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Friday May 01, 2009 08:51:26 AM
Photos by OurTown50.com
Local Issues 2006
Van Wezel Saga
Wilkes fired for stealing resources from City of Sarasota, but will he be prosecuted.
Van Wezel Director, John Wilkes, suspended for second time due to possible improper use of city resources including expenses charged to the city.
* Van Wezel Director Wilkes suspended until new accusation of double billing city can be investigated.
$900,000 subsidy request by the Van Wezel has City Commissioners wondering whether to ask the Van Wezel to reconsider their operations.
* City of Sarasota Police Department concludes there is probable cause for fraud charges in bid tampering at Van Wezel.
* Van Wezel finance manager's job competency questioned. OurTown50 questioned why the city run Van Wezel advertised in a publication that contained adult entertainment ads. (Their response was 'we see nothing wrong with it'.)
* Head honcho at Van Wezel comes under watch glass for doing consulting work on the side and using city resources.
When is it illegal to fly too many flags? The owner of this BP gas station says Sarasota County wants him to take down some of the flags that represent our nations Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines. He also has a hearing before Sarasota County to defend why he has so much signage.
A documentary that is very relevant to Sarasota is the HBO documentary 'Hacking Democracy'. It documents how electronic voting machines might have been hacked. Shown in photo is the election supervisor for Tallahassee.
Quarries near Sarasota,expose one of the world's most spectacular fossil accumulations. The fossil-rich sediments range in age from 1 to 5 million years and contain the abundant remains of mollusks, whales, birds, corals, barnacles, and sharks.
Since when is
it legal or ethical to double bill expenses or use staff time
Sarasota clowns taking a beating as police have to ad an extra patrol to protect the clown statues. Some thought putting clowns around Sarasota was like clowning around too much.
Sarasota County considers banning hot dog and ice cream vendors on the street. Where will we be able to get our quick hot dog fix?
* Sarasota County passes law that only bans top level employees from conflict of interest land purchases for conserving land. It ignores other land purchases.
* 3,000 red light runners caught at a couple of test locations in Sarasota. OurTown50.com to lobby for change in state law to allow red light cameras. * Pilot program of using 'red light cameras" to catch red light runners has yielded a drop of violations of 96 percent in Manatee County, and 86 percent and 81 percent at the locations of two cameras in Sarasota County.
Venice man who claims to have cure for red tide is frustrated when NOAA gives $4 million to study red tide but none to cure it. Above a Venice H.S. student performs tests that showed red tide formula worked.
Van Wezel Deputy Director, Casey Humpert, turns herself in on fraud and forgery charges. She faces up to 20 years if convicted. Her boss John Wilkes was given a slap on the hand for taking city gas for personal use.
* Sarasota City Manager suspends Van Wezel Director, Wilkes, for two weeks without pay for stealing city gas for personal trips.
Heard on the Street:
Sarasota County schools recently
issued a new policy whereby no backpacks will be allowed at school
sporting events such as football games. They cited the reason being the
'worlds current security concerns'. One report has it that a local
Sarasota gang would use backpacks to
* Sarasota County issues alert for off colored water coming from Manatee County. OurTown50 uncovered this issue 3 years ago and pointed out to county officials.
New TV, Internet, and phone service is coming to your area. Verizon contractors work in Gulf Gate Woods to put in new fios lines. You will soon have a choice between Comcast and Verizon TV and Internet. At last!
Tax payer dollars down the river? Sarasota County has embarked on a commendable decades overdue process of purchasing land for preservation and recreation. One piece of land they are considering now is mostly wetlands. The purchase price is $3.1 million. If it is wetlands and no one can build on it why buy this land?
" Bills give billboards advantage" or so writes
the SHT newspaper in an article that tells how a new law would ban
planting of trees in front of billboards. The article doesn't say how
the SHT is the only daily newspaper in town and also runs a TV station
in the same market nor how they ban competitors from advertising.
