Vol 6 No. 45 - August 2, 2006


More sand? No thanks!

�Dead zone� alive with sea life again

$12 million budget unveiled

Island women to participate in cancer walk

Pier restaurant franchisee bows out

Sparks fly at fireworks hearing

Demolition pushes pier bids up

City budgets $2,500 for consolidation study




More sand? No thanks!

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON – Like the tide that ebbs and flows, the US Army Corps of Engineers returned this year with another offer to renourish storm-ravaged beaches on Anna Maria Island.

This time, the county said, "Thanks, but no thanks."

Manatee County commissioners have approved a request from conservation and lands management director Charlie Hunsicker to send a letter to the corps rejecting another offer to replenish the beaches.

In a memo to the commissioners, Hunsicker said he requested an opinion from the county’s coastal engineering consulting firm, Coastal Planning and Engineering (CPE), on whether another renourishment would be necessary. CPE Senior Vice President Richard Spadoni indicated that it does not appear that the 2005 hurricane season significantly affected the federally authorized renourished areas. He also pointed out that the previous beach restoration project, which was instituted at the corps’ request to alleviate damage from the 2004 hurricane season, disrupted the beach communities and put a strain on turtle nesting over two seasons.

That project, which began July 5, 2005, was terminated June 1, 2006, before it was finished because the contractor, Goodloe Marine, Inc., was unable to operate during high waves. A series of storms over the summer and winter forced Goodloe to postpone work, but the pipeline used to transport the sand was kept intact on the beach over the winter, causing beachfront resorts to lose business. Hunsicker’s memo said another project "May not be well received."

The memo also pointed out that Manatee County would not control the project or select the contractor and that the state might resist another disruption of turtle nesting for a third year.

However, Hunsicker’s memo addressed the need for more sand in the Coquina Beach and Cortez Beach areas in Bradenton Beach. This area was never renourished in two previous projects in 1992 or 2002 because it was not identified by the state at those times as critically eroded, according to the memo.

But, Hunsicker said, things have changed.

The state did classify this stretch as critically eroded this year, he said, and it would be eligible for 50 percent funding. The county would provide the other half of the money from its resort tax. Hunsicker’s memo said some of the sand might come from dredging Longboat Pass. A feasibility study will be conducted this month and his office will make a report to the commissioners when the information is available.


�Dead zone� alive with sea life again

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Back in 1963, the red tide, or "red plague," as commercial fisherman Porter Ricks called it, hit both commercial and recreational Florida fishermen hard.

If it hadn’t been for his son’s pet dolphin leading them to schools of fish, the Ricks family would have gone hungry.

The film "Flipper," which spawned a television series in the 1960s, was based on the premise that red tide created a dead zone in the then nearly-pristine Florida Keys.

It was more than four decades ahead of its time.

Red tide caused a dead zone last year in the Gulf of Mexico that had commercial and recreational fishermen scavenging for business, says Wayne Genthner, the Longboat Key charter boat captain who identified it.

This time, no dolphins showed up to help – in fact, many died as a result of eating the poisoned fish.

So much marine life was killed by the toxic plant that causes red tide, Karenia brevis, that their decaying bodies eliminated the oxygen in the water, causing a secondary fish kill in what scientists call "a hypoxia event."

The good news is that six months later, the dead zone is living and breathing again.

Bottom species are moving in, re-establishing the food chain, Genthner says. Black tip and nurse sharks are plentiful, as are mackerel, cobia, bonita, triggerfish, sheepshead, grouper and scamp.

"In a couple years they’ll be breeding. We have the seed to re-establish the community," he says.

That’s good, but not good enough, says Stuart DeCew, red tide campaign coordinator for the Sierra Club in St. Petersburg.

"You see nature’s ability to bounce back," he says, "but what we have to realize is that we can’t continue to put pressure on the ecosystem and continue to expect it to bounce back."

