From the Desk of Sarasota
City Manager Tom Barwin
September 22, 2017
A week after Hurricane Irma made landfall in Florida, we caught up with Ross Mercier picking up downed limbs from a large tree on his property in Gillespie Park. On day 10 of his clean up, Ross says there's still much to be done -- and he's not alone.  Expect to see contractors in all the neighborhoods picking up storm debris for awhile helping to return Sarasota back to its pre-Irma condition.  More on that below in Weekly Briefs.    


  • Human Relations Board
    Tues., September 26 - 1 p.m.
    City Hall Annex - SRQ Media Studio
  • Police Complaint Committee
    Wed., September 27 - 5:30 p.m.
    City Hall Annex - SRQ Media Studio
Hurricane Irma
By all accounts, the Sarasota area was fortunate with Hurricane Irma. Structural damage throughout the city limits was fairly limited with approximately 100 homes impacted (mostly roof damage) and no one seriously injured.    
Six days before the storm, City staff began meeting and preparing to utilize the City's Emergency Operations Center at the Sarasota Police Department to coordinate logistics pre and post-storm. As predictions from the National Hurricane Center crystallized and it was clear Florida's west coast would be affected, a State of Emergency was declared in the city limits in consultation with Mayor Shelli Freeland Eddie.  Taking such action prior to the storm gave the City more flexibility with expenditures and allocating resources.  For the first time in recent memory, mandatory evacuations were issued for Zone A, including the barrier islands, low lying areas and mobile homes.    
Meeting at the City's EOC as Hurricane Irma approached Florida. 
The EOC was operating at a Level 1 activation, requiring all command and general staff sections to be on site to prepare, plan and respond to Irma.  In total, approximately 200 City employees (160+ SPD officers, 30+ employees from other City departments, plus a handful of firefighters from Longboat Key) were stationed around the clock at the EOC and spent two nights working, sleeping and eating with one another.    
Staff was as ready as we could be for a possible category 4 hurricane.  T-FITs (Tactical First In Teams) were strategically positioned within the city limits so that immediately after the high winds died down they could begin damage assessments and clear major roads.  Conference calls were conducted two or more times a day with Sarasota County emergency management, at which time information was shared about planning, readiness and the opening of shelters.  While the County is responsible for designating and opening shelters, three schools in the city limits became hurricane shelters providing safe cover and meals for approximately 4,000 evacuees.  
At daybreak, after Irma blew through, the T-FITs were dispatched to survey damage and clear arterial roads.  Due to so many downed Australian pines, John Ringling Blvd leading out to the barrier islands was impassable. Impressively, City crews cut through the trees and cleared the roadway so that residents could safely return to their homes by 1 p.m. that same day. Great work!  
What a difference a week makes! City crews removed trees blocking John Ringling Blvd.
and reopened the road within a few hours after the storm. 
Immediately, calls began coming into the City's EOC with residents reporting downed trees and broken water lines.  In total, 21 water mains broke during the storm, many of which were caused by downed trees.  This happens when tree roots wrap around a water main and pull the line apart as the tree topples. All the breaks were repaired and water restored in less than 48 hours.  That was a yeoman's job and we are especially appreciative of the Utility crews who worked so hard to get the water back on asap.   
Since the storm, the entire Landscape Division, with 30 employees, has worked exclusively on removing downed or damaged trees and dangerous dangling branches.  Approximately 400 trees have been cleared from the rights of way and parks.  By the end of business today (Friday, Sept. 22), we expect 90% of the parks to be cleaned up.  We appreciate the public continuing to use caution when visiting the parks. These crews have been working tirelessly in the heat and humidity -- thank you for your efforts!      

A City Landscape Division crew removing a downed tree in Gillespie Park. 
87% of the FPL customers in the city limits lost power during the storm including the police department, water plant and wastewater plant.  Fortunately, the regularly tested backup generators at these main City facilities functioned well until power was restored.  As part of its emergency response, FPL established two large staging areas for vehicles and crews within the city.  During the outage, the City administration was in contact with FPL daily and challenged the company to restore power sooner than their announced deadline of Sept. 22.  
In the coming days, staff will discuss the storm and analyze the City's action before, during and after...and how we can tweak our plans to be even more prepared. Overall, as an organization we responded very well with dedicated employees leaving their homes and families to be in position to help the community respond to what was expected to be an unprecedented natural disaster for our area.  Thank you all for your service!   

City Career Opportunities
Opportunity, Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Copy Room Over The Dramatic Clouds and Sky.
Control System Tech I - Plant Maintenance 
Director of Utilities
Industrial/Reliability Engineer
Maintenance Mechanic Solid Waste Collection
Manager, Redevelopment
Operations Manager, Business Improvement District
Pension Plans Administrator
    Police Officer, 2nd Class
Rec Attendant (RLTCC)     
Volunteer/Unpaid Intern

This Week's Items to Know:

Storm Debris Removal - Collection Underway   Storm debris collection started earlier this week and we expect it will be a lengthy process.  The City's contractor, Ceres Environmental, has multiple crews working simultaneously in different neighborhoods.   
While there is no set collection schedule, nine trucks currently are working north to south and as quickly as the large, heavy loads will allow.    
We ask that you place storm
Storm debris pickup is underway.

