Siesta Seen

MCI fiber optic cable project leaves a wake of damage; streetlights still out after Irma; County Commission to address proposed changes regarding emergency use of sandbags; Condo Council announces details of Holiday Lighting Contest; and Siesta Key Chapel prepares for special holiday service

A contractor’s crew ended up breaking the sewage line by the Terrace East condominium complex in Siesta Village on Nov. 16. Photo courtesy Lisa Cece

No explosions from pierced gas lines reverberated through Siesta Village the week before Thanksgiving, but the construction crew laying fiber optic cable for an MCI cell phone project did manage to strike a sewer pipeline beside the Terrace East condominium complex, The Sarasota News Leader learned.

On the morning of Nov. 17, Lisa Cece, the special district coordinator for Sarasota County who supervises Village upkeep, reported to representatives of the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. that crews worked through Nov. 16 and up until 6 a.m. on Nov. 17 to replace 30 feet of sewer pipe damaged by the boring alongside the driveway into the Terrace East property in the Village. That day, she continued, 30 feet of stormwater pipeline also was to be replaced.

In response to a News Leader question, she explained, “They had a partial cave-in and the stormwater pipe broke.”

In her Nov. 17 email, Cece wrote, “The driveway to Terrace East will most likely be closed for the next week or two.” She added, “Concrete will be poured after compaction settles, and then the [brick pavers] will be placed back down.”

Her timeline proved a bit too optimistic, it seems.

In a follow-up email, responding to a News Leader query on Nov. 29, Cece said county staff with the Public Utilities Department and the Road and Bridge Division were coordinating the concrete repair and replacement at Terrace East. A firm also will have to put back the brick pavers removed at the site, she noted, adding that she was purchasing more pavers that day to replace “what was lost or damaged.”

The sidewalk beside Terrace East is closed in mid-November, with repairs being scheduled. Photo courtesy Lisa Cece

On the morning of Nov. 30, Cece informed Maintenance Corp. representatives that a county supervisor had inspected the area by Terrace East. She noted that his crew would handle the replacement of the pavers, while a contractor had been asked to provide a quote for the concrete pour, along with a schedule for the work.

As damage control was underway on Nov. 16, immediately after the sewer/stormwater pipe incident, Cece reported to Maintenance Corp. representatives, “I will say that every employee of Vasi and Associates is there for the duration.” Vasi and Associates was one of the contractors for the fiber optic cable project.

When she left the Village at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 16, she noted, the crew had reached a depth of 6 feet and still had not exposed the sewer pipeline. The county’s Public Utilities Department, she wrote, had two sewer vacuum trucks “working simultaneously to pump sewage waste.”

The brick pavers in that area, she noted, “were gently removed” and placed inside the wall by the gate at Terrace East.

The crew laying the fiber optic cable also dug into Maintenance Corp. irrigation lines by Terrace East and at the Key Corners Center, Cece and Michael Shay, manager of the Maintenance Corp. told the News Leader. An irrigation line at Davidson Plaza was hit, as well, they said.

Sod lies in an area beside Terrace East, even though Sarasota County staff informed the contractor that sod is not used in the Village landscaping. Photo courtesy Lisa Cece

On the afternoon of Nov. 29, Cece told the News Leader she had sent a third email that day to Desiree Doiron-Wilde, the project manager for Overland Contracting of Tampa — which was overseeing the fiber optic cable work — as well as to Vasi and Associates. She had attached photos of the severed irrigation lines, “mashed plants, a small destroyed tree [and] erosion of the walkway” at Terrace East, in an effort to spur promised repairs. According to Cece, the contractors for the cable project are obligated to ensure everything is restored to its pre-construction appearance and operating level.

Until the irrigation lines are functioning again, she pointed out to the News Leader, plants cannot be watered, and without the watering, the plants that have been damaged “may not survive.” If the repairs are not expedited, she continued, she will send a bill to the companies, so they can reimburse the Maintenance Corp. for new plants.

