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Editorial Letters – Week ending July 17, 2020

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 Longboat Key Town Hall that address Longboat Key issues as well as Sarasota City Hall that address Sarasota issues. We reserve the right to edit.

Unconditional Surrender

To: Editor

In response to you article concerning the removal of the Sailor and the Nurse statue, I strongly oppose this idea.

Who does Kafi Benz think she is? This statute is a reminder of our history where many lives were lost on both sides of the world, and it should not be forgotten. It is not just a piece of plastic standing in a park!

Giving my reason for the sailor’s behavior, I’d say that he was expressing his excitement for serving his country, and it paid off; we now remain a democracy and do not have to live under a dictator.

Tell her to get off her high horse and face the reality of it all. What she is trying to do is take away our appreciation for what our soldiers fought for.

To me, it seems Kafi Benz is only thinking of herself and not the people of this country who are grateful for our servicemen and women who gave their lives for this campaign.

Our statute has given us much enjoyment and does not let us forget the past.

J.J. Di Maggio

Sarasota

 

Follow-up to LBK North meeting

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

We just wrapped up another LBK North meeting with the 20 Reps and they inquired about the “ugly cleared parking” lots on the north end.  Here is the note from our May 14th meeting minutes. Is there any update we can provide back to the residents?

“There seems to be a stop on work activity on the recently cleared parking lots (one for Mar Vista, the other for Jewfish residents) on Gulf of Mexico Drive. They will most likely remain an eyesore until completed.  Our Mayor is going to inquire to see if there is anything holding up progress.” Thanks for your service to our community!

Maureen Merrigan

Longboat Key

 

Follow-up to LBK North meeting

To: Maureen Merrigan

It’s strange that I didn’t see this email directly, but only as part of the chain ending with Allen’s and Tom’s responses. Let me know if you have any further questions.

Ken Schneier

Mayor

Longboat Key

 

Follow-up to LBK North meeting

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

Thanks Ken. Would love to see what the Town can do to keep the lots from becoming unsightly, especially if there are significant delays to the work. On a personal note – my cousin the judge in Morris county said he did not know Cynthia personally but has her book dealing with insurance issues (He too has dined at Merrigan’s taven.). Stay healthy and cool!

Maureen Merrigan

Longboat Key

 

Statement from Town Manager regarding wastewater leak

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

The recent leak of the pipe that transports wastewater to Manatee County for treatment was an extremely unfortunate event and one the Town takes very seriously. It is understandable that there is a lot of concern about this incident. The Town has long recognized the risks with this aging pipe and, thus, has spent a number of years assessing the pipe and monitoring its condition. When incidents like this occur, it is not unusual for there to be a lot of misinformation and speculation about what has occurred, and who is or is not, doing what to address the issue. We have seen some of that misinformation and speculation in what has been reported for this incident. Town staff discovered the leak on Monday, June 29th. The Town Manager and the Town Commission were notified that day. Prior to realizing there may be a leak in the pipe, we have been advised that Town and Manatee County utilities staff were investigating potential meter and equipment issues based on anomalous flow readings going back to June 18th. During that time, there were maintenance on pipe and wet well cleaning activities occurring on the Town side that were resulting in variations in flow, and there were also meter change outs and other equipment analyses occurring on the Manatee side being resolved to determine the cause of the variations. It wasn’t until Monday, June 29th that the Town and Manatee County were able to identify the issue as a potential leak in the pipeline. Staff immediately began inspecting the line and, within a couple of hours, discovered the location of the leak. The leak was discovered on the land portion of the mainland in a heavy mangrove, undeveloped area across the Bay from Longboat Key. The leak did not occur in the portion of the pipe that is under the Bay. Town Public Works staff notified the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) of the leak at 1:17 p.m. on Monday, June 29 and was assigned a State Incident Number. The Town immediately mobilized an emergency contractor that afternoon to gain access to the leak and start the repair. Because the leak was in a remote area of mangroves, it took additional time and effort to access the actual site of the leak. We were very fortunate how quickly our emergency repair contractor was able to mobilize, access the remote site, stabilize the area and make the repair. The leak was repaired and service restored on Tuesday, June 30. The FDEP was notified that the leak was repaired that day. The Public Works staff reported a preliminary discharge to the FDEP on Tuesday, roughly estimated at 25.8 million gallons based on availability of data from the Town and Manatee County flow meter differentials. Our Public Works team believe that is a high estimate, and an independent testing firm is evaluating the pipe section where the leak occurred and evaluating the flow data to update the estimate. The Town continues to coordinate with FDEP and an independent environmental consultant to conduct water quality sampling and evaluate the impacts of the leak, and will be taking any corrective actions that may be necessary. Though the leak was not directly under the Bay and the pipe was not discharging directly into the Bay, the Town staff indicated to the FDEP that it is possible some of the discharge reached the Bay. The Town started testing of the Bay waters on Wednesday, July 1st based on protocols established by the independent environmental consultant and as shared with FDEP. As we receive those results, they are being posted on our website and shared with FDEP. Current environmental testing includes water quality samples from the area of the Bay near where the leak occurred. According to the environmental consultants, there was no obvious discharge plume or debris in the Bay in the immediate area of the leak when testing began on July 1. The initial testing results have been consistent with our initial observations and assumptions and, so far, confirm limited impacts to the Bay. We continue to test as recommended. This pipe was evaluated by an independent engineering firm in 2016 and 2017, and that firm reported to the Town that the overall condition of the pipe was good and that the pipe had a remaining reliable service life of at least 20-25 years. At the time, the firm recommended that the pipe condition be monitored and reassessed every 4-5 years. The Town was planning to reassess the line next year in line with the recommendation.

