+ Selby lays off seven employees
Because it has been operating at a deficit for five years, the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens laid off seven employees in five different departments — a 14% reduction in full-time staff.
Two world-renowned orchid researchers, Stig Dahlstrom and Wesley Higgins, were among those laid off, and some volunteers were worried that the Gardens would lose its reputation as a world-class research facility.
Selby Gardens CEO Tom Buchter said although some research projects will be put on hold, research of other plant species would continue.
“I’m still committed to research, but it has to be funded,” he said. “These were very painful decisions, but because of the budget direction, we had to make this move.”
The budget deficit in 2004 was $165,304. In 2008, it grew to $474,634. The layoffs will save about $200,000 per year.
+ City closes on U.S. 301 property
The city of Sarasota now officially owns three parcels on U.S. 301 that were originally supposed to be home to the Boston Red Sox.
The 1.2 acres cost the city $4.7 million, which came out of surtax funds. The county originally purchased the land with the agreement that the city would reimburse the county. Both governments were hoping to build a spring-training stadium for the Red Sox there.
City Manager Bob Bartolotta said the understanding had always been if a Red Sox deal were not reached that the property would serve as an expansion of Payne Park.
But, because there are currently limited funds for a park expansion, the city’s immediate plans call for leasing the veterinary office there back to the veterinarian and leveling the former strip club and gas station.
+ Doggie dining extension approved
County commissioners extended by five years a program that allows dogs in the outdoor areas of restaurants.
Restaurants have to apply for a permit to be eligible. The doggie-dining ordinance will be in effect until June 2014.
+ Sheriff’s office ups traffic patrols
Because the county is on pace for its highest traffic-fatality rate since 2000, Sheriff Tom Knight increased traffic patrols July 1.
All available personnel were placed at several of the county’s most dangerous intersections to try to stop that trend.
“The goal of (Wednesday’s) ramped-up enforcement is to remind drivers that traffic enforcement is a priority for the sheriff’s office,” Knight said.