+ City Commission approves downtown holiday ice rink
An ambitious plan to place a large ice-skating rink at Five Points Park got a big boost this week, when the City Commission unanimously approved the plan and offered financial support.
The Downtown Sarasota Alliance is proposing an annual event in which an 85-foot-by-40-foot rink will be built on top of First Street between Five Points Park and the library. It would remain there from a week before Thanksgiving to Jan. 3.
The timing of the rink’s construction would be coordinated with the completion of the Five Points roundabout and improvements to Five Points Park, as well as the near completion of the Palm Avenue parking garage.
“It would make downtown Sarasota a unique destination for the entire region,” said John Simon, Pineapple Square developer and DSA board member.
The ice rink would cost about $250,000 to operate. The DSA asked the city for $25,000 to help pay for initial costs, such as reserving the rink. It also asked for the city to waive more than $100,000 in road-closure fees.
The commission approved both of those requests.
“This is a great way to open (Five Points Park) with eight weeks of constant activity,” said Mayor Kelly Kirschner. “That alone is probably worth the investment.”
DSA members will next ask the Sarasota County Commission if it would provide $75,000 toward initial costs.
+ Sarasota to create traffic-camera law
The city attorney will draft an ordinance to allow red-light cameras within city limits, following approval from the City Commission this week.
After the ordinance is written, the city will hold a public hearing to get citizen input on the plan.
A state law that went into effect July 1 allows local governments to install cameras at intersections to catch drivers running red lights.
City attorney Robert Fournier had previously advised the city to wait to implement a new law until the state released its camera requirements. He said at the time he feared the city could buy or lease cameras and then pay to have them replaced because they didn’t meet the state’s specifications. Tallahassee won’t release those requirements until the end of the year.
But Fournier told commissioners July 19 that if the city can find a vendor who will absorb the cost of any possible camera change, then he has no problem instituting Sarasota’s ordinance now.
+ City commissioners OK mooring field settlement
City commissioners approved July 19 an $85,215 settlement with a contractor hired to build a mooring field in Sarasota Bay.
That amount represents the work Millmac Corp. had already accomplished from a $112,242 contract.
The mooring field has been mired in controversy for a year, because the contractor hired to evaluate the composition of the bay’s floor, Coastal Engineering Consultants, failed to properly complete its research.
As a result, the screws Millmac installed did not hold.
City attorney Robert Fournier recommended the settlement with Millmac, saying the company did not receive information that would have allowed it to complete its work.
The commission will decide in August whether to abandon the project, on which it has already spent about $500,000.
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Third- and fourth-grade students of Temple Beth Sholom had a chance to brush up on their paleontology skills last week while digging for faux dinosaur bones.
Sound of scholars
Local students Caleb Upton and Matthew Vaadi received some help for their upcoming studies to the tune of $1,000 each from the Sarasota Chorus of the Keys. The scholarships were made possible through the Sheridan E. Brown Memorial Scholarship Fund. Both students plan to use the funds toward a career in music.
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