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Editorial Letters – Week ending February 1, 2019

Longboat Key News encourages Letters to the Editor on timely issues. Please email to: letters@lbknews.com or mail to PO Box 8001, Longboat Key, FL 34228. We also print letters sent to Town Hall that address Longboat Key issues. We reserve the right to edit.

FEMA reimbursement for Tropical Storm Debbie

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

Great News! We received our FEMA and State reimbursement for Tropical Storm Debbie today.

The Town received $6,636,182.51 in total reimbursement.  That included Federal Funding of $5,688,156.45 and State Funding of $948,026.07.  We will be updating our Beaches financial model to reflect the reimbursement.

There are still a few smaller projects with FEMA reimbursement outstanding that we are continuing to follow-up on.  They total approximately $600,000.

Special thanks and congratulations to Sue, Elizabeth, and the rest of the Finance Team for their persistent efforts to pursue this claim.

Thomas A. Harmer

Town Manager

Town of Longboat Key

 

Pedestrian safety deaths comment sought…

To: Executive Director MPO David Hutchinson

On Wednesday, Smart Growth America and its National Complete Streets Coalition will release their latest Dangerous By Design report about pedestrian deaths. According to that study, with 235 pedestrian deaths between 2008 and 2017, the Sarasota-Bradenton-North Port area now ranks as the No. 4 most deadly metropolitan statistical area for pedestrians – up from No. 10 in the January 2017 Dangerous By Design study.

Could you comment on the ongoing commitments by the MPO, FDOT and local governments to the “complete streets” concept? Evidently we still have a lot of retrofitting to do.

Dale White

Sarasota Herald Tribune

 

Pedestrian safety statistics

To: Dale White

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the forthcoming “2019 Dangerous By Design” Report to be issued tomorrow by Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition.  This report ranks Florida as the Most Dangerous State for Pedestrians, identifies Florida as having nine of the Top 20 Most Dangerous Metropolitan Areas for Pedestrians in the nation (including eight of the 10 most dangerous places), and identifies the North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) as the fourth most dangerous metropolitan area for pedestrians, and as having the largest increase since their 2016 report in the 10- year Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) Score they developed for their rankings. Ouch!

Smart Growth America and the National Complete Streets Coalition deserve recognition for their advocacy efforts to raise awareness of the very serious pedestrian safety issues facing communities throughout our nation.

Pedestrian safety is certainly a vitally important issue in our community and for jurisdictions here. The Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), jurisdictions in our region and the Florida Department of Transportation have strongly embraced a Complete Streets approach to improving safety and mobility for pedestrians, other vulnerable persons, and all users of our transportation system.   We have a lot of work to do in retrofitting many of our streets; this may include filling gaps in the sidewalk and trails network, lighting, and improvements to accommodate persons with disabilities.

Performance measures allow us to track progress in improving the safety of our transportation system. We are making progress, and expect to continue to make progress towards complete streets and eventually, zero fatalities.  I also believe a robust discussion of the methodology used to develop the PDI would be healthy for the cause of safer streets, and have called upon Smart Growth America to have a transparent dialogue about their index, which seems flawed and may portray our area to be more dangerous compared to other urban areas than it truly is. That said, the report presents sobering facts, valid observations and valuable recommendations which can contribute to the community discussion on how to ensure that the design and operation of our streets can better protect the safety of all users.

The MPO is in the process of completing an “Active Transportation Plan” to update where our most dangerous intersections and corridors are, and what projects are needed to reduce injuries and fatalities. We’ve stepped up our efforts to work with the Community Traffic Safety Team (CTST) composed of emergency responders, engineers, law enforcement, school boards and the Florida Department of Transportation to identify and solve safety problems on our roads and sidewalks. More than $12 million worth of safety projects are currently underway or planned in the next five years in Sarasota and Manatee counties; all of the rest of the millions of dollars of transportation projects planned and underway incorporate a very high level of consideration of safety and complete streets—it is not just about moving cars from one place to another.

P.S. – As an example of other ways that pedestrian safety data can be analyzed and viewed, here is a link to an article last year; our region didn’t make the list of worst places in this analysis:

https://www.valuepenguin.com/cities-most-pedestrian-and-cyclist-fatalities#nogo.