Finally, on Nov. 30, Cece told the News Leader that she had heard from Vasi and Associates about its plans to correct the “deficiencies from the project work,” as she put it. Shay will meet with that supervisor after the repairs have been completed, to make certain all has been done correctly, she added.

The saga of damage actually began on Nov. 15. Early that morning, during his routine check on the Village, Shay reported that he noticed the crew laying the cable had dug up one of the planting beds at the Michael Saunders & Co. real estate office on the north end of the Village.

Then on Nov. 16, Shay notified Cece that he had spotted “a major water leak at [the] south end of Davidson’s [Plaza].” He added that the water was “flowing like a river across the sidewalk into the street and then the sewer drain.”

A garbage can shows signs of damage. Photo courtesy Lisa Cece

That day, Cece responded that Vasi and Associates employees already were repairing the water line for the irrigation at the plaza. She also pointed out that she had turned off the Village irrigation system and had called the firm that handles it, so it could send out employees for a thorough inspection.

Cece further noted, “A new pull box is necessary in front of the Terrace East condo in the landscape bed. Muhli grass and ground cover will be removed and replanted in the same area.”

A pull box, she explained to the News Leader, is the central location for all the connections for a system.

On Nov. 27, Cece told the News Leader that the construction crew also damaged a Village garbage can when the crew used heavy equipment to try to move it; the can is bolted to the concrete. Additionally, she noted, sod was placed at Terrace East and at the Michael Saunders & Co. office. “I have requested that be removed,” she continued and — as she had discussed with the contractor’s crew — that cocoa mulch disturbed or lost from the digging be replaced. “We do not have grass in the landscape beds,” she pointed out, so she was surprised that Vasi and Associates had put any at Terrace East and the Michael Saunders property.

In spite of all that has transpired in the Village, Cece has tried to maintain her generally upbeat attitude. In one email, she pointed out, “On a positive, all the streetlights were on and looked nice.

Severed irrigation lines are part of the damage beside Terrace East. Photo courtesy Lisa Cece

The News Leader also asked about the status of the rest of the fiber optic cable project, as Cece had learned that the Village segment was just the first part of the plan.

“Last week, the work continued along Beach Road south under permit,” she replied in the Nov. 27 email. “The end point is at The Anchorage just before Stickney Point Road.” The tentative timeline called for the project to be completed by the end of this month, she continued, “but I know they had delays getting locates at [The Anchorage].”

The “locates” are markings in paint to identify utility lines and related equipment. Those that appeared in Siesta Village in late October are what alerted Cece and Michael Shay of the Maintenance Corp. that some project was looming. Their sleuthing led to the discovery of the fiber optic cable plans.

Speaking of streetlights …

Michael Shay, the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. manager, recently updated the News Leader on his endeavor to get all the streetlights back on in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.

He has corresponded at length with Bennett Wachob, a Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) engineer in Sarasota, he said.

On Nov. 11, Shay once again provided Wachob details about the lights that were out, including the pole numbers. One light was on the northeast corner of Ocean Boulevard and Givens Street, while a second was about 50 yards south of the intersection of Treasure Boat Way and Ocean Boulevard.

Apparently someone else had reported the light out at 4835 Ocean Blvd., he wrote Wachob, because that one was shining again at night.

The Givens Street intersection is across from a vacant parcel on Ocean Boulevard. File photo

Then, on Nov. 22, a second light was back on, Shay notified Wachob. “I saw a truck working on the streetlight on pole #51364497805, Ticket # 55871 [on Nov. 21] and checked this morning and it was working,” Shay wrote in an email.

“Too bad they come out and fix 1 at a time! Not very efficient!” Shay added.

On Nov. 22, Wachob replied, “If the tickets are still open, they will get to them. I just input more streetlight tickets myself yesterday for more [Siesta] lights.

“I know it’s not a very quick turnaround,” Wachob added, “but they are getting to them. We had over 60,000 lights go out due to the hurricane, so it might take a little bit to get them all done. They projected to have them all back on by end of 2017.”

How long should sandbags stay in place?

Sometimes the theoretically routine business items on the Sarasota County Commission consent agendas are more easily understood at first pass than others. On Nov. 28, it took a bit more digging to get to the heart of Item No. 10 out of 15.

