As Tropical Storm Ernesto
took aim at southern Florida Tuesday,
Island residents appeared to be cautious
but optimistic about what the future
The storm began in the Caribbean last week and turned into a small
hurricane before hitting Hispanola and Cuba, where mountainous terrain
turned it into a disorganized tropical storm that was expected to reorganize
as it got into open water on its way to the Sunshine State.
The Manatee County Emergency Operations Center ordered cities and residents
to prepare as new forecasts showed it would not likely take direct
aim at the county. For Bradenton Beach city officials, it was a catalyst
to get out the emergency plans and checklists.
"We did our pre-storm checks of equipment and started up our generator," said
Police Chief Sam Speciale. "We havent called up extra people, though.
We want to see what happens first."
The building department is prepared to enforce an ordinance passed
last year that requires contractors to clean up construction sites
of any objects that could become projectiles in tropical winds and
pose a hazard. The department printed up a memo that is passes out
on the sites.
"We have 40 copies in the office that we would send out to the job sites," said
Building Official Ed McAdam. "Last year, we had 99-percent cooperation and
the one contractor who didnt comply apologized again and again. We also
have plastic bags to put the notices into so they dont get wet."
Other city employees were busy organizing their equipment and their
"I went through my office and got things ready for evacuation," said
Code Enforcement Technician Gail Garneau. "I made sure what I needed after
the storm would be available.
"We also have to make our own houses are in order," she added. "We
have two hours get make sure our homes are safe when an evacuation is ordered
and then we have to be back at the job."
During the year, the department also distributed copies of a FEMA hurricane
guide and a brochure for mobile home owners to residents of the Pines
Trailer Park and the Sandpiper Mobile Resort.
At the Walgreens in Holmes Beach Tuesday morning, it was business
as usual, according to manager Eileen Erwin. The racks of batteries
were still full and there was an ample supply of canned goods and water.
"We havent seen a run on those items yet, but people to tend to wait
until the last minute," she said. "Then again, they might have already
stocked up last year."
The bottled water displays at the Publix store were well stocked Tuesday
morning, and there didnt appear to be a large crowd of shoppers
during the morning. Joy Murphy, of Holmes Beach, who was there to get
her breakfast, said she and her family are ready.
"We got our house ready last year when we had all those hurricanes," she
said. "We stocked up on what we needed and we keep it stocked."
Despite reports of crowds of people topping off their tanks elsewhere,
Island gas stations only saw a slight increase in business.
"We sold a ton of gas Sunday and more than usual on Monday," Jim Lachapelle,
manager at Jessies Island Store, said. "We still have a lot and we
also have water and other supplies."
Brett Vande Vrede, owner of the Pure station in Holmes Beach, said
he had seen an increase in business, but not like previous storms.
"Monday was pretty busy," he said. "If the storm gets into the
Gulf, I expect well get a flood of people, but we have full tanks and I
called the company to make sure we continue to have enough."
Beach lowers millage
sun staff writer
HOLMES BEACH Commissioners last week lowered the 2006-07 millage
rate from 1.9, which they set last month, to 1.8.
"I have looked at our revenue sources and needs and I feel that we can go
to 1.8 mils," Chairman Rich Bohnenberger said. I would like to go
further than that, but I realize that we probably wont have the property
appreciation rate for next year that we have enjoyed for several years here."
Mayor Carol Whitmore said she wanted assurance that various projects,
such as traffic calming, canal dredging and installing more trolley
shelters, would not be affected by a millage change.
City Treasurer Rick Ashley said lowering the millage would require
him to trim $156,000 from the proposed budget.
"I think I can probably come up with most of the difference," Ashley
said. "I would not anticipate cutting projects to do that."
The consensus among commissioners was to lower the millage.
Bohnenberger asked commissioners if they want to put $7,500 in the
budget for a consolidation study, as requested by Commissioner David
Zaccagnino. He pointed out that Bradenton Beach commissioners did
not allocate any money for a study and that Anna Maria commissioners
allocated money only for a study of consolidation of services.
Commissioners agreed not to put money for a study in the budget at
the present time, but agreed that the budget could be amended later
to add that line item if needed.
Bohnenberger said commissioners also must decide whether to accept
requests from outside agencies that were filed late. Those included
the Anna Maria Elementary School PTO for $1,500, Mote Marine for
$3,000 and the AMI Chamber of Commerce for $3,000.
Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens asked how Ashley notifies the agencies
to send in their requests. Ashley said he sends letters the first
week of May and the requests are due the third week of June.
Commissioners agreed not to fund the late requests.
tide arrives on Island beaches
sun staff writer
Red tide arrived at Anna Maria Island last week on a northward journey
that began several weeks ago in southwest Florida.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) in St. Petersburg
reported medium to high concentrations along shore from Anna Maria
Island to Captiva Pass in Lee County last week.
Beachgoers were coughing at a skimboard contest in Bradenton Beach
on Saturday, while a lifeguard at Coquina Beach wore a respirator
to minimize exposure over the long workday.
