Siesta Seen

Construction of new Siesta Village parking spaces finally underway; County Commission awards contract for Ocean Boulevard/Higel Avenue drainage project; substation leader reports on November crime stats; Circle K employee seeks trespass warning after argument in parking lot; and six Siesta lift stations to be rehabilitated

This is a parking spot for two vehicles, near the Old Salty Dog. Contributed photo

The construction of new parking spaces on the northern end of Siesta Village finally has begun, as anyone passing through the area will have noticed.

In September, County Engineer Spencer Anderson told members of the Siesta Key Association (SKA) that the project was expected to get underway this fall. However, he pointed out that county staff still was trying to acquire the pervious system that it planned to use for the spaces.

County Commission Chair Alan Maio, who represents the southern half of Siesta, as part of District 4, had worked with island business leaders years ago on the plan for more public parking spaces in Siesta Village. Last year, Siesta architect Mark Smith, a long-time director of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, and then-Chamber Chair Mason Tush, whose family owns CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, approached the commissioners again about the project. At Maio’s request, the board members joined him in approving the proposal.

After learning of the creation of the initial four spaces on the east side of Ocean Boulevard, near the Old Salty Dog restaurant, The Sarasota News Leader this week asked for a project update from Anderson. Those spaces have been marked off.

In a Dec. 13 email response, Anderson explained that “some clean-up and striping work” needed to be accomplished before the four new spaces would be available for drivers to use.

The News Leader also asked for a timeline regarding the construction of the 18 spaces planned in the former landscaping area in front of the Whispering Sands condominium complex, on the west side of Ocean Boulevard. That area clearly has been marked off for the work to get underway.

Anderson replied that plans call for the construction of the 18 spaces to be completed in January 2022.

The Ocean Boulevard/Higel Avenue drainage project

Another initiative that County Engineer and Public Works Director Spencer Anderson discussed with SKA members in September involved a drainage project on Higel Avenue.

On Dec. 7, in unanimously approving their Consent Agenda of routine business items, the county commissioners awarded the $885,403.05 contract for that initiative to Gator Grading & Paving LLC of Palmetto.

The only other company to bid on the work was Tampa Contracting Services Inc., also of Palmetto, a county Procurement Department document showed. That firm’s bid was $1,660,573.75.

This graphic shows the area of the Ocean Boulevard/Higel Avenue drainage project that will get underway in 2022. Image courtesy Sarasota County

A fact sheet on the county website noted that the award of the contract had not been expected until February 2022. The work is scheduled to start in April 2022. That month typically marks the end of the height of tourist season. The fact sheet also notes that completion is anticipated in August 2022.

County staff had advertised the Invitation for Bids on July 21, another document in the County Commission’s backup agenda material noted.

The Ocean Boulevard/Higel Avenue project will entail improvement of drainage systems “in a primarily residential area, including Lotus Lane,” a Dec. 7 county staff memo explained. It will address “flooding level of service deficiencies on an evacuation route on Siesta Key,” the memo added.

The work will involve the retrofitting of two “wet detention ponds with outfall structures as well as construction of a new piped stormwater drainage system,” the memo said.

The Florida Department of Transportation explains, “Wet Detention Systems are permanently wet ponds that are designed to slowly release a portion of the collected stormwater runoff through an outlet structure. Wet detention systems are the recommended [best management practices] for sites with moderate to high water table conditions. Wet detention systems provide removal of both dissolved and suspended pollutants by taking advantage of physical, chemical, and biological processes within the pond. They also create ‘lakefront’ property and provide a source of fill.”

As for an outfall structure: Law Insider says that that is a conduit or pipeline through which effluent is conveyed to a location where it is deposited in water frequented by fish.

Additionally, the county staff memo noted, existing deep ditches will be converted into shallow grassed swales, which will be fitted with inlets to allow stormwater to drain into the new pipes.

This is information from FDOT about swales. Image courtesy Florida Department of Transportation

“The project will provide protection against a 100-year storm event,” the memo explained. The funding for it is coming primarily from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, the memo added.

Prior to the start of the undertaking, the memo pointed out, postcards will be mailed to owners of property adjacent to the project site. “The general public will be notified of construction by variable message signs at least two weeks prior to the start of work,” the memo said.

