Siesta Seen

Decision yet to be made on nonprofits that will benefit from 2017 Crystal Classic; repairs close to completion next to Terrace East; new Village custodial contract awarded; one streetlight still out near the Village; Light Up the Village draws thousands of visitors; motorcycle parking spaces relocated in the Village; dogs on the beach raise questions for Sheriff’s Office sergeant; county commissioner asks about potential sale price for South Midnight Pass Road parcel; Breeze ridership climbing again; Cosentino’s proposed Charter amendments not likely to hit goal by end of year; and Calle Minorga parking lot plans remain on hold

Moonlight Over the Pond is the 2017 winner of the People’s Choice Award for the Crystal Classic. Image courtesy of the Crystal Classic

After all the accounting has been completed, the organizers of the Siesta Key Crystal Classic Master Sand Sculpting Festival will decide how to divvy up any profits, Mark Smith, chair of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, has announced.

In years past, he said, Siesta Beach Festival Inc., the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that owns the Crystal Classic, had a contract that specified “a sizable amount of money” would go to Mote Marine out of the proceeds from the annual November event.

However, Smith told about 35 people at the Dec. 7 Siesta Key Association (SKA) meeting, it costs about $285,000 for the Siesta Key Chamber to produce the festival. One year, he added, a rainy day “wiped out every bit of profit we had.” Therefore, the Chamber has been working to set aside about $20,000 a year to create a fund up to $125,000 “literally for a rainy day, and we’re about there.”

The Chamber pays the travel expenses of the 24 artists who participate in the festival, Smith continued, and they come from all over the world. It also provides them a stipend. Furthermore, Smith noted, the Chamber has to pay Sarasota County for a permit to hold the event on Siesta Public Beach. County staff members “want their share of the pie,” was how he put it.

After all the financial details have been settled from the Crystal Classic this year, Smith added, the Chamber will announce the nonprofit organizations in the area that will benefit from any proceeds.

He did point out that the organizers know attendance “definitely was up from years past,” adding that the event was “a big success.”

Closer to completion

Pavers once again are in place next to Terrace East. Photo courtesy Lisa Cece

The new concrete for the Terrace East driveway finally was poured on the morning of Dec. 8, Lisa Cece, special district coordinator for Sarasota County, told The Sarasota News Leader this week.

Then, on Monday, Dec. 11, the decorative brick pavers were installed — not only those Cece rescued after a major fiber optic cable installation mishap but also new ones she had to purchase.

Regular readers will recall that the crew working on the MCI cable project severed not only a sewer pipeline at Terrace East in mid-November but also a stormwater pipe. Thus, repairs had to be made to the driveway for the condo complex, and a section of the sidewalk had to be replaced.

“We continue to apply sand as the area dries out to fully compact for load bearing,” Cece added in her Dec. 13 email to the News Leader. The area should be open to all by Friday, Dec. 15, or Monday, Dec. 18, Cece wrote, noting, “Terrace East Property Manager Doug Lambert has been provided with this status update to notify residents.”

Cece had been working with county Road & Bridge Division and Public Utilities Department staff members to get the restoration completed.

Bigger news for the Village

In early August, Buccaneer Landscape Management walked off the job, so to speak, in Siesta Village. Since 2014, the firm had been handling all the custodial and landscaping work for which the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. (SKVMC) pays. The money comes from assessments of Village property owners.

People stroll through Siesta Village on an evening in mid-May. File photo

Lisa Cece, the special district coordinator for Sarasota County, who oversees the upkeep of the Village, reported to Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce leaders in August that she had secured a firm on a temporary basis while the county’s Procurement Department worked on re-advertising the bid for the maintenance.

As it turned out, the decision was made to take a new approach with the Village upkeep: One bid would be advertised for the custodial work, while a second would cover the landscaping responsibilities. That stemmed from the realization that most companies qualified to do the work did not want to handle all of it, Cece and Michael Shay, manager of the Maintenance Corp., explained to the News Leader.

One other change with the splitting of the contracts, Cece said, is that the bids are low enough that the County Commission does not have to approve the contracts.

In August, Cece told Chamber leaders she was optimistic that a new custodial contract would be in place by Oct. 1. That proved a bit too optimistic, however, given the thorough and methodical processes that take place in the county Procurement Department.

The custodial contract was executed on Nov. 30, county Media Relations Officer Drew Winchester reported to the News Leader this week. That contract went to Greenscape Enterprises Inc., which does business as Boro Building and Property Maintenance. Boro began work on Dec. 10, Winchester added. It will receive $91,050 for the initial three-year term of the contract; the contract may be renewed for two additional one-year terms.

