Vol 6 No. 37 - June 7, 2006


Turtles facing renewed threat on beaches

Body found floating by city pier

City cool to request for info

Pier patrol beefed up

City accepts pier piling bid

Businesses need a hurricane plan

City declares war on plastic bags

City hopes code changes will help resolve lawsuit




Turtles facing renewed threat on beaches

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

Beach chairs, tents and umbrells left overnight on the sand are posing a real threat to endangered nesting sea turtles on the Island, according to city code enforcement officers.

An unusually high number of the items have been found recently on beaches in all three cities, but were especially abundant on a stretch in Holmes Beach.

"It was pretty bad," said Holmes Beach Code Enforcement Officer Nancy Hall. "I checked the area from 64th Street to 74th Street. There were over 105 items left out on the beach overnight that shouldn’t have been there."

Hall said that included tents, chairs, umbrellas, portable swimming pools and toys.

Most of the items are left by renters or other visitors who are unaware they pose a hazard to nesting turtles, Hall said.

All three Island cities have regulations prohibiting leaving such items on the beach overnight during nesting season.

In one instance, Hall said she found the renters who had left their tent, umbrella, toys and a swimming pool out overnight. They said their rental company had not informed them about the fact that all the Island’s beach area is nesting habitat and that beach chairs and such must be taken in after sunset.

"I’ll notify the rental company," she said. "They’re supposed to include information about sea turtles in their rental packets."

Hall said she prefers to work with people rather than citing them. She said she thinks most people will cooperate and do what they can to protect sea turtles.

"But if I have to, I won’t hesitate to cite them," she said.

Hall tagged the items that were left on the beach overnight, she said. She planned to check back in a couple of days. Anything still out there was to be taken to the public works area on the city hall campus where it can be picked up any day between 3 and 5 p.m.

Bradenton Beach’s Code Enforcement Officer Gerry Rathvon checked the beach in her city last week as well.

"The lights weren’t too bad, but there was a lot of stuff out there on the beach overnight that should have been brought in," she said.

Items left on the beach in that city were tagged as well.

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch’s Director Suzi Fox explained why it is so important to clear the beach of all obstructions.

"It might not seem like much," she said. "One of those aluminum beach chairs is very light weight, and people wonder how that could hurt a great big 300 pound mother turtle. Well, I’ve seen photos of mother turtles trapped in those chairs. One died on the east coast a couple of years ago, because she couldn’t get out of it and she dehydrated."

The threatened and endangered sea turtles that nest on the world’s beaches are most at home in the water. They are on land only twice in their lives – when they hatch, and for the females, when they lay their eggs.

It can take 45 minutes for a mother turtle to haul herself from the water, pull herself across the sand and get up to where she senses her eggs will be safe from overwash in storms or high tides.

Then it takes another 45 minutes or so for her to dig her nest and deposit her eggs. Then she has to haul her heavy carapace back into the sea, which takes another 45 minutes.

During that time, the turtle is out of her element. Everything is very difficult and exhausting for her. Any impediments can cause her to spend additional energy. She can also become trapped.

Sometimes a nesting turtle will become so exhausted by the effort that she’ll return to the sea and just abort her eggs.

In a species that is millions of years old that now faces extinction because of the pressures of civilization, the loss of each egg, each potential hatchling, is grave.

Even if the eggs hatch, the babies face the same problems trying to reach the relative safety of the water. And if they make it to the Gulf, only about one in a thousand will survive to reproduce.

"It’s relatively easy to fix your lights and to take your things off the beach," Rathvon said. "That’s why we have these rules."

Hall said she thinks that people really want to help, but they either don’t know the regulations or they aren’t aware of how important those rules are.

"I plan to be making regular checks of the beaches in my city," she said. "I hope things will improve."

Rathvon, who also serves as the code enforcement officer in Anna Maria, said she’d be doing the same thing in her two cities.

