She squints at my driver’s license, leaning in to read the address. Sarasota County residents get $5 off admission to Warm Mineral Springs, a national treasure located in North Port, which just happens to be part of Sarasota County. Yep. Resident. I get a break.
Handing her money, the cashier gives me change. Then I take a deep breath and ask THE QUESTION:
“Will you lose your job?”
Her lower lip trembles. She hugs herself, wrapping her arms around her waist and nods.
She is not alone. Warm Mineral Springs closes at 5 p.m. on Sunday June 30, 2913. General Manager Gene Vaccaro says 60 people including fulltime, part time and temporary employees, will be out of jobs. A $700,000 annual payroll is history.
On Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30 there is an emergency sale. Everything goes. Bring cash and a truck. Equipment, supplies, furniture, tools, décor, shelving and inventory – out the door. The only thing left will be the water in the springs.
If and when a new vendor is finally chosen, a press release by Vaccaro estimates the expense of permits, furnishings, repairs and insurance will top $300,000. And that to the payroll lost and this is a one million dollar fiasco.
And the ripple effect has started – Roger Herber, manager of Warm Mineral Springs Motel in North Port, is on the phone calling everyone who made hotel reservations to tell them the springs are closing.
“You’re from New York, you’re coming down for a week, you always go to the springs, now what are you going to do? Yes, our business will go down,” says Herber.
How did this disaster happen? For the past 30 months Sarasota County and the City of North Port has jointly owned Warm Mineral Springs. It is a marriage begging for a divorce.
Sarasota County has made all the right moves. North Port commissioners, on the other hand, refuse to play nice with anyone. The North Port City Manager wants Warm Mineral Springs, currently run on a daily basis by a vendor whose contract expires June 30, to be a city park. North Port commissioners don’t want anything to do with the springs and want to sell it – but not to Sarasota County whose offer to buy their share was denied. North Port refused to join Sarasota County in putting out a bid for proposals to run the park. So, the doors close.
On Monday, June 24, North Port commissioners agreed to offer a short term lease to a company, as yet unnamed, to run the springs. It is too little, too late.
Perhaps they were cowed by all the protestors with signs saying “SAVE OUR SPRINGS”- perhaps at the next meeting, with the springs closed, the signs might read “RECALL ALL COMMISSIONERS AND THE CITY MANAGER”.
What can you do now? Well, if you’ve never been to the springs, put it on your bucket list then buckle up and start E mailing commissioners.
Find the North Port commissioners here
They need to hear from people who now will NOT be spending time and money in North Port. Oh, and Vaccaro made a good observation: “We’ve served over 191,000 people but they are they ‘silent majority’, they had a great experience but don’t tell commissioners.”
Guilty. I wrote a Warm Mineral Springs story for Saturday Morning magazine without ever considering sending it to the two sets of commissioners.
Find the Sarasota County commissioners here
Tell them your story. Let them know how important Warm Mineral Springs is to you.
On Sunday, June 30, 2013 at 5 p.m. the soft music stops.
Laughing children in the shallow end are here no more.
All the Slavic languages you heard while bobbing around will go silent. They are here no more.
Mother Earth is greatly upset.
Shame. Shame. Shame.- See more at: http://www.lucytobias.com/2013/06/27/warm-mineral-springs-closes-on-sunday/#sthash.1ZE1brES.dpuf