Sarasota News Leader

04/04/2014

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When Robinson asked whether that meant the county might have only $2 million for road resurfacing by the fourth or fifth year of the CIP, Harriott told her, "[The amount] changes year to year." ATHLETIC FIELDS During a review of proposed athletic field improvements, Brownman explained that staff had identified projects totaling about $618,200 as additional critical needs beyond those already estimated to cost $3,106,800 over the next five fiscal years. However, Chairman Hines questioned the $293,200 expense for the replacement of lighting systems at the Cal Ripken Complex. Because the Parks and Recreation Department is working on a new master plan, Hines said, "I just don't want to put good money toward a bad park … if this isn't a long-term vision." "These are critical projects that really need to move forward," Parks and Recreation Department Director Carolyn Brown replied. Then Ed Exner, a manager in that department, explained that the lights at the Ripken Complex "are in desperate need of replacement. They are structurally unsound," he added, and the lighting they provide is insufficient for play- ers. After replacing the systems, he pointed out, the county also would be able to pursue more tournaments, which would have a posi- tive impact on economic development. "I don't mind going out on a limb for that," Patterson said of the extra money staff requested, but she bemoaned the lack of sur- tax revenue to pay for other needs. Staff also had identified "High Importance" athletic field projects estimated at $6,165,000 and "Important" ones totaling $5,626,000 that were unfunded over the next five years. Among the former are turf and replacement work and the installation of new batting cages. The latter list has more batting cages as well as new lighting and irrigation systems. Barbetta seconded Patterson's motion to cover the additional $618,200. "This is crit- ical not only for our users of the fields, for our youth and adults," he noted, but also for attracting sports tourism. NEW PRIORITIES Among the new projects whose inclusion the board approved for the next five-year CIP was the North Port Connector, a bridge between the county's Carlton Ranch and the City of North Port's Myakkahatchee Environmental Park at a cost of $200,000. It could be funded by the county's Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program if the project were deemed "essential," according to a staff PowerPoint presentation. While she emphasized, "This is not a knock on staff," Robinson said, "This almost seems silly that access for 58,000 people [would have to be deemed 'essential']." Patterson pointed out that when the county sought the public's approval of a dedicated rev- enue stream for the county's Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program — first in a 1999 referendum and again in 2005 — "We said we would provide additional access to those lands. So to me, that's an essential promise." % Sarasota News Leader April 4, 2014 Page 45

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