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Sarasota Thursday, Mar. 22, 2012 5 years ago

DID makes enhanced landscaping push

by: Kurt Schultheis Senior Editor

The Downtown Improvement District is working behind the scenes to pay for a city employee to to bloster services within its boundaries.

DID Operations Manager John Moran told the DID Board of Directors at its Tuesday meeting that the DID has an opportunity “to build an enhanced level of service.”

“We are working with the Public Works Department to pay for an employee and a vehicle to do enhanced landscaping services we are looking for,” Moran said.

The cost of the employee would be $55,000 a year to perform landscaping maintenance within the DID boundaries exclusively.

The DID has $60,000 set aside for enhanced maintenance and is at a crossroads now that two bids have come back for $232,000 and $151,000 to perform the extra work the DID wants.

The city and the DID also can’t afford to replace $136,000 of trampled vegetation in the plant beds that pedestrians walk over during weekend events. However, the city has agreed to mulch the areas until money is available to replace the mulch with more durable vegetation.

The issue arose last month when Moran took pictures of trampled plants and bushes during and after the Presidents Day weekend-long art fair; the photos showed people walking through bulbouts and street vendors using plants and bushes on which to lean their items.

Moran also showed pictures of vendors stockpiling merchandise in Selby Five Points Park during events and questioned whether that’s a city permit-enforcement issue. Moran explained that a city permit ordinance states that “set up of displays, merchandise and/or vendors is strictly prohibited on the (Selby) park’s grass area, landscape beds and center paver pathway.”

The city, meanwhile, will come back to the DID in three to six months for a more long-term plan for a uniform DID landscaping plan.

DID Chairman Ernie Ritz and the rest of the board agreed last month with a suggestion by Moran to take a comprehensive look with city staff at the town’s green space ordinance to create a uniform look for landscaped areas throughout downtown.

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