DeCew suggests reducing the use of fertilizer as a common sense measure to keep as many nutrients as possible from feeding red tide. Scientists have not yet established a clear link between fertilizer runoff and red tide blooms.

"The argument is not to get definitive proof that humans are affecting the ecosystem, but just be sure that what we put into the ecosystem does no harm," he says.

Genthner agrees.

"The improvement in the dead zone can be accelerated by switching to timed-release lawn fertilization techniques," he says.

That’s the theme of a new documentary film, "The Tide from Red to Blue," produced by Steve McAllister, of Sarasota-based Second Thought Productions.

"It’s about what we can do as a community," he says, adding that Sarasota County is leading the way with a resolution to avoid using quick-release fertilizers during the rainy season on county-owned property.

Meanwhile, as the dead zone continues to recover this summer, counties to the south of Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key are again suffering from red tide, DeCew says.

"South around Pine Island, goliath grouper are showing up dead on the beach," he says. "We can’t get to the point where we accept that this will be a seasonal occurrence."

Porter Ricks probably would have agreed. By 1964, in the sequel, "Flipper’s New Adventure," the fisherman had traded in his net for a marine park service uniform.

$12 million budget unveiled

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — City Treasurer Rick Ashley presented the first draft of the city’s $12 million 2006-07 budget to city commissioners last week.

"This budget has been prepared using the existing millage rate of 1.9 mils," Ashley explained. "We’re still looking at a sizeable increase in the assessments in the city. This year we’re looking at between 16 and 17 percent. The bottom line is the same millage will give us $400,000 more to operate with."

The budget has increased $2 million from the 2005-06 budget. Ashley pointed out that the $3.8 million for the Key Royale Bridge replacement is included in the $12 million. He said he also increased the city’s reserve fund by $500,000 to $2,250,000.

Ashley said the new local option gas tax adopted by the county goes into effect Jan. 1, 2007, but the city won’t get any funds until March.

"The county has estimated that we should get about $168,00 annually," he said, "which would make the nine months about $120,000. I’ve only budgeted $98,000 in here."

Ashley said he and Commission Chairman Rich Bohnenberger, who will take office in November as mayor, have been seeking legal guidance on how the city can spend the gas tax money. He said if the city can use it for the planned traffic calming project on Marina Drive, it would free up other money for other road projects.

Ashley said he has budgeted $415,000 from the stormwater utility fund for three projects — relocating the storm drain at Gulf and Marina drives, $90,000; improvements to the central Holmes Boulevard basin at 74th Street, $115,000; and improvements to the south Holmes Boulevard basin, $210,000.

Salaries were determined by the city’s step plan, which is reviewed annually by an outside firm, and employees will receive a 3 1/2 percent COLA, he said. One new police officer is included in the budget, as requested by Police Chief Jay Romine.

"This would be an entry-level position and the plan is to assign them to the day shift," Romine explained. "With the increase in weekend traffic that has been observed on a regular basis, we are unable to keep up with the demands for service during this time."

Romine said the staffing ratio in his department is 2.59 per 1,000 people. In Bradenton Beach it is 6.3 and in Longboat Key it is 7.72 for the same number of people.

Outside agency funding includes Community Center operations, $30,000; Community Center capital campaign, $20,000; Community Center endowment trust, $1,000; Island Historical Society, $2,000; START (Solutions to Avoid Red Tide), $6,000; AMI Chamber of Commerce, $3,000; Keep Manatee Beautiful, $1,000; AMI Art League, $750; and AMI Community Orchestra and Chorus, $1,500;

Commissioners will meet individually with Ashley to discuss any suggested changes. If necessary, the budget will be brought back to another work session.

The first public hearing was set for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 12.

Island women to participate in cancer walk

On Oct. 13 through 15, thousands of women and men will unite in Clearwater for the Breast Cancer Three-Day Walk to benefit the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.