David L. Hutchinson

Executive Director

Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization

 

Are these statistics meaningful for us?

To: Executive Director MPO Dave Hutchinson

Are these statistics for Sarasota/ Bradenton consistent with our analysis?

Jack Daly

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

To some extent, yes…

To: Commissioner Jack Daly

To some extent, yes, but to the extent that the “deaths per 100,000 normalization” methodology they created to derive their PDI (which at best is imperfect and incomplete and at worst a scientifically invalid use of the available statistics), no. Did you see my e-mail to Dale White of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune?

David L. Hutchinson

Executive Director

Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization

 

Pedestrian walkways, please

To: Executive Director MPO Dave Hutchinson

Thanks very much, Dave. Consistent with draft recommendations for elevated pedestrian walkways contained in the BITS and The Bay plan, I suggest we continue to urge FDOT to include them in relevant projects, such as the many roundabouts planned for the US 41 corridor, as well as including such walkways in The MPO’s Active Transportation Plan. They obviously enhance traffic flow while ensuring pedestrian safety.

Jack Daly

Commissioner

Longboat Key

 

Sales Office Consideration at Colony Property

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

This is Greg Van Howe and I am a full time resident at the Aquarius Club, just north of the Colony property. I am aware you will soon be considering a zoning amendment that would open up the opportunity for UniCorp (or any developer) to construct a sales office on the Colony property in short order. I am supportive of this change as I believe it will help move the development along in a more expeditious manner.

As you contemplate the proposed change I would ask that you also begin considering the issuance of strict building conditions when appropriate on the construction of such an office as I understand it is planned to be situated very close to our southern property line near the area where our pool is located. For that reason I would especially ask that you consider causing the developer to install appropriate and substantial landscaping which would be sufficient to provide proper auditory and visual screening between our properties once the construction is approved. This could also serve to provide us a level of security. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Greg Van Howe

Longboat Key

 

Kudos to Commissioner Brody

To: Commissioner Hagen Brody

Thank you for your leadership on the issues before the commission yesterday.

In particular, I want to thank you for:

Pointing out that water taxis are rarely an effective component of a transportation plan.

Requesting stormwater planning include all storm events (including back-to-back storms) up to and including 100-year storms.

Proposing a public education effort to help citizens understand the stormwater level of service expectations.

Supporting the 2019 planning department recommendations, including forgoing any form-based code related changes in the residential neighborhoods.

Ron Collins

Sarasota

 

Thanks and share your opinion…

To: Ron Collins

Thank you for the kind words and support. I sincerely appreciate it. You’re a good man with great instincts.  Please share your opinions with others.

Hagen Brody

Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Pedestrian safety on Fruitville

To: Mayor Liz Alpert

Liz, I am the pedestrian whose leg was crushed by a vehicle making an illegal left turn on Fruitville, as mentioned in Jane Sydney’s timely email.

I have suffered two surgeries and weeks at the Pines and still have several months more to recovery. My life is on hold because of a driver who should not be on the road, but still is!

I have also written to Chief DiPino about the importance of visual awareness of traffic safety. Change cannot come soon enough…maybe late for me but not for others!

Merry Sanders

Sarasota

 

Pedestrian safety on Fruitville

To: Merry Sanders

I am truly sorry this happened to you. The most important job of government is to look out for the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens. We take that responsibility seriously. While we can’t prevent everything that happens, we can do what’s in our power to make people safer when crossing our streets.

Liz Alpert

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Fruitville Road safety issues

To: Mayor Liz Alpert, Police Chief Bernadette DiPino

As leaders of this city, it behooves you to address this issue.  Please read the letter I sent to our Chief of Police which will explain in detail the major problems with this “unsafe for pedestrians” road.

I trust you will take this letter in the seriousness with which it is sent and begin the process of making this road — and all others in this city — a safe place.

Jane Sydney

Sarasota

 

Fruitville Road safety issues

To: Jane Sydney

I saw that Chief DiPino responded to you regarding safety on Fruitville Road. We are looking at making changes to portions of Fruitville Road in order to make is safer for pedestrians to cross. What happened to your friend illustrates how important it is to do something. I hope for speedy recovery for your friend.

