Vol 6 No. 15 - January 04, 2006


Louie Strickland, the �one-man Welcome Wagon�

Cindy Thompson Sun�s Person of the Year

New, quieter trolleys coming

AME tree removed early

Duplex fire listed as arson

Big auction Saturday at school

Project would re-establish scallops off Island

Another Holmes Beach zoning conflict comes to light




Louie Strickland, the �one-man Welcome Wagon�

ByPat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — You can hear his voice calling a greeting as soon as you enter the store.
Louie Strickland is a one-man Welcome Wagon who knows the names of every regular customer that shops the aisles of Publix. He greets each one with his ready smile and then when you’re ready to check out, he chats you up while efficiently bagging your groceries, adding a bit of praise or a word of encouragement to make your day brighter.

Strickland recently got a letter that shows just how much he means to his customers.

"I wanted to let you know that you have been a real blessing for me and you probably don’t even know it," the letter began. "You have real gift of encouragement and I’m thankful you use it every day at work — I’m sure it’s not always easy."

The writer told Strickland that she had been going through a difficult time in her life and said that every time she went to the store, he took the time to say hello. She said one day was particularly bad.

"I was checking out my groceries and someone else was bagging them," she said. "You walked up to me and put your hand on mine and just said you were glad to see me. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me that day. It doesn’t seem like much, but you helped me.

"I felt like God had put you in front of me to say, ‘It’s going to be OK.’ Thank you for being such a kind person who is willing to encourage people in such a special way."

Strickland, who has been with Publix for six years, said, "I was surprised when I got the letter. A lot of people will say thank you but most people won’t take the time to put it in writing."

He has no idea who wrote the letter but said, "Maybe one day, she’ll say something to me."

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Cindy Thompson Sun�s Person of the Year

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

She’s a successful businesswoman, she helps make her child’s school a better place and she has brought fun to thousands of people.

For all she is and all she does, Cindy Thompson is the Anna Maria Island Sun’s 2005 Person of the Year.

Cindy has been an Island fixture for many years and her involvement in the community is positive and long-lived. She opened Paradise Bagels and Café in 1999, joined the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and was a PTO member, serving as president of that group, at Anna Maria Elementary School.

Her most recent accomplishment has been organizing and guiding the Chamber’s Bayfest Celebration from its early days at the Island Centre, in Holmes Beach, to its present location on Pine Avenue, in Anna Maria. She has been a member of the Chamber’s Board of Directors for two years and was honored at the last Chamber Installation Banquet for her Bayfest work.

"Cindy Thompson is the type of person who you give a job to and she runs with it without direction," said Chamber Board Chairman Don Schroder. "She is involved in the community, has her work and is able to keep all the balls in the air at the same time."

She began as a volunteer at the Chamber after opening Paradise Bagels and Café in 1999 and Chamber President Mary Ann Brockman praised her for her efficiency.

"She does everything when she says she will," said Brockman. "Sometimes it’s scary because she does it without any fanfare. "You get to the point where you wonder if it’s been done and she hasn’t contacted you, but when it’s time, she comes in and says, ‘What’s all the worry? I told you it would be done.’"

Brockman said the Bayfest is Thompson’s thing and she’s taking on another festival for the Chamber planned for June 24 and 25 on Coquina Beach in conjunction with the Gulf Florida Coast Sports Commission. She will be in charge of the concessions for the 10th Annual Captain Morgan Kayak and Outdoor Festival. She has already notified the vendors from the Bayfest and many plan to be at this new festival this summer.

"She’s a very organized young lady," Brockman said of Thompson.

Cindy got exposed to festivals and being organized when she joined the PTO. The Fall Fest and the Spring Fling are two of the group’s major fund-raisers, and she was president of the PTO when the Spring Fling turned into a major event with each class making art work and gift baskets for auction, thanks to Spring Fling chair Sharon Alexander.

"If you had a new idea or approach, she never shut it down," said current PTO President Lynda Hicks, who was on the board during Thompson’s terms as president. "Definitely, she was an asset to the school."

Hicks said Thompson was always there for the PTO and got a lot done during her time there.

Cindy’s mother, Jackie Estes, is proud of her daughter. The family moved to the area about 18 years ago and Cindy married Doug and became the mother of Alec 11 years ago. Her love of children has been instrumental in what she has accomplished.

"The worked at the Tampa Children’s Home as a psychological counselor," Estes said. "She still has contact with children she counseled years ago."

In addition to raising Alec, Cindy became a foster mother to a 9-month-old girl and is still the girl’s legal guardian, even though the girl’s parents have part-time custody. She opened The Playroom a couple of years ago, which catered to short-term child care and even took in children of tourists. She is currently the assistant director of Primrose Learning Center, which takes her to Lakewood Ranch during the weekdays, but she still has her business.

"She doesn’t take care of the day-to-day details of Paradise Bagels," said Estes, "but she still takes care of the books."

As someone who has been around Cindy all of her life, Estes said she is amazed at her daughter’s energy.

