With a unanimous vote April 11, the Sarasota County Commission agreed that the county could reimburse the Siesta Key Village Association for expenses it had incurred in the establishment of the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp.
The commissioners also voted unanimously to advertise an amendment to the county ordinance governing Siesta Village maintenance, to enable the county finance office to pay all future bills related to the Village upkeep. A public hearing on that amendment tentatively has been set for the morning session of the commission’s June 26 meeting.
The final reimbursements to the SKVA are expected to include the cost of an annual corporate report fee, payable to the Florida Department of State, in the amount of $61.25, and bank service charges for March and April for the SKVMC checking account. Then, the account will be closed.
Before the vote, the commissioners queried Mark Smith, chairman of the SKVMC, on various aspects of staff proposals designed to make the reimbursements possible. Smith has been trying for almost four years to get the county to pay back the Village Association $3,221.25, the amount the SKVA covered in bills to help establish the Maintenance Corp. Those expenses included the cost of opening the checking account and attorney’s fees for incorporation.
The first invoice he had relating to the establishment of the SKVMC was dated June 5, 2008, Smith told The Sarasota News Leader.
After the county’s Village beautification project was completed in March 2009, a county ordinance allowed the SKVMC to hire a vendor to handle the expenses of the upkeep. However, a lawsuit Village property owner Chris Brown filed against the county Jan. 31, 2011 — partly over expenses for that upkeep — led to a Feb. 21 vote of the County Commission to revise the ordinance governing the maintenance. During discussions related to that ordinance revision, Smith formally asked the commission for the reimbursement.
Following the Feb. 21 meeting, at the direction of the board and staff, Smith turned over all copies of receipts and bank statements to show what the SKVA had paid for the establishment of the SKVMC.
Ryan Montague of the county’s Public Works/Mobility office explained during the April 11 County Commission session that Smith had documentation for all the expenses except for the SKVMC’s bank balance of $388.75.
Associate County Attorney Kathleen Schneider told the commission the Sarasota County Clerk of Court’s Office and county finance staff had said no documentation was available to enable the county to reimburse the SKVA for that balance.
Montague said the commissioners had two options regarding the SKVMC bank account: allowing the SKVMC to keep the account open, with the county reimbursing the SKVMC for future expenses as they were documented; or allowing the SKVMC to refund the $388.75 to the Village Association, with all future invoices going directly to the county.
The latter option, Montague pointed out, would entail the closing of the bank account.
“It seems to me Option 2 is the most fair, but is that a board decision?” Commissioner Nora Patterson asked.
“It can be,” Montague told her.
Schneider said county staff would prefer that second option, adding, “Basically, there is no need for the bank account if the corporation is not paying for anything directly” in the future.
The SKVMC could keep the bank account open, Schneider said, but county finance staff was concerned about that from an auditing standpoint. Leaving the account open, she said, could lead to a scenario in which “someone may use (the account funds) for something that in their opinion was appropriate but in the county’s opinion was not.”
Smith said his only concern was that if the bank account were closed right away, county staff might not pay the 2012 corporate report fee of $61.25 in a timely fashion; it was due by May 1.
“It’s $461.25 if we’re late,” Smith added.
Patterson then suggested the account be left open until that fee was paid. “May 1 is coming right up,” she pointed out.
Smith added that he had no objection to closing the SKVMC checking account after that payment was sent to the state. “I want to make this (process) as simple as possible.”
Patterson made the motion for the county to reimburse the SKVA $2,832.50 — the amount left after the bank balance was deducted from the SKVA expenses for which Smith had provided documentation. That motion passed unanimously.
After consultation with County Attorney Stephen DeMarsh, the commissioners agreed the SKVA would be reimbursed for the corporate filing fee out of the $388.25 remaining in the bank account. DeMarsh noted the commissioners could approve any reimbursement for which proper documentation was provided. However, he said, “The board does not need to take action to direct two private parties on how they deal with the money.”
If the commissioners wished to proceed with the option of allowing the county to handle future bills, Schneider said, the board needed to amend the ordinance regarding the Village upkeep. She provided the commissioners with suggested language for that amendment. It specifies that the contracting agency for the Public Improvement District in the Village will be able to procure services from third-party vendors, and any other work deemed necessary, according to the guidelines of the existing ordinance.
The agency will submit invoices to the county with the proper documentation, and the county will pay the third-party vendors, the amendment said.
That would cover any state filing fees, Schneider added.
“So in the future, can the county be sufficiently timely to cover such expenses” as the filing fee, Patterson asked.
The county would have a year’s notice about the due date for that fee, Schneider replied.
Smith told The Sarasota News Leader April 12 that Roz Hyman, the SKVMC secretary, signed the filing fee check April 11, so it could be mailed right away to the state. He had instructed Hyman to close out the account as soon as the check cleared, he added.