Vol 6 No. 48 - August 23, 2006


O'Connor Challenge, Skimbash this weekend

Property tax relief proposed

Bird deaths investigated

Pier restaurant demolition begins

Students collect pop-tops for therapy

Huge jazz festival coming to Island next year

Perico fire causes $1 million in damage

Fire district consolidation advocated




O�Connor Challenge, Skimbash this weekend

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Whether you’re bowling or cheering on your favorite team, make a point to come out to the 16th Annual O’Connor Bowling Challenge on Saturday, Aug. 26.

Check-in is from 5 to 6 p.m. at AMF Bradenton Lanes, 4208 Cortez Road, Bradenton. Bowling begins at 6 p.m. The fee is $20 per person, which includes shoes and three games.

Registration forms are available at Duffy’s Tavern, 5808 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, and The Sun office, 9801 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria. To reserve a lane, call the Community Center at 778-1908 or Billy O’Connor at 792-9099.

If beaches and skimboarding are more your style, head on over to the BeachHouse restaurant Saturday morning for the West Coast Surf Shop/BeachHouse Skimboard Bash 2006.

The Bash has become one of the premier skimboard events in the state and draws top-notch pros as well as flashy amateurs and hundreds of specators every year.

Check-in for contestants is at 7:30 a.m. on the beach next to the restaurant in Bradenton Beach. The competition begins at 8:30.

This year, contest organizers have put together a wide selection of sponsors, trophies and prizes. Each contestant will receive a competition T-shirt, goodie bag, lunch and one raffle ticket. The top three will receive trophies, and prizes will go to the top four finishers.

Trophies are being provided by The Sun newspaper.

All proceeds from the tournament will go to Mote Marine’s red tide research. For more information, call West Coast Surf Shop at 778-1001.

The action at the O’Connor Challenge, which begins at 5:30 p.m. with check-in, doesn’t end at the lanes. Following bowling there will be an awards party, also at the BeachHouse restaurant. Trophies will be awarded and prizes from Island merchants will be raffled, including a big screen television donated by The Sun.

A memorial trophy in honor of Holmes Beach Police Officer Charles "Chuck" Stearns, who passed away last year, will be awarded to the bowler with the highest score. In addition, three plaques honoring Stearns will be presented. Each year, the winner’s name will be added to the plaques.

Other event sponsors are the Anna Maria Oyster Bar, Duffy’s Tavern and SS20 Building Systems. All proceeds will benefit youth sports at the Community Center. The event has raised $160,000 in 15 years.


Property tax relief proposed

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – To help reduce soaring property taxes for tourist-related business owners, the Manatee County Tourist Development Council is proposing a change in Florida law.

The proposal would change the methods that county property appraisers use to assess property values, limiting the importance of the "highest and best use" standard of evaluation and emphasizing the "income" standard.

Senior Assistant County Attorney Patricia McVoy presented the proposal to Florida Statute 193.011 on Monday to the council, which had requested it in June. It states: "When considering the highest and best use, the just value of the property shall not exceed the value determined pursuant to the income from said property."

The standards are two of eight criteria that state law requires county property appraisers to consider in determining the true value of property — 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.

The property appraiser treats condominiums as the highest and best use of Island property, which is unfair to tourism businesses that are not operating as condominiums, according to the Coalition Against Rising Taxation (CART).

Tourist accommodations are the backbone of the county’s tourism industry, which the council markets worldwide, CART President Don Schroder said.

"If we don’t have hotels and motels, all of this (marketing) is dead," he said. "It’s dead in the water."

Restaurant and shop owners are affected too, council member and restaurateur Ed Chiles said.

"If you own land and they’re assessing it as condos, you’re hitting the breaking point," he said.

"The property appraiser is making a mistake," said council member David Teitelbaum, whose Bradenton Beach accommodations are owned as condominiums but rented as hotel rooms.

Council member Rev. James Golden suggested specifying that the proposal would affect only commercial property, not residential property that is occasionally rented.

Manatee County Property Appraiser Charles Hackney told the council at its June meeting that the only way he could legally change his appraisal methods is by a change in the state statute, adding that he thought the chances of the Legislature passing any such change were remote.