Cancer Walk newcomers Suki Janisch and Shantelle Enderle will join 2005 walkers Sandee Pruett, Grace Cuff and Tammy Trainham as they hike 60 miles through the Tampa Bay area. The women honor lives lost, celebrate survivors, promote breast cancer research, and help bring breast cancer care to those who desperately need it.

Each participant must raise at least $2,200. Last year, the Tampa Bay walkers raised more than $5 million, as did most of the walkers in the other 11 cities throughout the country. Net proceeds will fund breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment programs, as well as the National Philanthropic Trust Breast Cancer Fund to provide an endowment for breast cancer initiatives.

Last year’s event took walkers from Coachman’s Park in Clearwater to St. Petersburg, over the Gandy Bridge, through south Tampa to Raymond James Stadium for closing ceremonies.

Look for this Island Team walking its Seven Mile Sundays as it trains around Anna Maria Island for the big day.


Pier restaurant franchisee bows out

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The choice of a restaurant franchisee for the Historic Bridge Street Pier was a close one when the city’s pier team evaluated the only two bids submitted.

The team tried to evaluate answers to questions from the bid requests on a mathematical scale to try to take the "emotional aspect" out of it and Harry’s Continental Kitchens, of Longboat Key, was the winner.

Rotten Ralph’s, of Anna Maria, was a close second and following an announcement that Harry’s had bowed out, owner Dave Russell has begun negotiations with the city to run the once-popular eatery. The lease will run for 25 years and could be extended, according to McAdam.

The team met with Russell Friday morning, going over the contract originally worked on with Harry’s Continental Kitchens owners and plugging in new figures. When they submitted their bids, Harry’s offered $8,500 per month rent and Ralph’s offered $8,000 per month. Undaunted by the lower amount, the pier team went over the contract with Russell, told him to have his attorney review it and if it was acceptable, let them know so they could schedule it for the city commission meeting at 1 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 17.

Russell said he was initially concerned that his company would have to insure the whole structure and his insurance agent said he might have a problem getting wind insurance. He said, however, he talked with pier team member and building official Ed McAdam who said his share was more like tenant’s insurance and the city would provide coverage for the structure.

McAdam told Russell that the city hopes to have the restaurant available in May or June of next year, and that Russell would have first right of refusal after that on running the bait and tackle shop. If they decide against it, the city will find someone else to run it.

They spoke about maintenance of the restaurant. The franchisee is responsible for daily cleaning of entrance, the paved circle in front of the entrance, storage and sanitation areas and the rest rooms. The contract calls for the franchisee to operate at least six days per week and 50 weeks per year and Russell said they intend to be open seven days a week, 52 weeks per year.

"We only shut down on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving Day," Russell said when asked how much they are open in their current location.

"We would like you to consider taking one day a week off for cleaning," team member and police chief Sam Speciale told him.

Russell said they currently clean at their present restaurant after each shift and during off-business hours such as mid-afternoon. He said they do outside deep cleaning after hours and before they open in the morning.

"The bad thing is the noise," said projects/programs manager Dottie Poindexter, another member of the pier team. "The are residents next to the restaurant and we want to be good neighbors. You might consider closing one day a week between breakfast and lunch to take care of the deep cleaning."

McAdam suggested taking one of the two weeks allowed by the contract off to do it and Speciale said that might happen just before season starts.

"If you decide to do that," he said, "just bring it before the city commission for their blessing."

Talks will continue with Russell and the pier team hopes to have him on board in time to put his touches on the design of the kitchen. He went over the architect’s design for the cooking area with the team last Friday, and will take the team’s suggestions back to his current restaurant managers for their ideas.


Sparks fly at fireworks hearing

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – It was a long hearing that sometimes turned contentious as the code enforcement board heard allegations of code violations during the BeachHouse fireworks show July 3. It might have also been a wakeup call for both the city and BeachHouse owner Ed Chiles as an indication that "business as usual" might not exist anymore in Bradenton Beach.

The first charge against ELRA, Inc., owners of the BeachHouse, was allowing commercial parking in a public recreation area.