Even though the pipe was determined to be in good condition, as a precaution and as part of a proactive longer-range planning solution, last year the Town budgeted dollars to advance plan and permit a redundant pipe to the mainland. An update on those efforts were provided to the Commission on June 1st. As we learn more about the cause of the leak, and how that may relate to the condition of the pipe overall, we are also looking at opportunities to advance the redundant pipe project as part of our post-leak plan. Fortunately, once the leak was discovered, the leak was quickly repaired the next day and water quality testing started the following day. Rest assured that the Town recognizes the importance of the Bay to not just Longboat Key, but to the overall region. We will determine what occurred, what the impacts are, coordinate with FDEP on any required mitigation efforts, and take action to help enhance our policies and infrastructure to minimize the potential for future incidents.

Tom Harmer

Town Manager

Longboat Key

 

Statement from Town Manager  regarding wastewater leak

To: Sarasota County Commissioner Mike Moran

After our COGS call on Wednesday, Tom Harmer released the attached statement summarizing the facts to date regarding the wastewater leak from our subaqueous force main. As you can see, we continue to monitor the area for any impact from the spill and are working with FDEP and our environmental consultants to address any needed mitigation. Next steps include accelerating the effort to permit and install a redundant pipe.  Let us know if you have any further questions.

Ken Schneier

Mayor

Longboat Key

 

Online Interactive Zoning Map

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

Congrats to Allen and his team for developing and rolling out an on-line interactive zoning map. Special thanks to Maika Arnold for leading the project.

Tom Harmer

Town Manager

Longboat Key

 

New Interactive Zoning Map

To: Longboat Key Town Commission

The Town of Longboat Key is excited to announce development of an Interactive Online Zoning Map. The interactive map allows you to search for Zoning and Future Land Use information, by address, for all properties within the Town. You can also find property-specific information by zooming-in with your scrolling mouse or via zoom in/out controls in the upper left-hand corner of the mapping screen.

Once you click on a particular property, you’re provided links to the Town’s Zoning Code information with Zoning District standards for the property & to each of the Property Appraiser’s websites for more detailed ownership information on the property. A huge thank you to Senior Planner, Maika Arnold for putting this fantastic set of tools together!

Allen Parsons

Director Planning, Zoning & Building Department

Town of Longboat Key

 

Lightning rods vs. 30-foot height restriction

To: Longboat Key Commission

I feel strongly that the 30-foot height restriction for single family homes should be strictly enforced.  If you allow the unsightly tall lightning rods to proliferate the island imagine the impact on the aesthetics of our neighborhoods.  Reminds me of the old TV antenna days.

As an aside, I understand what the experts say about this “protection” but please allow an anecdotal observation. In my theme park days I spent many years in Orlando, the most lightning struck city in the nation. My office looked out to a 420 ft. high sky tower observation ride.  It is a huge steel tube coming out of a lake. At the top there is an extremely well-grounded 75-foot mast with huge cables running down the inside of the steel tube to the foundation in the lake. Just below the mast is the elevator electric motor machinery room

I can’t count the number of times I have observed lightning strikes bypass the 420-foot lightning rod mast and strike the lake nearby or strike the tower half way down or near the base, again bypassing the  huge 420-foot high lightning “protection” mast.

The Town wisely made the decision to underground electric utilities to improve island aesthetics and reduce outages and it would be too bad if we have tall lightning rods all over town exceeding the 30-foot single family height restriction which was wisely enacted by the Commission some time ago and more recently re-adopted. Thank You for your consideration and service to our community.

