HOLMES BEACH - How would you
like to see your insurance premiums increase
from $52 to $588 a year?
How about from $52,000 to $588,000? For half
That's what happened to the Doubletree Beach
Resort in Pinellas County this year. Owner Carl
Hall was one of dozens of people who attended
a public forum on insurance last week in Holmes
Beach, sponsored by state Rep. Bill Galvano.
The resort may not survive, Hall said, adding
that without Gulf-front hotels, the state's
largest industry, tourism, may be next.
"We need to find a solution now. Tomorrow
is too late," he said. "The future
of our state is at stake here."
An insurance increase from $35,000 to $350,000
has made insurance premiums more costly than
mortgage payments for Carola Fleener, a Sarasota
pediatrician who is president of her medical
office condominium association.
"This is legalized robbery," she said,
criticizing a letter from the insurance company
that used what she called "hardball tactics,"
requiring a response by a 5 p.m. deadline to
Galvano and Florida Insurance Commissioner Kevin
McCarty invited business owners to testify about
their experiences on Friday at the Anna Maria
Elementary School. They intend to present the
testimony to the state Cabinet this week as
they consider reactivating the defunct Commercial
Property Joint Underwriting Association.
The JUA could either provide reinsurance to
insurance carriers, enabling them to write more
policies, or it could write insurance policies
directly, according to the Office of Insurance
Regulation, which drafted the plan to help commercial
property owners get insurance coverage.
"Ultimately, the JUA may be at the reinsurance
level," Galvano said.
The Cabinet voted earlier this month to have
the insurance office begin the rulemaking process
that would reactivate the JUA after hearing
the results of a survey of 1,900 businesses
in the state conducted by the insurance office.
Seventeen percent of respondents could not find
any insurance coverage for their businesses
at any price, according to the survey.
Critics of the plan fear the JUA will become
another Citizens Property Insurance Co., the
floundering agency created to assist homeowners
and businesses that could not obtain insurance.
"We're looking at this JUA as a temporary
fix," Galvano said. "What we've done
in the past doesn't work."
The fix needs to be fast, say business owners,
including insurance agents.
"We can't get insurance on our own building,"
said Marilyn Williams of BB&T Insurance
in Pinellas County.
lane closed as work begins on Key Royale Bridge
By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer
HOLMES BEACH - Work on the Key Royale Bridge
replacement has begun, and traffic has been
reduced to one lane.
A temporary signal has been installed to control
traffic during the project, which is expected
to last nine months. The bridge will remain
one lane during that period.
The good news for boaters is that although
the channel was slated to be closed for nine
months, it will now remain open, said Florida
Department of Transportation Public Information
Specialist William Thomas.
"The Army Corps of Engineers, which issues
the permit, said no (to closing the channel),"
Thomas said workers would begin driving pilings
on Aug. 21.
The $3.4 million project includes replacing
the existing bridge with a 153-foot, two-lane,
low-level bridge with two 12-foot lanes and
1.5-foot shoulders. The new structure will
feature 6.5-foot sidewalks on both sides.
The roadway approaches to the bridge will
be improved with 12-foot lanes and a 5-foot
sidewalk. It will be a minimum of 10.3 feet
above the water with a horizontal clearance
of 32 feet.
For information, call Debbie Tower, DOT public
information director, at (239) 461-4300.
West up for sale
sun staff writer
ANNA MARIA - AMI West is for sale along with
sister stores Sea Stable and Susan Striblings,
both on Longboat Key.
Owner Art Falls said he's turning 80 in a
few weeks, and he wants to concentrate on
"It's just too much to do," he said.
"It's time for someone else to do it."
Falls and his late wife, Nancy, purchased
Sea Stable in 1978. They eventually purchased
the building that houses the swimsuit shop
on Gulf of Mexico Drive.
Susan Striblings came next in 1990, followed
shortly thereafter by AMI West, which is located
in The Sun Plaza at the corner of Gulf Drive
and Palm Avenue in Anna Maria.
"Each store is unique, and each store
has it's own feel and look," Falls said.
"I hope whoever buys the stores will
The stores are for sale individually, Falls
"I think it'd be too much for one buyer,"
he said. "It's a lot to do to handle
The almost octogenarian said several buyers
have shown interest in the stores. He had
scheduled appointments to discuss the purchase
with several prospective buyers this week.