The Village custodial contract includes collection of garbage and recycling materials. Rachel Hackney photo

Among the scope of services Boro is handling are the emptying of all the trash and recycling containers; cleaning of water fountains; “general housekeeping of the gazebo area”; removal of gum, stickers and graffiti; and exterior touch-up painting as needed for the benches, bike racks, water fountains, trash cans and lids.

The bid to which Boro responded was advertised on Aug. 23, the contract says.

The bid for the landscaping work closed on Nov. 22, Winchester noted, but no contract had been awarded by Dec. 11.

When the News Leader asked Michael Shay early this week whether Boro was off to a good start, he responded in an email, “[S]o far all is okay.” However, he pointed out, “Really is too early to make any decisions on how they are doing.”

He did note that Boro is the firm that collects the garbage at the beach accesses on the Key.

Speaking of Michael Shay …

While the News Leader was corresponding with Michael Shay about the new Village custodial contract, it took the opportunity to ask whether Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) ever had managed to get all the streetlights shining again in the vicinity of the Village. A few were affected by Hurricane Irma.

Shay has worked valiantly with an FPL representative in Sarasota to resolve the situation.

On Dec. 11, he reported that the light at the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Givens Street, which has been out since before Irma arrived, is still out.

A lovely Light Up Siesta Key

Early arrivals take a seat near Siesta Beach Resort so they can get a close-up look at the parade. Photo courtesy of Peter van Roekens

Another signature event the Siesta Chamber produces in November is Light Up Siesta Key, formerly Light Up the Village. During the Dec. 7 SKA meeting, Chamber Chair Mark Smith also reported that that event went very well, with attendance estimated between 4,000 and 5,000 for the parade. He called the figure “pretty darn incredible.”

“I’m literally the guy in the back with the sweeper,” Smith explained: He organizes the parade and wraps it up.

During an earlier telephone interview with the News Leader, Smith noted that the parade was only about 10 minutes behind schedule. “I try to get everybody out in time,” he added.

However, the difficulty a big boat had negotiating the turn onto Ocean Boulevard from Beach Road delayed Santa’s appearance, Smith said. “It’s always something.”

During the SKA meeting, Smith commended Bob Kirscher, former co-owner of The Broken Egg restaurant, for serving as Santa Claus again this year. “What an incredible amount of patience that man has,” Smith pointed out. “If you see Bob, thank him.”

As for the SKA’s appearance in the parade: Vice President Catherine Luckner explained that the nonprofit’s participation used to be “a community effort.” Because the fire truck directors rode broke down so regularly, she said, parade-goers would push it along Ocean Boulevard. “Everybody remembers that and laughs.”

Siesta Key Association members ride the 1945 fire truck. Photo by Peter van Roekens

The owner of that truck finally sold it, she continued. Last year, the nonprofit’s insurance agent provided it with a fire truck for the parade, Luckner said, but no one was available to drive that truck this year.

Although the SKA had filed an application with the Siesta Chamber to be in the parade, Luckner added, it did not appear that that would work out.

Then on the day of the parade — the Saturday after Thanksgiving — Luckner said she received a call from County Commissioner Alan Maio, who was trying to track down a truck. It turned out that the Sarasota Fire Fighter’s Benevolent Fund was willing to help out, she told the audience.

“Awesome truck; the best we’ve ever had. It purrs.”

It also was easy for people to climb aboard, Luckner noted.

The vehicle was a 1945 Mack fire truck, she said, “which is a classic.”
The president of the Fire Fighters Benevolent Fund is Paul Kurtz, who works at Fire Station No. 1 in downtown Sarasota, Luckner explained. “I had to give him the shirt off my back to thank him.”

To explain that last remark, Luckner pointed out that she likes to wear an SKA T-shirt over her other clothes, like a tunic. Kurtz, she continued, is “a muscular big guy.” When she asked him what size shirt he wears, he told her he needed a 2X. The SKA had none available, she added. Then she remembered that was the size she was wearing. “I said, ‘There you go!’” and gave him her shirt.

The group did not charge the SKA, she noted, and it plans to provide the truck again in 2018. Luckner extended her appreciation to Maio on behalf of the SKA.

