Springs plan moves forward
City proposes day spa bids be taken in phases
By ELAINE ALLEN-EMRICH
NORTH PORT COMMUNITY NEWS EDITOR
NORTH PORT — A frustrated Cheryl Cook told her fellow North Port city commissioners Monday they wasted a whole year discussing Warm Mineral Springs, only to return to the invitation to negotiate process for a long-term vendor to operate the now-closed day spa.
Cook, who along with Commissioner Rhonda DiFranco, didn’t agree to move forward with that process, said she was confused about the board’s direction during a nearly three-hour workshop. Cook also didn’t want to move Springs discussions from the small meeting room at City Hall into the chambers, which seats 165, after more than 125 Springs supporters showed up. She was overruled.
Just before the workshop, about 50 protesters held signs in front of City Hall calling for the reopening of the Springs.
The property, which is jointly owned by the city and Sarasota County, closed five months ago after the boards failed to secure a longterm contract for its operation.
Commissioners couldn’t vote in Monday’s workshop. Instead, they directed City Manager Jonathan Lewis to draft a letter to ask county commissioners to go out for bid on both a short-term and long-term contract to operate the Springs. The short-term plan would be for a management company to run the day spa under agreed conditions created by the two boards. City commissioners will review the letter at their Dec. 9 meeting.
The city is proposing the plan be done in phases. The first bids in the plan would be only for 22 acres of the existing footprint of the day spa, including its 87-degree, mineral-rich lake, and not for development of the entire 81-acre property. Proposed bids would be for any development of the spa, on-site restaurant, gift shop and bathroom areas.
Commissioner Linda Yates said she was for a process that was transparent and still preserves the land. She said she had no problem with the invitation to negotiate, or ITN, process proposed in the past but rejected by commissioners last year. She said the proposed ITN document was flawed and unfair to the public’s interest. She would like to revisit and tweak a revised version of the ITN, which included changes from city and county commissioners at a joint meeting held this past spring.
“It doesn’t matter to me what you call the process,” Yates said. “We can give the city manager what options we want in an agreement and let him and his staff determine the procurement process.”
Hearing this, Cook grew frustrated with Yates.
“The ITN was dead a year ago,” she said. “Now, because one commissioner has changed her mind, it’s coming back up again. … I really wish you would have said that a year ago. … Had you just said, ‘I’m OK with the ITN,’ and the Springs would never have closed.”
After the workshop, Yates said commissioners were not going backward.
“We are moving forward,” she said. “No matter what the solicitation process is, we are moving ahead with a proposed plan. The county may not like it, but at least we are giving them something. We have an obligation to open the spa to the public for swimming. A management contract that we design will help us do that while we are deciding what to do with the long-term contract.”
Cook said Yates was against public-private partnerships in the past.
“I have heard you say many, many, many times that you are against a public-private partnership,” Cook said. “Entering into a contract with a private management company is a public-private partnership. I’m sure the county will give us anything we want as long as they get that ITN.”
Mayor Jim Blucher said it was time to stop pointing fingers at the county and keep moving forward. Several times during the two-hour public comment portion of the workshop, he had to gavel the audience and ask them to stop clapping for each speaker.
Elizabeth Dobrowolski, visiting from New York, was agitated with commissioners.
“I’m not asking you, I’m not begging you , I’m demanding you make some decisions and stick to them,” she said.
Protest organizer Eric Kotte told commissioners they were “killing the Springs.”
“Open your heart and open your ears,” he said. “You are the shepherds of our money and you failed.”
Dear Commissioners of the City of North Port and Sarasota County,
Warm Mineral Springs continues to be closed and will likely to remain closed for the foreseeable future. While we attempted on numerous occasions to educate the Commissioners and the public of the reasons for this continuing closing, it appears that the Commissioners and the public still suffer under misunderstanding of the reasons for the Springs being closed. We shall summarize these reasons as follows: Life, Health and Public Safety Issues
The bids for the operating the Spring were submitted on August 9. Prior to the bids, interested parties had only a short and cursory walk through. On September 5, after the bids were already submitted, a leading engineering firm of Kimley-Horn and Associates hired by the City of North Port examined the Springs buildings (not the Springs itself) and issued its report, which report identifies areas that were not merely advisable to repair, but were unsafe. We, of course, had neither the opportunity to see September 5 report before the bid, nor the opportunity to conduct detailed professional examination ourselves. In our view, such examination should have been conducted by the City and County long before expiration of Cypress Lending contract on June 30 or, at the minimum, immediately thereafter. As the report demonstrates, we could not under unsatisfactory circumstances in early October in good conscience to take upon the serious public obligation of operating such an environmentally sensitive space.