He's offering special incentives to anyone
who purchases a store during August.
"I'll offer to stay on and help get things
started," he said. "If they want
that. That's the way Nancy and I started at
Sea Stable. The former owners helped us get
Falls said he'll miss the stores, but it's
time to move on.
"I'll miss going to market," he
said. "When you go, you buy for individual
customers. You know what they like. You see
a swim suit and think to yourself that Mrs.
Jones would like this or Mrs. Smith would
like that. That I'll miss."
Falls plans to just relax for a while. What
he'd especially like to do is go to all his
grandsons' football games. Or just go to football
games all over the country, maybe seeing family
and friends along the way.
weight loads tracked
By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer
In an attempt to
extend the life of the Island's three drawbridges
and other small bridges in the area, the
Florida Department of Transportation has
installed signs at the bridge approaches.
The temporary signs instruct drivers carrying
loads over 80,000 pounds to call a toll
free number that is posted on the sign to
receive instructions on crossing the bridge.
"The only thing that's changed is instead
of a blanket permit, we want to track what's
going over the bridges in order to extend
the life of the bridges," William Thomas,
DOT public information specialist explained.
"The signs are temporary now, but we
will replace them with permanent signs."
The restriction only applies to vehicles
such as cement trucks and those carrying
heavy construction equipment.
soak 'roofless' city hall
sun staff writer
- City hall got more than a new roof last
week. It also got some serious water damage
and in the midst of that, it got a new state
of the art sound system.
Everyone knew there would be some disruption
because of the re-roofing job, but no one
was expecting that the staff would have to
contend with two floods.
They knew there would be pounding and hammering
and fumes from the sealant used on the flat
part of the roof.
"This is awful," said City Clerk
Alice Baird from her office, which didn't
sustain too much damage.
A couple of ceiling tiles were down, but the
area was cleaned up and she was able to work.
The administrative assistant's area in the
clerk's office was a mess.
"Water poured down the walls and just
soaked the insulation in the ceiling,"
said Administrative Assistant AnnMarie Thorpe.
"You could see the water bulging out
the ceiling tiles. The carpets were soaked."
A deputy sheriff on duty that weekend discovered
the damage Sunday afternoon after 1.5 inches
of rain fell on the city. He called in whatever
staff he could find.
After clean up, everyone went home to enjoy
what was left of his or her weekend.
Then on Tuesday of last week, city hall was
flooded a second time.
"They (the roofers) were told to remove
a pipe, but they obviously didn't check to
see if it was empty," said Mayor SueLynn.
Water from the second flood followed the same
route as the water from the first flood. The
administrative offices and the city hall chambers
were flooded. Water poured out of the ceiling
and traveled down the walls.
There was also some damage in the workroom
at that end of the building. There was some
damage in the part of the building that houses
the sheriff's department.
The building department and the break room
The public works director was unable to assist
with the second cleanup as he was at a meeting
for Keep Manatee Beautiful.
The mayor said she has contracted with a company
that specializes in cleaning up water damage.
That company was reportedly at work within
24 hours of the first flood.
The mayor also said there is insurance to
cover the damage and the cleanup.
"There is ample insurance built into
the contract with Roof USA," she said.
Meanwhile, technicians were installing a new
city hall sound system that was ordered earlier.
Was there a problem with installing the system
in the midst of drying out the room on a dais
under a ceiling devoid of tiles and open to
the beams with the light fixtures loosely
"No problem - as long as it doesn't rain,"
request stirs more controversy
sun staff writer
HOLMES BEACH - A request by Commissioner David
Zaccagnino last week to put $7,500 in the
budget for a consolidation study drew strong
opposition from Chairman Rich Bohnenberger.
"I read it in the paper that Anna Maria
budgeted $2,500," Zaccagnino said.
"The commission decided that they are
not interested," Bohnenberger protested.
"Anna Maria doesn't want to consolidate;
they only want to get into our public works
Bohnenberger said the money should come out
of the city's donation to the Anna Maria Island
Chamber of Commerce. He was referring to an
offer last month by the Chamber to study consolidating
services among the three Island cities.