"Hopefully, we can get everyone into compliance and then the it will be much easier for the turtles," she said.


Body found floating by city pier

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

ANN MARIA – Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies are trying to determine how an Anna Maria man died after he was found last Friday around 1:30 p.m. floating in the bay near the Anna Maria City Pier.

Donato Antonio Natale, 83, who lived on Oak Avenue, was identified Monday, according to Manatee County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Dave Bristow.

Deputies apparently found some personal effects on the beach near where Natale was found and made a tentative identification through a key to a post office box in Anna Maria. Bristow said the final piece of the puzzle was the serial number on the pacemaker on the body. He said an autopsy has been performed and they are waiting for the results.

According to neighbors, he lived alone. One neighbor said he enjoyed his garden and had made pottery for some of the plants in it. She also said he enjoyed cooking Italian food.

People on the pier first spotted the man’s body.

"We were watching a dolphin when somebody said there was a body in the water floating face down," said Lynn Modisett. "Somebody jumped in and got him out."

Joe Pecorino, a past resident of the Island who now lives in Tennessee, was the one who jumped in.

"He was within 50 yards of the shore and it appeared he was snorkeling," Pecorino said. "I jumped in and pulled him out. He was pretty stiff."

Anna Maria resident Karen DiCostanzo came over from Mama Lo’s and gave mouth to mouth resuscitation and Don Monteferrante tried chest compression until an EMS unit arrived.

DiCostanzo said his body was so stiff that when she tried to tilt his head back for the mouth to mouth resuscitation, it would not move.

The man was apparently wearing a pacemaker and might have been dead as long as an hour before he was found, according to the sheriff’s office.

He was taken to Blake Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.

City cool to request for info

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – City commissioners were reluctant to reply to a request for information from Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore regarding department expenses.

Whitmore made the extensive request in a letter dated May 29 so that her staff could put together a cost versus benefits study of a consolidation of the three Island cities.

"This is quite a list here," Mayor John Chappie said. "Then you read in the paper that they don’t want to do anything without Anna Maria."

Chappie was referring to the fact that Anna Maria commissioners voted not to put the consolidation study referendum on the ballot, leaving only Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach to study it. Voters in both those cities agreed to proceed with the study, but the Bradenton Beach Commission recently decided to drop the study because of the lack of input from Anna Maria.

However, Anna Maria commissioners recently discussed the possibility of consolidating the services in all three cities (Island Sun, May 31).

"We’re short on staff," Chappie said last Thursday night. "Do we charge them for compiling this information? I could go to Holmes Beach and tell them I’m getting mixed messages here and I wouldn’t mind doing that."

Holmes Beach commissioners recently chided their Bradenton Beach counterparts for not helping to pay for a professional to study consolidation because Anna Maria would not be paying.

"I went back and looked at their resolution," said Commissioner John Shaughnessy. "It talks about consolidating into a single city. The vote was not to be binding on the commission. It also talks about Holmes Beach studying consolidation in conjunction with Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria. It says here it has got to be all three cities."

"I personally think it is unfair for our taxpayers to pay for all this information that will be used by only one city," Commissioner Bill Shearon said. "It should be compiled by all three cities and then done by an impartial organization."

The commission voted to have Chappie talk with Whitmore and if Holmes Beach really wants this information, he will work up a cost estimate.

The request asked for a list of city assets, a copy of its budget, financial statements, its health insurance plans and costs, retirement plans information and costs, pay plans, including number of employees, staffing levels, job descriptions and employee longevity. Holmes Beach officials also want a list of liabilities, lawsuits against the city, the number of building permits and inspections conducted in the past year, the number of special exemptions applied for and granted in the last year and the number of rezones applied for and granted. The police department rank structure, inventory and other information were also requested.

Pier patrol beefed up

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – When the sun goes down, this resort city takes on a new life. Vacationers enjoy a late supper on the beach or bay, the bars fill up with revelers and some local anglers do what they have been doing for nearly 50 years – trying their luck in the waters off the Bridge Street Pier.