The proposal to change state law follows the Manatee County Commission’s proposal earlier this month to pass a county ordinance that would allow accommodations owners on Anna Maria Island, the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key, and all navigable waterways in unincorporated Manatee County to defer their property taxes until the sale of the property. A public hearing on the ordinance is expected to be scheduled next month.

Bird deaths investigated

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – Wildlife biologists are investigating the cause of death of several dead gulls found in a nesting area at the north tip of Anna Maria Island.

So far, studies indicate that the birds did not have avian flu, nor were they affected by red tide, which was not present at the Island’s north end when they were found, said Danielle Stanek, a veterinarian with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg.

One had sores that could have been caused by either bacteria or fungus, and one was infected with e. coli bacteria, a common occurrence in nesting areas, she said.

"Young birds don’t have fully developed immune systems," Stanek said, adding that a crowded nesting colony is a favorable environment for bacteria.

Two birds died earlier this month after becoming entangled in a piece of twine used to rope off the nesting area, said Nancy Douglass, regional non-game wildlife biologist for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The twine appeared to have been cut by vandals, especially in light of recent graffiti on the signs posting the nesting area, she said.

"You try to look at the positive benefit, all the chicks that were hatched," she said, including about 150 black skimmers and several least terns and snowy plovers.

Wildlife workers will try to use an alternative material that won’t cause entanglement next year, she said.

A scare over dead black skimmers earlier this month turned out to be nothing, Douglass said. Skimmers rest by lying flat on the ground with their heads stretched out in front of them, an unusual position for a bird, which appeared unnatural enough to one observer that he reported the birds as dead.

To report wildlife concerns, call 1-888-404-3922.

Pier restaurant demolition begins

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – After months of planning, getting permits and arranging financing, the first step in the rehabilitation of the Bridge Street Pier has begun – with a demolition.

On Monday, Aug. 7, city elected officials gathered at the pier for a ceremony to note the start of the project. Mayor John Chappie and the four city commissioners took turns hammering at parts of the front elevation of the pier before crews from Wood Dock and Seawall took over preparing the restaurant, bait shop and restrooms for demolition. After the structures are torn down, the deck and substructure will be removed up to the end of the pier eating area and concrete pilings will be removed and replaced with wood ones. Then, new decking and substructure will be installed to act as a base for a new restaurant and restrooms.

The work began from the water, as construction crews took down the northern wall of the restaurant dining area from the water. There was a crane on hand to remove the front fascia, but it would not be moved onto the decking because of its weight and the fragile condition of the deck.

The pier was closed in 2004 after winds from passing hurricanes damaged the roof. An inspector was hired to report on the condition of the buildings, and he recommended the public not be allowed onto the pier due to deterioration. The city commission decided to go back to the drawing board and work up plans for a total rehabilitation. The commissioners decided to rebuild the restaurant, add a deck to the southern end of the pool to direct anglers around the outdoor eating area instead of through it and add a day dock and a dock for a future water taxi. In addition, the city is working on turning the area south of the pier into a mooring field and a dockmaster’s office became part of the plan.

The city is searching for grants to help defray the cost and has gotten a $2.2 million line of credit to help pay for the project.


Students collect pop-tops for therapy

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Students at Anna Maria Elementary School are hoping those pull tabs you use to open sodas and other canned good take a detour from their trip to the trash can this year.

They can put them to good use, and all you need to do is remove them, put them in a jar or envelope and either send them to school with a student or drop them at the school office on your way to work or the store.

The annual pop top collection got underway last week and students have a new goal, according to teacher Karen Newhall, who helps organize the effort.

"We collected 83 pounds of them last year," she said. "We hope to surpass 80 pounds this year."

The pop-tops, or pull-tabs as they are sometimes known, are given to Bradenton Elks Lodge, which turns them in to a recycling company. The money the club makes from them helps sponsor the Florida Elks Children’s Therapy Services.

According to a letter of thanks the club sent to Newhall, the facility is currently treating 305 children in the county using 19 vans and are looking for another licensed therapist to use a 20th van it has in its fleet. The therapy service is free to the patients, who come from families that cannot afford to pay.

Newhall said the collection is a school-wide effort. Students bring the tops from home and put them in plastic tubs in each classroom.

