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Vol 5 No. 34 - May 11, 2005

 

City pier reopened for fishing

Beach Resort purchased for $4 million

Community Center what about the windfall?

Gulf Drive Cafe owners react

Project Sea Turtle gearing up for summer environmental camp

Pair proposes a new group to beautify the Island

"Lego house" the talk of the town

Canine friends lend an ear to reading program

Island prepares to honor military

Island Gallery West celebrates 15 years

 

 

 

 

 

City pier reopened for fishing

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Somebody ought to put a warning sign in the water around the Bridge Street Pier for the fish, "Warning, any food you find floating in the water might have a hook in it. The humans are back."

For the past five months, the pier was open only to seabirds after the city commission, reacting to an engineer's report saying the structure was unsafe, had public works put up a fence to keep out people.

City Commissioner Bill Shearon, the liaison to the pier, worked out a plan to get the pier in shape for visitors and anglers a month ago using city labor and the expertise of LaPensee Plumbing, of Holmes Beach. The repairs included angled steel plates to connect the rails to the deck and new bathroom equipment that meets American Disability Act requirements and cuts down the possibility of vandalism.

Crews opened the pier Saturday morning and by midday, there were a lot of walkers and only a few anglers, some of whom never knew it had closed.

"I haven't been here in a while," said David Andrews, of Holiday, Fla., who was surprised when told that the pier just reopened that day. He reported that the fish were not biting, but he and his friends, also from Holiday, were still enjoying themselves.

"It's nice and peaceful here," said Madonna Royer.

"It's not crowded like other piers," added Frank Mamone.

At the end of the pier, Ovila "Frenchie" Massey, from Massachusetts and a seasonal resident of Bradenton, was trying his luck. He came out not knowing whether the pier would be open or not.

"When they closed it, I felt bad," he said. "It was something nice for the city to have."
Massey, who was leaving for Massachusetts in about a week, said he fishes the pier every year, but he was disappointed when the city closed it. He had read about the other problems the city had with the pier, including the wind damage to the roof of the restaurant that led to the cancellation of the city's contract with the last franchisee.

"I miss the bait shop," he said. "I used to eat at the restaurant, too. I hope they get it back open."

The city still has a way to go to accomplish that. The commission hired an architect to do a plan for rehabilitating the pier and an engineering company to do a complete survey of the pier and surrounding city property such as the dinghy dock on Bay Drive South and the clock tower at the pier parking lot. The restaurant may not be open until next season, if then. Until that happens, the structure will have to be what it is, a pier.

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Beach Resort purchased for $4 million

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Preserving the Island ambiance was their goal, said Gary Schmeichel and Marvin Slovacek, of their decision to revitalize the Anna Maria Island Beach Resort.

The pair purchased the resort at 105 39th Street in Holmes Beach recently for $4 million from Brenda Boyd May. Plans are to sell the units as condominiums but rent them as resort units.

"We’re completely excited about it," Schmeichel said. "One of the things that drew us was being able to keep the warm cottage atmosphere and sell them to people who feel the same."

Slovacek agreed and added, "Our intention is to maintain the quaint resort ambiance while freshening and upgrading the units."

Barry Gould, of Island Vacation Properties (IVP), was the selling agent and will manage the units.

"Preserving the resort is very important to me," Gould pointed out. "I’m pleased that I was able to find buyers who will keep it in its original condition. The plan is to bring all the units into like-new condition and make them available to small investors who want a piece of our paradise without spending millions of dollars for it.

"Because of taxes it is hard for resort owners to show a profit, but the individual investor would be thrilled to own a property that breaks even. Even though there will be individual owners, it will be transparent to the guests."

Schmeichel said the pair plans to begin smaller renovations this summer, then begin major renovations in September and complete them by December.

"The pool is in great condition," Gould noted. "We will redo all the components such as the walkways and gardens and keep the charm of the place.

There are 9 one-bedroom units and 2 two-bedroom units. Four units directly face the beach and the others have angled views of the beach. Unit prices will be in the low $400,000 range.

"We will begin presales in August," Schmeichel said, "but there probably won’t be any closings until after the end of the year."

Gould said one amenity that will be available to guests is wireless Internet access.

"We are the first on the Island to have it," Gould said. "There will be wireless Internet access anywhere it the building. People want to have high speed Internet access while they are on vacation."