Bob Gault

Longboat Key

 

Lightning rods vs. 30-foot height restriction

To: Bob Gault

I’m not sure if you saw the reports from our July 1 Commission meeting, but the lightning rod request for most single family homes, and all homes located in R4 and R6 zones such as Country Club Shores, was reduced to 1 foot above maximum height unless exceptional circumstances can be shown.  Let me know if you need more details.

Ken Schneier

Mayor

Longboat Key

 

Lightning rods vs. 30-foot height restriction

To: Longboat Key Mayor Ken Schneier

Sorry did not see that. Thanks.

Bob Gault

Longboat Key

 

Covid-19 testing horrific

To: Sarasota City Commission

Morning Politicians. I mean seriously for the all the money this state, cities, counties have, we have to wait 7 days to get test results?  Yes, testing has increased but the infrastructure behind it didn’t (results)… I remember going when it was quiet and there were 10 cars in line at University mall and it still took 7 days.

Influx of tests do we adjust to support this? No.

There are 2 nurses working Sarasota University Mall and 2 working Robert Taylor

Tests are taking 7 days to get returned with results and 5 days at Robert Taylor.

By the time I get the results, I could be in the hospital, dead or spread it to 100 other people.  Yes, I know, just stay home if you feel sick. The problem is with folks that don’t feel sick and have it. Should Florida maybe assist Labcorp in resources to complete testing quicker, could we invest in more robust testing capabilities with quicker responses?

There are new testing capabilities, machines that get these results way quicker and the mayors have no money to get these into the hotspot such as Florida?  Disgrace…what’s the turnaround time in Miami or Tampa?

Something really needs to be done to get these results back way faster… and put more resources into nurses collecting and testing and facilities processing the results.

Very disappointed in Mayors, Governor, and supporting commissioners of Florida. You all need to step the game up now that Florida is the next hotspot.

The last point is young people are getting tested and if they have no symptoms and do not get results back quickly they are going about their normal routines. If they knew immediately or within 1-2 days they can actual feel more accountable, quarantining themselves for 14 days and feel the responsibility to wear a mask IF they need to leave house.

Robert Smith

Sarasota

 

Covid-19 testing horrific

To: Robert Smith

The CARES & FEMA funds to cover the costs of testing are being administered through the Federal, State and County agencies. To date, very few of those resources have been made available to city governments under 500,000 in population. Logistics and supply chains are also dominated by the bigger agencies, but via this email we will explore through our emergency coordinator if new options, for faster testing results may be available. I agree we desperately need them. The current delays are mostly the results of labs being overwhelmed, or so we are told.

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Covid-19 testing horrific

To: Robert Smith

Thanks for your note. I also sent it to a member of the Governor’s staff to be sure he sees it and knows about the reality of what you have experienced and observed. We have also called upon him to expand masks requirements around the state as the testing deficiencies are helping contribute to a very big threat to public health and our economy.

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Sarasota Urgent Message to the Governor

To: Florida Governor’s Office Deputy Director Tyler Russell

Thank you for taking my call this afternoon and our various calls throughout this Covid-19 pandemic. We appreciate your professionalism and accessibility especially during these extremely challenging and complex times.

Attached is a copy of what I filmed earlier today for SNN television for my weekly City Report Segment that will run on their station later today. It is just a restatement of what I planned or would say to the Governor if and when I might have a chance to actually speak with him. However, aware of how busy he is with running a major state during a national emergency, with a growing family, for the sake of efficiency, I am sending you my vital message to him. I left a voice mail on his office line this morning with an abbreviated version of my attached comments.

We need his leadership on the mask issue. The slight flack he will take now will be forgotten quickly and hopefully he can enjoy some credit for timely and bold action to get control of this Covid situation which is sinking our economy and again, threatening public health big time.  Things have changed, many here think he needs to as well, and in the end, better to be safe than sorry.

P.S., We also would like to thank the Governor & staff for getting a testing center set up at the Robert L. Taylor Community Center in north Sarasota. It has helped tremendously especially in the historically underserved, lower income area of our city/county.

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Covid-19 update

To: Sarasota City Commission

Attached is today’s Sarasota County’s EOC Covid-19 Flash Report. Today’s report updates the Sarasota County, Covid-19 death toll from 98 to 100. Of the ICU beds which are currently occupied in the county (57) over 50% (29) are currently occupied by Covid-19 patients. Overall as of today, Sarasota County has 127 Covid-19 patients sick enough to be in area hospitals as this summary is being written. If there is any good news in this, it is our hospitals continue to have bed space and ICU space available and capacity to surge. I have heard that the Gulf Coast hospital north of us are becoming full but as of this writing have not independently confirmed this. Thanks.

