more readily visible to drivers.)
Public Works staff replied that the new bollard is on order, but its arrival has been delayed because of “manufacturing and delivery issues.”

Adopt A Road team’s stats illustrate a long and busy tourist season

In June 2019, Siesta resident Michael Shay and his wife, Maria, inked an agreement with Keep Sarasota County Beautiful to “adopt” the section of Ocean Boulevard from Higel Avenue to Beach Road under the guidelines of the organization’s Adopt-A-Road Program.

This map shows Ocean Boulevard between the Higel Avenue and Beach Road intersections. Image from Google Maps

Recently, Shay shared with the News Leader the results of the four clean-up initiatives completed this year on that part of Ocean Boulevard.

  • March 27: In 2½ hours, the team collected three bags of garbage and one bag of recyclable materials.
  • May 12: 3½ hours; five bags of garbage; and one bag of recyclables.
  • July 23: 5 hours; seven bags of garbage; and four bags of recyclables.
  • Sept. 10: 5½ hours; six bags of garbage; and three bags of recyclables.

Based on the team’s work, which he had to document as part of the agreement with Keep Sarasota County Beautiful, Shay told the News Leader that he could see a definite correlation between the number of visitors and the amount of trash those visitors left behind them.

Over the past months, business owners on the Key and even Sheriff Kurt Hoffman have talked about the fact that tourism remained strong well into the summer. The county’s latest “bed tax” revenue figures also made clear how busy the county has been, with a new record set for those Tourist Development Tax funds through July.

The fiscal year has two months of “bed tax” revenue reports left; the fiscal year will end on Sept. 30.

Fire Department responds to call about sailboat in distress

In catching up on recent 911 calls involving the Key, the News Leader learned about a Sept. 1 incident regarding a sailboat potentially being in distress off Turtle Beach.

The alarm was documented at 5:41 p.m. that day, the Sarasota County Fire Department report said.

The caller told the 911 dispatcher that the sailboat was moving in circles and “making very slow progress in rough seas,” the report noted. “Weather is inclement with 15 mph winds from the west,” with seas of 2 to 4 feet and isolated thunderstorms, the report added.

This is a Sarasota County Fire Department boat docked at a Mote Marine facility on City Island. Image from CapeCodFD.com

Altogether, a crew from Station 13 on the Key, plus two Fire Department boats, ended up going to the scene, the report said. The sailboat was “attempting to make progress to the north,” the report explained. The vessel appeared to be under power, the report continued, but it indeed was moving slowly.

Fire Department personnel attempted to raise the boat on VHF Channel 16, “with no success,” the report said. Subsequently, the crew requested assistance of a fireboat, the report indicated.

When Fire Department Boat 3 arrived, the report continued, its crew was able to talk with the sailboat captain, who made clear that the vessel was not in distress, so no assistance was needed.

The last unit cleared the scene at 7:26 p.m., the report said.

Former couple’s dispute over dog results in multiple Sheriff’s Office reports

In perusing 911 dispatch call logs, the News Leader also recently found a number of incidents that occurred at 5175 Siesta Woods Drive.

Among those, on Aug. 27, the female complainant apparently had made a recording of her former boss threatening to kick her out of her home and take her dog. She also alleged that the man was withholding money she was owed and that he had fired her.

The responding officer advised the landlord that he would have to have the woman evicted, the case card said. (“Case cards” are used when officers respond to certain types of calls, generally when circumstances do not end in charges being filed. This incident was listed as “Officer Public Service.”)

No action was on the basis of this complaint, the card added.

A red balloon marks the location of the house at 5175 Siesta Woods Drive. Image from Google Maps

Then, just before 7 p.m. the same day, it appeared that the same female complainant reported that she was scared of her landlord and that they were in a “civil dispute over a dog.” The caller added that she did not want to leave the residence; she just wanted to stay in her bedroom, the case card said.

The woman advised the responding officer that she did plan to move out soon. However, she refused the officer’s offer of transportation to a women’s shelter in the county, the report noted.

Further, the landlord told the officer that he did not plan “on interacting with [the caller],” the report said. “Parties agreed to stay separated,” the case card added.

Three days later, on Aug. 30, according to yet another report, the landlord called the Sheriff’s Office about “an ongoing issue regarding the ownership of a dog.”

The 63-year-old man said that he and the 49-year-old woman had “attempted a personal relationship, as well as a professional one,” as he had employed the woman. “The personal relationship was unsuccessful,” the report continued, so the man fired the woman.

“Soon after the two moved in together,” the report said, the man purchased a dog. However, he told the deputy that the woman believes the dog is hers, “as the two bought the dog together.”

The man added that he had begun the eviction process for the woman.

The deputy advised the man that the dispute over the dog was a civil issue, so the man “should seek legal counsel to determine the ownership of the dog.”

“There have been several calls for service where [the man] and the woman have been advised of the civil nature of the ownership of the dog,” the report pointed out.

The deputy did not speak to the woman on Aug. 30, the report said, as the deputy met the man “away from the residence.”

The man did tell the deputy that no crime had occurred.

Then, on Sept. 2, another Sheriff’s Office case card said that 911 Dispatch received a call at 12:16 p.m. that day from the woman, reporting that she was locked out of her home at 5175 Siesta Woods Drive. Apparently, she was able to get inside later. However, the woman advised the responding deputies in that case that she was moving out in two days.

Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s Office records show that the residence at 5175 Siesta Woods has been owned since January 2011 by Gregory and Diane Rhoden, who live in Sarasota. The house is described in the Property Appraiser’s Office records as a single-family, detached residence with 1,808 square feet of living area in two stories.

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