County Commission drafting letter to city for answers on homeless shelter plans


The Sarasota County Commission has decided to write the city a letter.

Tensions continue to rise between the county and city over how to approach site selection for a Come As You Are Shelter for adults– especially after the city’s decision last night not to officially set the date for the next joint meeting to discuss the issue.

At the commission meeting this morning, County Administrator Tom Harmer recapped the most recent activities regarding the process, and said he suggested the county focus on locating good unincorporated land for a shelter while the city continues to look in the city.

Commissioner Joe Barbetta said the city was distancing themselves from the recommendations of Robert Marbut, the homelessness consultant contracted for the project.

“We do our own thing, let them do theirs,” Barbetta said.

Commission Chairman Charles Hines agreed with Barbetta, saying the city was “trending away from Marbut.”

Harmer suggested that county staff could continue to proceed with the process of identifying a location and let the city continue as they were.

Commissioner Christine Robinson opposed this idea without first communicating with the city. She said that if the county went off on its own, it would be doing the same thing that the city had done to the county: “they did it to us and we didn’t like it.”

Robinson said this kind of action would be “a slap in the face.” She suggested the county write a letter to the city, asking for answers before breaking off the partnership.

“I don’t even want another joint meeting,” Barbetta said.

Although the other commissioners supported her idea of the letter, many of them argued they were not suggesting the county and city partnership on the shelter should be broken.

“I’m not ready to say the partnership is broken. It’s wobbly,” Commissioner Nora Patterson said.

After some discussion, the commissioners decided a letter would be drafted for review and sent to the city. The letter would address several questions for confirmation from the city, including if the city was in agreement with the process the county was planning to take – continuing to identify possible sites in the county while the city looked for sites in the city. The letter would also ask that the city officially agree to another joint meeting and to put it on the calendar.

“I have no faith that we’re going to end up in a partnership,” Robinson said. However, she didn’t think the commission should damage communication with the city.

“I want to maintain our credibility with the community over this,” she said.


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