Siesta Key mowing issues continue to grow.
But, the county plans to create as many as 28 temporary positions to maintain right of ways that have been ignored by contractors unable to handle the work.
Siesta Key resident Kim DeNais sent an email Nov. 2, to alert Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson that the brush was growing into Canal Road, which obstructed drivers’ views of pedestrians. Sarasota County Field Services Director Spencer Anderson said in an email response he expected the mowing to be done before December, but that estimate has now stretched to the first week of the month.
“We’re working with a contractor that has not particularly performed as expected,” Anderson said in a phone interview with the Pelican Press.
Canal Road snakes along four curves of the Grand Canal on Siesta Key. There is a sidewalk on one shoulder, but when pedestrians or cyclists travel on the other side of the road, they can be hidden from approaching vehicles, even when the right of way landscaping is fully maintained.
The temporary, and possibly permanent, hires would happen about four years after Public Works pitched hiring private firms for median upkeep as a cost-saving measure during the Great Recession.
The county is looking for a new contractor for the northern urban zone, where Siesta Key roads lie. There’s a crew of between five and seven county employees currently mowing areas neglected by contractors.
“We’re trying to bring in all the options available,” Anderson said.
County staff will consider further breaking up the zones before signing a long-term contractor, and some of the temporary mowing personnel could remain in permanent positions, Anderson said.
Bloomings Landscape and Turf Management abandoned a mowing contract that covered the entire county earlier this year, leading to the demotion of longtime county staff member Dave Cash. The county broke the contract into four areas and hired contractors with short-term agreements, and an audit found staff had approved purchase orders for landscaping work that was never performed by Bloomings.
“It’s a frustrating situation for everyone,” Anderson said.