"We collect the tubs on the last Tuesday of each month and weigh each one," she said. "Students write down the weight in ounces and total them up. They keep a bar graph of each class and determine who collects the most."

Newhall said this helps the students learn about math and graphing as well as helping the kids who need the therapy.

For more information, call 708-5525.


Huge jazz festival coming to Island next year

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – From Charlie "Yardbird" Parker’s alto sax to Kenny G’s soprano, jazz from every genre will blow over the Island next August.

Jazz on the Islands will bring free jazz music to Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key and to mainland venues in Manatee County, Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Larry White said.

Tentative plans include outdoor performances at the two county beaches, on Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach, and in the field at Holmes Beach City Hall, he said, offering an alternative to Bob Marley and Jimmy Buffet music for 10 days during a month that is historically slow for tourism.

The Manatee County Tourist Development Council approved $200,000 in tourism funds on Monday for the festival, which will be promoted exclusively on the Internet.

The event will take on an international tone with the involvement of Jazz Radio Berlin, which will assist in promotions and in locating talent. Performers probably will include students and faculty at the Jazz Institute Berlin, station operator Julian Allitt said.

The station, which features mainstream, swing, soul, electronic and smooth jazz, has 280,000 listeners on the air and 24,000 more online, he said. It can be heard on the Internet at www.jazzradio.net.


Perico fire causes $1 million in damage

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

The fire last Tuesday night in the Perico Apartments on the Palma Sola Causeway caused an estimated $1 million in damages, and displaced at least 15 people. Fourteen units upstairs were gutted and downstairs units were damaged by smoke and water.

A spokesperson for the Bradenton Fire Department said nine engines from three departments responded to the fire, which was caused by a lightening strike about 9:30 p.m. Departments offering mutual aid were West Manatee and Cedar Hammock.

At Thursday’s West Manatee Fire Commission meeting, Battalion Chief Dennis Dotson reported, "We got there and on arrival, there was fire shooting out the roof. They had an aerial ladder up and they tied to knock it down with that. We were there a little over six hours."


Fire district consolidation advocated

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH —Bill Grayson, of Holmes Beach, last week asked West Manatee fire commissioners why the county’s fire districts are not working on consolidation.

"I’ve been an advocate for that for seven years," Commissioner Larry Tyler replied. "I think some things are starting to happen that will bring this issue back."

Tyler said several of the fire districts are practicing functional consolidation by combining purchasing, employee testing, standards and the like.

Commissioner Jesse Davis said the district commissioners have been advocating consolidation since 1993. Commissioner Jack Emery pointed out that West Manatee is the product of the consolidation of the West Side and Anna Maria fire districts.

“You’re talking to the choir here," Emery pointed out. "This board has always been in favor of consolidation. We’ve hit a brick wall with other fire districts. You need to start going to some other board meetings."

Deputy Chief Brett Pollock said changes are taking place in the ways services are delivered.

"We have to change with the times, and I think this board saw that years ago," he said. "We’ve tried to do everything we could to get other boards and other chiefs to see our vision, but that has not come to pass."

Pollock said although Grayson does not have authority to speak at other fire commissions because he is not a resident of those districts, he could take his concerns to the local legislative delegation, the Manatee County Fire Commissioners’ Association or his county commissioner.

Ladder truck questions
Grayson also quizzed commissioners about the new ladder truck they have ordered.

‘The ladder truck we currently have is 15 years old and it needed to be surplused," Pollock explained. "We were having major mechanical problems with it. It was best that we try to get our money out of it."

Pollock said the district sold the truck for $90,000 and purchased another one to replace it.

"The reason I was questioning it was because we only have one high-rise on the Island," Grayson said.

Pollock said in addition to being able reach high buildings, one of the reasons the district purchased the truck was to lower residents’ homeowner’s insurance.

"If we didn’t replace this ladder, our ISO (Insurance Services Organization) rating would go up, which means your insurance would have increased," Pollock explained.

"I’m a single-story dwelling. How can that affect me?" Grayson asked.

"Your homeowner’s insurance is based on a fire rating and that is 1 through 10," Pollock responded. "We are a 4 now and we would have been a 5 or higher (without the ladder truck), which would have increased your insurance."

Pollock said the district has entered into a 10-year, lease-purchase agreement for the truck.


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