Maggie Hemp, visiting from New York, said the skin on her legs skin
felt like pins and needles after wading in the Gulf.
The Sarasota County Health Department blames skin irritation on an
algae that red tide feeds on, not the red tide itself. Trichodesmium
can cause rashes, according to the department, while Karenia brevis,
the organism responsible for red tide, causes respiratory irritation.
Fish kills have been reported on both Longboat Key and Anna Maria
Island, where cleanup has already begun. Fishermen in Cortez reported
last week that fish have been schooling just ahead of the red tide
bloom, which is moving steadily north.
Other animals are affected, too.
Ragged sea hares, or sea slugs, are washing up dead on the Island,
as are sea birds.
Danielle Stanek, a veterinarian with FWRI reported that dead gulls,
skimmers and terns found at the northern tip of Anna Maria are being
tested for red tide effects. While the birds were found before the
red tide reached Anna Maria Island, they could have consumed affected
fish that migrated north from the bloom in southwest Florida, or
they could have flown south to feed, she said.
"Were doing full necropsies to rule out other causes of death," she
said, adding that fungal and bacterial infections could also be culprits. Both
are common in crowded nesting areas, where juvenile birds with immature immune
systems are most affected.
As of Friday, no sea turtles had been reported killed by the red
tide, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox said.
In fact, hatchlings were released that night, she said, adding that
they are expected to make it through the red tide to clean water
before they begin eating. Turtles that eat fish affected by red tide
are at risk for poisoning.
"They will be out of the red tide before we can say lickety split, " she
Mote Marine Laboratory reported two dead turtles on Friday, but the
cause of death had not yet been determined.
Just as the red tide reached its shores, Mote announced a new public/private
partnership with the University of South Florida to examine coastal
issues, primarily red tide.
The Mote/USF Center of Excellence in Marine Science will combine
the resources of the USF College of Marine Science and Mote to enhance
programs at both institutions, according to Dr. Ernie Estevez, Director
of Motes Center for Coastal Ecology, and Motes liaison
for the center.
The partners seek to raise $5 million each to endow the center, with
the potential of another $10 million in matching grants.
Its first project, BioSense, will coordinate new and existing technologies
to monitor ocean physics and chemistry and measure biological and
to be security checked at school
sun staff writer
HOLMES BEACH About
a dozen moms, some with infants
and children not old enough to
attend school yet, showed up for
the Anna Maria Elementary School
PTO volunteers signup breakfast
This years turnout was somewhat disappointing, but those
who came were willing to sign up for the various projects that
the PTO sponsors.
This year, there is a change that will mean more paperwork for
the volunteers, but it will keep the school grounds more secure.
The Manatee County School Board, following up an edict from the
state, is installing a new procedure that will prevent those who
dont belong on campus from getting into the classroom area.
The volunteers will have to fill out a form with pertinent information
and will undergo a police check and their names will be compared
with the states sexual predator list, according to Principal
Kathy Hayes. The volunteers will also have to give three references
when they sign up and they will have to sign a volunteer agreement
with the school.
"This doesnt feel good to me," said counselor Cindi Harrison, "but
it is for the protection of your children."
Despite the reality of the security situation, there was a lot
of enthusiasm in the auditorium as Hayes, Harrison and PTO President
Shannon Dell talked about the role of volunteers at the school.
"Each year, we log more than 3,000 volunteer hours, which is why we have
won the countys Golden School Award," Harrison said. "You need
twice as many volunteer hours as students to win it and with just over 300 students
enrolled, we would only need 600 hours so you can see we are way over the minimum."
Harrison said this year, parents are being asked to keep a log
of the hours they volunteer. She said in the past, the staff has
estimated the number of hours and she feels that if they try to
keep a more accurate count, the number might be much higher than
The PTO projects that need volunteer help included:
Art to Remember, a fund-raiser that starts in September;
The Book Fair in the spring, which was described as working in a book
store for a week;
Collecting Campbells Soup cans to redeem for money;
The Fall Festival, which is held around Halloween;
A 5-K run, which is a new venture this year;
Sales of holiday gift wrap next month;
Getting hand prints for the tiles in the hallways;
The kindergarten welcome for new parents that is held the first week of
Sales of memorial bricks for the walkway from the peace garden to the
Parents on Patrol to assist resource officer Pete Lannon in getting kids
to and from school safely;
Monthly PTO dinners that are served before each class play;
The school store, which sells supplies each Tuesday morning and might
be expanded to operate Wednesdays, if enough volunteers sign up;
The yearbook, which media specialist Lynn McDonough oversees;
The Spring Fling, a dinner and auction that is the PTOs largest
Parents who still want to help can call Dell at 794-5050 or the
school office at 708-5525.
project ahead of schedule
sun staff writer
BEACH The Historic Bridge Street
Pier project is ahead of schedule.