The pier, the remnant of the first bridge to the Island, has been open all night since the city took over the operation of the facility. Last week, those anglers almost lost their privilege to fish by the moonlight when the city commission considered closing it at midnight to stem a rash of vandalism there.

Instead, they decided to beef up patrols by paying an extra officer to be there all night.

The issue came to light two weeks earlier when Police Chief Sam Speciale complained about vandalism on the pier and in its restrooms. Some of the damage was coming from occupants of boats moored in the bay south of the pier, Speciale said, and as soon as Florida Governor Jeb Bush signed a bill allowing Bradenton Beach to patrol the waters there, he said his men would board those boats. Speciale said some of the damage in the restrooms came from somebody emptying a portable septic device like those used aboard small boats, and he wanted to inspect those boats to see if they had required septic systems.

At that time, Mayor John Chappie talked about closing the pier overnight, but the commission decided to wait until last Thursday’s meeting to make a decision. At the meeting, public works director Tom Woodard gave an update.

"There have been lots of dead fish left on the pier deck from cast netters, but nothing illegal," he said, "Tuesday morning, (public works employee) Wes Stump reported feces smeared all over the floor and walls of both bathrooms."

Woodard said police were investigating a report from a Circle K store that somebody bragged about doing the vandalism at the pier.

"As disgusting as it sounds, those are not criminal acts because there is no damage," Speciale told the commissioners. "My guys are patrolling there every two hours and documenting it but the problem I have is it takes them off their regular patrols after midnight when there’s only one officer on duty."

Speciale said since the city would be closing the pier soon to rebuild it, he would recommend locking the doors to the restrooms, but it may not do much good.

"If someone has a vendetta against the city, they will break the doors," he said.

Commissioner Bill Shearon asked Speciale how many anglers his men see on the pier after midnight and he said not many.

"My problem is, if we close it, it tends to get people upset and vandals could still get on the pier from the water," Speciale said. "If we shutdown the restrooms, where are people going to relieve themselves?"

Commissioner Lisa Marie Phillips suggested hiring a private security guard to patrol the pier. She said the money saved from the reduction in vandalism could pay for the private guard.

Commissioner John Shaughnessy said it would cost the city one way or another.

"I really feel we have to do something," Chappie said. "When they start construction out there, people will start walking off (with tools and materials).

"I want everyone to know, I hate having to spend money because some scumbag who has no decency is doing this," Chappie added. "I would like the chief to run some prices on a private guard.

Shaughnessy suggested Speciale see if he could come up with money from his budget to pay police officers to patrol the pier and Chappie agreed.

For now, the pier remains open all night.


City accepts pier piling bid

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Commissioners voted to accept the only bid received to restore the pilings beneath the Bridge Street Pier, despite the fact it was nearly twice as high as what was budgeted.

The commissioners agreed to spend up to the $124,372 bid from Stemic Enterprises, Inc., even though $70,000 was budgeted, after receiving assurances from building official Ed McAdam and police chief Sam Speciale that the bid was based on a "worst case" scenario.

"We inspected the pilings with our engineer and it’s not as bad as we thought," Speciale said.

"It bothers me some that the same engineer that worked up the bid inspected it later and said it’s not that bad," said Vice Mayor Lisa Marie Phillips.

"When Mr. (Charles) Sego (the engineer) and I first went out to the pier, he was way conservative," said Speciale, who is a member of the city’s pier construction team. "This last time he said it needed less work than what he put in the bid specifications. He said he made the specifications for a worst case scenario."

McAdam said the bid called for a unit price contract.

"There is a certain price for each pile they have to fix," said McAdam. "When they scrape the barnacles off the piles, they might find that they are in better shape than they thought."

The commission also a proposal to hire Sego and Sego as project engineers to monitor the progress of the work.

