Vol 6 No. 40 - June 28, 2006

 

City tries to revive consolidation

Parking fees go out with the tide

Fireworks, parade to mark fun Fourth

Attorney warns city on sign code

County cracks down on tourist tax evaders

Cortez neighbors take on homeless camp problem

New bill could put rigs on horizon

Mailman leaves streets full of memories

 

 

 

City tries to revive consolidation

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — At last week’s Island elected officials meeting, Anna Maria commissioners offered to do the research on consolidating services among the three cities.
"We would be willing to put our money where our mouth is and take the lead," Anna Maria Commissioner Chris Tollette said. "Duke Miller has formulated some very good viable ideas."

Tollette’s offer came after Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore explained, "My city told me to stop the process as far as having my staff look into the referendum question because we couldn’t get the information.

"But Anna Maria is talking about consolidation of services. I’ve tried it four times and I think it’s another city’s turn to take the lead.’

Whitmore was acting on a referendum approved last fall by voters in Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach to study consolidation. Anna Maria commissioners declined to put the referendum on their ballot.

Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach were exploring the cost of funding an independent study, when Bradenton Beach officials voted against pursuing it. That’s when Holmes Beach commissioners agreed to go it alone, however, the other two cities said they would charge for information requested by Holmes Beach.

"We’re ready for somebody else to start the process," Homes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino agreed.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie said his city voted against pursuing the study because the referendum said all three cities would participate.

"Whether it’s a day late and a dollar short," Tollette said, "I wish our city had stepped up right from the beginning. I felt very strongly about allowing the voters to vote on the issue.
Anna Maria Commissioner John Quam said he favors combining services and said the study could start with one service. He suggested public works.

 

Parking fees go out with the tide

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

BRADENTON � Manatee County commissioners last week dispelled any rumors regarding parking fees at the county�s beaches, and said charging for beach use is the furthest thing from their minds.

"I�m shocked as the chair to find out about this through the press," Chairman Joe McClash said. "A briefing would have been more appropriate. This is not even a discussion for me. The board discussed it in the 1990s very extensively and it was rejected."

Commissioner Jane von Hahmann said she did not understand how the item got on the agenda without prior discussion.

"I’m totally baffled," Commissioner Donna Hayes agreed. "I don’t know why we’re discussing it."

County Administrator Ernie Padgett said the topic arose due to problems at Coquina Beach and he explained, "Law enforcement has a real concern out there. They feel like if we had paid parking it would cut down on some of these out-of-county gang members coming in."

Public safety issue

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie agreed and pointed out, "This is a public safety issue and we need to wake up big time. One third of our city is your public beach, our public beach. I hope you would not take paid parking off the table because it needs to be discussed along with all aspects of managing that park."

McClash said if it is a law enforcement issue, representatives of the Sheriff’s Office and the Bradenton Beach Police should be in attendance. He said the county could help pay for additional law enforcement noting, "We extract enough money from the Island communities to be able to afford to give something back."

Commissioner Amy Stein said another issue is that the county’s parks and recreation department issues the permits for events and use of the pavilions at Coquina Beach.

"The city is being overlooked and is not hearing about special events that are a concern from a law enforcement standpoint," she said. "When there’s an event, there needs to be a big, bold disclaimer on the bottom that the permit is not valid without a permit from the city."

Overcrowded parking

Commissioner Ron Getman said a related problem is overcrowded parking lots at all the county’s beaches. He suggested implementing a beach express trolley or bus, which would include cooperation of owners of parking lots at Manatee Avenue and 75th Street and Cortez Road and 75th Street. He said the county could use tourist tax dollars to help fund it.

McClash said he spoke to Manatee County School Superintendent Dr. Roger Dearing, about using the Anna Maria Elementary School parking lot as an overflow lot for beach parking on weekends and during the summer.

"We could locate excess parking areas and have flyers printed up to put on windshields of cars parked along the roadway." McClash suggested. "We’re probably the culprits at the Tourist Development Council when you look at the increased marketing we’ve been doing."

Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore said, "The issue is controlling what is going on. We need to look at creative ways to control it and manage people coming to the beach."

Commissioners agreed to plan a meeting with Island elected officials and law enforcement representatives to discuss beach issues.

