Warm Mineral Springs rate increase draws criticismsadmin
Residents said the facilities are outdated. There are no services. The water in the lake is dirty. So, more than 130 Warm Mineral Springs spa regular customers wanted to know why the rates were going up.
Ed Ullman, whose company, Golden Springs LLC, bought the Warm Mineral Springs property in 1999, admitted the facilities are somewhat outdated.
To combat this, Ullman had to raise rates from $8 a ticket for residents buying a discount book — to $15 per ticket to help fund the renovations to fix the buildings. The rate increase began Jan. 1.
Ullman said he called for the meeting to hear residents’ concerns.
At times, voices were raised as customers, mostly of Russian and Ukrainian descent, told Ullman they were unhappy.
“People bought (here) because we were getting a special price,” said one resident. “Now not only (are we) getting that, but an increase in price.”
Many told Ullman, who listened intently to their every word, that they moved to the springs for health purposes.
“It’s getting that it is being priced so the elderly and regular people cannot afford to go,” said another resident.
“The residents around Warm Mineral Springs are passionate,” Ullman said. “When I took over, the residents had a special discount.”
Historically, the residents have always enjoyed the lowest rates, Ullman said. He tried to carry it on for six years. However, he said after his insurance increased from $30,000 to $80,000, he had to revisit the pricing policy.
Most of the residents who came and spoke said they have supported the springs for more than 15 years.
Others complained about another resident who was allegedly talking on Russian TV shows and writing articles in Russian newspapers.
“Mira (Matchin) said in Russian TV that she put $8 millon into the spring, and called its water ‘dirty’,” said one resident. “The lady talks and speaks badly about the lake.”
Another woman said to Ullman: “(Matchin) is killing your business.”
And another woman said Matchin is telling everyone the lake will be closed, and everyone will have to go through her to use it.
Matchin’s homes were shut down by Sarasota County Code Enforcement in 2005 for operating a resort and spa in an area zoned residential after neighbors complained.
In Jan. 20, 2006, Sarasota County Special Magistrate Meg Wittmer found Matchin guilty of violating a Feb. 4, 2005 order to cease operating a business from her Warm Mineral Springs home, and fined her $7,825. Matchin has been overseas and is scheduled to return Feb. 8. She was unavailable for comment.
“I have no new partners,” Ullman said when asked whether Matchin was his partner.
Ullman said Matchin is one of “many” who network to bring people to the springs.
Ullman also addressed some of the residents’ concerns about the lake. He said the lake is not closed, and the water is not dirty.
“It is a self-filtering natural spring,” Ullman said.
Although there has not been an increase in more than two years, Ullman said the residents sent him a strong message.
Ullman agreed to have a committee of five people to meet with him to discuss options. He said that the group will meet with him Tuesday, and he will have a response Wednesday.
“It is very challenging dealing with the multi-culture that comes to the springs,” Ullman said, adding he wanted the review process to be a “democratic one” and to be fair to the residents. “I honestly like these people, and they kept me in business. They made it clear to me.”