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Federal order requires face coverings on the trolley

All passengers on the Siesta Key Breeze open-air trolley must wear face coverings, in accord with a federal order that pertains to all public transit systems, Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) has announced.

The order says every public transportation operator must make certain that each person on a transit vehicle wears a mask when boarding and disembarking. Further, public transportation operators are to use their best efforts to ensure compliance for the duration of travel, a county news release explains. 

Complimentary masks will be offered to riders who do not have one, the release points out. 

Although Sarasota County staff has been encouraging the wearing of face coverings for nearly a year, this order “applies to all who utilize SCAT’s services,” including fixed routes and SCAT Plus, along with the Breeze, the release adds. 

Busy period for Sheriff’s Office on the Key

During the Feb. 4 Siesta Key Association meeting, Sgt. Arik Smith, leader of the Sheriff’s Office’s substation on the Key, noted that the department fielded 341 calls for service in January, “which is a little bit up from previous months” in previous years.

However, he continued, the number of more serious crimes — those the FBI used to classify as Part 1 incidents — has stayed “pretty close to the same [level on Siesta].”

Among January incidents, Smith pointed to six thefts of vehicles. Four of the six, he said, involved unattended vehicles with the keys left in them. In two cases, he added, the vehicles were still running when someone stole them.

In the fifth incident, Smith said, a person broke into the vehicle, but the keys were not in it, so it was not taken.

And in the sixth case, he noted, the owner had removed the keys and the doors were locked. Officers still are investigating that one, Smith added, trying to determine how the vehicle was stolen; he did not believe it had been recovered.

Therefore, Smith stressed to the association members, only one of those incidents was what he would describe as “legitimate.” As he has many times in the past, Smith urged residents to keep their vehicles locked when they are not with the vehicles and to be sure to take their keys with them.

Additionally, Smith reported, “We’ve had quite a spike in bicycle thefts on the Key.” Most of those incidents have occurred in the area around Stickney Point Road, he continued. As a result of calls, Smith said, the Sheriff’s Office has increased patrols in that part of the island.

Smith further noted a few reports of assaults in Siesta Village, usually around the closing times of the bars. “Nothing too big or too out of the ordinary with that,” he said.

And Sheriff’s Office personnel still are trying to educate people that a county ordinance forbids dogs on the beach unless the dogs are service animals. Moreover, Smith said, county regulations forbid dogs in parks that do not have designated areas for the animals.

“We’ve been getting a lot of complaints,” he continued, about dogs in Glebe Park.

Then Smith said, as usual for this time of year, the Sheriff’s Office had begun work on its Spring Break planning for the Key, with more patrols set to begin in March.

An extra five or six deputies would be assigned to the island during the day and at night, he added. The department’s mounted patrol also will be present on the beach, he said.

“We want to do our best,” Smith said, to make certain that people have fun but that they follow the county rules, as well.

In response to a question, Smith reported that the Key did seem busier than usual in January. In fact, he said, he had talked with a number of business owners to find out whether they were experiencing upticks in numbers of customers, compared to previous months of January. Some reported that their numbers were the same as in the past or better, he added.

The COVID-19 pandemic remains underway in the state and in the county. Virginia Haley, president of the county’s tourism office — Visit Sarasota County — has told county leaders over the past months that, while the number of international tourists has remained practically nonexistent because of travel concerns or restrictions, many residents of other parts of Florida and other states have been coming to Sarasota County. 

Given medical researchers’ findings over the past months that the transmission of the novel coronavirus happens more readily in indoor settings, people have been more inclined to visit areas where they can pursue a wide range of outdoor activities, Haley has emphasized.

During the meeting, Smith noted that he and his Sheriff’s Office colleagues had been seeing “a lot of people from out of state.”

Higel project still underway in early February

For the past several months, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has had a project underway on Higel Avenue from Little Pond Lane to Somerset Drive, on the northern part of Siesta Key. 

The department had anticipated completion by the end of 2020. However, the work continues.

FDOT’s projects update for Sarasota County for the second week of February noted that the Higel initiative has been designed to improve drainage, as well as the sidewalk and shoulder from Little Pond Lane to Somerset; road resurfacing was planned, as well.

The FDOT notice for the week of Feb. 7 said, “The contractor is in final stages of completion and project acceptance.” It added, “Motorists should expect only intermittent lane closures,” if those prove necessary. 

The contractor is Heavy Civil Inc. of North Miami Beach.

Siesta Sand
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