* City of Venice now regrets giving unbridled rights to Sharky's restaurant with no compensation to the city.
Sarasota County hired a lawyer to represent it against a suit that could cost the county $2 million or more. The county is accused of violating the U.S. Fair Housing Act by restricting zoning for a group of homes for the mentally challenged.
* Sarasota County to be one of the first to start generating public solar power. The electricity will be generated at Rothenbach Park – about 250 kilowatts, or enough energy to power 44 homes. It will be feed into the FPL grid. FPL said the new solar facility will be the largest solar array in Florida and one of the largest in the southeast. The 1,200 photovoltaic solar panels are each about 31 inches wide and 63 inches long. The entire facility is to be more than 28,000 square feet, or about half the size of a football field.
* Van Wezel makes pitch to Sarasota County to ask them to fund a study. The study asks area artists if we need a new taxpayer funded $150 million performing hall. Commissioners say they want to know what the public thinks not just the artists whose lives depend on Van Wezel.
* Jack Gurney in the PP tells how Sarasota County administrator Jim Ley and City of Sarasota Mike McNees developed a $150 plan to rebuild Ed Smith stadium without seeking public input or their bosses approval. Watch for Commentary.
* Florida sitting with $3.2 billion in extra tax revenue. Gov Bush wants to give half of it back.
Pollen, pollen everywhere, piles of it in the trees and on the ground. This has been the worst pollen season locally.
Sarasota has wrestled with plans for a new convention center, baseball stadium, and fair grounds. At the core of all these plans lies how will these facilities be self funding without taxpayer support.
* Sarasota as the "meanest city" draws over 25,000 pages on Google search. It obviously drew much attention nationally and globally. The city received the designation after it refused to rescind its homeless ordinance.
Update: Missing girl phones her parents on Monday that she is well. Detectives believe she is in Mexico with a 20 year old man.
* Wholesale tomato prices soar 400% but Burger King serves fish
sandwich with a tomato on it. Or go pic your own vegetables
Local homeowners complain about having to pay for water and sewer hookups. You have to pay the piper sooner or later. These homeowners paid less for their homes years ago and paid less taxes because their value was lower without county sewer and water. That was their choice then. Now they have to pay the piper. They could have chosen to buy a home connected to sewer and water when construction costs were less. They chose not to.
* Sarasota County adds bus schedules online at
www.scgov.net two weeks after
OurTown50.com asks why they are not posted there. Congrats. It's only a
35 minute ride to downtown Sarasota. Grab a bus:)
* Airport officials at Sarasota - Bradenton Airport hope either Delta doesn't go bankrupt or SouthWest Airlines takes them over and serves the airport. Delta represents almost 50% of the airports revenue.
* Sarasota County schools look to tax referendum to support two new technical training campuses. Parents to be educated on how college is not the cure all for jobs and that 75% of new jobs will be technical.
* Sarasota County now looks at raising new home impact fees more than 200%.
Sarasota County Commissioners have taken a pro-active stand in trying to get the law changed so they can install red light cameras. The cameras have proven to reduce red light runners by 81% or more in Sarasota test studies. Kudos to the commishes.
Florida residents will be paying 9% of their homeowners insurance to help bail out the state homeowners run insurance program. An additional 2% was just added to bring the total to the 9% level.
* Commissioner Thaxton upset that Sarasota County doesn't take into consideration that new developments like Lakewood Ranch will be a traffic nightmare when they approve them.
* School head, Norris, says he needs at least 15 new top level positions to help make school system work well.
* Florida Gulf drilling debate gets readied in the Senate by a majority vote. The Senate will be looking at a 235 mile limit while the House looks at a 50 mile limit.