The city presented a packet with photos of cars parked on the beach along Gulf Drive south of the restaurant on land owned by ELRA, Inc.

Building Official Ed McAdam noted that the land is identified on the city’s future land use map as recreation/open space and on the land development code as public recreation area, which does not allow commercial use including commercial parking.

ELRA, Inc. attorney Ricinda Perry, who normally acts as attorney for the code enforcement board, argued that the photos did not show violations because there was no proof that the owners of the vehicles were eating at the restaurant.

She also said that she had spoken with the previous property owner, Ron Jarvis, who said people had parked on that land while using the restaurant as far back as the 1950s, before the city code were written. As such, Perry said, it was a non-conforming use that had been "grandfathered in."

Ralf Brookes, attorney for the city, said that under the law, casual or illegal uses are not sufficient to justify continued use of the land. He also objected to Perry’s use of "here-say" evidence in speaking with Jarvis, but not having him testify before the board.

During arguments, Chiles admitted that his customers sometimes park cars there, but he said people also park there to go to city hall or to the beach, and he cannot control that.

Board member John Sakelaris asked Chiles if he has signage there to discourage parking and he said no, but he now has a valet service that parks cars on that land.

Board members appeared to be reluctant to find ELRA, Inc. guilty and finally voted to find insufficient evidence of a violation since the city did not provide proof that the people who parked there were frequenting the restaurant.

The next case against ELRA, Inc. was for erecting a large tent on the property without obtaining a temporary structure permit. The tent was erected for the customers of the restaurant who paid for a dinner before the fireworks.

Perry argued that BeachHouse management submitted a special events permit and came to the city commission saying they were putting on another fireworks show.

"This may be a mistake on both sides," she said. "The city can’t say they didn’t see what was going on because it was just across the street. If they saw the tent going up, why didn’t they say something?"

Perry said it was not a commercial event because the company did not make any money putting on the fireworks display. She called the guests in the tent "sponsors" who helped defray the cost of the fireworks, but McAdam said a flyer for the event advertised that it was $550 for a VIP table and he called the activity in the tent "commercial." That’s when Chiles spoke up.

"It costs $15,000 for the fireworks show and we’ve been doing it for 15 years," he said. "It’s a money loser for us but it’s the biggest event of the year in Bradenton Beach.

"We’ve got a history of cooperation and we’re proud of it," he added, "but it does chill me to come before the board instead of them saying, ‘Ed, you need a permit.’"

Board chair Herb Dolan said he was upset at the building department for not going over to tell him he needed a permit, saying Chiles "runs a clean operation."

The board voted unanimously to find ELRA, Inc. in violation, but since they are no longer in violation, the city would waive the fine and administration fee.

The next violation involved the tent again. It was failure to get a building permit and inspections for the temporary tent structure, its lighting and wiring and using improper turtle wiring.

When Perry asked them to ignore the building permit charge in light of the previous action, city attorney Ralf Brookes pointed out that this was a permit required under state law, not city law.

Perry said there was no proof that the lighting violated the turtle law and she said a letter from Anna Maria Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox did not say there was such a violation. Restaurant manager Rebecca Shannon explained.

"What happens is we send out a letter to Suzi Fox or she comes to the restaurant and we have a glass of wine," Shannon said. "The tent is erected prior to the walkthrough. This year, we faxed her a letter but she never got the letter. We called her on June 29 to have the walkthrough."

Shannon said the lights used were the same ones approved over the past three years for the restaurant to use during turtle season. She said they used them in the tents for years, and they are now seeking out better lighting.

As for the lights and wiring, Shannon said it was done by a licensed electrician. She was asked who that licensed electrician was, and Dolan said it was him. He said he sold the company that did the wiring and lights but remained as the licensed electrician.

When asked if he didn’t feel that he should recuse himself from this case because of the conflict of interest, he said he did not think the company was paid to do the work and that he did not receive any money for it.