Resort reservations will become part of IVP’s internal reservation system. This enables agents to refer people to similar units that are available if their first choice is booked.
"We can satisfy more people by referring them to other units," Gould said. "We’re gradually developing an Island–wide service for this type of vacation accommodation."

Vacationers also can book units on line and take a virtual tour of the resort. The Internet
address for IVP is www.islandvacationproperties.com. The Internet address for AMI Beach Resort is www.annamariaislandbeachresort.com.

For further information, call Gould at 448-5500.

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Community Center what about the windfall?

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA— This year’s Anna Maria Island Community Center auction, Affaire to Remember, raised $770,000, and now people are asking where did the money go and why do Center officials need to raise more?

The answer is simple, said Tom Breiter, treasurer for the board of directors.
"The auction raised $770,000," he explained. "About $189,000 will be used for operating expenses. The board dedicated the remainder, $580,000, to the building fund.
"With those pledges and cash donations, we have over 75 percent of our goal for the capital campaign. Although we raised a lot of extra funds, its not going to the operation of the Center. The excess is going toward remodeling so we can improve our services to our citizens."

The Center’s current operating budget is $845,000. The Island cities donate $60,000 or about 7 percent. The remainder, or about $785,000, must be raised by grants from government and private agencies, program fees, donations and special event fundraisers such as the auction, the bowling, fishing and golf tournaments and the Tour of Homes.
Salaries top expenses

"As in any government agency or business, salaries are the largest part of our budget," Breiter said. "However, the board of directors and the finance committee review comparable salary data for other non-profit agencies before granting any compensation package or annual increases."

The Community Center has nine full-time employees, including an executive director, an assistant executive director, an office manager, a custodian and employees in charge of education, the Family Foundations program, human resources, sports and public relations/development.

Salaries of full-time employees are as follows: executive director, $62,000; assistant executive director, $49,750; education director, $30,578; Family Foundations/ grant writer, $35,089; human resources, $31,567; sports programs, $27,500; public relations and development, $33,000; custodian, $31,200; and office manager, $35,175.
Breiter said all full-time employees receive a Christmas bonus based on a percentage of their salary. It is the only bonus they receive.

Regarding the salary of Executive Director Pierrette Kelly, who has been at the Community Center for 15 years, Breiter noted, "It is in line or a little below what comparable executive directors at other non-profit agencies earn."

Chairman of the Board Andy Price added, "We struggle with salaries because we know Pierrette is worth more than we pay her. We try to be fiscally responsible in what we compensate all employees but somewhat competitive in the job market. It’s tough when you depend solely on fundraising for your support."

A salary study done by The Non Profit Times, a publication for nonprofit agencies, showed that in agencies with annual budgets between $500,000 and $999,999, executive directors are paid an average of $64,552 to $66,840.

There are currently seven part-time employees, but that number changes depending on the time of year. For example, more employees are needed for the summer camp program. All part-time employees are paid hourly.

"We’re labor intensive because every program has to have a teacher or a coach," Breiter explained. "We feel our employees are not over-compensated. In fact, we feel that they may be under-compensated by 10 to 15 percent."

Other expenses and income

Community Center expenses are as follows: salaries (including payroll taxes, insurance, etc.), $590,000; insurance (liability, building, etc.), $50,000; office expenses, $20,000; utilities, $20,000; building and grounds, $15,000; programs, $90,000; and fundraisers, $60,000.

Income is as follows: memberships and donations, $75,000; grants and funds from the
Island cities, Manatee County and the United Way, $230,000; program revenue, $200,000;
and fundraisers, $340,000.

All figures have been rounded out for simplification.

The Community Center has an annual audit by an independent auditing firm. The audit is public record.

"Look at our audit; we’re proud of it," Kelly said.

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Gulf Drive Cafe owners react

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The owners of the Gulf Drive Café, facing fines of $750 per day for not complying with orders regarding parking lots, have hired an attorney.
Co-owner Wendy Kokolis said Monday that they have retained Mark Barnebey to represent them in their code enforcement case.

On March 17, the city's code enforcement board ordered them to erect a four-foot high, chain-link fence around beachfront property approximately 40 feet south of the restaurant to keep customers and others from parking on the property. It also ordered them to install a four-foot high, chain-link fence around the west and south sides of a parking lot across the street that was not approved for use as a parking facility. It also ordered them to install a fence around another lot adjacent to that one with a pedestrian pass-through on the west side and a 24-foot vehicular access/egress at the southeast corner to limit traffic entering Gulf Drive.

