Vol 6 No. 39 - June 21, 2006


Pier closed for piling repairs

Tax appraiser can�t provide relief

Beach fees get the boot

Consolidation declared dead in Holmes Beach

Pushing ahead idea of consolidation

Local waiter bound for Hollywood

Island occupancy rates continue to slide

Gib Bergquist leaves a special legacy




Pier closed for piling repairs

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The waters that lap at the pilings holding up the Bridge Street Pier have left their mark on the structure – a destructive mark.

The city of Bradenton Beach closed the pier last Wednesday afternoon after a close inspection of the pilings showed they were in much worse shape than originally thought.

Building Official Ed McAdam addressed the city commission at its regularly scheduled meeting the next day, before commissioners voted to officially close the structure to the public until construction ends. He said scuba divers went under the pier, scraped off the barnacles and found that the concrete pilings were brittle and worn down, despite a cosmetic fix on them in 2000.

"We went from 14-inch diameter to 6-inch ones," McAdam said. "We feel that instead of 17 pilings we will likely have 20 to 22 pilings in the worst case scenario."

Earlier this month, the city chose SteMic Marine Construction to fix the pilings at a cost of up to $124,372. SteMic’s bid, which was way over the $70,000 budgeted by the city, was the only one received.

At a commission meeting, McAdam told the commissioners that the cost might be lower because the bid proposal was put out on the premise that all the pilings would need major work. He said last Thursday that it appears most of them do.

The project calls for SteMic to perform repair and rehabilitation on a total of 34 pilings, most of them underneath the area where the restaurant and bait shop are located. Despite this latest report, McAdam was optimistic.

"It should not be more than the amount ($124,372) on the bid," he said.

McAdam said, however, that there would be further costs after they inspect the pilings under the walkway.

After approving a motion to officially close the pier, talk turned to the rehabilitation project performed under a previous city administration in 2000.

"How many years did we get out of those pilings that were fixed back then?" Commissioner Lisa Marie Phillips asked.

"Back in 2000, we got repairs that were more cosmetics than repairs," Mayor John Chappie answered. "We only got six years."

McAdam added that in the previous project, plastic collars were put around ]the pilings, but water got under them and eroded the steel reinforcement bars inside the concrete causing them to expand and making the concrete brittle. He said the current contract calls for much more extensive protection against corrosion.


Tax appraiser can�t provide relief

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Tax relief for Island business owners must come from local governments or the Florida Legislature, not the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office, according to appraiser Charles Hackney.

In determining property values for tax purposes, Hackney is required to follow Florida law and commonly accepted appraisal practices and consider real estate market values, he told the county’s Tourist Development Council on Monday.

Council members have expressed concern that rising property taxes may put some Island business owners out of business, reducing tourism and tourist tax revenue and causing a domino effect on other businesses.

A state statute requires that Hackney consider eight criteria - the highest and best use to which the property can be expected to be put in the immediate future, income generated by the property, cash value of the property, location of the property, size of the property, cost of the property, condition of the property and net sale proceeds.

Council members requested that Hackney put more emphasis on the income criteria than the highest and best use criteria, which values Island property as if it were being used as condominiums, regardless of its actual use.

The latter standard is unfair when businesses are not operating as condominiums, council Chairman Joe McClash said, suggesting that the income approach is more fair.

Hackney said he must use appraisal principles that withstand state auditing practices ensuring that taxes are adequate to fund such expenses as public schools, and fairly reflect the value of the land.

"Between 85 to 90 percent of the value is in the land," he said, adding that average local land values increased 37 percent in 2003, 33 percent in 2004, and 14 percent in 2005.

"We’re not the ones deciding highest and best use, he said. "It’s the people buying the properties."

The property appraisal system dates to medieval England, according to Hackney, and Island business owners on the council, including restaurateur Ed Chiles, hotelier Barbara Rodocker and developer David Teitelbaum, called for a change.

"The issue is not with you," Teitelbaum told Hackney. "But the Legislature in its wisdom is taking people and putting them out of business."

The council voted unanimously to have Assistant County Attorney Patricia McVoy draft language that could be proposed in the Legislature to increase the weight of the "income" criterion and reduce that of the "highest and best use" criterion.

