NORTH PORT, Fla. - Bids for a management company to run Warm Mineral Springs in the short term were due Monday, but there is still a lot of debate as to what the long term future of the springs should be.
While Sarasota County and North Port city leaders debate its future, Warm Mineral Springs has been closed for nearly eight months. Still, those who are desperate for it to reopen are gathering and organizing.
“The springs are basically being wasted," says nearby resident Ania Nazarian.
The closure is also hurting their quality of life and property values. The local governments have put it out for a short term bid. However, Nazarian and a newly formed group called the Warm Mineral Springs Patrons Association don't think the current process is a good one.
They say it's confusing and limiting, and that’s keeping bidders away. "It's impossible or almost impossible for anybody who is sane to operate the springs for four months."
Four months because the two local governments have already said what they really want is a long term agreement, which if not in place by September could close the spring again.
"Right now we are talking swimming only. We will see if anything has been added to the bid, but I do not expect that." North Port mayor Jim Blucher says they do want it open in some way now. "We will jump right on it. Nobody wants any delays in the opening of the springs. The county wants it open, the city wants it open, the people want it open, everybody wants it open."
But he admits that the long term plan is really what ails them. "The long term is the cure. That will fix everything once we get that done. We have to get there. We are moving; slowly, but we are moving."
Problem is, in the past three plus years, the two sides have not been able to agree on a long term path.
Patrons say they expect similar results. "I expect they will not be able to come to an agreement by September, because they have not been able to come to an agreement for three and a half years," says Nazarian.
Five bids came in by the Monday afternoon deadline. We are told staff will go through them and make sure they are legit. Then it will go before commissioners to pick one.