Fireworks, parade to mark fun Fourth

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The Anna Maria Island Privateers will celebrate the Fourth of July with their annual parade on July 4 starting at 10 a.m. at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach and ending at Bayfront Park in Anna Maria. The public is invited to participate, as long as they have a vehicle that is decorated for the holiday. Participants must be at Coquina Park by 9:30 a.m. for staging.

At Bayfront Park, the Privateers will announce their annual scholarship winners. The winners are:

• Erica Hoggatt won the Whitey Horton $3,000 Scholarship and will be studying nursing.

• Kimberly Kuizon won the Dick "Red Dog" Cline $1,500 scholarship and will study communications.

• Austin Eason won the Greg "Shiprek" Davidson $1,500 scholarship and will study law.

• Brittany Brookes won the Bridget Miller Memorial $1,000 scholarship and will study fashion design.

• Elise Mundy won the Sandpiper $500 scholarship and will study physical therapy.

• Deanna Stephenson won a $1,000 scholarship to study psychology.

• Brian Stephenson won a $1,000 scholarship to study marketing.

• Devon Glynn got a $500 scholarship to study engineering.

• Nikki Donato won $500 to study business.

• Nicki Mauriello won $500 to study forensic science.

This is the first fireworks holiday since the death of Jim Taylor on Jan. 16 and the loss is still on the minds of the Chiles Group, owners of the BeachHouse restaurant, where the largest fireworks display will occur on July 3.

The BeachHouse restaurant’s 13th Annual Third of July Extravaganza, beginning after sunset, is "dedicated to the loving memory of Jim Taylor for all the years of joy and wonderment his firework shows brought to everyone," according to a flyer from the restaurant.

Taylor ran the fireworks shows for years through his company, Taylor Pyrotechnical Displays. After his death, the Chiles Group, which will host a second fireworks display on the Fourth of July from its Sandbar restaurant in Anna Maria, searched the area for another facilitator. They found Bell’s Fireworks of St. Petersburg to run the shows. The BeachHouse show, which is the larger of the two, will be run off a barge, like Taylor did, and the Sandbar fireworks will be shot from the beach.

The BeachHouse is selling VIP tables at $550 for eight seats and offering an all-you-can-eat buffet, unlimited draft beer and wine, reserved parking, live entertainment and a front-row view of the display for ticket-holders. The public is invited to watch the show from the beach and it always attracts a large crowd from the Island, Longboat Key and the mainland.

The Sandbar restaurant will be serving special menu items during its show, and reservations are recommended. Island residents who want to watch either show are urged to take the free trolley to and from the shows because local parking will be limited.

For information on the shows, call Molly at the BeachHouse at 779-2222 or the Sandbar at 778-0444.

Attorney warns city on sign code

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The chairman of the board of directors of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce is asking the city of Bradenton Beach to reconsider its newly rewritten sign code.

Don Schroder sent Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie a letter asking his city to work with the Chamber’s sign task force to overcome some differences the members and other real estate agents have with the code. He also forwarded a letter from an attorney to the Chamber pointing out several errors with the Bradenton Beach code.

Jeff Rowes, author of the letter, is a staff attorney for the Institute for Justice, a Washington-based public interest law firm that focuses on issues of public first amendment rights.

In his letter, Rowes claimed that the Bradenton Beach sign code could be seen as regulating signs by their content. He cited a case where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit Court struck down the ordinance in Neptune Beach because it regulated certain signs, but not others, solely on the bases of content. In that case, a clinic built a sign to advertise but did not get a permit.

The city cited the company for violating the sign ordinance and the clinic sued, arguing that the sign code was unconstitutional because it exempted various messages from regulation including expressive flags such as the American flag, government signs, holiday lights and religious messages. The court ruled for the clinic saying the code regulated signage on the nature of their messages. He said the Bradenton Beach code does the same thing.

Rowes’ letter also said the Bradenton Beach code should include strict time limits within which the government official, in this case the building official, must approve or deny a sign permit. "This prevents an official from engaging in secretive censorship by refusing to process a permit application."

Rowes also cited the fact that a homeowner can put up a For Sale by Owner sign to sell a property while a real estate agent or company has to get a permit to advertise property.

Schroder also sent letters to Anna Maria and Holmes Beach with Rowes’ letter attached.

