The city of Sarasota finally will turn over to the county $1.6 million in state grants intended to help build the Baltimore Orioles new spring-training stadium.
City commissioners unanimously voted Nov. 1 to release the funds.
The Orioles’ attorneys had been asking the city for weeks for the grant money because it needed it to complete the renovation of Ed Smith Stadium.
The city had been holding off on that request, however, because it did not want to release the money while a lawsuit over the county’s spring-training negotiations was pending.
Two citizens groups had sued the county, claiming it violated Sunshine Laws by negotiating out of the public eye. A district court ruled against Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government and Citizens for Sunshine last summer, but the groups appealed to the Florida Supreme Court.
The high court affirmed the lower court’s ruling last week. With that decision, city leaders felt it was safe to release the funds.
They had feared handing over the money to the county and seeing the court rule in favor of the plaintiffs.
A court loss would have made it unlikely local governments could have borrowed the money to build the stadium, and without new stadium construction, the state likely would have demanded the return of the grant money.
There was no guarantee the county would have returned the $1.6 million, in which case city taxpayers would have been responsible for that money.
“Now, the risk is gone,” City Attorney Bob Fournier said.
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