Siesta Seen: Radar sign issue nearly resolved

Flags purchased by the Siesta Key Village Association are flying in the Village in honor of the upcoming July Fourth holiday. Photo by Rachel Hackney

During the six months since radar signs were installed around Siesta Key, one pad has been minus its sign. Apparently some misinformation has circulated about that sign situation, Chris Hauber, the technical specialist in the Sarasota County Mobility/Traffic Office told me June 29.

Hauber has been the project’s point person.

If all goes as he hopes it will, Hauber will have a new application turned in to the Florida Department of Transportation by July 3, to seek the final approval for installation of that last sign.

If he cannot complete the application before the July Fourth holiday, he said, it should go off to FDOT about 10 days later.

The radar sign has been planned for a location on Midnight Pass Road near the Commonwealth Drive intersection, in the vicinity of the “hump bridge” over the Grand Canal.

Once an application is submitted, Hauber said, FDOT generally responds within 30 days. If time ticks much past that period, he said, staff usually gives FDOT a call to find out what is causing the delay.

Siesta Key Association President Catherine Luckner had emailed county staff and FDOT earlier this month, asking what the hold-up was with that last sign.

In a June 12 email, Albert Rosenstein, FDOT engineering manager at the Sarasota Operations Center, responded that the unit and its components had not been crash-tested. Therefore, “the device needs to be located outside the requested location — which means it must be located further from the road than a post mounted sign.” Rosenstein added that because the sign had not been crash-tested, “there is a chance if someone hits it, the radar and associated components could cause great harm.”

Hauber indicated on June 29 that the sign and its components should meet FDOT standards, because that was the intent when the county purchased the equipment.

The worst-case scenario, Hauber said, would be for FDOT to require the sign to be moved further from the road, and that was not a major problem. The extra distance would be just 3 feet, Hauber said.

“It’s a minor, minor detail,” he pointed out.

FDOT has no interest in being responsible for the sign, Hauber added, and the county has no interest in FDOT being responsible for the sign.

Hauber was apologetic that the matter had not been resolved sooner.

“I’ve just been busy,” he said. “We have to prioritize,” he added, referring to county staff duties.

And while Tropical Storm Debby’s assault on Sarasota County created extra headaches for most staff, Hauber said the situation actually allowed him to get more work done this week. “I had fewer phone calls,” he said, though he added he would have to deal with some of the storm’s aftermath.

The dumpster

The dumpster in Siesta's public parking lot is used for trash related to Village upkeep. Photo by Rachel Hackney

As county staff led contractors through Siesta Village last week, to help them visualize what they would be bidding on if they wanted the job of maintaining the Village grounds, the group paused in front of the dumpster in the parking lot between Avenida de Mayo and Avenida Madera.

“This is our one dumpster,” Ryan Montague in the Mobility/Traffic office explained. It stays locked, he added, because Village businesses have tried to use it. Therefore, the company that wins the maintenance contract would get a key for the lock, Montague said.

Russell Matthes, president of the Siesta Key Village Association, was eyeing the trash bulging out of the top of the dumpster as Montague noted that that garbage is collected from it on Tuesdays and Fridays.

The dumpster has been one topic of continuing conversation for SKVA members over the past months, and it even sparked some email exchange this spring with county commissioners.

During the SKVA’s meeting June 5, Mark Smith, chairman of the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp., explained that SKVMC and SKVA representatives had approached John Davidson, who owns the buildings on Avenida Madera from which Anna’s Deli and Total Tennis relocated a few weeks ago, about moving the dumpster out of the parking lot and closer to Total Tennis.

However, Smith said, Davidson did not like that idea. Therefore, the dumpster will stay in the public parking lot, taking up space that could be used for vehicles.

“We’re going to have to enclose it,” Smith also noted of the dumpster.

When someone pointed out that that will mean losing another parking space in the lot, Smith said simply, “It just happens to be the only public lot in the Village.”

Rahmi Nehme, co-owner of Blasé Café, pointed out that the Village has parking spaces that are not used at night, but the business owners have towing signs up, warning drivers away from those spaces.

Businesses should allow people to use the spaces, Nehme said, especially during special events such as Siesta Fiesta, when the size of the crowd makes spots particularly difficult to find.

No one disagreed with that remark.

Speaking of maintenance …

On June 26, the Sarasota County Procurement Office sent out an addendum to the request for proposals for the Village maintenance contract, apparently providing answers to questions that had been asked by prospective bidders.

Among those answers are the following:

• Sunday visits are required year-round.

• All landscape beds shall be hand-pruned only. Electric or gas-powered shears may not be used on landscape bed plants.

• Vendors are required to replace missing and broken pavers, and the replacements must match the existing color conditions of in-ground pavers.

• Coconut palms are being replaced because they died during a hard freeze in the winter.

• Gas edgers, mowers and blowers may be used, but that usage must not interfere with outdoor dining or outdoor customer services.

The bids will be opened at 2:30 p.m. July 11 in the Procurement Department at the Sarasota County Administration Building, 1660 Ringling Blvd., in downtown Sarasota.

Boaters beware

Lots of visitors usually are present on Siesta Key during the July Fourth holiday, and it’s a good bet some of them will be renting boats to explore the Grand Canal.

Fortunately, Sarasota County officials did get some new “Slow Speed” signs erected late this spring to help protect the manatees that frequent the canal.

SKA President Catherine Luckner reported on that effort during the SKA’s May meeting, as the organization had requested the new signage months ago.

Two new signs extend the slow speed zone south of the Siesta Drive bridge (the north bridge), a new sign extends the slow speed zone to the area south of the Bird Colony Islands and one new sign extends the slow speed zone to the area north of the mouth of Phillippi Creek, Luckner said. The latter “is a very big area for manatees,” she added.

The county’s Natural Resources Department staff also saw to it that a new sign was erected to extend the slow speed zone to the area south of the Stickney Point Bridge. SKA Director Bob Waechter had pointed out last fall that that sign was missing.

A clean Key for ‘company’

During the Sarasota County Commission’s June 26 regular meeting, Commissioner Nora Patterson, who lives on the island, pointed out that Tropical Storm Debby had left Siesta “pretty messy.” She asked that county staff clean up all the debris before visitors descended upon the island for the July Fourth holiday next week.

Chairwoman Christine Robinson pointed out that visitors also could be expected in Englewood, Venice and on Lido Key, which needed to look presentable as well.