Extension of the Contract is Permitted by the Bid
The extension of the lengths of contract to operate the Springs is fully permitted by the bid. It appears regrettably that the claim that such extension is not permitted is being used as an excuse for not opening the Springs. On a contrary, there are no legal or practical impediment to signing the contract and an amendment extending it for 12 months, one after another, consistent with paragraph 3(a) of the contract that permits the contract to be extended by mutual consent as follows:
a. The [OPERATOR] shall provide services for twelve (12) months beginning __________, 2013 (the “Effective Date”) and terminating on _______________________, 2014. This Agreement may be extended or renewed with mutual consent of the [CITY AND COUNTY] and [OPERATOR].”
Pleases note that contract is provided for both extension and renewal. The renewal is by definition is giving a new contract to the same operator after the original contract expires. The extension however does not require expiration of the contract and can be made at any time, including immediately after signing the contract. Therefore, contrary to what has been publically suggested, the extension does not constitute a change of the terms of the bid since the contract that was provided to all interested parties as a part of the bid specifically permits the extension of its duration and there is nothing in the contract or the bid package that precludes this extension to be made at the time of the signing of the contract or immediately thereafter. Indeed, those parties who submitted the bids and all those who did not would have no basis for objecting to the extension since everyone was made fully and publically aware through the bid package that the contract by its own terms may be extended for the winner of the bid with no further bids required for such extension.
If the Springs is not Open Now, it will be Closed Indefinitely
Third, any expectations of finding a short or long-term operator soon are unreasonable and unrealistic. Only 2 companies were involved in the August bidding. (The second company is apparently no longer interested). Contrary to what may be assumed, the abandoned Springs is not a profit center for a private business, but rather is a liability. As some of the commissioners tacitly recognize, we may be the only private party interested in operating the Springs, not because of expectations of unlikely profits but rather because like no one else, as a physician, I fully appreciate and value the therapeutic properties of the Springs and am committed to its success for the health of the Springs itself and for the ultimate health and wellness benefits to local community and visitors who depend on the Springs being operational.
As you well know, the previous operator left the premises in poor shape. The property was emptied and abandoned, and because of the delay in the selection of the operator the Springs has deteriorated and has remained closed for several month already. Consequently, rather than stepping into ongoing operations, any private operator has to start from scratch. While there may be private parties who would be interested in acquiring the land surrounding the Springs, it would be unreasonable to expect that any other private party being interested in taking great financial risks and be capable of operating the Springs itself and its facilities as a wellness destination.
In sum, this is our last offer to operate the Springs for 24 months consistent with and permitted by the bid and the contract. We still sincerely hope that the Commissioners look at this from a practical point of view, so that the Springs is soon open to the public to the benefit of health, wellness, local economy and property values.
City of North Port Meeting - November 12, 2013
Poor conditions at Warm Mineral after only 60 days of being closed
Warm Mineral Springs remains closed as two local governments decide next step. - 10 News
Sarasota County Commissioners Meeting - October 22, 2013
Entire Meeting - Duration 1:05:36
Sarasota County Commissioner Barbetta
Sarasota County Commissioner Hines
Sarasota County Commissioner Robinson
City Meeting - October 14, 2013
The People Speak Out...
Letter to the Commisioners
Sent October 29th, 2013
You have taken away hundreds of needed jobs, eliminated over a half million dollars from the already stressed economy, prevented the elderly from needed therapy, and to top the entire debauchery off, now you start from ground zero again.
While you sit in your high back leather chairs, families who invested their life savings, many who have moved from foreign countries are now on the brink of financial ruin, declining health, and the growing disbelief and anger from your continued negligence and inability to manage this situation.
Next time you sit down at your desk and write out your house and car payments, take a hard look at who signed your paycheck.
Face the facts, the City of North Port and Sarasota County will NEVER in the next 10,000 years EVER see eye to eye. Time to do what you gave your oath to do; SELL Warm Mineral Springs back to the rightful owners.
Government should not be using our taxpayer’s dollars to run a business for profit…
Click the left button and send an email to ALL the City and County commissioners at one time. It is time they listen to what the citizens have to say!