"This would be a fundamental change," said Hackney, whose office is defending a lawsuit against the owner of the Rolling Waves Beach Cottages, 6351 Gulf of Mexico Drive on Longboat Key, which is also requesting a change in the way property is valued. "I think the chances of that are remote."

Meanwhile, the Manatee County Commission is considering passing a local commercial property tax deferral ordinance for hotel and motel owners eligible for working waterfront status. The ordinance is permitted under a new state law.

Such an ordinance would only delay the payment of property taxes until sale, Hackney said, adding that in the meantime, other property owners in the county would have to pay the difference.

"I appreciate the working waterfronts (law), but what we need is real relief, and that’s just a deferral," Chiles said. "There’s no question there will be a coalition of counties. The revolution is going on everywhere."

Beach fees get the boot

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Commissioners soundly rejected a suggestion to charge for parking at the public beach.

"Bradenton Beach met with Manatee County officials and Karen Windon (Manatee County public safety chief) is going before the county commission to discuss charging to go to the beach," Mayor Carol Whitmore told commissioners last week.

Chairman Rich Bohnenberger asked Whitmore to write a letter to the county commission opposing the idea. He noted that the issue has come up many times in the past and city officials have always opposed it.

"A penny of all the tourist tax dollars goes to beach renourishment," Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens pointed out. "We have to have beaches available to the general population of the county in order to get our beaches renourished. If these people have to pay, I think that’s totally unfair."

"We’re one of the few island communities in the state that it doesn’t cost to use our beaches or there’s no toll to come over or there’s no fee to use the boat ramps," Commissioner David Zaccagnino said. "I’m proud of that."

Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann said Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie brought forward the idea of paid parking due to problems at Coquina Beach.

"He called me and said we have a major issue at Coquina Beach and we need to talk about it," von Hahmann explained. "It’s a safety issue. He asked about charging fees, but I’m not for making residents of the county pay to use public facilities."

Whitmore also said she plans to ask county officials to close the parking lot at Manatee Public Beach when it is full and encourage people to park at 75th Street in Bradenton and ride the trolley.

"When parking lots are full and there’s nowhere else to park," Whitmore said. "We have to figure out a way to get the people to the beach because they have every right to be here."

She said she would ask county transit officials to be more lenient with riders who bring chairs, coolers and other beach gear on the trolley.

Zaccagnino said one of the reasons he is opposed to vacating city rights of way is because they could be used for pocket parking, adding, "We need to look at other places for the trolley to pick up people, maybe in Cortez or on the Causeway."

Whitmore said she would discuss options with county officials.

Consolidation declared dead in Holmes Beach

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — After their request for information was rejected a second time, commissioners said they would not spend any more time or money on a consolidation study.

"It’s getting to be apparent that the elected officials in the other two towns will do anything they can do to quash this plan. I don’t think there’s any point in doing anything more on consolidation as long as the elected officials in the two towns are so adamantly against it," Commissioner Roger Lutz declared after Mayor Carol Whitmore presented a letter from Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn.

In May, commissioners instructed Whitmore to determine how much it would cost for Holmes Beach to provide services to all the cities after Bradenton Beach officials voted against pursuing a consolidation study with Holmes Beach. Voters in the two cities had approved the study in a fall referendum.

Whitmore had asked SueLynn and Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie for data for the study, but both mayors said they would charge the city for the information gathering.

"It is believed that the city of Holmes Beach should not be the entity gathering, compiling and interpreting data used to determine if there is any political benefit in the consolidation of the Island’s three cities’ services, let alone the governments," SueLynn said in the letter.
Consolidation of services

In addition, Whitmore said she would no longer pursue consolidation of services, although she supports it because it will save the cities money.

"As far as I’m concerned, I’ve tried consolidation of services at least four times, and if they want to do it, they’re more than welcome to, but it will be on their dime, not the city of Holmes Beach’s," Whitmore stressed. "I’d be glad to give them any information they want, but I don’t think we should be spearheading it.

"The very commissioner that brought this up is the one that voted it (consolidation) down. Mr. Miller (Anna Maria Commissioner Duke Miller) should spend as many hours as I did trying to pull all this information together."

Commissioner Sandy Haas Martens said Holmes Beach officials have provided information to Bradenton Beach officials in the past and she thought they would reciprocate as a courtesy among cities.

