It turns out James K. Harriott Jr., the county’s executive director of public works, was too optimistic in July when he indicated a new vendor could be hired last fall to handle maintenance in the Village.
More than four months after the contract expired between the Siesta Key Village Maintenance Corp. and JWM Management, Sarasota County continues to oversee all the Village upkeep.
Tom Maroney, general manager of business operations in the Public Works Department, said a new ordinance governing the maintenance and a revised request for proposals for a vendor were undergoing final tweaking by county staff.
After talking about the documents in early December with staff of the County Attorney’s Office as well as Bill Little, the deputy county administrator, Maroney said it appeared those revisions were necessary. Once the language was changed, he said, the documents would be ready for review by the SKVMC Board of Directors; then, the documents would go back to Little and the County Attorney’s Office for one last review before presentation to the County Commission.
Changes in the ordinance and RFP were deemed necessary in the wake of a lawsuit filed Jan. 31, 2011, by Village property owner Chris Brown. After looking at how much he was being assessed for his properties, to cover the Village maintenance, Brown questioned how costs for various projects, such as pressure-washing the sidewalks, were being determined.
The County Commission initially responded by removing the SKVMC from its oversight role. Then, after protests from the SKVMC board, negotiations led to a resolution of issues before the County Commission in late July. The SKVMC would continue to oversee the maintenance, but the ordinance governing the upkeep had to be revised to reflect accurately the roles of the SKVMC and the county.
Before the ordinance is finalized, the SKVMC is determined to resolve one other issue that has not been addressed adequately in all the discussions that have been held, board member Mark Smith told members of the Siesta Key Village Association last month.
Smith said the SKVMC should be reimbursed for its overhead expenses, including attorney’s fees it absorbed when setting up the corporation with the state and accounting fees it has paid. Additionally, he said, the county should provide liability insurance for the members of the SKVMC board. They are volunteers, he pointed out, and they could be exposed to severe financial harm if someone filed suit after suffering an accident in the Village, for example.
Past attorney and accounting bills probably had added up to about $5,000, Smith said. The Village Association took responsibility for paying them, he said, but the SKVA should be reimbursed. On an annual basis, the costs probably would range between $1,000 and $1,500 — or about 1% of the total budget for the Village maintenance.
Little had told him and SKVA President Russell Matthes that those requests seemed reasonable, Smith added, but they had heard nothing from Little since meeting with him. Smith said they also had discussed the situation with County Commissioner Nora Patterson, who lives on the Key.
If the matter is not resolved to the SKVMC board’s satisfaction, it could be a deal-breaker, Smith said.
“All we’re asking is for the county to allow the taxpayers in this district … to pay 1% for the overhead in this district,” Smith said.
Smith also has requested a detailed accounting of the expenses the county is incurring in its Village upkeep.
“We said we would have some information for him,” Maroney said, though no meeting has been set. Still, Maroney said of the Village property owners, “They have taxed themselves (for the maintenance). They have an expectation (that they should see the bills).”
Regarding that county documentation, Maroney said, “It’s going to be fairly accurate.”
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