A 20-year agreement between the city of Sarasota and Sarasota County about the operations and maintenance of parks will come to an end in three months. Because both governments want to cut costs, they are stuck in negotiations over who will pay to run the parks within the city limits.
The county currently operates the parks in the city of Sarasota, which costs $2.9 million per year.
A handshake agreement between Vice Mayor Fredd Atkins and County Commissioner Nora Patterson last week could lead to the county handing over control of the city’s smaller neighborhood parks (see below), Bayfront Park and the Robert L. Taylor Recreation Center, in Newtown.
The county annually spends about $300,000 to run the neighborhood parks, $250,000 to operate and maintain Bayfront Park and $400,000 for the Robert L. Taylor center.
The Newtown recreation center is currently being rebuilt, and when it re-opens about a year from now, its operating cost will jump to about $1.2 million.
Marlon Brown, deputy city manager, asked county officials to keep contributing funds to Robert L. Taylor, because that total cost would be too much for the city to absorb.
Under the preliminary agreement, which has to go back to each set of commissioners for official ratification, the county would put the $950,000 it had been spending on neighborhood parks, the Robert L. Taylor Center and Bayfront Park toward the operation of the recreation center, then the city would make up the difference. The county’s contribution would be reduced over a yet-to-be-determined amount of time back to $400,000.
“We can’t permanently raise our parks budget, because (it’s) being told to cut (its) budget,” said Patterson.
The city of Sarasota is proposing taking over operations of all neighborhood parks. The county had been spending $300,000 per year to run those parks. The city will now pay that cost.
The following are the neighborhood parks the city would control:
• AB Smith Park
• Avion Park
• Bayfront Community Center
• Bay Island Park
• Ben Franklin Drive landscape medians
• Bird Key Park
• Causeway Park
• Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park
• Eastwood Park
• Firehouse Park
• Fruitville Road Park
• Gillespie Park
• Indian Beach Park
• Mary Dean Park
• North Water Tower Park
• Orange Avenue Park
• Pioneer Park
• Whitaker Gateway Park