"She does it all," she said. "She never expects any recognition for what she does, she just keeps giving.

"I’m very, very, very proud of her."

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New, quieter trolleys coming

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

The new trolleys are coming soon, but you might not notice it at first glance.
Manatee County Area Transit Manager Ralf Heseler said the first of four new trolleys that they ordered last year is due in about two weeks.

"I talked with the supplier and they said it would be delivered within the first two weeks of the year," he said.

The trolleys were ordered to replace the five vehicles the county uses to service Anna Maria Island with a Sunday shuttle from the mainland. The route uses three vehicles at a time, and Heseler said the current trolleys are wearing out.

"They have hundreds of thousands of miles on them and they get a lot of use during a typical day," he said. "The first trolley rolls out to the Island at around 5:30 a.m. and the last one comes in at around 11 p.m. and they don’t shut off the engines until they’re done, so it’s a lot of wear and tear."

MCAT ordered the new trolleys from a different manufacturer and ran into problems almost immediately after they came because of the noise of their engines. They retrofitted insulation in the engine compartments and extended the tailpipes up the back of the body, which helped some. Then came problems with squeaky brakes from the sand and floor pans that rusted out due to the salt air. When more than three trolleys are down, they have to use a bus on the Island, which sometimes draws complaints from riders.

Heseler said in an earlier interview that the noise level of the new trolleys played a role in their selection process. He also said they looked for heavier duty models that they hoped would not have as many problems with the salty environment where they would be driven.

The trolleys have been a huge success as far as ridership, however, and MCAT has been able to extend grants that help pay for maintenance and the cost of operations, which has enabled them to keep ride free to the public.

The news of that success also spread to Sarasota, where Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) initiated talked with MCAT about extending the route through Longboat Key and into Lido Key. Unfortunately, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) was unable to help fund the extension.

"We have gone back to the bargaining table with the other entities to see if they could contribute financially," he said. "The plan has been laid down, but there is still the question of who will pay for it."

Heseler said when they thought there would be grants for operating expenses to expand the service south, he had thought of using the new trolleys to help with the extension, but since that won’t happen for a while, the new vehicles will be used exclusively for the Island.

Heseler said the new trolleys would be the same color scheme as the old ones. Asked if they would look different as far as their style, he said no.

"You might not be able to notice the new ones at first glance," he said. "They look similar."


AME tree removed early

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – A ficus tree at Anna Maria Elementary School that represented fond memories for former students was destroyed on Friday, four days ahead of schedule.

The demolition was slated for Jan. 2 as part of the removal of old school buildings that have been replaced with a new school complex opening this week on the site.

Some residents had planned to protest the removal of the tree on Jan. 2, according to Longboat Key resident Lara Fine, who said she thought it was wrong that the Manatee County School Board scheduled the removal over the holidays when people are distracted and, in many cases, out of town.

The demolition reminded Fine of a similar incident at the school a year ago when several oak trees were cut down over the objection of parents, children and former students.

The school board was closed last week due to the holidays, but spokesperson Margi Nanney had previously said that the Department of Education’s State Requirements for Educational Facilities require that school districts have "a program in place to remove all invasive, non-native plants," and that the ficus tree was a non-native species.

Cortez landscaper Rob Crafts had volunteered to move the tree for free to another site if the school board or another volunteer would pay to rent a crane. The City of Holmes Beach Parks and Recreation Committee had located a possible site behind the CVS store on Manatee Avenue and East Bay Drive, according to committee member John Molyneux.

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Duplex fire listed as arson

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – A fire at an unoccupied duplex at Seventh Street South and Gulf Drive is now being investigated as arson.
The fire, which damaged a kitchen in one of the units on Tuesday, Dec. 22, was extinguished by units from West Manatee Fire and Rescue. Neighbors noticed smoke coming from a window and used garden hoses to fight it until the fire department arrived. West Manatee Fire & Rescue Deputy Fire Marshal Kurt Lathrop began an investigation and last Wednesday, he announced that he and an investigator from the state fire marshal’s office had concluded it was arson.

"All accidental causes have been ruled out," he told The Sun. "There was some human intervention at some time."

Lathrop said the duplex, which is listed for sale, was unoccupied but the owner had rented the units over the holiday. He said the owner was busy notifying the renters that the units would not be available.

On Nov. 24, four arson fires were set in Bradenton Beach and somebody tried to ignite trash at the Cortez Post Office overnight. The fires were minor and nobody was injured. Lathrop said his investigation of the duplex fire indicates it was not related to those earlier arsons.

Signs are posted around the duplex telling that a $1,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the conviction of whoever set the fire. Tips can be anonymous. If you have any information on the fire, call Lathrop at 741-3900.

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Big auction Saturday at school

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – If you ever want to purchase that desk you or your child sat at in the fifth grade or that drafting table where you drew pictures of horsies with crayons, now’s your chance – if you or your child attended Anna Maria Elementary School.

The school is auctioning off items on Saturday, Jan. 7, starting at 9 a.m. Auctioneer David D’Amico with Holzman Auctioneers, described what will be on the auction block.

