Springs employees could be out of work

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Local politicians continue debate over the future of Warm Mineral Springs in North Port. In the meantime, those who work there could soon be without a job.

Judd Carper says he needs his job maintaining the grounds at the springs. "Nobody here is rich. Nobody here can afford not to have their job."

It just might happen to Judd and 43 others who work there. Sarasota County and North Port city commissioners continue to argue about how the spring they jointly own should move forward. The deal with the current operator Cypress Lending ends in less than three weeks. "You don't sleep at night knowing tomorrow you got a job but in 20 days you wont. Or you might have a job. Am I going to be able to feed my daughter? Am I going to be able to feed my son? I don't know."

The majority of city leaders say they want to focus on conservation while Sarasota County leaders want more development opportunities. In the past four years those like lifeguard Chris Bender says they've gone from around 40,000 visitors per year to 120,000 now. "Every year it has gotten better and better. I don't see why you would want to stop that."

Some city commissioners have suggested the local governments run it temporarily themselves. Mary Putnik works at the front desk and is the longer running employee at 19 years. "You can not just open up the door and go in. You really have to have a personality and approach the people. Tell them about the springs. Tells them about the history."

Ted Weinberger owns Cafe Evergreen on the site. He says he worries about his 14 employees and the other local businesses he uses. "17 other local businesses that I buy equipment from. That I buy produce from."

Message therapist Tanja Aiken is concerned their impacts on the local community are being forgotten. "Nobody has ever talked to us. Nobody has ever met us. They do not know what this place means to so many people from all over the world."

Recently county commissioners suggesting the issues may only get resolved in a courtroom. Another potential delay exercise instructor Ela Ellis says is absurd. "They are playing here with not only our hearts but our lives."

Barely holding onto hope that everyone involved can somehow play nice says Carper. "I don't want to say this the wrong way but it's like children fighting over a toy."

North Port city leaders will be picking up the issue first thing Thursday morning at 9am in City Hall.