SARASOTA — City and county leaders remain deadlocked after their first formal meeting on whether Sarasota County owes one more payment to the downtown redevelopment agency that the two governments founded decades ago.
After three hours of detailed legal and technical arguments from both sides about why their interpretation is correct, city and county leaders still disagreed on the very premise of the argument Wednesday morning.
City leaders say the county shorted the agency $4.8 million last year, and now owes that amount plus almost $400,000 in interest. County leaders say that, technically, the county has met its obligation and owes nothing.
Now it will be up to both elected commissions to try to settle the dispute at a rare joint meeting at 6 p.m. April 26 in City Hall. The session already is expected to last several hours, and could very possibly end in its own stalemate if neither commission agrees to concessions.
City Manager Tom Barwin and city attorney Robert Fournier both stressed they want to avoid an “adversarial position” in that meeting, but neither government budged on possible settlement ideas Wednesday morning.
“I want to try to get us closer together on this, which I think, I hope, is still possible to do,” Fournier said.
If a resolution can’t be reached between the two commissions in two weeks, the formal government conflict resolution process that has put the two governments at the negotiating table outlines an additional public mediation process.
It was under the premise the argument could land before a judge that county attorneys presented their would-be legal defense of why the county does not owe one more payment on Wednesday morning.