Motorcycle parking makes a move

Motorcycle parking spaces remained visible in front of Gilligan’s in early November. Rachel Hackney photo

When the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce held its quarterly meeting in August, Chair Mark Smith talked of a request by Gilligan’s Island Bar to have the motorcycle parking spots moved away from their Ocean Boulevard location in front of the restaurant.

When the Village Beautification Project was undertaken by Sarasota County in 2007 and 2008, he explained, the goal was to create parking spaces specifically for motorcycles, so people who ride them would stop parking on the sidewalks.

He told the News Leader that because the majority of the motorcyclists seemed to be patrons of Gilligan’s, the Daiquiri Deck and the Siesta Key Oyster Bar, Village leaders asked for the new slots to be painted on the street at that end of the Village.

“Basically, [they] take up two [motor vehicle] parking spaces,” Smith said during the Chamber meeting.

Michael Shay, manager of the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. pointed out because the motorcyclists back into the spaces, “exhaust is going right into the restaurant” when they leave.

The Maintenance Corp. asked that the spaces be relocated to the area in front of Siesta Beach Plaza, Smith added at that August meeting, just a little north of Gilligan’s.

Fast forward to Dec. 6: When the News Leader asked Smith for an update, he reported that the project still had not been completed. The Maintenance Corp. did not have any funds left in its 2017 fiscal year budget for the work, he pointed out, so county staff had to wait until the new fiscal year began on Oct. 1. “We’re talking about painting,” Smith pointed out, though the work also would include moving kickstand plates in the Gilligan’s spaces.

“It’s going to get there,” he added of the project. “Inch by inch, we’re getting there,” he joked.

Finally, the move has taken place. In a Dec. 14 email, Shay told the News Leader that the parking spots were relocated the previous night. The final touches were expected to be completed that day, Shay added.

About those dogs …

During his Dec. 7 report to SKA members, Sgt. Jason Mruczek, leader of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office subdivision on the Key, reported “no real major crime trends” for November. A couple of vehicle burglaries had been reported on the north end of the island, he said, so he reminded the audience members to lock their vehicles and never to leave valuables in plain sight in them.

Sgt. Jason Mruczek. File photo

Mruczek added that the Sheriff’s Office had received requests to increase patrols on South Midnight Pass Road to monitor speeding in that area. A speed-recording device was set up to collect data, he said, so he would be checking on the results soon.

As for reports of vehicles speeding through Siesta Village early in the morning: Putting deputies in place to monitor that remains a work in progress, Mruczek indicated.

When he asked for questions or concerns, a woman told him that she had been observing “a lot of people bringing so-called service dogs out [on the beach] as soon as the lifeguards leave,” and those dogs run up and down the shoreline.

“No animals are allowed in county parks,” Mruczek responded. However, if a person tells a deputy a dog is a service animal, the deputy does ask whether the dog belongs to that person and what type of service animal it is. The dog does not have to have a vest on to specify that information, he noted.

“We’re very limited on what we can ask [of the owners],” he said, indicating that that was because of the language in the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Nonetheless, he continued, dogs are supposed to be on leashes, unless they have been trained to respond reliably to voice commands.

The woman then pointed out that she believed owners “throwing Frisbees into the water [for the dogs] to retrieve” was a sure sign the dogs she had been seeing were not service animals. Mruczek acknowledged that he was inclined to agree with her.

How much is that land worth?

The future of county-owned land at 6647 S. Midnight Pass Road has been a big topic of Siesta discussions for some time, with many island leaders thinking it would be a good location for a parking lot.

During a Dec. 13 County Commission discussion about creating parking spaces and a trolley stop on that property, Commissioner Michael Moran asked about the market value of the land.

Lin Kurant, the county’s Real Estate Services manager, replied that a staff appraiser had come up with the figure of $3.5 million.

An aerial map shows the property at 6647 S. Midnight Pass Road. Image from Google Maps

Commissioner Alan Maio reminded Moran that, earlier this year, the county’s Public Utilities Department staff affirmed the need for the county to retain ownership of the property because of an aboveground water tank located there and numerous underground pipelines. “A parking lot was a fallback position.”

Kurant pointed out that the Utilities Department staff had advised her office that all of the utilities infrastructure on the site would have to be removed if the parcel were to be offered for sale. “It’s zoned multi-family,” she said of the property, but the number of units that could be constructed on it most likely would be constrained because of a wetlands area on the eastern end of it.

Commissioner Charles Hines was among board members who voiced surprise that such a high potential sales price would be expected for the parcel

“I don’t care if its 5 cents or $3.5 million,” Moran replied. “I’m just suggesting that it’s a variable in this conversation.”

