Vol 6 No. 42 - July 12, 2006


Island value exceeds $3 billion

Chamber to spearhead new drive

Gangs show presence on beach

Mayor bows out

New trolleys hit the streets

City nixes festival at Coquina

Olympic torchbearers reunite on Independence Day

Drainage project nearing completion




Island value exceeds $3 billion

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – If you had the money to purchase any of the three Island cities as an investment, Bradenton Beach would have yielded the highest return according to preliminary figures from the Manatee County Tax Assessor’s office.

The figures were released last week to the three cities in documents that the cities use to help figure out their budgets for the next fiscal year.

According to the information on the reports, the total increase in taxable value for Bradenton Beach showed a 16.8 percent increase from $553,450,386 to $646,424,784. Those figures are based on appreciation only and do not include taxable new construction or additions and improvements to new property – valued at $7,112,553.

Holmes Beach had the second highest increase in taxable property at 16.5 percent. That jump was based on a $228,474,732 increase in property valuation from $1,612,726,493. New taxable properties, additions and improvements totaled $13,126,918.

Anna Maria’s increase was 14.6 percent, up $98,802,863 from $674,898,302 to $773,701,165. New construction, additions and improvements totaled $10,375, 833.

The growth in taxable values for all three cities averaged 16.08 percent.

The reports also listed the number of real property parcels at 1,600 in Anna Maria, 1,795 in Bradenton Beach and 3,993 in Holmes Beach. That includes lot with and without buildings on them. The number of personal property accounts, which may include more than one parcel, was 433 in Anna Maria, 1,045 in Bradenton Beach and 1,263 in Holmes Beach.

None of the three cities had anybody apply for a Homestead Assessment reduction for parents or grandparents. Those taking additional Homestead Exemptions for owners 65 years of age or older included 17 in Anna Maria, 10 in Bradenton Beach and 41 in Holmes Beach.

If you could purchase all of the property on the Island at its taxable value, you would have shelled out $2,612,600,449 last year. Waiting until this year to "buy the Island" would have cost you $420,251,993 more, or $3,032,852,442.

Of course, in reality, tax assessments while ever growing are usually lower than the selling value of property. So buying the Island would be a much pricier proposition.

Insuring and paying taxes on it would be another matter.


Chamber to spearhead new drive

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, announced that it has formed a committee to look at consolidating services among the three Island cities.

"I will be the moderator/facilitator for discussions on combining services," Chamber board chairman Don Schroder said.

The core team that has already begun holding meetings on the issue includes the Chamber liaison from each Island city commission — Commissioner Duke Miller in Anna Maria, Commissioner Bill Shearon in Bradenton Beach and Commissioner David Zaccagnino in Holmes Beach.

"We will bring in outside people from academia and others to help in the discussions as needed," Schroder said. "We have already started contacting outside sources."

He said meetings will be held as often as needed and the group members will report to their city commissions.

Gangs show presence on beach

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – A lot of people on the mainland head for the beach during holidays. It’s a time for friends and family to enjoy a picnic lunch and get into the Gulf to cool off.

It’s also a time when many gang members take to the beach and make their presence known to rival gang members, according to Bradenton Beach Police Lieutenant John Cosby, who said police have to keep an eye on the gang members and take steps to diffuse any situation.

"They seem to come to Coquina Beach and it’s been getting worse over the last two years," he said. "On Easter, we told them they could not wear their colors."

Gang members wear clothing in the colors their gangs adopt to identify themselves and sometimes, those colors can start a turf war, which Cosby said is why they banned the wearing of colors during that holiday. He said the Fourth of July saw more gang members, but there were no major incidents.

"There were complaints about the noise," he said. "They mainly sit across from other gang members and stare at each other."

Cosby said the gang members don’t seem to pick on families or non-gang members when they come out, and there were no reports of gang-related crimes in areas off the beach.

The county pays Bradenton Beach each year to provide security at Coquina and Cortez Beaches, both county-owned parks.

Cosby said the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office sends extra deputies to the beach during holidays and they have agreements with Holmes Beach and Longboat Key police to help out during emergencies, but they would all be hard-pressed to stop anything larger than an occasional fight.