debris curbside as soon as you can.  Standard rules for yard waste are suspended, so no need to be concerned about the length or weight of tree branches.   
Please leave 3-5 feet between the debris pile and your mailbox, water meter, fire hydrant, tree etc. in order to allow enough room for the heavy machinery to maneuver.  
In addition to picking up debris, the contractor also will remove downed trees/limbs on or over the right of way.  Crews will not enter private property and remove trees.
For a list of Frequently Asked Questions click here.
Also, a storm debris hotline has been activated.  Please call this number with additional questions:  1-855-428-4526.
We expect it will take 2-3 passes through every neighborhood to pick up all the debris and return Sarasota to its pre-Irma condition. We ask for patience as resources are stretched with so many communities in Florida and the southeast recovering from Irma.     
Emergency Permits - Fast Tracked & Fees Waived   To help make repairs quickly and restore the community, all emergency building and tree removal permits related to Irma storm damage will be fast tracked and the fees waived for as long as necessary.  
At this writing, 29 emergency permits have been issued.
Please take photos of the damage now to ensure when an emergency permit is requested it will be approved in a timely manner and the associated fees waived .
Emergency permits are being issued for:  roofs, electric meter cans, fences, signs, sewer lines on private property, remasting on buildings and tree removal.   
When submitting an application, please state that the work is related to Hurricane Irma damage.
Due to the varying requirements with permits, we encourage individuals to visit the Permitting Office in person to work with a staff member on any application . The office is located at the City Hall Annex, 1565 First Street, on the second floor.   
For more information please contact any of the following staff members:   
FEMA Assistance - FEMA is offering help through several programs for those impacted by Irma: 
Operation Blue Roof:   A temporary blue tarp will be installed on a roof to help minimize further damage until permanent repairs can be made.  The program is being offered in 17 counties in Florida including Sarasota. For more information call 1-888-ROOF-BLU or visit the Operation Blue Roof center in Sarasota located at: Bee Ridge Park - 4430 S. Lockwood Ridge Road.  
FEMA Outreach Teams:  FEMA outreach teams are canvassing Florida to identify and address immediate needs and help residents register for disaster assistance.  They're going door-to-door and will be wearing FEMA clothing and carry federal ID badges. We understand these teams have started in the southern part of Sarasota County and will work their way north to the Sarasota city limits.   
Disaster Assistance:  Find possible assistance and apply online via www.DisasterAssistance.Gov. 
EOC Activation:  200+ Sleeping at SPD   The reality of activating the Emergency Operations Center is that City staff ends up working
Sleeping accommodations at the EOC.    
around the clock at the facility.    
200+ employees (160 SPD officers) slept in small rooms, alcoves, and hallways; on air mattresses and in some cases, curled up on a mat on the floor.  Staff simply found a location and tried to catch catnaps when they could --- all while having concerns for their families at home.   
It was a bonding experience for many having to work, sleep and eat together in such close proximity.  This is a unique and rarely seen side of municipal government, where employees sacrifice their own comfort, and being with their families, in order to serve the community.  Again, thanks to all for your remarkable dedication. 

Van Wezel:  Shows on Sale Now! 

The following is a list of shows through Dec. 2017.  To view the entire Van Wezel season visit 
Sunset On The Bay 
Sat., September 30 - 4 p.m.
FREE Event - Details 

Big Stage Ballroom - Fred Astaire 
Fri., October 18 - 7 p.m.

Neil Berg's 50 Years of Rock and Roll 
Fri., October 13 - 8 p.m.
Willie Nelson & Friends  
Tues., October 17 - 8 p.m.
Chicago Live in Concert 
Mon., October 30 - 8 p.m.
Catch Chicago October 30 at the Van Wezel.

So You Think You Can Dance 
Fri., November 3 - 8 p.m. 
Doo Wop Spectacular
Sat., November 4 - 7:30 p.m.

Celtic Thunder
Wed., November 15 - 7:30 p.m.

Straight No Chaser
Thurs., November 16 - 8 p.m.
Decades Rewind 
Fri., November 17  - 8 p.m. 
Three Dog Night 
Sat., November 18 - 8 p.m.
Dave Koz 20th Anniversary Christmas Tour 
Tues., November 28 - 8 p.m.
We Three Kings - An Irish Tenors Christmas 
Sat., December 2 - 8 p.m.
Leann Rimes 
Sun., December 3 - 7 p.m.
Leann Rimes will be at the Van Wezel Dec. 3.

Buddy - The Buddy Holly Story 
Tues., December 5 - 8 p.m.
98 Degrees Christmas
Mon., December 11 - 8 p.m.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Sun., December 17 - 2:30 p.m.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze
Thurs., December 21 - 7 p.m.

A Christmas Carol
Fri., December 22 - 7 p.m.

Moscow Ballet Great Russian Nutcracker
Fri., Dec. 29 - 3 p.m. & 7 p.m.

To purchase tickets over the phone call 941-953-3368 or stop by the Box Office at 777 N.Tamiami Trail. 

For a complete schedule of events, visit

We leave you with a beautiful "Sarasota Scene" from resident photographer Norm Schimmel: a post-Irma sun sinking into the Gulf of Mexico.
Thanks for reading this week's edition.  If you'd like to receive Weekly Briefs directly to your inbox click 'Join Our Mailing List ' below or send us an email at

Tom Barwin
City Manager