Among the details in the contract, Gator Grading & Paving had to agree “to comply with all applicable standards, orders, or regulations issued pursuant to the Clean Air Act … and the Federal Water Pollution Control Act …”

The public will be able to view details about the initiative on the county’s Projects in My Neighborhood webpage on the county website.

Crime stats for November maintain trend

Sgt. Arik Smith. File photo

During his monthly report on crime for Siesta Key Association members, Sgt. Arik Smith, leader of the Sheriff’s Office Substation on the Key, reported a total of 263 calls for service in November.

Of those, he noted on Dec. 2, about 6% were crimes involving people or property — which used to be designated as Part I crimes by the FBI.

“We continue to kind of hover right around that percentage, which is good,” Smith said. “Everyone kind of looks out for one another [on the island].”

A little over 50% of those property and personal crimes in November were thefts, Smith noted. One of the biggest, he added, was the report that a boat trailer left overnight at Turtle Beach Park had been stolen. A lock was on the trailer, Smith said, but someone cut it off.

Two bicycles also were reported stolen, he continued. “I’m almost 90% certain they were left unlocked.”

As he routinely does, Smith urged the SKA members, “Try to make it difficult for someone to take your stuff.” Items that would be attractive to thieves should be locked or stored out of sight, he stressed.

Additionally, the November calls included what Smith characterized as “a couple of criminal mischief” cases. In one of those, he noted, people claimed that their vehicle had been damaged by a towing company, but it turned out that the vehicle had been scratched prior to the towing.

In the second case, he said, someone tried to pry open the locked doors of a car, resulting in damage to that vehicle. “They didn’t get anything out of it,” he added of the perpetrators.

During Smith’s report, one SKA member asked whether crime has been trending up this year. The man indicated that that was his deduction, based on what he has observed.

Smith replied that he would ask the appropriate Sheriff’s Office staff to obtain the figures for the past couple of years and calculate the total number of calls for service year-to-date, which he would provide to the SKA directors for distribution to the members.

In response to a News Leader request for that data, Megan Krahe, media relations specialist for the Sheriff’s Office, sent the figures. The number of calls for service on the island in 2019 was 4,315; for 2020, 4,737; and as of Dec. 16, when Krahe sent the data, the figure was 4,632.

This month, Smith continued during the SKA meeting, the Sheriff’s Office will be prepared to monitor the “Santa Stumble,” which Siesta Village bars traditionally host on Dec. 26.

This is a Nov. 24 Facebook post about the Turkey Trot, featured on the Gilligan’s Island Bar page.

For the annual “Turkey Trot” pub crawl the night before Thanksgiving, Smith said, “I had five deputies on horseback,” plus another four or five in patrol cars, along with the five officers who are assigned to the substation. “I don’t think we made one arrest that night.”

Smith said he hopes to prevent any problems during the Santa Stumble pub crawl, as well.

Further, Smith talked about the attendance at the Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival, which was held in mid-November, featuring 24 competitors. He recently attended the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce’s wrap-up meeting on that event, he added.

Over the four days and one night of the Crystal Classic, Smith said, the paid attendance was 30,000.

The festival also involved the work of 300 volunteers, he pointed out, and 78 retail businesses were represented in the Vendor Village.

“We didn’t have any incidents out there for that, either,” Smith noted. The Crystal Classic is “a big hit with the community,” he said.

Speaking of crime on the Key …

In a spot check of November incidents on the Key, the News Leader requested copies of a few reports from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.

In three of the four cases, the Community Affairs Division staff provided the News Leader “case cards,” meaning no formal reports were written in response to the calls.

The sole formal report involved an argument in the parking lot of the Circle K in Siesta Village.

The deputy who responded to the incident, which was reported at 3:39 a.m. on Nov. 25, wrote that an employee of the store said that a group of people were engaged in a dispute outside the store. She asked that the deputy trespass the two people who started it, the report noted.

The Circle K is located at the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Avenida Milano in Siesta Village. File photo

By the time deputies arrived at the Circle K, the report said, everyone in that group had departed. However, after searching the area, deputies located the two men whom the employee had identified — Patrick A. Skladanowski, 22, and Phili K. Skladanowski, 20, both of Sarasota. The men were walking back to the parking lot, the report added.