According to George Kokolis, co-owner of the restaurant, the fines are unfair.

"We pay $12,000 a year in taxes and the city tries to tell us what to do," he said. "We owned the parking lots and never had fences around them. They are grandfatherd in."
Building official Ed McAdam said he met with Kokolis and a representative of a fencing company after that meeting and they walked the area showing the representative where the fence should go. During that meeting, co-owner Wendy Kokolis joined them and told McAdam they would not be installing the fence. That led to another code enforcement board meeting last Thursday, where the board found them in non-compliance and imposed a $250 per day fine for violating each of the three orders. The board also fined them $2,738.33 for city-incurred expenses in holding the two code enforcement board hearings.
During the penalty hearing last Thursday, Kokolis questioned why they had to fence off the parking lots.

"This area has been there for 20 years and I don't know why I have to fence them in now," he said.

The Kokolis's have owned the restaurant and the two lots in question across the street for 20 years. Until last year, they leased it to Tom and Spiro Chippain, who bought a lot directly across the street and used it for parking. The two lots the Kokolis's owned stood empty, but when they closed out the lease for the Chippains, they came to the city and worked out an agreement to develop the fallow lots for parking. That plan included fencing the one lot and using the other, located adjacent to Gulf Drive, with limited access to the roadway. It also included fencing the beachfront property, which had been used illegally by the public. When they missed deadlines for developing the lot, the code enforcement board stepped in.

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Project Sea Turtle gearing up for summer environmental camp

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

Medallion School Partnerships will team up with Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch for a second season of Project Sea Turtle.

That's an environmental day camp for kids ranging in age from 7 to 13.

"We do a lot of wonderful things," said Director Christina Swosinski.

Tuesdays are discovery bay day. Campers will don masks, snorkels and fins and learn to identify marine life in Tampa Bay.

Wednesdays each week will be devoted to exploring careers in marine science and other environmental fields.

Thursdays are for Florida adventures such as kayaking, exploring Egmont Key, Clearwater Marine Aquarium and other Florida spots of interest to budding scientists.

And Fridays campers will be going what Swosinski calls Turtleopia — "an awesome way of measuring how much we learned during the week. It's a combination of jeopardy, fear factor and any fun and messy game show you've ever seen."

"A lot of kids are returning campers this year, and a lot of kids have signed up for the whole summer," Swosinski said.

"But many children choose to come only for a week or two. It's designed to be interesting to each type of camper, no matter the age."

Swosinski has put together six, one-week sessions that will run from June 6 through July 22. Campers will gather at Sea Breeze Elementary School in town at 8 a.m. Then after the day's activities on the Island and elsewhere, campers will return to the school for pickup by parents.

Cost of a one week session is $135. Additionally, there's a $30 registration fee.
You can pick up a registration form at the Sun office at 202 Palm Ave. in Anna Maria, or you can call the Medallion School Partnerships at 941-752-3983 for more information.

Other turtle news

The first nest was spotted on the Florida Gulf coast last week. One nest was laid on Manasota Key. Reports are that the turtles are just off shore.

One surfer last week was surprised by a turtle who lifted its big head out of the water just a couple of feet from the man's board. "At first I was a little startled, but then I realized it was a turtle," said Island resident Will Corr. "It was great!"

Turtle Watch volunteers began walking the beaches May 1, and they are reporting that people are leaving a lot of things on the beach during the overnight hours.

"This could present a real danger to our nesting moms," said AMI Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox. "The turtles can become entangled in tents and beach chairs. It's just not a good situation."

Turtle Watch is asking residents and visitors to take their beach gear home each night or to place it above the dune line.

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Pair proposes a new group to beautify the Island

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Jim Dunne and John Molyneux said they plan to team up to form a group called Keep the Island Beautiful.

"Maybe the time has come to form an Island-wide group to keep the Island beautiful to cover all three cities," Dunne told members of the parks and beautification advisory board last week. "The group would encourage the development of an ambiance that would go beyond the borders. We would work with EEEC (Anna Maria’s Environmental, Education and Enhancement Committee), the garden clubs, STOP (Stop taking Our Pines) and others to see what we can do to enhance the beauty of Anna Maria Island."

"It’s a seed we want to try and plant," Molyneux added. "It’s in an embryonic stage."
Last year, Dunne had proposed a group called Island Trees, Inc., a non-profit corporation to be jointly formed by the Anna Maria Island Kiwanis and Rotary clubs to encourage the reforestation of Holmes Beach. However, the two groups did not pursue the idea.
Dunne said he and Molyneux would follow up on their proposal in the fall.