Then, Mayor John Chappie talked about getting a line of credit to finish the pier in one project.

"We really haven’t made a decision," Chappie said. "We talked about phasing the project, but lately, we seem to be leaning toward getting it done all at once."

Chappie said the city auditor told him they could use revenues from the Community Redevelopment Agency graduated tax base to pay for the pier and that they could pay back the line of credit in due time.

The commissioners agreed to have city clerk Nora Idso check out acquiring the line of credit.


Businesses need a hurricane plan

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

LONGBOAT KEY – Hurricane veterans passed on lessons they learned to Longboat Key business owners last week at the Longboat Key-Lido Key-St Armands Key Chamber of Commerce "Hurricane Party."

Lessons one, two and three: Have a plan.

Not only should business owners have a disaster plan, they should have two backup plans, said Charlie Brown, CEO of Insignia Bank in Sarasota, who was CEO of Charlotte State Bank’s five branches during Hurricane Charley in 2004.

Have three electricians lined up., three sets of keys with three different employees and three fuel vendors for your generator, which is a must-have, he said.

Power, not cash, is king after a hurricane, Brown said. A generator encourages employees to come to work just to get away from the heat at home. So does providing food.

Taking care of your staff is the first order of business, he said, suggesting opening a free general store in your temporary location for necessities. Assign a worker to drive to the nearest unaffected city to stock it.

"The people who didn’t have a plan didn’t come back from Charley," said Lou Ambler of DeSoto Insurance in Arcadia, which was unexpectedly hit by Hurricane Charley. With only four hours to prepare, he managed to open his business the day after the storm, but many others did not.

Lesson four: Don’t think you don’t need a plan.

"You always have that idea that it’s not going to happen to me," said Bill Wishard, who runs the Gateway Group, a property management company in Charlotte County, which was devastated by Charley.

Wishard also kept his business running after Charley hit. He suggests a business disaster plan that includes an evacuation location close to a hospital or government building, which is more likely to get electricity restored sooner. It should also be inland and at a high elevation, he added.

Develop relationships with contractors in advance, including at least one out of state, he suggests. Make plans that you will try to meet at a certain place and time the day after a storm hits your city, because phones will likely be out of order.

In case phones still work, it’s helpful to have an employee phone tree set up for use when the office is uninhabitable. Workers call each other with instructions on where and when to meet after the storm.

Set up a contract with a temporary agency to supply workers after the storm. Many regular employees will be unavailable depending on their circumstances, he said.

Back up your computer data and take it with you when you evacuate, he said, and print out a customer contact list in case electricity isn’t restored immediately.

Consider adding business protection insurance for loss of business, loss of income and additional expense due to disaster, said Wishard, adding that temporary office space rent skyrockets after a storm.

Last lesson: If you don’t have a plan, make one now.

For sample business disaster plans, visit http://www.ready.gov/business/.


City declares war on plastic bags

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Plastic bags flying loose at the beach are a nuisance that threaten seagrass beds and animals that ingest them. One city commissioner raised a question about it on Tuesday and another talked about a solution on Wednesday.

It all began when City Commissioner Janie Robertson spoke at the Tuesday afternoon Scenic Highway Committee meeting.

"I walk the beach every morning and clean up the trash," she said. "The only thing more prevalent that beer cans is cigarette butts and plastic bags."

Robertson said she would like to see the city try to bag plastic bags on the beach, and she thought the Scenic Highway committee should take the lead.

The next day, at the WAVES committee meeting, Commissioner Lisa Marie Phillips talked about a $3,000 grant that the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program awarded the city for a program called "The Canvas Bag Program – Eliminating Plastic Bags from our Waterways.”

Phillips said the bags "strangle our seagrass beds and turtles think they are jellyfish." She said she thinks there is a solution.

"We can effect a culture change; offer alternatives," she said. "We could get teams of volunteers from high schools to hit Coquina Beach four weekends in a row and offer canvas bags or other alternatives to take to the beach."

