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Sarasota Monday, Oct. 26, 2009 5 years ago

Group alleges Ed Smith Stadium cover up

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by: Robin Roy City Editor

A group that has opposed spring-training deals with the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles alleges City Hall may have covered up an unfavorable environmental report on Ed Smith Stadium, before city commissioners voted to approve a deal with the Orioles.

City Hall representatives say there was no secrecy and that the group, Citizens for Responsible Government, is not offering any new information.

The group’s founder, Cathy Antunes, announced during a Monday evening press conference in front of City Hall that she has acquired a 117-page study the city commissioned, which shows a plume of vinyl chloride underneath Ed Smith practice fields.

Antunes said the report shows the plume is moving toward homes and Tuttle Elementary School.

The report was completed July 17, and Antunes alleged that City Manager Bob Bartolotta withheld that report from commissioners before the July 22 vote to approve the Orioles deal.

Commissioners were only shown a two-page report summary dated June 8.

Deputy City Manager Marlon Brown said there was no effort to keep information from commissioners. He said it is normal for staff to review large reports and provide the commission with a summary.

“In hindsight, maybe we should have given them the whole report,” said Brown.

Citizens for Responsible Government also questioned the cost Sarasota taxpayers would be picking up if a significant cleanup is required.

The agreement with the Orioles calls for the city to pay for all environmental cleanup costs.

Brown said although it is not known how much that cost may be, he said preliminary indications showed it could cost between $150,000 and $300,000.

During negotiations, Vice Mayor Kelly Kirschner and Commissioner Terry Turner wanted to place a $1 million cap on any cleanup costs for the city, but county officials told commissioners the Orioles would back out of the deal if a cap was put in place. The other three city commissioners voted against the cap proposal.

Antunes promised to keep the pressure on City Hall to ensure residents and taxpayers are informed of any developments in the future.

“If I were living near Ed Smith Stadium, I’d want to know what’s going on,” said Antunes. “(The city) has a responsibility to look into this.”

Contact Robin Roy at rroy@yourobserver.com.

 

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