* Florida has six MSAs in the top 25 nationally as ranked by the percentage of households with $1 million or more in investable assets:
- Naples-Marco Island, FL - 8.6% - Vero Beach, FL - 7.2% - Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice, FL - 6.7% - Punta Gorda, FL - 6.3% - Palm Coast, FL - 6.1% - Port St. Lucie-Fort Pierce, FL - 6.0%
* Lakewood Ranch gains entree into developing 5,000 new homes in Sarasota County east of I-75, once a protected haven.
* Sarasota Bradenton home median sales price drops 3% to $327,000 and Naples by 8% in June. Florida's median sales price is $258,000.
Developers have second thoughts about building out 11 new condo projects given the slowdown in the real estate market Sarasota.
* Jet Blue to enter Sarasota market with a daily flight to JFK. JetBlue is offering promotional fares of $79 each way. Tickets must be bought by July 18 and used by Oct. 31. Service will start September 21st.
* Sarasota County Commissioners to look at taking over private condo beaches along the gulf front. As well as all other beaches that have private property fronting the gulf.
* Lakewood Ranch proposes increasing new residential units by around 60%.
New Diocese of Venice Bishop will be Monsignor Frank J. Dewane, 56. He will work with Bishop Nevins until 2007 when Nevins retires.
* George O'Neil, a Sarasota resident for over 30 years, was arrested on fraud charges that claimed he helped to bilk the elderly out of $2 million dollars through a non-profit agency he ran. He is a pillar in the local Catholic church and supported many youth groups over the years.
* Sarasota school district will demolish Riverview H.S. and build a new one that may approach $100 million? While selling naming rights to the new school?
Mennonites decide to ride their bikes on the sidewalk after a Mennonite woman was killed crossing Bahia Vista.
* Manatee County takes limiting number of homes built proposal off the table.
* Sarasota County schools supt. continues to push for new technical high school. Cost $79 million to $114 million.
* Sheriff Balkwill comes up with Dangerous Dogs program to track them on his web site.
* The top places to retire? Florida takes 8 spots out of the top 50 with Melbourne, Boca Raton, Daytona Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Naples, Ocala, Sarasota and St. Petersburg.
Sarasota Fair Grounds oh fair grounds what shall thee be? They want to build a $40 publicly funded new facility and the County says not with our money?
New lights on U.S. 41 make it look like a freeway. They must be 100 feet tall. Uggg.
Local teachers being asked to teach 30 extra minutes a day next year if bond measure passes doesn't thrill all the teachers all the time.
With 7 hurricanes in two years some Florida residents are angry with FPL. Some had to live without electricity for 3 weeks or more. Hurricanes aren't new FPL should have been putting new power lines underground for decades.
* Attorney's for Dr. Michael Rosin the Sarasota dermatologist accused of intentionally misdiagnosing patients with skin cancer have tried to move his trial back four times this year. He is charged with over $3 million in fraudulent Medicare charges. The trial will start Monday.
* Ft. Myers-Cape Coral area shows highest 2005 home appreciation at 44%. Sarasota hit a 32% appreciation for 2005. Median sales price in Sarasota County $322,700 for 2005. The number of homes listed in Lakewood Ranch went from 80 to 300 flooding the market.
* Holy moly where is all of the money going to come from to build $2 billion dollars of new roads for Sarasota County? Some may come from road impact fees that the county raised by 15% Wednesday.
A local group wants to pay $600,000 for the sailor kissing the nurse statue in Sarasota. Why can't they hire Ringling Art students to do the same statue for much less.
* Company loans two red light cameras to Sarasota County. The County will use the data from the cameras to lobby for legalizing handing out tickets using red light cameras. The two cameras will be set up at two different locations in Sarasota. A red light camera sits at a birds eye view of red light runners. Around 1,000 people a year are killed by red light runners.
* Online shopping dollars up 30% from last years Christmas
season for a total of around $3 billion dollars.. Around 2 million shoppers per minute shop online. Higher gas
prices helping to spur online shopping.
* Home sales and price declines
October, 2005 numbers compared to the
November, 2005 median sales price data shows the following decreases