"We want the cities to know we are doing this with their best interests in mind," Schroeder told The Sun. "We are not threatening them with anything. We have their best interests in mind and we want them to be prepared and look at this lawyer’s points before somebody else takes them to court."

In his letter to Chappie, Schroder asked for an answer to his request to work with the sign task force before that task force before the city of Anna Maria has its final hearing on its sign code on June 29.

 

County cracks down on tourist tax evaders

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

Manatee County Tax Collector Ken Burton, Jr., is cracking down on property owners who rent homes for six months or less without paying the 4 percent tourist tax plus the 6.5 percent sales tax.

In a news release, Burton said there was concern that the number of renters not collecting the tax and forwarding it to the county is increasing because of the flat real estate market and the likelihood of several spec homes still on the market for sale.

"If you’re renting your property out and not collecting the tax along with the rent, it means you are breaking the law," Burton said.

"I am sure there are some property owners that now find themselves in neighborhoods that have renters coming and going and are not happy, and I am asking for their help."

Burton said his office would welcome any information from the public on individuals who are evading the tax.

"Since we began collecting the tourist tax in 1989, we have always relied on tips from the public via the internet or phone, but many of our residents probably do not know that option exists," he said.

"To make it easy we have initiated a Rental Tax Evader Hotline (941) 741-4809 and have added a hotline button on the front page of our Website, www.taxcollector.com.

“So in the event you think someone is renting out property that is not registered or paying the tax, you can make an anonymous tip."

Manatee County enacted the local option tourist tax in 1980. Like the sales tax, the tourist tax is protected from public records law.

The tax is also called the bed tax, tourist development tax, short term rental tax, or resort tax and is in addition to sales tax. The tax collector collects the tax and also handles its enforcement and auditing.

Collections for the coming year will exceed $5 million. In the past year alone, the tax collector’s office assessed and collected back taxes and penalties in excess of $160,000. The tax collector can and will assess property owners who are not registered and, per the Florida Statutes, the onus is on the taxpayer to prove the tax collector wrong.

"It is no different than staying at Disney World." Burton said. "A renter who charges $1,000 for a week’s stay is also required to collect an additional $105 ($65 for sales tax and $40 for the tourist tax)."

The majority of accounts remit payments monthly to the tax collector and the Florida Department of Revenue. If you need to register or have questions regarding the resort tax go to www.taxcollector.com. To register with the DOR online, visit its Website at http://sun6.dmsstate.fl.us/dor/

Frequently asked questions are available online, but for further information, the local DOR Service Center number is (941) 361-6001.

 

Cortez neighbors take on homeless camp problem

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – Cortez residents and business owners have pledged more than $5,000 to clean up shrubbery that hides a homeless camp from law enforcement officers patrolling Cortez Road.

Between 15 and 20 homeless people camp in the thick vegetation – mostly non-native Brazilian peppers – on the two acres behind the Seafood Shack sign on Cortez Road West, resident Mary Ann Norman said. Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies told her that if they can’t see the trespassers, they can’t arrest them, she added.

"I’m trying to raise my son here, and I’m afraid to walk by," she said.

Seafood Shack property owner Ham Jones has pledged $500 to remove invasive plants and trim the remaining trees in an effort to expose the trespassers and force them to leave, she said, adding that she is also contributing $500. The Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) has pledged $250.

The fund drive, which Norman estimated will need to raise between $7,000 and $9,000 to finish the job, is a last-resort effort to rid the high-profile location of potentially dangerous trespassers and their campfires.

FISH Vice President Richard Culbreath said his property adjoins the acreage, and not only do the Brazilian peppers scrape his home, the campfires make him nervous.

Other residents said they have seen trespassers involved in drug transactions.

FISH Treasurer Karen Bell said that Cortez village is known for its tolerance of the homeless, but acknowledged the problem.

"I don’t know how to balance it," she said.

FISH board member Roger Allen said he is concerned that the trespassers may move onto the nearby FISH Preserve, which is being cleared, at considerable expense, of exotic vegetation and trash that has been dumped there for years.

Something has to be done now, Realtor Mike Norman said.

"You got a problem," he said, "you start whittling away at it."

 

New bill could put rigs on horizon

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

If you thought red tide was bad, just wait until you see oil rigs on our horizon.

