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Sarasota Tuesday, Jul. 18, 2017 2 years ago

City asking for cash settlement in downtown CRA dispute

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After the county denied several projects for funding, the city commissioners are going back with a request for $2.6 million to use as they see fit.
by: Cassidy Alexander Staff Writer

The City Commission is switching tactics to try to resolve a dispute with the county over the downtown Community Redevelopment Area. Commissioners are asking for half the money they say they’re owed from the county in a lump sum.

That’s about $2.6 million of the nearly $5 million the city has previously said the county owes. This potential solution was sparked by something a county commissioner said at a previous meeting.

“We don’t know unless we ask."

Vice Chair of the County Commission Nancy Detert said at the July 11 commission meeting she opposed the ideas presented to the county by City Manager Tom Barwin for several long-term financial partnerships, and would first like to come to a “satisfactory resolution.”

“I would think the public would expect us to settle, maybe even for cash somewhere in the middle and just make it be over,” she said.

City commissioners  agreed to present the county with the “split the difference” option at the suggestion of City Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch. The county has repeatedly asked the city commission to present them with projects for funding, but when the city has done so, county commissioners have been dissatisfied with the scope of the projects or with the amount of information available.

“I don’t want to discount the idea of just splitting it down the middle,” Ahearn-Koch said. “Then we decide as a commission what to do with it, no going back and forth with a project. Make it quick and easy.

“We don’t know unless we ask.”

County commissioners have said for months the city’s claim to the $5 million is tenuous at best, and they don’t feel like they owe the city anything — especially not a cash settlement. When city commissioners threatened litigation, county commissioners wanted to call their bluff.

While the city commission voted to present the county with a proposal for a cash settlement, it also directed staff to to identify and refine other projects to present to the county for funding, if the first plan falls through.

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