"I think that our voters want to see some kind of progression whether it be an in-depth report or a general report saying what money could be saved, what sense could be made of consolidation of services," Commissioner David Zaccagnino said. “I think our voters have spoken; we have to make the best estimate."

Commissioner Pat Morton agreed with Lutz, adding, "We have done what our voters asked us to do. We’re not going to spend a whole lot of money if nobody else wants to do it. It’s a dead boat."


Pushing ahead idea of consolidation

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — Anna Maria has taken another step towards attempting to get services consolidated.

City Commissioner Duke Miller sent a letter to Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore and Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie urging them to participate in a "joint, independent study to determine the feasibility of entering into an inter-local agreement to form one organization that would provide municipal services to the entire Island."

In his letter, Miller acknowledged the rocky history of the consolidation discussion.

"We in Anna Maria are aware of past mis-steps regarding this matter. However, these are different times. We earnestly submit that our commitment is firm and our desire is genuine to look to the future at a concept that can benefit the entire Island."

Anna Maria was the city that opted out of a referendum that was put to the voters in the other two cities. That ballot question asked whether or not the voters would support an independent study on the consolidation of governments. Anna Maria commissioners were opposed to the wording of the referendum. There was a great deal of opposition from residents about the consolidation of governments.

At the time, commissioners indicated they would be more than willing to participate in a referendum that included the concept of studying consolidation of services.

Voters in the other two Island cites voted overwhelmingly in favor of the study of the consolidation of governments. A number of issues, not the least of which was the lack of participation by Anna Maria, have since stymied the consolidation study.

At their June 8 work session, commissioners asked Miller to contact the mayors of the two other Island cities and invite them to participate in an independent study.

Miller outlined several contemplated objectives:
"To confirm the probability that each of our cities would benefit economically from the resulting economies of scale and/or realize improved level of services for our communities; To determine whether our combined resources will go farther toward attracting the degree and level of expertise needed to cope with the increased pressures being put on our communities by the County’s unbridled growth; To explore the potential to improve our abilities for preparation for and recovery from any future weather events which may impact our Island."

Another issue outlined in Miller’s letter was the evaluation of hiring a qualified city manager that could "provide continuity of professionally managed services as administrators change with each election cycle."

Miller’s final point:
"Lastly, yet perhaps of greatest importance, to ascertain whether it is possible for each city to maintain its own identity and autonomy while enjoying the fruits of services consolidation."

Miller is proposing that each city make a commitment to the independent study.

"You have ours," he wrote. "And we respectfully request that you and your respective commissions consider and approve our proposal."

An oversight group comprised of the mayors and one commissioner from each city should oversee the study, according to Miller. He suggests that an independent firm be hired to proceed with the study. "Perhaps the one with whom you have recently dealt," Miller proposed.

Finally, Miller suggests that the findings of the study would be presented to each community for consideration and possible further action.

As yet, there has been no response to Miller’s letter to Whitmore and Chappie.


Local waiter bound for Hollywood

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – Student/waiter by day, pirate/soldier by night, Steve Ananicz is living in a part time fantasy world.

At age 19, he’s scored his first movie role in "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest," starring Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, due out in theaters on July 7. He’s also nailed down his second role, in next year’s "Pirates of the Caribbean: World’s End."

It’s a different world from the theater he’s done at Manatee Community College, where he’s a public relations major. That was a safer career bet, he thought, than a theater major.

He needn’t have been concerned.

"They had an open audition in Orlando," Ananicz said. "It was a longshot. There were 8,000 people in Orlando and 12,000 in L.A. They picked 25 guys."

In Dead Man’s Chest, he plays two non-speaking roles, a pirate and a double for one of the main characters, Commodore Norrington. In World’s End, he’s a pirate and a soldier and hopes to get his Screen Actors Guild membership before production is finished so he can qualify for a speaking part.

It’s not his first success in the industry. He won acting and modeling competition Talent Rock last summer in Orlando. In between school and his job at the Sandbar restaurant, he’s modeled in Beall’s department store advertisements (his mother is the hair stylists for the shoots) and for Mr. Formal tuxedos.

But this is his biggest break so far.

"I got to work four scenes with Johnny Depp," Ananicz said. "I’ve met some good people, and there’s potential auditions for upcoming movies with him."

