Yesterday was the North Sarasota Tiger Bay Debate for the District Two Candidates for County Commission. This is the race that has Republican City Commissioners Paul Caragiulo and Shannon Snyder vying for the same seat in the Republican primary. The primary takes place on August 26th.
Tom Tryon was the debate moderator and asked the panel (which also included NPA Alex Coe, and write-in candidates Steve McAllister and Pete Theisen) a question about the future of Warm Mineral Springs. A lot of the answers mentioned the disagreement between the North Port City Commission and the County Commission. Here was my follow-up question during the audience participation segment:
During their joint meeting, the County Commission unanimously approved the JEBCO proposal for Warm Mineral Springs, and the North Port City Commission denied the JEBCO proposal by a vote of 4-1. There were two specific provisions of the JEBCO proposal that were controversial. The first one is that JEBCO wanted the Warm Mineral Springs Land, which the County purchased through the Parks Acquisition Program, to be conveyed to JEBCO so they could use it as collateral for financing for their proposed development project. The second was that JEBCO wanted a 50 year lease on the land. Can you tell us, if you were a County Commissioner, would you vote yes or no for the JEBCO proposal and why?
I’m focusing on the Snyder Caragiulo answers here, because they are squaring off in the Republican primary on August 26th, which is coming up soon.
Commissioner Caragiulo’s answer included comments on the “schism” between the North Port Commission and the County Commission, how they need to work it out, and how the JEBCO proposal was just “the beginning” of a negotiation that would have been ongoing. So the JEBCO proposal was just a starting point, and the negotiation would evolve, and they have to negotiate and work together to come up with the best solution.
Commissioner Snyder said he would not have voted to convey parkland to a private entity. He said he believed the City of North Port should be in the driver’s seat with regard to Warm Mineral Springs. He was the only candidate who directly answered whether or not he would have voted for the proposal.
Bottom line: Snyder’s answer wins. The County has no business conveying land purchased through the Parks Acquisition Program to a private company so that company can finance their project. This is another foolish, high risk decision the County engages in that results in bloated vanity projects with runaway budgets like the Benderson Rowing Park. Thank goodness North Port voted “No”. As for Caragiulo’s answer, who negotiates by starting with provisions that give everything away? A 50 year lease as a starting point? Conveying public parkland to a private company as a starting point? Caragiulo’s answer indicates he will perpetuate the cronyism at the County Commission table, and that same “negotiating” that had the 2-3 million dollar rowing facility balloon up to 52 million and counting – practically all of it on the public dime. We don’t need that.