Public Works Supervisor Joe Duennes reported that the city has planted 11 crepe myrtles and 56 alexander palms from 28th Street north along the right of way on Gulf Drive. The project cost $20,000 and was funded by a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation.

Duennes said the city plans to plant 11 black olive trees around the perimeter of the field
adjacent to city hall. In addition, the city will repair the sidewalk, add a swale and resurface Flotilla Drive and 62nd Street.

Board member Kathy King asked Duennes about the maintenance of the bicycle lanes, citing encroachments from foliage, sand and driveways with uneven surfaces that can create dangerous situations for bicyclists.

Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens said the city maintains the path once a month.
Duennes said when Gulf Drive is repaved between the traffic light at Marina and Gulf drives north to the city limit next summer, it will cure the driveway problem.

In other business:

• Dunne resigned as chairman of the group and board members approved David Zaccagnino as the new chairman.

• Dunne said the city has taken over maintenance of the traffic islands at East Bay Drive and Manatee Avenue until it can select a landscape company to adopt the islands.

• Board member Deborah Heger asked the board to pursue the idea of a pedestrian walkway in the city.

• The board set its next meeting for 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7.

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"Lego house" the talk of the town

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — There's a lot of buzzing going on about a house being constructed on Pine Avenue from Styrofoam blocks.

Michael Coleman, who plans to live in it with his wife and the four youngest of his six sons, is building the house. He's getting help from his two grown sons and a local contractor.
All the talk is about the construction method.

"This is the way to go," Coleman said. "It's environmentally sound. You don't use a whole lot of wood building it, and you don't have to use a lot of energy to heat or cool the house once it's built."

The building materials are made from Styrofoam blocks. They are panels several inches apart that are held together by some plastic pieces onto which the rebar is laid. The blocks are stuck together much like the plastic Lego blocks that children play with.

The blocks are glued and then concrete is poured into the middle of them.

"This house has an energy efficiency rating of R-50, and it can carry a 300 mile per hour wind load," Coleman said.

"Then once the house is built, you can attach the sheet rock or whatever you want inside and you can do the outside in whatever style you want — antique, Key West, whatever you want."

Coleman said he feels good about the house, because it's solid and it will stand long after he's gone.

This is the third house Coleman has built using this method. He first built a home for his family in the Berkshires in western Massachusetts. Then he built one for his pastor.
And now the Anna Maria house.

While the Sun was interviewing Coleman, several people stopped by to look at the house and discuss the progress, including City Commissioner Carol Ann Magill, who was riding by on her bicycle.

There were mentions of other houses built on the Island using the same construction method. One was maybe built on Magnolia, one passerby thought. Maybe there was one in Holmes Beach, another said.

Everyone seemed interested in the process.

Coleman said he's happy to talk to people about the construction.

"Anyone's welcome to stop by when we're taking a break," he said. "A good time is around lunch time when we're not busy with the building. We're happy to explain the process and show people how this is done."

How did he happen to come to Anna Maria?

"We always came to Florida on vacation," he said. "One time while driving home, we took a wrong turn and ended up on Anna Maria. We drove down Pine Avenue to the city pier and turned left. We saw a lot of construction going on. My wife and her sister got out of the car and saw Bean Point. That was it for us."

Coleman's mother-in-law, Jean Harris, has lived in Anna Maria for about seven years now. His two grown sons are moving to the area.

Coleman said he expects the house to be completed in July or August and then he and his family will call the 2,000 square-foot dwelling home.

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Canine friends lend an ear to reading program

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Students in Carly Carlsward's first-grade class learned one thing this year – dogs make great listeners.

Carlsward, in her first year at Anna Maria Elementary School, invited Patda Delatorre to her classroom in January to try out a new program for those students who are intimidated in front of crowds, which makes reading to their classmates a traumatic experience. Delatorre brought her golden Labrador/golden retriever, Scottie, to the classroom and Carlsward sent students having difficulties reading outside to read to him.

"It's called the CCI (Canine Companion for Independence) program," said Delatorre, who lives at Lakewood Ranch. "They breed the dogs with this mix to get the gentleness of the golden retriever and the smartness of the lab."

As Scottie lay on the grass, the students would read out of their books, building up confidence in their reading skills and boosting their ability to read in front of the classroom.
"They might be shy, but they don't mind reading in front of a dog," said Delatorre. "One girl, who had been having difficulties reading, read to Scottie last week and when she finished the first book, she asked if she could read another. She said, 'You know, reading is fun.'"