The men told the deputies that they had been arguing with a woman and her boyfriend, the report said, but they were not able to provide “identifiable information on the subjects.”

One of the deputies then informed the men of the store employee’s request, which would mean that the two men could not enter the store for the period of time the trespass warning was in effect.

The men signed and acknowledged the warning, the report added.

The deputy who wrote the narrative did note that “Patrick was under the influence of alcohol,” with the deputy having detected the odor; the deputy also reported that Patrick was slurring his speech.

“Both subjects were uncooperative,” the deputy pointed out.

The men ended up leaving the area in an Uber, the deputy wrote.

One of the case cards involved a report of a person throwing objects near the intersection of Whispering Sands Drive and Avenida Madera. That call came in at 2:42 a.m. on Nov. 25.

The responding deputy was unable to find the person the caller had described, the card said.

No, the county beach park is not for sale

The Siesta Public Beach Park long has been one of the county’s top tourist attractions. Image courtesy Sarasota County

In the aftermath of the County Commission’s split decisions to allow two high-rise hotels to be built on the island, rumors have been flying that people interested in projects of a similar magnitude are trying to buy up property on the Key.

Although the hotels were approved for parcels zoned Commercial General, the News Leader wondered about the potential of offers on what could be considered among the most valuable real estate on the Key — Siesta Public Beach Park.

That facility encompasses 1,914,519 square feet, or just under 44 acres, according to the Sarasota County Property Appraiser’s website.

Although it is zoned Government Use, one might argue that Siesta residents who never thought they would see the day when the County Commission would approve a seven-story hotel plus an eight-story hotel on the island might think anything is possible. That could include the sale and rezoning of the beach park.

Nicole Rissler, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, happily entertained a News Leader question this week about whether the county would entertain an offer for the property officially located at 948 Beach Road.

This is Rissler’s response in a Dec. 13 email: “[T]here has been no request to buy Siesta Beach and Sarasota County would have no interest in entertaining a request to sell. It is ours and we love it.” She added a smiley face emoji at the end of the last sentence.

Siesta lift stations to be rehabilitated

On Dec. 7, in other action regarding their Consent Agenda of routine business items, the county commissioners voted unanimously to add a project called the Siesta Key Lift Station Rehabilitation Design to the county’s 2022-2026 Capital Improvement Program.

The board awarded that $324,832 contract to the Ardurra Group Inc., which has an office in Tampa.

The county staff memo explaining this undertaking pointed out that aging infrastructure is a nationwide issue for utility service providers. The county’s wastewater collection system consists of more than 700 lift stations, “some of which were acquired over the past 30+ years through a franchise consolidation and acquisition program,” the memo added.

High Tide Technologies explains, “A wastewater lift station is a pumping station that moves wastewater from a lower elevation to a higher elevation. The benefit of using a lift station in a sewage collection system is that it saves a substantial amount of money in excavation costs, which involves digging for sewer pipes. Sewer pipes live underground, and digging trenches is costly. Installing a wastewater lift station at certain points in a gravity pipeline system saves on front-end construction costs without sacrificing efficiency or functionality.”

This graphic shows the locations of the six lift stations on Siesta Key. Image courtesy Sarasota County

Failures of mechanical, electrical, or instrumentation and controls equipment in a lift station can trigger sanitary sewer overflows (SSOs), “causing costly cleanup and containment, potential pollution of nearby bodies of water, reportable events to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and costly fines,” the county staff memo pointed out.

Six lift stations on Siesta Key “require major rehabilitation to bring them into compliance with the applicable requirements of the Sarasota County Water, Wastewater, and Reclaimed Water Systems Manual (Utility Manual) and ensure the stations are of a consistent design with the other County lift stations,” the memo said.

The lift stations are located on Cape Leyte Way and Tropical Circle, in Glebe Park, on White Hall Place, at the Bay Tree Club condominium complex on South Midnight Pass Road, and at the Turtles restaurant, also on the southern end of the Key, a county document noted.

The design work is expected to begin this month, the memo added, with completion expected in August 2022.

The funding will come out of utility rate payments, the memo said.