Siesta Key Village Association meetings can become contentious when Sarasota County staff or officials attend.
County Commissioner Nora Patterson pleaded for civility during a discussion earlier this summer.
County Administrator Randall Reid discussed bollards, beach improvements and buses — trolleys, to be specific, which have beleaguered Siesta Key residents and businesses due to bureaucratic delays.
But, Siesta Key Maintenance Corp. Director Mark Smith, a member of the SKVA Board of Directors, said he hopes the Oct. 2 meeting laid the groundwork for rosier relations with the county. The key is working jointly not just to maintain the Village, but also to enhance it, Smith said.
Smith stopped Reid after the meeting on the deck connecting the raw bar to Daiquiri Deck to talk about some of the district’s concerns.
Daiquiri Deck owners want to move two large decorative planters from another storefront in the Village, where they are not wanted, to the front of their establishment. But, in doing so, the planters would be excluded from the annual maintenance of Championship Landscape Maintenance Professionals, Smith explained. The firm’s $97,000 contract with Sarasota County doesn’t include upkeep of planters at the other location.
The discussion may be the start of fresh relations with the county, but SKVA members questioned Reid about lingering projects promised on Siesta Key.
County staff is still struggling to find a way to complete the Siesta Key public beach improvement project sooner than 2024, which is the end of the project timeline note in the 2013 adopted budget. County staff identified $4 million of the $21 million price tag that could be reduced but is still considering an alternative option of issuing debt to pay for the whole project, Reid said during the meeting.
“It’s the type of project that puts an imprint on the county for years and years,” Reid said.
County staff estimated Village maintenance would cost more than $200,000 annually, which affected at least one of the bidders for an annual contract, Smith said.
Reid confirmed the county procurement department is working on a solicitation to advertise crosswalk lighting to potential bidders, but it has not yet been posted on eProcure, the county’s online purchasing tool. SKVA President Russell Matthes, Smith and Siesta Key Association Vice President Peter Van Roekens oversaw lighting demonstrations to help the county settle on specifications for 14 bollards on each side of seven crosswalks in the Village.
“I have to say, we really owe you guys for your time,” Patterson said during the Oct. 2 meeting.
The county didn’t have any updates for SKVA members on trolleys proposed to replace buses on Sarasota County Area Transit’s Siesta route, Reid said. State funding for part of the costs isn’t available until next year, and paying for trolleys upfront and accepting grant money later sends a bad message to state, he said.
“There has to be a way to further that,” Smith said about beautification in the Village. “We need to find a way to make that happen.”