By Rachel Brown Hackney
During his report to SKA members on May 3, Sgt. Jason Mruczek also offered updates on a series of issues members raised during the April 5 SKA meeting.
First, he asked member Dave Thomas, who lives on the Grand Canal, whether boating problems had eased, noting that he had asked representatives of the Sheriff’s Office Marine Patrol to contact Thomas about speeding boaters.
“I spoke to several people,” Thomas replied. They referred him to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Thomas added, whose staff updated him on efforts regarding signage for the canals to warn boaters not to speed.
“I’ve seen the sheriff’s boat twice this week [on the canal],” Thomas noted. “They were going nice and slow, so I didn’t have to yell at them,” he joked.
The volume of boaters has declined since the height of tourist season ended, Thomas told Mruczek, but some drivers still “push the limit” in terms of speed.
Thomas noted other types of situations that have caused him concern, as well. For example, he continued, “Sometimes you see a boat with no driver; guy’s going into the cooler for a beer. Sometimes it’s a 5-year-old kid driving,” which would not be as much a cause for alarm if an adult were seated next to the child, Thomas pointed out.
SKA President Gene Kusekoski also noted that he lives on the Intracoastal Waterway, and he has been seeing speeding jet skiers. “Is it worth calling somebody about that?” he asked Mruczek. By the time an officer could get to the scene, Kusekoski added, the skiers would be gone. Kusekoski said that most of the problems occur between the Stickney Point Road and the Siesta Drive drawbridges.
If the situation is a recurring one, Mruczek responded, Kusekoski should let him know. Then, Mruczek would contact the Marine Patrol about keeping an eye on the area.
“Most days, it’s random,” Kusekoski said, noting that on one occasion, he saw “a couple of kids” run aground on an oyster bed.
A woman in the audience told Mruczek that she has been worried about people in kayaks and on paddleboards who have had near misses with speeding boats as they move from the bayous into Sarasota Bay. “No Wake Zone” signs used to stand at the locations where the bayous empty into the bay, she said.
When Mruczek asked her about the specific spots she was referencing, she said she was talking about Bayou Louise and Bayou Hansen on the northern end of the island.
“I will pass that along to our Marine Patrol, as well,” he replied.
Regarding issues at Beach Accesses 1 and 2, Mruczek noted that deputies have “been to Access 1 a lot, especially after 9 p.m.,” when the public parking hours end there.
A couple attending the April SKA meeting complained about loud partying and about people letting dogs run loose on the beach at Access 1, which faces Big Pass at the end of North Shell Road.
“I think we’ve had a lot of success with enforcement there,” Mruczek told the May SKA audience.
Additionally, he continued, “Access 2 has been a lot better.” Nonetheless, he noted, the Sheriff’s Office has received some reports of “vehicles going very fast on [Avenida] Messina,” toward the heart of Siesta Village, from Access 2.
The previous day, he said, a person in a big truck was ticketed for careless driving on Avenida Messina. “Hopefully, that will deter some other behaviors.”
When Mruczek started taking questions, a man in the audience asked whether it is legal to pass the Siesta Key Breeze trolley when it stops to pick up passengers on Midnight Pass Road. (The trolley circulates between Turtle Beach Park and Morton’s Siesta Market on Canal Road in the Village.)
“I’m going through my rolodex of traffic laws,” Mruczek replied as he thought about the question. “I’ll look into that one.”
In a May 9 telephone interview, Mruczek said his research had determined that no one can pass the trolley when it is in a No Passing Zone. Given that almost all of the Breeze’s route is along roads with double yellow lines, he added, people just need to be patient. “That is my official answer.”
They cannot pass the Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) buses, either, he pointed out, when those vehicles are picking up or dropping off riders in No Passing Zones.
Yet another question at the SKA meeting focused on service vehicles parking for long periods of time in the center turn lane on Midnight Pass Road.
“That can’t be done,” Mruczek replied.
It is common for beer and food delivery trucks to park in the center turn lane in Siesta Village, Mruczek continued, but they usually complete their business quickly enough that deputies do not ask them to leave. Short periods for such parking are all right, he added.
Then Kusekoski explained that he had made note of a cement truck parked in the center turn lane near his home on Midnight Pass Road for an hour or two.
Mruczek told Kusekoski that deputies would keep an eye out for that type of situation.