Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

City Wants County's Stake in Hot Springs

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

City Wants County's Stake in Hot Springs

Article excerpt

NORTH PORT

North Port commissioners agreed Monday they want to buy the county's $2.75 million interest in Warm Mineral Springs, and would like to move quickly, to keep the springs open to the public.

But depending upon the county's response, the springs may still closed for a short time beginning Aug. 31, when the current management deal with the operator ends.

Mayor James Blucher was the only commissioner voting against the purchase, saying he does not think the city has explored other options.

In 2010, the city and county each paid $2.75 million to become 50- 50 owners of the springs. But since then, they have disagreed on almost everything else: City commissioners want the springs to retain a parklike atmosphere, while the county leans toward developing the property, perhaps to include a hotel.

The County Commission voted last week to ask North Port to buy its share for $2.75 million plus closing costs.

During Monday's meeting in North Port, commissioners listened to 24 people during the public-comment portion, before voting to start the process of becoming sole owner of the swimming attraction.

All agreed the 81-acre Warm Mineral Springs, often touted for its waters' healing properties, is a treasure.

"What we've found out over time is that the county doesn't always make the best partner," said Jennifer Cowan, a North Port resident since 1996. "Don't forget that we are the largest city in the county, not the weakest."

Some residents wondered where the money was coming from, and others chastised commissioners for exacerbating a four-year fiasco.

"Let's just purchase the springs and move on," Cowan said.

The actions by both commissions might come too late for springs visitors.

A contract with National and State Park Concessions ends Aug. 31, 11 days after the county considers North Port's offer. North Port commissioners want to ask the county to set an emergency meeting before then.

The city's letter to the county will ask that the city have sole control to extend the lease with National and keep the springs open as the sale is being finalized.

The county may not accept that suggestion.

Also, by law, the city must get two independent appraisals of the property. …

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