He’s headed to Miami this summer to interview with modeling agencies and to Orlando to interview with a talent agency. Then he’s off to Los Angeles in August to film the remainder of World’s End.

Meanwhile, the fantasy world still doesn’t seem quite real.

"I always wanted to act, but I was having trouble getting into it," Ananicz said. "I didn’t see this coming."


Island occupancy rates continue to slide

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Hotel and motel occupancy rates on Anna Maria Island were the lowest in April and May than they have been in four years, continuing a five-month downward streak over the same time period, according to Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau statistics.

April occupancy on the Island was 60.5 percent, down from 64.8 percent last year, 65.9 percent in 2004 and 66.2 percent in 2003. May occupancy was 53 percent, down from 56.9 percent last year, 58 percent in 2004 and 53.6 percent in 2003.

The slide mirrored statistics for the first three months of the year. January occupancy was 29.3 percent, down from 37.5 percent last year, 46.8 percent in 2004 and 37.1 percent in 2003. February occupancy was 59.6 percent, down from 77.9 percent last year, 82.1 percent in 2004 and 76.6 percent in 2003. March occupancy was 77.3 percent, down from 94.3 percent last year, 92.1 percent in 2004 and 89 percent in 2003.

The Manatee County portion of Longboat Key fared better. April occupancy was 71.2 percent, up from 59.9 percent last year, but lower than the two previous years. May occupancy was 57.6 percent, up from 55 percent last year, but down from the two previous years.

Average daily room rates on Anna Maria Island were mixed, with April rates averaging $178.20, up from $173.28 last year, while May rates were $143.28, down from $147.44 last year.

On Longboat Key, average daily room rates were consistently higher than last year, with April rates at a whopping $204.44, up from $154.16 last year, and May rates at $162.35, up from $147.94 last May.


Gib Bergquist leaves a special legacy

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Whether they knew Gib Bergquist from reading his columns, Cracker’s Crumbs, which he wrote for local newspapers since 1986, or coached with him or been one of his Little League players or served with him on a community board, everyone loved the Cracker.

"We lost a ray of sunshine with the passing of our friend, Gib Bergquist," Allen Bobo said. "He has been a guide to more than a generation of youth. Gib personified the concept of mentor. He gave countless hours showing children what is good and right with the world.

"He taught them how to win with grace, how to lose without being a loser and how to play the game. Most importantly, he lived what he taught and left the world better than he found it."

Gilbert "Gib" Theodore Bergquist passed away on June 11, 2006, at the age of 82. Known as the Cracker, Gib was a Florida native, born in Pierce, Fla., in 1924. After serving in the Marine Corps, he earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree at the University of Florida.

He became a special agent with the FBI in 1951 and served with that agency for 24 years, obtaining another master’s degree during that time. In 1979, he returned to Florida.

He became active in Boy Scouts, Anna Maria Elementary School, the Community Center as a coach and board member, in historical endeavors including the Manatee County Historical Commission and the Holmes Beach Police Pension Board.

"He was on the pension board for 16 years and served two as its chairman," Holmes Beach Police Lt. Dale Stephenson said. "It was very beneficial to have someone of his background because he understood what officers go through."

Scott Dell, assistant director of the Community Center, said Gib was one of the first people to welcome him to the community 13 years ago.

"We hit it off right away," Dell recalled. "His passion for baseball and his love for this community is what I will remember most about him. Gib was the type of guy that could light up a baseball field with his smile, which he always did.

"Nobody is really sure how long he was a Little League coach at the Center, but that’s what happens when you are there for close to 20 years and make such a positive difference in the lives of so many children."

Dean Dickson, supervisor of Manatee County Historical Resources, said as chairman of the historical commission, Gib oversaw the moving of Fogarty Boat Works to Manatee Historical Village.

"He was deeply fascinated with Florida and local history," Dickson said. "He was very concerned about preserving local history."

He is survived by his wife, Madeline; son, Kevin, daughters, Deborah, Laura Anne and Marisa Inez; daughter-in-law Constance; son-in-law Arthur; brothers Richard and John; four grandchildren, two nephews and a niece.

There will be a gathering of friends on Friday, June 23, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Griffith Cline Funeral Home, Island Chapel, 6000 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.


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