City Commissioner Susan Chapman is under fire this week for sounding a siren about ambulances driving through her neighborhood on Orange Avenue.
In an email last Friday with the subject line “Ambulance scofflaws,” Chapman chided two specific ambulances driving to and from Sarasota Memorial Hospital for repeatedly using Orange Avenue to bypass the Lift Station 87 construction that has shut down a portion of Osprey Avenue.
“Orange Avenue south of Mound is a residential street that restricts trucks,” she wrote. “I think it is time for these vehicles to be ticketed.”
You can’t make this stuff up.
Backlash to the email, needless to say, was swift and fierce. Nearly a dozen people wrote angry, name-calling emails to Chapman after seeing those posts calling her “despicable” and “awful.”
But Chapman defended the note Tuesday, dismissing the nastiness as a ploy from political opponents (cough, Martin Hyde, cough) looking to hobble her re-election campaign this spring for her at-large seat.
She also backtracked in saying that the ambulances should be ticketed, casting that part of her email as more sarcasm than legitimate suggestion. But the frustration behind the ambulances using Orange Avenue is real, she maintained.
“We’re talking about empty ambulances coming back from a call,” she told me Tuesday. “They are large trucks that just get stuck in two miles of gridlock.”
Chapman, who lives on a cul-de-sac just off Orange, and other residents around the neighborhood there have complained for months that large trucks and speeding drivers have used the residential street as an unauthorized detour around the closed Osprey Avenue Bridge — closed for through July-ish during a portion of Lift Station 87 construction.
**Official** detours for the project are designed to route traffic that would typically use Osprey east to U.S. 41, specifically to avoid drivers clogging Orange Avenue and appease Chapman/her neighbors, project leaders have said. But just as Chapman and Co. predicted,that’s exactly what has happened.
The primary issue is that large trucks, which are prohibited on Orange, are irritating the neighborhood, and ambulances — not when their sirens are on and responding to incidents — are part of that problem, Chapman maintained.
“That road is restricted from large trucks, and the ambulances are large trucks,” Chapman said. “I like ambulances just like everyone else, but that doesn’t mean they get to break traffic rules.”