Liz Alpert

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Lido Key speeding

To: Sarasota Commission

As we discussed I am reaching out to you as I would like to meet with the Police Chief in order to discuss some of my concerns regarding police presence on Lido purely regarding speeding on the Key. Thank you for your concern and help.

Audrey Jensen

Sarasota

 

Lido Key speeding

To: Audrey Jensen

I am copying this email to the city manager and Chief DiPino in order for the appropriate person can reach out to your regarding your concerns.

Liz Alpert

Mayor , City of Sarasota

 

Not in support of ticketing

To: City of Sarasota Commission

After spending a few hundred dollars I returned to my car to find a city parking citation for “Parking Out of Space”. Nice. Circling around I observed at least 30 percent of vehicles parked around the Circle were parked “Out of Space” – the crowded spaces and parking along a curved space can be a challenge. Instead of signage adequately warning of the strict enforcement or giving a helpful warning the city thinks they did a good job of educating me about the law by charging me $35. Great, but I am not spending a discretionary penny at St. Armand Circle shops or restaurants, bringing guests or recommending the destination to visitors. Support flows both ways.

Gary Hill

Sarasota

 

Not in support of ticketing

To: Gary Hill

I have copied the city manager and parking department manager with your comments. I know it is frustrating when something like this happens, but our parking department employees are doing their jobs and can only take action on violations that they observe. If you desire, you can appeal the ticket.

Liz Alpert

Mayor, City of Sarasota

 

Data log result

To: City of Sarasota Kathy Bozman

After speaking with you at the end of November, you passed my information along to Theresa who called me on Friday, Nov. 30. I explained, at length, the impossibility of us using over 100 gallons per hour per day for almost two weeks. As I did with you, I told her that we have two outside hoses, no irrigation system, no pool, no ice maker, no leaking hot water heater, no leaking washing machine and no toilet that runs. She was going to do some research and get back with me last Monday, Dec. 3. I haven’t heard back from her and presume that, like us, the Water Department is confused as to how this happened.

When I talked to her I voiced my concern about having an accurate amount to pay by the due date and she said that every account has a 10-day grace period. We are fast approaching the end of that grace period and I still don’t have an accurate amount.

I would be grateful if you could let me know the status.

Kate Holgate

Sarasota

 

Data log result

To: Kate Holgate

Sorry for the delayed response back to you. As per our conversation,  I had our coordinator of meter services give me a few days of consumption broken down into hourly usage.  Please see attached graphs.

There was a definite continuous leak on 11/7/18 though to 11/8/18. On 11/9/18 the usage was up and down but normal.

Teresa Witkowski

Manager Utility Billing Office

City of Sarasota

 

Data log result

To: Teresa Witkowski

I appreciate you getting back to me. I apologize if I seemed impatient in my last email; I just want to get this resolved. In looking at your graphs, none of this makes any sense. It appears on the reports you sent that we had a continuous leak on one day, but the graphs that Kathy sent showed a leak of almost 100 gallons per hour per day from Oct. 24 through Nov. 7 with a reduction starting on November 8 and going back to normal on the 9th. This isn’t my expertise, of course, so I may be looking at all of these reports wrong. Since we did not have a leak on any of these days, I am hoping for a resolution. I should be available for a call tomorrow (Thursday) and Friday after 2:30. I hope that you can call me with more information.

Thank you for your help.

Kate Holgate

Sarasota

 

Data log result

To: Manager Billing Office Teresa Witkowski

I was hoping to hear back from you earlier this month trying to resolve this issue. While I do appreciate the graphs, I still stand by my statement that it’s not possible that we used almost 3,000 gallons per day every day for two weeks.

This email is our notification that we are formally disputing these charges and I will be contacting the Mayor’s office next week after they return following the New Year break. I know that you’ve done all that you can so I will be taking this to a higher level.

Please be advised that, when the issue had not been resolved, I made a payment of $100 on 12/20 go to toward the bill in which the overcharges were posted. I then made another payment of $105.27 on 12/26 to cover our usage on the current bill.

Please make a notation on our record that we are disputing the charges. If my past experience with my contact in the Mayor’s office is any indication, I believe this will be resolved before the next billing cycle.

Again, I do thank you for your efforts on our behalf and hope that you and yours have a Happy New Year.

Kate Holgate

Sarasota

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