The board members have been working since October to identify revenue — including proceeds from selling surplus land — that can be used to fill a projected $7.7-million budget hole for the 2019 fiscal year.

Breeze ridership climbing after late-summer lull

Ridership for the Siesta Key Breeze open-air trolley has bounced back as expected, thanks to seasonal residents returning to the Key and two big events on the island last month.

In October, the total was 8,793, and in November, it was 15,443, Kendra Keiderling, marketing outreach and customer service supervisor for Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT), told the News Leader.

The Siesta Key Breeze pulls to a stop in front of Siesta Market on Canal Road. File photo

Not only did the island host the Crystal Classic Master Sand Sculpting Festival in November, but it also had a busy holiday season kickoff — Light Up Siesta Key — the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

In July, SCAT recorded 25,506 passengers on the open-air trolley that circulates between Turtle Beach Park and Siesta Village. For August, the total was 14,040, Keiderling reported to the News Leader.

Of course, July Fourth is a tremendously busy day for visitors on the island. Additionally, spot checks by the News Leader have indicated that Dr. Beach’s second No. 1 ranking of Siesta Public Beach, just before Memorial Day, contributed to another booming summer for businesses.

In September, however, ridership fell to 5,165. Keiderling told the News Leader that SCAT staff had been warned that September traditionally is the least busy month on the Key, with school having started and snowbirds not having returned yet. The Breeze also had six days of disruption because of forecasts for Hurricane Irma’s strike, Keiderling said in early October.

Cosentino’s Charter amendments

Mike Cosentino and Mary Anne Bowie, executive director of Reopen Beach Road, told members of the Siesta Key Association in August that they hoped to set a record for the shortest amount of time needed to get privately initiated Sarasota County Charter amendments before voters. “We should be on the ballot by the end of the year,” Bowie said, drawing applause from the approximately 65 people at the nonprofit’s monthly meeting.

Both are related to Cosentino’s efforts to overturn a May 2016 vote of the County Commission that vacated a 357-foot-long segment of North Beach Road.

Mike Cosentino’s truck publicizing his Reopen Beach Road initiative has become a common sight on Siesta Key. File photo

Reopen Beach Road needs a total of 13,866 valid signatures on each proposed amendment. As of Dec. 13, however, the Supervisor of Elections Office reported to the News Leader that no change in the count for either had been recorded since last month. The total for proposed Amendment 4.1 is 7,129; for proposed Amendment 4.2, 7,015.

As for the proposed amendments themselves: The first says the following: “Article III, Section 4.1. Preserve County-Owned Parks, Preserves, Beach and Water Access and Waterfront Vistas. The County shall not sell, and shall retain ownership of, County-owned Parks and Preserves, and shall not vacate or sell County-owned road segments or right of way along or abutting any beach, river, creek, canal, lake, bay, gulf access or waterfront vista. The County shall encourage maximum right of way use for public access and viewing of waterfront vistas. Whenever feasible, the County shall make these areas accessible to mobility impaired persons.”

The second says, “Article III, Section 4.2. Siesta Key Beach Road as Public Right of Way. The County shall rescind the vacation of, or re-acquire, Beach Road on Siesta Key as it existed on January 1, 2016, and shall not vacate or sell this County-owned road segment(s) or right of way. The County shall provide maximum right of way use of Beach Road for public access, including vehicular use and viewing of waterfront vistas. The County shall make Beach Road accessible to mobility impaired persons.”

5160 Calle Minorga update

The lot stands empty at 5160 Calle Minorga in Siesta Village. File photo

Plans proposed in the spring to transform the parcel at 5160 Calle Minorga into a private parking lot remain on hold, the News Leader has learned.

On Dec. 5, Jim Ready, a partner with the Sarasota engineering firm of John F. Cavoli, responded, “No, ma’am,” when the News Leader asked whether he and Cavoli had any update about improvements to the parcel. “Not at this moment,” he added.

As the News Leader noted in August, the property was on the market for a period of time. A check of county Property Appraiser Office records on Dec. 7 found that a limited liability company called 5160 Calle Minorga still owns the land, which it bought for $450,000 in September 2011. Sentinel Management LLC of Sarasota is the registered agent for the company; the people behind Sentinel Management are Barry Silverstein and Dennis J. McGillicuddy, according to state records.

The conceptual design for the Calle Minorga parking lot, submitted to Sarasota County in late April, showed the potential for 35 spaces on the 0.241 acres.

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