"We don’t have the manpower," he said. "We’re trying to work with what we’ve got."

Mayor bows out

ANNA MARIA — Incumbent Mayor SueLynn announced to her staff that she would not run for re-election.

Deputy City Clerk Diane Percycoe confirmed that SueLynn told city employees on Monday that she would not be running in the November election.

The mayor was out of town and could not be reached for comment.

In the wake of SueLynn’s decision, Fran Barford has announced that she will run for mayor.

"I always said I’d run if she didn’t," Barford said. "When she told me she wasn’t running, I decided to go for it."

Barford is the chairman of the city’s planning and zoning board. She a former mayor of Temple Terrace and has extensive experience in government.

The only other announced candidate for mayor is Tom Turner.

The commission seats of Linda Cramer and Duke Miller are also on the ballot. Both have said the will seek re-election.

Qualifying for the November election begins at noon on Monday, July 17 and ends at noon on Friday, July 21.


New trolleys hit the streets

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) officials unveiled the newest trolleys in its fleet last Friday to a crowd of elected officials, transit officials and the media.

Two of the new vehicles were parked near the MCAT trolley turnaround at Coquina Beach for everyone to look at. While the color scheme and design was similar to the first-generation trolleys, the new vehicles were better built, quieter and less costly. They have the same number of seats, 24, as the models they replace.

MCAT Director Ralf Heseler said that the four new ones would go into service in August and all five of the first-generation vehicles would be taken out of service and rebuilt. The older models had problems with loud exhausts, squeaky brakes and salt water damage to the floorboards.

"The new ones have stainless steel floorboards," said Heseler. "The old ones had wood floorboards that literally rotted out."

Heseler also said the new models had quieter exhausts and were designed to handle the rigors of everyday use. He also said that the new trolleys cost $150,000 each compared to the previous vehicles that cost $190,000.

During introductory remarks, Heseler said the trolleys were introduced in March 2002 in an attempt to help the Island deal with traffic congestion. He said they quickly became a success.

"The Florida Department of Transportation has voted this its showcase trolley system for the state," he said. "In its first year, a little fewer than 300,000 riders used it, in its second year we had just under 350,000 riders and last year we had a little more than 380,000."

Heseler also noted that June 2006 had 2,000 more riders than June 2005. He also talked about the new vehicles.

"They are 10 percent quieter, even though they have larger engines," he said. "There is no smokestack exhaust, so they look a little sleeker, and they are made in Florida which is nice because the money we spent on them stayed in the state."

Heseler said that in October, MCAT would connect with Sarasota County Area Transit buses in Longboat Key for the first time in several years. He said that the two counties are also working on extending the trolleys to St. Armands Circle and Lido Key and if they succeed, the old trolleys would be used for that route.

"As a member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization and its Transportation Task Force, we are working to expand the service to Longboat Key and St. Armands Circle because they want it there," said Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann. "They did not want it at first, but it has been so successful that they want it now."

Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore, who was instrumental in getting the service for the Island, and Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie both thanked the county for their role in getting the trolleys.

"MCAT is part of our family now," Chappie noted.

Manatee County Community Services Director Fred Loveland, whose department oversees transit, noted that his wife, Maureen, was a kindergarten teacher at Anna Maria Elementary School.

"She said she appreciates the fact that the trolleys have given kids on the Island a way of getting around," he said.

Heseler said MCAT is proud of the success of the trolleys and credited Island residents and resort owners for using it and encouraging their customers to use it.

"It takes cars off the street," he said. "That’s what it’s all about."


City nixes festival at Coquina

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – City commissioners on Thursday voted down a special events application for a private arts and crafts festival, even though it was scheduled for the following weekend.

The organizer for Art on the Beach, T-N-T Events, was late coming before the commission to ask for the permit.

Although Coquina Park, where the event was to be held, is owned by the county, organizers must get a special events permit from the city.

T-N-T Events promised to give a portion of the proceeds to the Tingley Memorial Library, but Mayor John Chappie balked when organizer Tina Bradford said that her company would get the bulk of the profits.