Officially, it called for the board to “authorize a public hearing on ordinance amending the Coastal Setback Code, Chapter 54, Article XXII of the County Code, extending the duration of Class I Emergency Variances.”

An email from a member of the county’s Planning and Development Services staff, which went to representatives of the four barrier island associations in the county, made the issue clearer.

“Because of erosion along portions of its Gulf of Mexico shoreline, Sarasota County is considering amendments to the Coastal Setback Code relating to temporary shoreline protection. The existing Code limits the use of sandbags to one year, while the amendments propose to create an administrative process to provide a maximum of two, one-year extensions,” Joseph Kraus wrote on the morning of Nov. 29.

Photos show conditions before and after Irma at a property on Manasota Key. Images courtesy Sarasota County

On Nov. 28, the County Commission unanimously approved the tentative scheduling of a Jan. 30, 2018 public hearing on the draft language staff has prepared for the amendments, he added.

In fact, no board member pulled any item from that Nov. 28 Consent Agenda for discussion before the vote.

“The public comment period is extremely helpful,” Kraus pointed out in the email. “We value the input of the barrier island associations and residents, and invite your consideration of, and comment on, the proposed amendments. As always, we are available to respond to questions and would be glad to attend association meetings to discuss.”

He included his email address and phone number:; 726-4061.

The email went to representatives of the Siesta Key Association, Casey Key Association, Manasota Key Association and North Manasota Key Association.

A memo provided to the board in advance of the Nov. 28 meeting explains, “The Coastal Setback Code establishes standards for the approval of measures to protect Gulf-front structures at risk of damage from beach erosion.” The approval may be granted “‘in emergencies caused by recent calamitous occurrences such as, but not limited to, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, or high winds where buildings, swimming pools, roads, or public facilities have been damaged or destroyed, or are directly and immediately anticipated to be threatened,’” the memo says.

After the 2016 storm season, the memo continues, “several Class I Emergency Variances were granted for properties fronting the Gulf of Mexico on Manasota Key. Considering the limitations associated with the one-year administrative authorizations, several of the property owners requested that the County Commission (Board) consider extending the timeframe for which their sandbags may remain under the initial authorization. Based on Board guidance provided on April 19, 2017 and April 25, 2017,” the memo adds, staff prepared the amendments to the Coastal Setback Code.

Condo Council’s Holiday Lighting Contest details announced

Beachaven’s holiday pig has proven a popular decoration among those at Siesta condo complexes. File photo

The Siesta Key Condominium Council has released news of its annual tradition, the Holiday Lighting Contest.

Co-sponsored by the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, Siesta Trolley and the publication Siesta Sand, the competition is open to all condominium complexes in good standing with the Condo Council. (That means their dues are paid up.)

The deadline for registering a condominium complex’s participation is 5 p.m. on Friday Dec. 8, a news release says. Judging will take place on the evening of Dec. 13, with the judges planning to depart at 6 p.m. from the Chamber of Commerce office in Davidson Plaza.

First-, second- and third-place winners will be selected from each of three categories:

  • Category I — 101 or more units.
  • Category II — 51 to 100 units.
  • Category III — 50 or fewer units.

“Please click on this link for a registration form to enter,” the release adds. “If you would like to mail a registration form,” the release says, please click here to download a registration form.”

Hilla Blatt is chair of the Holiday Lighting Committee for the Condo Council.

Speaking of the holidays …

The Siesta Key Chapel Arts Series will offer A Service of Lessons and Carols on Sunday, Dec. 10, during the 10 a.m. worship service.

“This special musical service is modeled on the yearly service at King’s College in Cambridge, England,” a news release says. “Settings of Advent and Christmas carols will be sung by the Chapel Choir and interspersed with readings of the Nativity. The anthems will be accompanied by Musicians Out of the Box string quartet and newly-installed Schantz pipe organ,” the release adds.

Siesta Key Chapel is located at 4615 Gleason Ave. on the north end of Siesta Key. For more information, visit or call 349-1166.