"Chairs, desks, tables, the remaining furniture – a lot of stuff that could be classified as memorabilia," he said. "There is a column and a wall as you enter the school with flat rocks, and they’re going to take down those walls, remove the flat stones, clean them and offer them for sale."

Crews will begin taking down the old school and D’Amico said they would hold the auction in the remaining classrooms, going from one room to another.

"There are a number of items in each classroom," he said. "In addition to the furnishings, there will be cabinets, TVs, VCRs in the classrooms."

D’Amico said there are some exotic items also for sale.

"They will be tearing down the sound production studio (used for producing the morning TV show)," he said, "and there is a large pirate ship playground gym."

The gym, which school principal Kathy Hayes said earlier could not be moved without spending a small fortune, will be replaced with a new one of a different design.

D’Amico said as items are moved from the classrooms that will not be standing at the time of the auction to those that will still be there, like items, such as desks and chairs, will be stored together. He said if weather permits, he would go to a room and pull out items with bidders standing outside.

The sale starts at 9 a.m., but D’Amico said they would be ready to register bidders by 8 a.m. for those who want to get there earlier to look over the sale items. No bids will be taken before the starting time, however.

Money raised from the auction will go toward enhancements at the new school.

So if the thought of owning your first grade desk sounds interesting to you, or if you would like to purchase a sturdy table or a cabinet for your garage at a bargain price, show up at Anna Maria Elementary School with some money. Who knows, maybe that chewing gum you stuck under your seat to escape your teacher’s watchful eye is still there.

Or it might be someone else’s gum.

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Project would re-establish scallops off Islands

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Old timers will tell you that the Bay waters off the Florida Gulf Coast used to be teeming with bay scallops.

Those scallops are gone now, victims of the loss of natural seagrasses, pollution and other human-caused problems. But a team of scientists is trying to jump-start the mollusks with experiments in several bay areas.

Motorists heading to or from Longboat Key last week might have noticed some bright yellow booms in the water. They were a part of that effort spearheaded by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FFWC) and Mote Marine.

"We work with shellfish hatcheries like Bay Shellfish, of Palmetto," said Jay Leverone, of Mote Marine. "We give them adult scallops and they fatten them up and spawn them.

"We end up with millions of eggs and larvae, he said. "After about two weeks for the larvae to develop, we set up the booms and free the larvae inside them."

Leverone said they let the larvae set up in the water and come back after two days to see how they are doing. If they attach themselves to seagrass, they have a good chance of survival.

"This was very successful in Pine Island Sound," he said. "The population rebounded and now we’re taking it to Sarasota Bay, Boca Ciega and we have already done it in St. Andrews Bay in the Panhandle."

In fact, according to an article in Mote Magazine, published by the marine studies organization, when they checked the scallop population at Pine Island Sound after two years, they found that it had more scallops than any other estuary in Florida. The article quoted Leverone as saying Pine Island Sound was more productive than estuaries where scallops are commercially harvested.

Leverone said they can do this restoration relatively easily and if it is successful, it will help replenish the population in North Sarasota Bay around Anna Maria Island. He said the larvae are attached to the seagrass and they will come back in a year to see how they are doing. If it works, they will leave the rest up to Mother Nature.

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Another Holmes Beach zoning conflict comes to light

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — After agreeing to resolve one zoning conflict, another one has come to the city’s attention that may create problems before it is resolved.

The first involved a conflict between the city’s future land use map (FLU) and zoning on properties between 52nd Street and Anna Maria Elementary School. The FLU designates the properties as low density, which would have a zoning designation of R-1 and only allow single family units, but it’s zoned R-2, which allows duplexes.

At the commission’s instruction, planning consultant Bill Brisson drafted an ordinance the change the FLU designation on these properties to medium density residential. The commission is expected to discuss the ordinance this month.

At the time of the discussion, a resident of the Sportsman’s Harbour subdivision, which is west of Gulf Drive between the elementary school and St. Bernard Catholic Church, asked the commission to consider including it in the proposed change.

However, in a memo to the commission Brisson said that he did not recommend the change for that area and noted, "I believe that these lands should be rezoned from R-2 to R-1, thereby bringing the zoning designation into consistency with the current land use designation.

"Only seven of the19 lots on which duplex structures are located contain the minimum 8,712 square footage. Changing the land use designation to medium density residential would permit another five lots, now occupied by single-family uses to convert to duplex uses, thereby increasing density in the area."

Brisson said the density increase could be up to six percent.

Land use attorney Scott Rudacille, however, has asked the commission to set a work session to discuss alternatives to Brisson’s recommendation on Sportsman’s Harbour. He said if the commission agrees to rezone the area from R-2 to R-1, it should grandfather the seven lots that currently contain duplexes.

"The purpose of our request is to protect the property rights and reasonable expectations of property owners who may have purchased duplexes in this area based on the existing R-2 zoning and the construction of new duplexes in the area, which were permitted by the city," Rudacille explained.

He said grandfathering the seven lots would protect the property owners without increasing density.

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