Delatorre said she originally approached Carlsward with the idea.
"She and I belong to the same sorority," she said. "We met and I told her about it and she thought it was a good project."

Delatorre said she may not be able to come to the Island next school year because there
are other schools that might be interested in the project closer to her Lakewood Ranch home. Carlsward said she would like to continue the program for her students on the Island, if she could find someone interested.

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Island prepares to honor military

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Saturday, May 21, is Armed Forced Day and American Legion Stewart Kirby Post 24 is sponsoring a countywide salute to the military with a Blue Star Salute.
Reminiscent of the blue stars that shined in windows of service personnel during World Wars I and II, this celebration honors the families of men and women in the military and the reserve forces of the United States. The American Legion has collected names of families and will honor them at a ceremony at McKechnie Field in Bradenton at 11 a.m. that day. There will be a simultaneous celebration on the Island at Manatee County Beach, sponsored by the Island Kiwanis Club, beginning at 10:30.

Local musician Bob LoPiccolo leads off the event with martial music on the keyboards at
10:30, followed by an invocation at 10:45 a.m., led by Rev. Frank McGrath, president of All Island Denominations. The Bayshore High School Junior ROTC will present the colors and Carl Jones will lead the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance. Kiwanis past-president Rich Bohnenberger, also a Holmes Beach city commissioner, will introduce Island Mayors SueLynn, Carol Whitmore and John Chappie who will present a resolution signed by all three cities honoring the military.

There will be a fly-over of the Island by military aircraft from MacDill Air Force Base around 11 a.m. The planes will go from the south to the north, turn west at the Manatee River and proceed over another celebration at the Green Bridge between Palmetto and Bradenton before flying over McKechnie Field.

Everyone is welcome to attend the Island event. Those families of military personnel both active and reserve still have time to sign up and be recognized. To do so, call Karen Mauriello at 792-1160 or Len Sirotski, at 761-3324.

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Island Gallery West celebrates 15 years

In December of 1989, the idea of an art center on Anna Maria Island was just a dream of one man, James Pay. At that time, if Island residents wanted to take art lessons, they had to go either to Sarasota or downtown Bradenton. In addition to James Pay, there were several artists and members of a local art league that wanted someplace to show their art work for sale.

In January 1990, a space to rent was found at 5368 Gulf Drive in the S&S Plaza in Holmes Beach. The space had been an auto parts shop and required many hours of cleaning, scrubbing, scraping and painting by the members in order to transform it into an attractive place to display art. Some of those artists were Sidney McKeena, Mary Worobec, Helen DeForge, Thelma Weeks, Irene Murphy, Judy Adams, Bren Jackson and Jane Fitzgerald.
In April of 1990, the doors opened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony by the Island Chamber of Commerce and a big reception for everyone. The Anna Maria Island Art League and Island Gallery West became a reality.

There was one large front room to display art work and a smaller space in the back where the Art League held classes. Some of the artists teaching were Mary DuCharme, Jan Hart, Harry Thompson and Nancy Schaefer.

In the beginning the Gallery was open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. The members split sitting duty each day as they felt the long hours were necessary so people could get to know about them. Advertising was by word of mouth as there was only enough money for the basic expenses. Maintaining a tight budget, they were able to make expenses and the artists were happy as their art work was selling.

In 1991 another space became available in a building on Holmes Blvd. for the expansion of the Art League with more room for classes. The artists who were displaying their work decided to stay at the Gulf Drive location. The gallery closed for one week while artist members worked to redesign the space by taking out a dividing wall and door between the two areas and opened up the old classroom space for more display space.
Several tall rolling display cabinets were cut down to table height, thus opening up the space and making it light and bright.

Island Gallery West is now celebrating 15 years in the same location. Over the years there
has been a flow of artists joining or leaving, maintaining an average of 25 to 30 members. It continues to be an artist’s cooperative with no paid employees and each member is required to sit gallery duty once a month. If an artist is interested in joining the gallery they must submit 3 pieces of their work for jurying by the members. If you’ve never been in Island Gallery West, you’re in for a treat because this gallery shows very high quality work at very affordable prices. Even if you don’t want to buy any art work, just come in and visit with the artist on duty and enjoy the beauty and talent of these fine artists. You can also visit their website at www.islandgallery.info.

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