"I have a real problem with it not being for a not-for-profit group and using a public park for profit," he said.

"The county has a contract for a concessionaire to sell food at the beach and you listed four food vendors at your festival. I would not be surprised if this is in violation of that contract."

Chappie said he would not vote for the permit, and Commissioner Bill Shearon agreed.

In addition, Chappie said that portion of the Island is zoned preservation and recreation, where non-water-related enterprises are not allowed.

The mayor also said that he and other Island mayors would be meeting with the county in the near future to discuss special events, following an ill-fated attempt to hold a musical event recently without a special events permit. That event was advertised with flyers left on car windshields at the park, which is how police found out about it.

Despite a plea from the organizer to let the festival take place, the commission voted 4-1 to deny it with Commissioner Lisa Marie Phillips casting the dissenting vote.


Olympic torchbearers reunite on Independence Day

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – On July 4, 1996, they carried torches through Manatee County for the summer Olympic Games.

On July 4, 2006, they hoisted them again while riding in the Fourth of July parade on Anna Maria Island.

Eight of the original 18 torchbearers who carried the Olympic flame through Manatee County on its way to the Olympic Stadium in Atlanta rode in the parade on Tuesday, and some gathered at the Sandbar restaurant after the parade for a 10-year reunion.

Jim Clark, Lu Files, John Marquiss, Walter Miller, Terry Parrillo, Cherace Peterson, Mickey Presha and Edie Shannon were nominated and chosen as torchbearers because they are "community heroes," said Island resident Lu Files, who spearheaded the reunion.

For example, Cherace Peterson overcame health obstacles including spinal bifida to participate as a United Way volunteer. Her mother pushed her in a wheelchair during the Olympic ceremonies.

Terry Parrillo has retired as a girl’s basketball coach, and will soon retire as an elementary school physical education teacher at Manatee Elementary School. That’s when the mother of a 35-year-old plans to do it all over again and adopt two of the four children for whom she is a foster parent.

The seven-pound torches, the prized possessions of the group, seemed a little heavier last week than they did 10 years ago, they said.

And under Olympic regulations, they weren’t allowed to be relit for the parade. But the single Olympic flame the torchbearers carried will never be extinguished in their memories.


Drainage project nearing completion

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — Residents who live in what’s called the Gladiolus drainage basin should be in pretty good shape the next time we have a deluge here.

A drainage project using the alleyways in the area of North Shore Drive and Gladiolus Avenue is nearly complete.

"It should be done in a couple of weeks," said engineer Tom Wilcox recently. "Then we’ll see some results."

The area has several homes that have been repeatedly flooded during heavy rains. A wide, gently sloping swale is being installed in the alleyway to the west of North Shore. Storm water will stand in the swale for no more than 24-48 hours as it percolates into the soil. That percolation should remove contaminants such as lawn chemicals from the water. Other water is being directed into the Tampa Bay. It will first go through drains equipped with filtration devices to clean it before it’s discharged into the bay.

The project, which is jointly funded by Swiftmud and the city, has not been without controversy. At a series of public meetings, residents living in the project area had a number of complaints. Some residents said they had no flooding problems at their property, and while they were sympathetic to property owners further downstream, they didn’t see why they should have to have a ditch behind their homes when they personally didn’t have a problem.

Several property owners felt that trees in the right of way that were slated for removal should be left in place. When possible, the project engineers designed the drainage system around those trees. That drew the ire of the members of the city’s capital improvement advisory committee members who said leaving the trees compromised the efficiency of the drainage system.

Wilcox said he agreed that the project would have been more efficient if all the trees had been removed, but he said it would still be an effective tool to help with drainage in the city.

Several years ago, another drainage project funded jointly by Swiftmud and the city was undertaken on Spring Avenue. The public outcry caused an abrupt halt to the project, which was well underway. All the swales and pipes that had been installed were removed at city expense.

On this project, there have been compromises, but the city commission has voted to go forward at each step along the way.

"Nothing will eliminate flooding completely out here, but you will see improvement," Wilcox said. "This is a good project. We should see good results."


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