For more than three years the Big Cat Habitat has been trying to get the county to do something about an ongoing flooding problem.
Kay Rosaire, owner of the Big Cat Habitat, brought the problem to the attention of the county in September 2010, after land-use changes in the area, including construction of the celery fields adjacent to the Big Cat Habitat grounds, affected rainwater drainage. Flooding at the popular tourist attraction, which features a wide variety of exotic cats including lions, tigers, tigons and ligers, worsened in the wake of county drainage improvement projects meant to control stormwater runoff from the celery fields and other sites adjacent to the Big Cat Habitat property.
In a series of email exchanges, Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta expressed frustration with the county’s inaction on the issue and said that unless the county steps in and fixes the drainage problem, a valuable Sarasota tourism destination could be in jeopardy.
“Here we are three years later with the problem still existing, and the county having done nothing,” Barbetta wrote in an email. “This is unacceptable.”
According to county emails, former Sarasota County Surface Water Manager Warren Davis first addressed this issue in 2010, proposing the installation of a relief pipe to allow faster drainage of the Big Cat Habitat.
The relief pipe was never built, and mobile stormwater pumps have been used as a temporary fix.
According to an email from County Administrator Mark Cunningham, the pumps are insufficient, and a more permanent, sustainable solution is needed.
Barbetta pushed for the county to take action immediately.
“It appears to me there have been enough meetings and studies and hard data,” Barbetta wrote. “Let’s just get the corrective action completed.”
Barbetta is set to receive a detailed memo from Cunningham this Friday regarding potential corrective actions by the county and plans to address the issue at the Aug. 27 Sarasota County Commission meeting.
Contact Nolan Peterson at [email protected].