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Roll Back of City, Covid Rampant

To: Sarasota City Commission

I appreciate your recent passing of a city ordinance to require the wearing of masks. Although I go out only when needed, it does appear that the ordinance has had a positive effect.

However, with the now out of control increases in Covid-19 in our state, county and city, and with room in SMH dwindling, it is time for further action.

You must roll back the opening in our city.  I believe it is time for the city to return to phase 1 opening at least, and I believe non mandatory businesses such as gyms and restaurants and other businesses that attract more than 10 patrons at a time need to be closed.

Clearly the County commissioners cannot be counted on to act in the best interests of our citizens, nor can the officials in Tallahassee. Therefore, it is up to you to act.

What will happen when SMH is full? I ask you how much suffering needs to be caused before you will uphold your duty to protect us? To be honest, I no longer feel safe living here. I feel as though I am expendable, able to be sacrificed for the sake of our local economy. The time to act is now. Thank you.

Lisa Trovato

Sarasota

 

Roll Back of City, Covid Rampant

To: Lisa Trovato

Thank you for your email, I appreciate you reaching out to me directly about this.I completely understand your frustration but it is my understanding that this is not something that is under the authority of the City. I have copied the City Attorney to respond along with the Governor, City Manager, and staff to comment should I have misunderstood.

I have to respectfully disagree with your compliance statement per the City of Sarasota as my own daily observations, along with testimony of citizens and City Management and staff, is that the compliance in the City is very close to 100 percent. I look forward to a response from the City Attorney along with the Governor. Thank you again and stay safe!

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Covid-19 mask wearing ordinance

To: City of Sarasota Commission

I appreciate your recent passing of a city ordinance to require the wearing of masks. Although I go out only when needed, it does appear that the ordinance has had a positive effect.

However, with the now out of control increases in Covid-19 in our state, county and city, and with room in SMH dwindling, it is time for further action.

You must roll back the opening in our city.  I believe it is time for the city to return to phase 1 opening at least, and I believe non mandatory businesses such as gyms and restaurants and other businesses that attract more than 10 patrons at a time need to be closed.

Clearly the County commissioners cannot be counted on to act in the best interests of our citizens, nor can the officials in Tallahassee.  Therefore, it is up to you to act.

What will happen when SMH is full? I ask you how much suffering needs to be caused before you will uphold your duty to protect us? To be honest, I no longer feel safe living here. I feel as though I am expendable, able to be sacrificed for the sake of our local economy. The time to act is now. Thank you.

Phillip Gambutti

Sarasota

 

Covid-19 mask wearing ordinance

To: Phillip Gambutti

Thank you Phillip Gambutti, I appreciate your email. I have copied the City Attorney, Robert Fournier, on this email to clarify the City’s authority, or lack of authority, per your suggestion.

I look forward to his response. In the meantime, stay safe!

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

Covid-19 mask wearing ordinance

To: Sarasota Mayor Jen Ahearn-Koch, Phillip Gambutti

The problem with this idea is that the Governor’s Executive Order specifically allows gyms, restaurants and other businesses to be open subject to guidelines.  Under the State Emergency Management Act, local orders cannot be inconsistent with state orders or directives.  Accordingly, a local order cannot lawfully prohibit something that has been explicitly allowed by the state.   A state level order may defer to or allow local regulation (i.e. public beaches), but that is not presently the situation with gyms, restaurants, etc.  The phased opening process is a process that was initiated and is scheduled at the state level rather than by local governments.

A recent Governor’s Executive Order stated that CDC guidelines (including wearing face coverings) are guidelines only and could not be enforced locally or otherwise, via the Emergency Management Act process.  But the City was still able to adopt an ordinance requiring masks under its home rule authority as opposed to under the authority conferred by the Emergency Management Act.

Robert M. Fournier

City Attorney

City of Sarasota

 

Unconditional surrender statue in Sarasota

To: Sarasota City Commission

I am absolutely horrified and appalled by the apparent proposal to move the unconditional surrender statue and not only move it from its iconic location on our waterfront but a suggestion by City Manager Tom Barwin to sell it?!

I simply could not believe what I read today and thought it must be some kind of bad joke.

My grandfather served as a merchant marine in World War II and my father was in the Marine Corps. One of the things I cherish about Sarasota is our vibrant and diverse Veteran community.

I am also retired as a social worker for the Department of Veteran Affairs. I worked in the Bronx and Sarasota and met thousands of Veterans who described that iconic image that ended the war and the beloved statue we have here in Sarasota. The social and cultural meaning to our Veterans and their families is incalculable. The joy and thrill that the statue brings to all of our visitors every day is inspiring.

