Editor’s Note: Former readers of the Pelican Press who enjoyed Rachel Brown Hackney’s “Island Beat” column, which kept all apprised of goings-on on Siesta Key, will be pleased to know that her new column – “Siesta Seen” – will be a regular feature in The Sarasota News Leader.
When it was her turn to speak during the commissioners’ comments late on the afternoon of May 23, Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson began with a bit of an apology.
She had attended the Presidents Council meeting on Siesta Key on Monday, she said, “and they kind of read me a laundry list …”
That Presidents Council, which Patterson had referenced earlier in the commission’s meetings this week, is an opportunity for representatives of the Siesta Key Village Association, the Siesta Key Association, the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce and the Siesta Key Condominium Council to talk about issues of concern to all of those organizations.
First on her list, Patterson told her fellow board members, was a problem on Calle Minorga, which, she explained, is the first street to the left after one has entered Siesta Village from the north.
“There’s a condo there that’s putting up a bunch of Direct Towing signs,” she said, adding that the owners of that condominium complex were identifying all of the parking spaces in front of it as if they belonged to the complex.
However, Patterson pointed out, most of those spaces are on county property, meaning public property. Representatives at the Presidents Council meeting were concerned, she said, about people parking in those public spaces only to have their vehicles towed.
“I’d like board support to refer that to Mr. Reid,” she said, meaning County Administrator Randall Reid.
“If everybody [in Siesta Village] starts doing that … putting those towing signs up,” Patterson said, that would create numerous problems.
The other commissioners were agreeable to having Reid and his staff investigate the situation.
The real show
Next on Patterson’s list May 23 was a request regarding fireworks on Siesta Key.
Everybody was looking forward to the big fireworks on Siesta Public Beach and in downtown Sarasota on the bayfront, she said. However, she pointed out, Siesta had had considerable problems in the past — especially last year — with people shooting off private fireworks on the beach.
That activity is illegal, Patterson noted.
The members of the Presidents Council had asked whether county staff could distribute flyers to the condominium complexes and erect signs on the island about a week or two before July Fourth, “just telling people that there’s a fine for [shooting off private fireworks], because there is,” Patterson said.
With no disagreement from the other commissioners, that matter appeared to have been left to Reid as well.
And speaking of those Siesta fireworks: Mark Smith, president of the Siesta Chamber, reported during the May 3 SKA meeting that the chamber would begin seeking sponsorships this month for the Siesta Beach fireworks show, which costs about $35,000.
The chamber works hard to cover that expense every year.
Not only does it seek sponsor support for the July Fourth pyrotechnics show, but the chamber each year also raises money from sales of VIP picnic tickets; those include parking passes at the beach. The tickets are priced at $150 per couple.
During that May SKA meeting, Smith pointed out that the picnic features “some of the best hamburgers and hot dogs you’d ever want to have.”
“And ice-cold beer,” SKA Director Bob Waechter chimed in.
Smith pointed out that the fireworks show began in 1991, to honor the American troops in Operation Desert Storm, which was launched to support Kuwait in repelling an invasion by Iraq under the leadership of then-dictator Saddam Hussein.
To purchase VIP tickets for the Siesta fireworks show, stop by the chamber office in Davidson Plaza on Ocean Boulevard. For more information, call the office at 349-3800.
That pressure-washing problem
The third item on Patterson’s list regarded the request for proposals for a new vendor to take over Siesta Village maintenance from county staff.
When the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. contract with vendor JWM Management ended in mid-August 2011, the county assumed responsibilities for the Village upkeep until a new vendor could be hired.
However, the Procurement Department scandal that ultimately cost County Administrator Jim Ley his job in May 2011 has slowed down all RFPs, Tom Maroney, general manager of business operations in the county’s Public Works Department, has told me.
Last summer, Terry Lewis, as interim county administrator, began implementing changes to rectify problems in that department. Reid has made continuation of that process one of his top goals since he arrived on the job in late January.
The Procurement Department has had a lot of staff turnover, too, in the past couple of months, Maroney said recently. Therefore, it seemed as soon as the RFP was close to winning approval, the person who had handled it would leave and another employee would take over the matter and start from scratch.
Patterson asked Reid May 23 to check on the status of the RFP and notify her and the other commissioners about his findings by email. She asked that he also let Mark Smith know. Smith is the chairman of the SKVMC as well as chairman of the Siesta Chamber.
In the meantime, Patterson asked whether county staff could go ahead and get the Siesta Village sidewalks pressure-washed. “They’ve been asking [for that] for six months,” she pointed out, referring to SKVA and SKVMC representatives.
Maroney told me May 8 that paperwork was being processed to enable county workers to do the pressure-washing. Apparently, that paperwork has taken as slow a route through county approval steps as the RFP.
That Treasure Boat lot
That 1.9-acre lot at the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Treasure Boat Way — which was mentioned a couple of years ago as a possible parking lot for the Village — is on the market for $1.475 million, according to a sign that has been erected on the site.
The property has been zoned for a six-family subdivision.
Records in the Sarasota County Clerk of Court’s office show the lot sold for $727,500 on March 28 to RSL Siesta Key Development LLC.
Property records also show that it previously was sold for $3.5 million in October 2005 to a company called Laguna Vista LLC. That firm has site plans for the property on its website.
During that aforementioned SKA meeting, Director Michael Shay noted that the lot recently had been cleared and leveled. “That dense area has been thinned out,” he added.
President Catherine Luckner pointed out that she had learned that the black mangroves along the back property line, adjacent to the canal, would be preserved.
At one time, a couple of years ago, someone proposed the county purchase the lot and turn it into a parking lot for the Village. Commissioner Patterson’s response was that the county didn’t have the funds to buy the property. Moreover, neighbors weren’t really excited about the prospect of noise from late-night partiers stumbling back to their vehicles at that corner of a major residential area.
More changes in the Village
Cheryl Gaddie’s commercial and residential interior design firm, CG Designs, is in the process of relocating from its Siesta Center location on Ocean Boulevard. That has proven to be good news for Ascendia Real Estate next door, which is expanding into the space.
Beth E. Dilley, broker owner of Ascendia, told me May 21 that she had been talking to contractors about new flooring and other features for Gaddie’s old spot. Dilley said she hoped to complete the expansion in about three weeks.
Salute the Troops
Starting at 9 p.m. Sunday, May 27, Siesta Village will host its annual Salute the Troops Pub Crawl, in recognition of Memorial Day weekend.
The event will feature live music, giveaways and good times, according to the sponsors: Siesta Key Oyster Bar, Daiquiri Deck and Gilligan’s.