Siesta Key Association Secretary Joyce Kouba aired what was probably the first public complaint during her organization’s Oct. 6 meeting: People have been finding the intersection of Treasure Boat Way and Ocean Boulevard dangerous if they try to make a left turn onto Ocean Boulevard, she said.
The problem stemmed from the location of the wooden fence, which has been vandalized repeatedly over the past year, and vegetation, she said.
Moreover, Kouba said, the 35 mph sign for motorists headed northbound out of the Village on Ocean Boulevard encourages people to speed up right before that intersection and a crosswalk, endangering pedestrians.
SKA President Catherine Luckner told the Pelican Press last week that people heading onto Ocean Boulevard from Treasure Boat Way said they felt they had to pull about two feet into the intersection to be able to see clearly enough before turning left toward the Village.
The fact that many bicyclists travel along the east side of Ocean Boulevard compounds the problems, she said.
Luckner sent an email Oct. 16 to Tom Maroney, Sarasota County general manager of business operations and public works, to say that she also had had a number of requests for enhancements to the crosswalk at the intersection, because “(it) is quite faded and the sign is blocked from view by shrubs.”
Luckner noted in her email that drivers coming out of the Village’s 20 mph zone look ahead to the 35 mph sign that is located beyond the Treasure Boat intersection “and don’t see the pedestrian crossing and intersection.” She wrote, “It would be great if these safety issues could be included in the work plan” when the county replaces the fence by Treasure Boat Way.
In an Oct. 18 email to county staff and County Commission Chairwoman Nora Patterson, who lives on the Key, Gary Spraggins, the Buchan Airport manager and a Mobility Infrastructure Department staff member who has been overseeing day-to-day Village maintenance, wrote that he had investigated the sight-distance issue that morning. County staff had cleared the mangroves that were hanging over the boardwalk by the fence, he wrote.
Regarding the Treasure Boat intersection itself, he added, “One must stop at the ‘stop bar’ then slowly proceed toward Ocean Boulevard to ensure safe passage before turning left or right.” A vehicle had more than two feet of space before its front end encroached into Ocean Boulevard, he added, providing the driver sufficient room to look for oncoming traffic. That measurement met county standards, Spraggins wrote.
However, Spraggins added that he had asked county staff to re-stripe the crosswalk; he had placed a purchase order that day for that work.
Maroney told the Pelican Press he understood motorists’ perception about having to ease part of the way into the intersection to look left before turning onto Ocean Boulevard, but he confirmed Spraggins’ assessment regarding the two-foot clearance.
Nonetheless, Maroney said, when county staff installs the new wrought-iron fence at that intersection, the fence will be placed closer to the ditch to give drivers a clearer view of Ocean Boulevard.
Because of a manufacturing delay reported Oct. 21 to county staff, that new fence won’t go in until early November. (See the Briefs on Page 4A.)
County staff also would look into the possibility of moving the 35 mph sign to prevent traffic from speeding up just south of the crosswalk, he said, and “we’re going to be looking at changing the lighting” at the crosswalk, making it brighter.
Maintenance Corp. RFP still not out
Although county staff originally had estimated the new request for proposals for a Village maintenance vendor would go out this month, “the bid process is taking a little longer than anticipated,” Tom Maroney, Sarasota County general manager of business operations and public works, told the Pelican Press last week.
“The Procurement Department is taking things step by step by step by step,” Maroney said.
The delay is a result of the hiring of a new manager and staff for that department, Maroney said, in the wake of a scandal earlier this year. That new staff has been in a learning phase and has been working to address projects according to priority, he added.
Asked if he could estimate when the RFP would go out, Maroney said, “I can’t put a date within two weeks.”
In the meantime, county staff is continuing to take care of all the Village maintenance, Maroney said. “I think we’re doing a good job with the Village,” he said. “That’s the upside.”
Mark Smith, a member of the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. board of directors, told the Pelican Press last week that he and Chris Brown, owner of The Hub Baja Grill, The Cottage and The Beach Club, were scheduled to meet this week with county staff to discuss the RFP.
Brown filed a lawsuit earlier this year over allegations that the Maintenance Corp. had not adhered to the appropriate county ordinance in overseeing the Village upkeep. Ordinance revisions were designed to eliminate any questions about oversight, record keeping and payments to vendors.
Although Smith said he also had not walked through the Village himself as regularly because of his recent workload, he said he felt he could concur with Maroney’s assessment that no problems had cropped up recently.