• County talks parks controversy

    By: WARREN RICHARDSON, Sun Correspondent, North Port Sun

    Updated:

    North Port, Florida - VENICE -- In a way, a short meeting makes up for some of the longer meetings Sarasota County commissioners have had over the past six months.

    In a brief, two-hour meeting in Venice on Tuesday, county commissioners dealt with a variety of topics, none of which were overly controversial.

    The only close exception to that came when Commissioner Mike Moran commented on a proposed amendment to an existing financial incentive agreement with Ringling College of Art and Design. That amendment was to extend a deadline for construction of a sound stage and postproduction facility at the college to June 30.

    Indicating that he was "incredibly supportive" of the project, Moran also wanted to point out that the contract presupposed huge involvement from the private sector, and the project would be an economic driver for the county. As the commission’s liaison to the Economic Development Corporation, Moran said he would work to ensure their involvement in the project.

    Gently inferring that he might be reading more into the matter, Commission Chairwoman Nancy Detert said, "This is us supporting Ringling in doing what they do. They are not only extremely creative, but also extremely practical."

    Commissioners unanimously approved the amendment to the contract.

    During his report, Commissioner Charles Hines mentioned the negotiations with Venice regarding parks, and learned that County Administrator Jonathan Lewis will meet with the city manager this Friday to negotiate a new statement of principles.

    The county and city have been at loggerheads over the issue after the county sent a letter to all the cities informing them of an intent to terminate and renegotiate existing parks interlocal agreements.

    Without making accusations, Commissioner Alan Maio said, "There’s a lot of misinformation out there. These sports teams need to know our children and our grandchildren play there too. (Three of the county commissioners live in or near Venice)."

    With a joint meeting scheduled with the city on Feb. 28, and only one county commission meeting before that date, Lewis said he would meet one-on-one with commissioners to brief them on the negotiations.

    In other business, commissioners:

    - Approved a request for a variance to extend the time to commence construction activities on a property at the corner of U.S. 41 and Ortiz Boulevard near North Port.

    - Presented a proclamation declaring Feb. 24 as Little Salt Spring Appreciation Day.

    - Learned that a joint meeting with the North Port City Commission will be scheduled for May 14.

    Commissioners will not meet today, as is customary, since county staff was able to compress all the agenda items for this week’s meetings into a single day.

    Email: jondaltonwr@gmail.com

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