It is more than a statue; it is a bridge builder between generations. It gives us hope and teaches us reverence for our past.

If you have the audacity to think you can deface our waterfront this way by removing this vital statue which means so much to our community; then you better ask everyone to vote on it by special election not an elite privileged few on the commission.

There will be protests if you choose to remove it. I plan to protest as well and galvanize everyone I know in our Veteran community to show up also. Veteran lives matter.

Christine Sullivan

Sarasota

 

Unconditional surrender statue in Sarasota

To: Christine Sullivan

Not sure where you’re getting your information, but for the record City Manager has not suggested selling Unconditional Surrender. If you can let me know where you have seen this I will attempt to correct the record there as well. Thanks.

Jen Ahearn-Koch

Mayor

City of Sarasota

 

US 41 landscaping

To: Sarasota City Commission

Hello distinguished commissioners. I appeal to you to support the return and addition of Palm trees along the 41 corridor.  Since construction of the roundabouts, landscapes along 41 have become more sterile, less tropical, less welcoming to residents and tourists looking for plantings symbiotic with Sarasota’s bay front setting.  Improved traffic patterns are necessary and welcome, but tropical landscapes, especially Palm trees, should be a signature Sarasota priority, as a welcome respite for drivers and draw for tourism.  I’ve seen so many Palms removed during the roundabout construction, and I keep looking for signs of new Palms returning, especially in the medians. One reason for my concern is that the early renderings of the Westin/Vue project all included Palm trees in the median and along the sidewalks, but none materialized. I hope this will not be the case along 41!  The choice of art sculptures for the roundabouts are impressive, but please shed some light on the plans for landscaping (I’m sure you are on top of it).  Thank you!

Linda Wright Wooten

Sarasota

 

US 41 landscaping

To: Linda Wright Wooten

Thanks for writing to us about this. I feel very confident that we will be doing an outstanding job of landscaping along U.S. 41 once the construction is complete. I know we have approved some landscape plans for this corridor. I am copying the city managers and our planning director with this response so that the appropriate person can give you a more complete response.

Liz Alpert

Commissioner

City of Sarasota

 

Follow-up on locations for Unconditional Surrender

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

Thanks for reaching out to me about the sculpture Unconditional Surrender and to discuss possible locations where it might be well received. I am copying Mayor Jen because she also contacted me to discuss this.

Please recall that I am first of the opinion that we should return it to the Johnson foundation and allow them to pay for that transfer. That leaves more money for public art and could support our adding a new sculpture near the Bayfront location that would also delight visitors while complying with our public art criteria.

My second choice would be to donate it to the Ringling Museum where they can create engaging programming about the changing issues surrounding this type of monument. I ask that you work with Wendy Lerner from the Public Art Committee to engage in a conversation about this with the museum leadership. She took that assignment in our last meeting.

I firmly believe it is time for the work to give up the visible location where it is today and move to a place that is less dominant in terms of representing Sarasota as an arts community. The location on the Bayfront presented by staff last week does not address this concern as it is highly centralized and visible.

Today I visited a group of parks and have created a checklist of features and notes to share with you. I have photos if you would like them. I look forward to finding an agreeable solution.

Leslie Butterfield

Vice Chair Public Art Committee

City of Sarasota

 

Follow-up on locations for Unconditional Surrender

To: Vice Chair Public Art Committee Leslie Butterfield

As you know or may surmise the city is receiving many inputs on this.  Your perspective is appreciated. Should the sculpture be relocated anywhere in the city temporarily or permanently, have you given any thought as to how educational exhibits could be integrated with it, to explain emerging perspectives and as importantly the devastating costs of war itself? Would love to have you brainstorm this option. Thanks.

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

 

Follow-up on locations for Unconditional Surrender

To: Sarasota City Manager Tom Barwin

I would be happy to participate in creating educational exhibits for Unconditional Surrender if and when it finds an appropriate home in Sarasota. There are many stories to tell and many perspectives to honor with respect. No doubt some creative thinking could bring those to light.

Before I spend significant time on that I would expect that we have a plan for location though. Wouldn’t it be great if it could live on a museum campus? That was the astute recommendation of our STAR member, Grace Hu.

Leslie Butterfield

Vice Chair Public Art Committee

City of Sarasota

 

Follow-up on locations for Unconditional Surrender

To: Vice Chair Public Art Committee Leslie Butterfield

Thanks. Look forward to any additional ideas you may have at the appropriate time.   

Tom Barwin

City Manager

City of Sarasota

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