The board voted for a motion that said the restaurant was not in violation of the lighting and turtle regulations, but was in violation for not getting a building permit. They waived the fine and fees.

The last case alleged that it used preservation property for commercial use.

Board member Karen Cunningham said she felt that when ELRA, Inc. applied for a special events permit, the city should have known it would be a special event and should have acted then. Sakelaris said he felt it was an inappropriate use of a preservation area and that the company should be found guilty.

"If they come back for a fireworks show next year," he said, "this should be used as a learning curve."

Pierce moved to find them in violation, but with no fine assessed. The four board members then split their vote 2-2, which means no violation was found.

Chiles had no comment after the hearing as to whether the city had put the damper on future fireworks shows in Bradenton Beach.


Demolition pushes pier bids up

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – As many municipalities and government agencies have found out recently – when it comes to construction, it’s a seller’s market.

The city commission got a taste of that fact last Friday afternoon when it opened bids on the first construction phase of the Historic Bridge Street Pier rehabilitation – the pier pilings.
Th lowest price was $199,730 and the only other bid was $270,000.

The city’s engineering firm estimated earlier that it should have been more in the range of $110,000 to $130,000.

The difference between the estimate and the price, according to Bradenton Beach Projects/Programs Manager Dottie Poindexter, was the addition of another task — demolition of the existing restaurant and bait shop above the pilings.

The new bid was, in fact, a re-bid of a pilings refurbishment project. A detailed inspection of the concrete structures after the bid was awarded showed more deterioration than first thought. The number of pilings needing extensive work rose from 12 to 23. The original contractor, SteMic Marine Construction, said it could not handle that scope of work and its contract was terminated by the city.

The city’s pier team, consisting of department heads and Commissioner Bill Shearon as a liaison, sought estimates to repair the concrete pilings. They came back at $160,000 above the $124,372 awarded to SteMic.

The team sought estimates to replace the pilings with wood ones, and the estimate was $110,000. They choose that alternative and added demolition and removal of the above-deck structures to accommodate the massive replacement project, but they did not get a demolition estimate.

Demolition added $34,380 to the low bid, turned in by Wood Dock and Seawall owner Brian J. Wood, of Cortez. The $270,000 bid from Marsak Development Corp. was not available for inspection immediately, but Poindexter said demolition was much higher.

City commissioners will decide at their next meeting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 3, whether to accept the lowest bid or possibly seek another one to repair the concrete pilings.

Interestingly, the city’s original estimate of piling repairs for the $1.8 million pier rehabilitation was $21,600.


City budgets $2,500 for consolidation study

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — City commissioners have created a $2,500 line item in their 2006-07 budget to cover their share of the expense of a consolidation study.

"Let’s send a message that we have backed my involvement in these programs," said Commissioner Duke Miller, who sits on a study committee created by the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce. "The other way we could do it is in parcels, but that is indecisive."

Miller said he wants to make it known that Anna Maria is serious about the study.

The committee is taking another look at the idea that refuses to die – consolidation. It consists of Miller, Commissioner Bill Shearon, from Bradenton Beach, and Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino. Don Schroder represents the Chamber and moderates and facilitates the committee.

Miller told commissioners the group will be hearing from a number of experts, and they will need some funding. He said they’ve already scheduled a meeting with Tony Arrant, an expert in comprehensive plans who is leading Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach through their comp plan revision.

Anna Maria commissioners refused to participate in a 2005 ballot referendum asking citizens if they would support a consolidation of governments because the referendum specifically stated consolidation of governments. Anna Maria commissioners stated that they weren’t interested in consolidating the governments of the three Island cities, but they are interested in exploring the possibility of consolidating services.

Voters in both Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach approved the referendum question overwhelmingly.

This committee is the latest incarnation of consolidation and the elimination of duplication of services.

Miller said none of the cities want to give up their individual identities, but all want to find a way to use the taxpayer’s dollars in the most efficient way.


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