Phillips said a portion of fulfilling the terms of the grant the city won was to make an effort to get the city commission to ban plastic bags on the beach.

"When the pier gets up and running again," she said, "we could offer to waive the $1 fishing fee if they use anything but plastic bags."

Phillips said the committee could explore other alternatives to plastic bags and hold a contest for elementary school students next fall to design a logo for the canvas bags the city might purchase with the grant money. She said she asked for booth space at the Florida Gulf Coast Outdoor Festival to be held June 24 at Coquina Park Beach and Bayside.

Bob Herrington, public transportation planner for the Sarasota/Bradenton Metropolitan Planning Organization, is a liaison member of both committees, and he suggested Phillips bring her ideas to the next Scenic Highway meeting on Tuesday, June 13, at 1 p.m.


City hopes code changes will help resolve lawsuit

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Commissioners said they could proceed with code changes if two parties in a lawsuit agree with their planning consultant’s recommendations to resolve the suit.

"We want to try and resolve this with a legislative fix. If we change the code, the likelihood of a successful challenge judicially is pretty low," City Attorney Jim Dye, who is representing the city in the lawsuit, said. "There are other places in the city that this is going on. The legislative fix is the most expeditious way to fix it.”

The lawsuit involves the right to dock in the canal between 71st and 72nd streets. Steve and Sandy Lindhal, of 503 72nd St., filed the lawsuit in October 2003 against Mike and Melanie McCaleb, of 507 72nd Street, and the city. The city is involved because of a code enforcement decision involving setbacks in the canal.

Since the 1960s, three boat docks have been located at the dead end of the canal, planning consultant Bill Brisson told commissioners. Five homeowners living on single-family lots adjacent to a non-buildable flag-shaped lot claim 1/5 interest in the flag shaped lot and access rights to the docks.

"The docks are not in conformance with the land development code," he said. "Docks are an accessory use and to have an accessory use, you have to have a principal use. There’s no principal use on the flag lot.

"The property owners on either side of the canal have certain rights. They’re allowed to extend out 20 feet into the canal from either side and then there is this joint use area and no one can use the corner setback area."

He said the lawsuit was triggered when McCaleb applied for a permit for a dock that would have extended into the canal and blocked at least a portion of one of the other docks. He said the other docks in the canal were built without permits.

Offering solutions

There are similar situations in other areas of the city, and the code does not address docks that are not a principal use, Brisson said. He said commissioners must decide whether to grandfather existing docks on non-buildable lots, whether to allow multiple docks on non-buildable lots, how to address docks built without permits and what to do about owners of non-buildable lots that haven’t built docks yet.

He recommended that owners adjacent or across the street from unbuildable lots should be allowed to have docks there, and if there is multiple ownership of a parcel, docks should be limited to one per person.

Dye said one of the problems in the Lindhal/McCaleb issue is that Lindhal has two docks.

"We suggest that if you allow the continued existence or restructure any existing, non-conforming docks, that they should have a period in which the owners can register," Brisson advised.

He also recommended that the setback areas remain the same. He said where there is an overlap of mooring rights, the property owners could split the overlap area and draw up a legally binding agreement, or the city could allow five feet of the square to go to the owner on each side.

"It seems so obvious that we need to do something about these situations that you describe, but maybe there’s something we’re not seeing," Chairman Rich Bohnenberger said. “I’m not in favor of creating a hardship on anybody."

Brisson said he had crafted a possible solution to the Lindhal/McCaleb situation, but prior to the meeting he realized that McCaleb’s mooring area extends further into the canal than his drawing indicates.

"It could work if they agree to it, but it won’t work on its own," Brisson said.

Dye suggested that the two parties in the lawsuit and the city commission hold a shade meeting to work out a solution. Shade meeting is allowed in order to negotiate a lawsuit.

The shade meeting was set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 13.


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