The Chamber formed a study committee consisting
of the commission liaisons from the three
Island cities - Commissioners Duke Miller
in Anna Maria, Bill Shearon in Bradenton Beach
and Zaccagnino. Bohnenberger also had protested
the Chamber's plan.
Commissioner Roger Lutz said his position
has been that "if the other two (cities)
are going to be that hard-headed and dragging
their feet, there's no point in going forward.
"And I'm not interested in working with
them and do all their public works and police
and all that stuff just so they can keep jobs."
Mayor Carol Whitmore said she has never had
a commissioner make a budget request and recommended
"I make a recommendation that I would
add the $7,500 to the Chamber funding only
to be used for this and if we don't use it,
it goes back to the general fund," Whitmore
Lutz pointed out that the request should be
brought forward during a budget session, and
the others agreed.
approves emergency measure to ease insurance
crisis for business owners
sun staff writer
- The Florida Cabinet reactivated the defunct
Commercial Property and Casualty Joint Underwriting
Association on Tuesday to assist business
owners in finding insurance.
Under existing law the state can form an association
to help provide commercial property coverage
if enough businesses appeal to the state because
they cannot access adequate insurance. The
Office of Insurance Regulation (Office) has
received numerous requests for assistance
over the internet, by phone, through emails
and in person from those who have had their
coverage reduced and/or seen their premiums
dramatically increase. The Office has also
heard from many businesses that cannot locate
coverage at any price.
Based in part on the testimony of business
owners who attended a public forum last week
in Holmes Beach, the Office of Insurance Regulation's
Financial Services Commission presented the
emergency request to reestablish the plan
to Gov. Jeb Bush, Attorney General Charlie
Crist, Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher
and Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner
The JUA will provide commercial property insurance
to those unable to buy adequate coverage in
The Cabinet had requested earlier this month
that the commission act quickly to reactivate
the JUA after a survey of 1,900 businesses
in the state indicated a crisis in both the
cost and availability of insurance.
Bush praised Florida Insurance Commissioner
Kevin McCarty for pushing the plan through
before Sept. 1.
"That was NASCAR-like speed," he
"I have heard from too many Florida business
owners who are facing losing their insurance
in the middle of hurricane season," said
McCarty. "If left unchecked, this problem
will have a negative affect on our state's
economy, as we have already heard from businesses
that may have to move out of Florida ."The
Cabinet also applauded a plan to issue credits
on homeowners insurance for homeowners who
take steps to mitigate damage that could result
The My Safe Florida Home program will offer
$250 million in mitigation credits to more
than 50,000 homeowners over the next year,
according to Gallagher.
"This is something we can do," Bush
said. "I think we need to think big and
may replace code board
By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer
HOLMES BEACH - Commissioners recently asked
City Attorney Patricia Petruff to draft an
RFP (request for proposals) for a hearing
officer to replace the code enforcement board.
In June, Commission Chairman Rich Bohnenberger
had asked commissioners to consider the change.
A hearing officer, also called a special magistrate,
is a professional who acts in a manner similar
to a judge and conducts hearings on code enforcement
issues and violations.
"The biggest issue that we have right
now is to make sure the special magistrate
is in place prior to the termination of the
code enforcement board," Petruff told
the board. "Are we looking at doing this
as expeditiously as possible? We brought this
up a couple of years ago and it didn't go
She also pointed out that because the city's
population has reached 5,000, two more members
are required on the code enforcement board,
according to state statute.
"Will this affect any of the (current
code board) cases?" Commissioner Sandy
Petruff said the board would have to complete
any pending cases.
"Can we have both of them going at the
same time?" Haas-Martens asked.
Petruff said yes and asked if the commission
wants to advertise for the position.
Bohnenberger asked if the city had to issue
an RFP, and Petruff said if the city plans
to spend $10,000 or less on the position,
an RFP is not required.
"You can look at the last year of code
enforcement board meetings and determine how
many hours they met and make that calculation,"
she suggested. "I'm not sure it would
go over that $10,000 limit, so I would say
that you don't necessarily need to go to an
However, commissioners said they want to advertise
for the position, and Petruff said she would
draft the RFP for discussion at a future work