NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Sarasota County and North Port city leaders are one step closer to deciding the future of Warm Mineral Springs. At a joint meeting Tuesday, the two sides agreed on two potential candidates.
It means the two sides agreed on something, which is a good sign in a process that has dragged on for years now. They’re hoping to keep the momentum going.
Four companies put in bids to take over as long-term managers of the North Port attraction. Tuesday, commissioners were looking to whittle it down. “The point of the meeting is to bring it down to one or two," said North Port Mayor Jim Blucher.
They ended up choosing National and State Parks Concession, which is currently managing the springs in the short term as one of the finalists. The other is a company called Jebco.
It’s the first real agreement by the two sides on a potential long term operator. “I think it is very important because some of the problems we have had in the past is that we were always on the opposite end of the scale. It took us a long time to get to this point."
$5.5 million has been jointly invested in the property. The process has been slowed dramatically not being able to agree how to move forward. "It's unfortunate and expensive. You have that kind of investment and it is not doing much for you. Now it is back on track with a short term operator. In reality and fairness to everyone in the county, there is a lot of money there."
Concerns are still there regarding how much development and preservation is in the works for the site. It will certainly be a talking point when the two companies left make their pitch. "Maximizing its capabilities as an economic engine and a tourist attraction for the benefit of North Port and Sarasota County," says Sarasota County Commissioner Joe Barbetta.
They’re hoping everyone can get what they want and the springs won't once again find itself closed. "Now that we are at this point I am hoping we work together to do the ultimate for the region," says Mayor Blucher.
Tuesday’s meeting was the first of a panned three meetings. At the next one on June 23rd they will hear those pitches. Then at a final meeting they hope to choose someone.
The spring has open for swimming only for several months now after having been closed for months before that. It is turning a significant profit each month -- a good sign considering there really isn't much promotion or facilities.