Warm Mineral Springs to close Monday, at least temporarily

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NORTH PORT - City of North Port and Sarasota County leaders have come to terms on a short term agreement for Warm Mineral Springs, however it still means the springs will close. But for how long?

The agreement on a long-range plan is still a long way off. The deal struck late Monday night means some company can manage the spring in the meantime. That however will still take some time.

24 hours earlier, employees were picketing city hall. Lifeguard Wayne Christensen, along with 40+ other workers at Warm Mineral Springs, now know they will be without work come Monday. "A week, two weeks, three weeks. We have no idea. A month, wo months. We just have to sit and wait."

Wayne's girlfriend works there too. They have a baby on the way. "Everyone here lives pretty much paycheck to paycheck; I know i do. I will lose everything, especially if I am on unemployment because that doesn't cover much."

Under Monday’s short term solution, the city and county will now put out a competitive bid for anyone who wants to manage the spring for a year. Problem is, even that solution -- which will take approval by both boards -- will take some time, says North Port Mayor Linda Yates. "At minimum, three months is the estimated time it could be done the quickest."

Yates says the city suggested the idea back in November and again in April. For whatever reason at the time it wasn't well received. "I think it is fair to say that on both commissions parts there was plenty of opportunity to really look at this and have something in place so the spring continued to operate."

Yates says she feels bad for those stuck in the middle but believes this is the first step towards both commissions working on a long term plan they can live with; that the spring will go through some changes for the better in the long run. "It's sad what has happened, but let’s focus on the positives to get this facility up and running."

For the sake of his growing family, Wayne hopes at least the short term fix will come quickly. He’s hoping to get hired by whoever takes over, but is still not sure why it's come to this. "We have a good thing going. Why take it away for any reason? For any amount of time?"

So the last day to enjoy the spring for a while is Sunday. After that, it is anyone's guess as to when it can be back up and running, at least for swimming.