The Sarasota County Terrace Administration Building has been home to various county services since its purchase in 1972. Over that time, one of the services offered has been a constant source of frustration for visitors and employees alike: the elevators.
Those familiar with the building have heard horror stories of malfunctions and stoppages. The issues are due to age — the building dates back to 1925, and the elevators still use some original equipment.
Recognizing the need, the Sarasota County Commission approved a $1.15 million contract last October that includes elevator modernization at the terrace building. Construction began that month, and is expected to be completed in October.
County officials shared their memories of the vexing history of the elevators — and the process of getting them fixed:
Ed Gable, Sarasota County manager of facilities: “A lot of this is original equipment. It’s hard for us to tell exactly when it’s all from, but it’s very old and it has a high level of service requirement. The maintenance costs had just gone through the roof. (Repairs are) well overdue, and we’re happy to get it taken care of and make it safer for the public.”
Kathy Dent, Sarasota County supervisor of elections: “It’s been basically an ongoing joke (in the building). ... In 1996, Jim Todora was elected property appraiser. He was holding his reception on the 10th floor, and — on the way to his own party — he got stuck in the smaller one for a period of time with a whole lot of other people.”
Carolyn Mason, Sarasota County commissioner: “They were old and slow and breaking down a lot. Our staff here, Ed Gable and company, was working on it (before last year), but it wasn’t going too quickly.”
Dent: “We’ve had quite a few people trapped in the smaller elevator. People are a little bit uncomfortable getting in that particular one. Now they’ve got a sign up that says you can’t put more than 1,000 pounds in that one or more than three people. People have been sticking to that.”
Gable: “There have been some short-time entrapments.”
Dent: “Some people do panic — I have one staff member who got stuck one day and she was very close to passing out. For me personally, being stuck with some high school students for 35 minutes before we were rescued was a little uncomfortable for everyone.”
Mason: “That’s not a good thing. That happens (elsewhere), occasionally. They were in the little elevator, and it’s the size of a postage stamp.”
Dent: “We spent a lot of time on our cell phones trying to contact somebody, and then they had people outside talking to us, but they couldn’t get into it. Finally, when they got the door open, we had to step up a couple of feet to get out of the elevator. It was an experience, and it was very warm in there. A couple of the kids were a little panicky — you could just see it in their faces.”
Mason: “If I were in there, I probably would have had a heart attack. I would not have done well there. That’s unsafe, and it’s unacceptable.”
Dent: “The people on the lower floors can take the stairs. I’m on the seventh floor; I guess I could probably get a good workout that way. I’m up and down and in and out all day — we’ve got offices on the first, seventh and eighth floors.”
Mason: “Getting (Gable) and the building users together — kind of a little bridge building, if you will — helped to get things moving a little quicker.”
Dent: “Commissioner Mason — she doesn’t do elevators anyway — she’s very much been an advocate for us. When we shared with her the status one day, she was interested in seeing something done.”
Mason: “I have a fear of elevators, so I don’t get on them anywhere.”
Dent: “She asks about the status. ‘How’s it going; are we getting somewhere?’ But she wouldn’t go in the elevators anyway.”
Gable: “They’re doing a major replacement of everything — the structure itself, the electrical devices. ... Within a couple of weeks, we should be done with the first one.”
Mason: “Things are moving along there. I’m a happy camper.”
Contact David Conway at [email protected]