Oh, they won’t be close enough to see, you say? Think again and keep your eye on that horizon line.

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote this week on a bill that would allow state legislatures to permit oil and gas drilling less than 50 miles from shore.

How much less? That’s up to individual states.

U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam from Bartow inexplicably reached the agreement last month on the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act with House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo of California, who evidently has never tried to get his state’s ubiquitous oil off a La Jolla surfboard. The committee approved the bill on June 21 for consideration by the House.

While it emphasizes 100-mile and 50-mile drilling boundaries, a close reading of the 150-page bill reveals a different picture.

The act does ban oil and gas drilling within 50 miles of the coast.

But wait. This gets as slick as an oil spill in Tampa Bay.

It also gives states the choice to override that ban with a vote of their legislatures and the approval of their governors.

Under the act, states also can allow natural gas and oil drilling between 50 and 100 miles from shore. And if a state legislature does not take action to prohibit it, natural gas drilling will automatically be allowed beginning one year from the act’s passage, and oil drilling will automatically be allowed in three years.

Everything beyond 100 miles would automatically be fair game for drilling under the bill.

Not far enough

The Florida Public Interest Research Group says that even 100 miles isn’t far enough away from a fragile coastline where fishing and tourism are important industries.

"This bill has a 50-mile buffer zone, but states can decide to get even closer," Director Mark Ferrulo said. "We’re opposed to any new drilling in the eastern Gulf."

The Manatee Sarasota Sierra Club agrees, opposing any drilling in the eastern Gulf, especially closer than 50 miles from shore, chair Ginger Perlman said.

The Sarasota-based Healthy Gulf Coalition opposes the idea of allowing states to opt out of the ban, spokesman Don Chaney said, adding that it’s a real possibility since the bill offers revenue incentives to states for allowing drilling.

"If the Legislature allows for drilling within 50 miles of the coast, they’ve sold out to the oil industry," said Glenn Compton, president of ManaSota-88.

Even putting the rigs 100 miles out of sight won’t put them out of mind.

Thirteen years later, the flames from the three-way crash of oil tankers off the northern tip of Anna Maria Island still burn bright in memory. 330,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil. Sticky blobs of oil and dead fish washing up on the beach for months. Throwing away towels, flip-flops and swimsuits after vain attempts to scour the mess clean.

Burying birds that couldn’t be scrubbed clean.

The 1993 disaster was limited by the capacity of the tanker — only one of the three tankers spilled heavy fuel oil, and even that was a small part of its cargo.

But a spill from an active rig drilled into a reservoir of oil in the Gulf of Mexico even 50 miles out could be devastating to the environment and to tourism, environmentalists warn.

Coast threatened

Here’s what the bill says about that.

"It is not reasonably foreseeable that… development and production of an oil discovery located more than 50 miles seaward of the coastline will adversely affect resources near the coastline. Transportation of oil from a leased tract might reasonably be foreseen, under limited circumstances, to have the potential to adversely affect resources near the coastline if the oil is within 50 miles of the coastline, but such potential to adversely affect such resources is likely no greater, and probably less, than the potential impacts from tanker transportation because tanker spills usually involve large releases of oil over a brief period of time."

In other words, a spill from a pipeline would be no worse than, say, a 330,000-gallon tanker spill.

Protected by MacDill

At least Anna Maria Island is not in quite as precarious a position as the rest of Florida. Drilling is prohibited to our north — within 234 miles of Tampa — because that’s where the military mission line is, and U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said that military mission testing is inconsistent with oil and gas exploration.

Hawk or dove, you have to admit that MacDill Air Force Base is protecting us not only in the wild blue yonder, but also in the deep blue sea.

Not so our governor, whose campaign promise about not allowing oil rigs off Florida we really should have gotten in writing.

At a Resources Committee hearing last month, the secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection said that Gov. Jeb Bush would agree to the 100-mile buffer and provisions for the state Legislature to decide to allow drilling even closer to shore.

How much closer? He didn’t say.

If the bill passes the House this week, it will face opposition from Florida’s two senators, according to their press secretaries.