County Meeting - Nov 5th, 2013
Closed 150 Days equals an estimated $849,900 dollar
economic loss to the community of North Port and
still counting at $5666 per day with NO END in SIGHT!!!!!
Note: This web site was launched in 2004 for the sole purpose of archiving important historical documents, personal interviews, and scientific data pertaining to the health and interests of Warm Mineral Springs. The concerned citizens of North Port and Sarasota County operate it. This site is NOT the official Warm Mineral Springs page.
It is your right as a tax-paying citizen or business owner to express your concerns.
It is your right to demand answers from the elected politicians.
It is your right to “Get Involved”!
Join modern day explorer, Curt Bowen as he takes you on a journey and shows you the Mysteries of Warm Mineral Springs – Revealed. 10:45min
en thousand years ago giant ice sheets covered most of North America. At that time, Florida had a climate more like North Carolina, unlike the subtropical climate it has today. The vegetation consisted of large grassy plains and thick forests of oak and hickory trees. A variety of animals including Wooly Elephants, Giant Ground Sloths, North American Camels, Saber-Toothed Cats, and many other species, roamed throughout Florida.
It is believed that water sources in the Warm Mineral Springs area were few and far between due to the porous limestone rock layers below the surface, which kept most of the water movement underground. At that time, oceans were 70 to 90 feet shallower due to the large amounts of water trapped in the giant sheets of ice. This theory can be proven by studying the flowstone formations found in Warm Mineral Springs, which are believed to have opened to the surface as early as thirty thousand years ago. Hundreds of flowstones were formed around the sink's upper lip at 20 feet with a few formations located as deep as 70 feet. Because flowstones can only form in a dry chamber over thousands of years, these patterns indicate that the oceans must have been considerably lower than they are today. The western coast of Florida extended miles to the west and south, doubling Florida's present size.
Today, Warm Mineral Springs is considered a health spa, visited by thousands of people seeking the warm soothing mineral waters believed to be helpful in healing many ailments. Fifty years ago, William Royal, the first diver to ever venture below the surface, discovered extinct animal bones, stalactite formations, and human remains. The archaeological world initially dismissed his findings as a farce because, according to fossil records, it was believed that man arrived in Florida no earlier than seven thousand years ago. For the last forty years, several archaeological projects have been conducted in and around Warm Mineral Springs resulting in many outstanding discoveries. The most astonishing was the discovery of a ten thousand year old human skull still containing brain matter.
The human remains discovered in Warm Mineral Springs were carbon dated back to ten thousand years ago. This finding changed the theory about the time of Homosapien movement across North America to four thousand years earlier than previously believed. These early American Indians hunted, scavenged, and followed along the banks of rivers, lakes, streams, and springs across America. These Indians finally made it to the Florida peninsula and eventually encountered the unique site of Warm Mineral Springs.
When the Indians arrived, Warm Mineral Springs was a giant pit surrounded by a huge forest. This giant pit dropped quickly from the surrounding forest vegetation. Water trickled down the walls and into the pit below. This is revealed today by the water channels sculpted into the walls at depths from 40 to 55 feet. At 32 feet, the walls undercut themselves making a natural shelter from the outside elements. These early Paleo Indians must have considered Warm Mineral Springs a sacred place because they buried their dead along the walls at 35 feet. Human remains and primitive tools dating from three to ten thousand years old have been excavated from the sink and the surrounding lands over the last forty years.
Geologically, Warm Mineral Springs is a solution hole descending into one of the deepest Florida aquifers. The water flowing from this spring is anaerobic (low in oxygen) and is believed to have been trapped underground for over thirty thousand years at depths exceeding 7000 feet. Under these great pressures, the water is geothermally heated to 97º degrees Fahrenheit and flows from several small caves located on the northern wall at depths from 195 to 210 feet. As the water rises towards the surface, it mixes with cooler water from colder vents. When it reaches the surface, the temperature drops to 85º degrees Fahrenheit. Eight million gallons of water a day flow down a natural run on the surface and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico.
Above Image: Adventurer and amateur archeologist Col Bill Royal turned the academic world of archeology on its ear in the 1970s. After nearly 25 years of denial, ridicule and general disrespect to Col Royal, in the 1970s the evidence amassed proved that Royals claims that the Paleo-Indian burials he had discovered in the 1950s were indeed over 10,000 years old.Royal's discovery led to extensive excavations and academic research at the site, much of which served to repetitively prove the accuracy of his own research and to establish the site as one of the most important archeological sites in North America.