Future of Warm Mineral Springs up in the air again

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NORTH PORT, Fla. -- With both Sarasota County and North Port city leaders unable to agree on the future of Warm Mineral Springs, the long-time North Port attractions could close again in less than two months.

Sarasota County will discuss the issue again Tuesday afternoon, where some suggest one side will buy out the other.

“Before we start running, we collapse again." Eric Kotte represents a few hundred who are a part of the Warm Mineral Springs Patron Association. They’re worried about the loss of public access and the impacts. "We don't want to have instability again…people losing their jobs, people losing their rental houses."

The current short term management deal at the spring is a temporary fix, while both city and county commissioners were supposed to hash out a long term deal. However, after two meetings in June, they could not agree on the same company moving forward.

"You have two governments involved. It's bad enough when you have one and are trying to generate economic development." North Port Commissioner Linda Yates and the majority of her counterparts voted for the management company candidate that is less focused on development. County commissioners voted unanimously for a management company touting restaurants, hotels, and medical facilities.

"We are kind of in limbo now. Things are kind of stalling."

Both sides jointly bought the site for $5.5 million in 2010. Perhaps it's time one side buy out the other?

"There are all options available, certainly. One to look at is the city taking over the property." Sarasota commission chair Charles Hines says it's a possibility. "I think our commission would consider an offer by the City of North Port to buy us out."

For now, the two governments are stymied with two very different approaches on how to preserve the spring and potentially use it as an economic driver.

"You have two different visions. Nothing wrong with that, but you cannot have a partnership if you have two different visions with how to upgrade that facility."

Hines says it's a slippery slope for North Port, though. It's believed the current facilities need major basic upgrades like sewer and water lines.

Kotte says his group is leaning towards city officials who can better represent those who live there. "Sarasota County is big; they can develop something. They have Sarasota, Venice. We have only the springs."

ABC 7 has been told that in the past two months, Warm Mineral Springs actually made a profit of around $160,000 after costs to manage it. To close it and allow no public access actually costs taxpayer money to secure it and maintain it.