U.S. Senators Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez introduced the Permanent Protection for Florida Act of 2006 in February to keep oil and gas rigs at least 260 miles off Tampa Bay, (the military testing zone plus a 25-mile buffer), 150 miles off Pensacola and 150 miles off the east coast. The Sierra Club supports it. Unfortunately, it is stalled.

Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris introduced the Coastal Economic and Environmental Protection Act of 2006 last month, which would restrict oil and gas drilling in the western Gulf of Mexico to outside the military testing zone. Drilling would be limited to 125 miles off the Atlantic coast and the Panhandle, and would be prohibited in federal waters off the Florida Straits.

"Prohibited."

Now there’s a slick idea.


 

Mailman leaves streets full of memories

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – After 27 years as a Bradenton Beach mailman, nothing surprises Larry Maschino.

Not seeing Cher at Gregg Allman’s old place on Sunrise Lane, without makeup and looking like any other housewife, or having Pittsburgh Pirate Willy Stargell wave at him from his car.

Not the way people dress – or don’t dress – when they answer the door for a package.

And certainly not a witch doctor who put the kibosh on his mission trip to Haiti.

Maschino, 63, plans to devote more time to mission work after he retires this month from his mail route, where he leaves behind street after street of friends and memories.

Over the years, customers have enlisted Maschino to catch wayward cats and chase unwanted raccoons. Once, he got a customer out of a fruit tree after his ladder had fallen, leaving him stranded.

Others call him from up north to check on their homes after a hurricane, knowing that he’ll be on the job according to the postal creed: Neither rain nor snow nor sleet nor dark of night shall stay these couriers from their appointed rounds.

Then there was the woman who trapped herself in her house by trying to move a chair through a doorway, where it got stuck.

"The worst thing a mailman can hear is ‘Help!’" said Maschino, who got her out of the jam.

One of his customers relies on him to help him with his tax return calculations every year. Another one had an embarrassing accident that he helped clean up.

Many memories are of children. One little girl thought he was the only mailman in the whole world, and wondered how he got back so fast from up north where she had just mailed her grandma a letter.

He’s known some children from the time they were in the womb to the time when they had their own children.

But it was another baby who made him truly appreciate his life, he said.

At an orphanage in Haiti, he held a malnourished infant in his arms and came back two days later to find that it had died. It changed his outlook, and made him more grateful for the Bradenton Beach paradise where he has spent most of his working life.

Since then, he has taken young people to the third world to help them develop that same appreciation, and is looking forward to mentoring more youths in his retirement.

He also has a prison ministry, leads an early-morning Bible study class at the Red Barn Flea Market for employees and works with the Helping of Grace Ministry, which assists local homeless people.

Some of his customers know about his "vacations" to Haiti and Guatemala and load him up with clothing, food and other items for the poor.

He’s also experienced some opposition – a disapproving witch doctor once prevented his group from visiting his village, but later converted to Christianity, he said.

Maschino got serious about "something bigger than myself" in the early 1990s. Just after Bradenton Beach had completed its beach renourishment project, a no-name storm wiped away most of the new beach.

"I had a thought that we were trying to alter God’s creation, and He was just letting us know who was in charge," he said.

Shortly afterward, on a mission trip in Guatemala, he experienced a storm and flooding that relocated a river to just outside his window, leaving a bridge on dry land.

He’s been working harder to help people ever since, and is looking forward to having more time to do just that.

What won’t he miss about the job? Red tide, which made him gag in the open air mail truck. Having to account for every minute by checking in with scanners at checkpoints along the route. And the one and only dog that ever bit him, right after the owner said, "Don’t worry, he’s friendly."

Maschino never planned on being a mailman.

A circus kid, his acrobatic family traveled with the Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus, and he grew up walking on a tightrope and doing handstands on his dad’s forearm.

He strayed from the family business to become a chef, and was working at Pete Reynard’s and Trader Jack’s restaurants on the Island, both gone now, when some employees told him they were going to take the test to work at the post office.

He applied too, passed, and got a bicycle route on the Island, which no one else wanted. It was brutally hot, but he was in good shape from acrobatics, he said.

Maschino plans to ride off into retirement on a different kind of bike, a Kawasaki 2000 Vulcan. Maybe take some road trips with his wife, now that there’s time to go farther than Daytona Beach, he said.

And he’ll probably find someone on the road to help along the way.

 

"Write a letter to the editor about a story."

 

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