The restaurant and bait shop structures
have been taken down as has the decking
and substructures that went under them.
One incident last week may have helped
According to pier team member and Police Chief Sam Speciale, when
crews from Wood Dock and Marine of Cortez cut into a stringer with
a gas-powered chainsaw, the whole substructure gave way. There were
no injuries, but the brand new gas-powered chainsaw fell into the
A stringer is a board that spans the pilings together. It provides
stability to the pier, but there are a number of them. The fact that
one would carry that much support could be seen as an indicator that
the pier was in bad shape and needed refurbishment, according to
pier team members.
The rest of the pier, from the eating area out, is still intact.
After they put in the new wood pilings, the crews will install a
new substructure and decking in preparation for the construction
of a new restaurant and a new boardwalk south of it to direct anglers
and pier walkers around the outdoor eating area.
The pier restaurant was closed two years ago after the roof was damaged
by hurricanes that passed through the area. The city first sought
to repair or replace the restaurant, but an engineer inspected the
structure and said it was unsafe. After that, the city closed the
pier to everyone and started planning a complete refurbishment. In
addition, the city added plans for a floating dock for an eventual
water taxi from the mainland, a harbormasters office for a
future mooring field south of the pier and a day dock for people
to use when visiting the pier, the restaurant and Bridge Street.
Rotten Ralphs, of Anna Maria, has been selected as the franchisee
for the new restaurant. The whole project is expected to be finished
by next summer.
slime mystery solved
sun staff writer
It wasnt "The Blob" or "The Monster From the
Black Lagoon," but it was a mystery that had science fiction
Manatee County shut down access to the water at the public beaches
overnight Tuesday, but reopened access late Wednesday morning following
a scare about what was in the Gulf waters.
The culprit was a cyanobacteria called trichodesmium, which provides
red tide algae known as Karenia brevis, with much needed nitrogen.
The whole event was an hors doeuvres for the red tide as it
returned to our waters.
According to Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore, swimmers called police
late Tuesday to complain that there was something in the Gulf waters
that was slimy and making their skin burn. There were also reports
that there was a purple discoloration in the water.
"I went to the beach as soon as I got the call from the police and met with
Police Chief Jay Romine," she said.
"We called (Manatee County Administrator) Ernie Padgett and asked for (Environmental
Lands Management Director) Charlie Hunsickers home phone number."
Hunsicker arrived and called the county environmental management
department to have them take samples of the water to test.
"We were told it was some kind of a spill," she said. "They had
the county Haz Mat (hazardous materials) squad out there and Waste Management
sent trucks in case there was a need for cleanup."
The county decided to deny swimmers access to the Gulf until they
could figure out what was causing the problem.
Mote Marine was called and Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick, a red tide specialist,
took samples at Coquina Beach the next morning. Sarasota Health Department
and the Manatee County Environmental Department also took samples.
The cause was later diagnosed as a mixture of the trichodesmium,
red tide and sea slugs known as ragged sea hares. The sea hares were
washing up to shore as Dr. Kirkpatrick took samples Wednesday morning,
and they appear to have been the cause of the purple discoloration
in the sea, according to Mote scientist Dr. Richard Pierce.
"The sea slugs produce a purple dye when they are disturbed," he said.
As for the stinging sensation, Dr. Pierce does not know exactly what
the cause was.
"Our samples had a large concentration of trichodesmium and red tide," he
said. "Red tide has been known to cause some skin discomfort when people
go into the water during heavy concentrations."
Jay Moyles, chief of Manatee County Marine Rescue , said he was bracing
for a negative reaction for closing the waters to swimmers, but he
feels it is better to safe than sorry.
"I would rather we err on the side of caution," he said. "Our
duty is to keep the public safe, and I dont want anybody hurt on my watch."
museum gets historic marker
sun staff writer
is in the making at the Florida Maritime
The official historic marker has arrived at the new museum complex,
detailing the history of the 1912 Cortez Schoolhouse and the 1890
Bratton Store, also known as the Burton store and the 1890s waterfront
But while the sign says the store was moved to the museum complex
in 2006, the newly-completed foundation for the store sits empty,
and the store sits at the other end of the Cortez historic village
tangled in red tape or in this case, wires.
Its going to cost thousands more than expected to move utility
lines along the route mapped out for the stores relocation,
museum coordinator Roger Allen told the board of the Florida Institute
for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) last week.
But hes working on the problem, he said, and remains confident
that the long-awaited move will happen before the sign becomes, well,
The sign tells the story of the two historic buildings.
The 1890 Bratton Store
In the 1890s, William C. Bratton built the first commercial building
at Hunters Point, the original name of the area eventually
to be called Cortez. The building served as post office, general
store and steamboat wharf, and connected the villages fishing
families with the outside world. In 1900, rooms were added, creating
an inn which became known as the Albion Inn. Expanded over time,
the inn, along with the Cortez Schoolhouse, served as refuge for
the displaced residents of the small village during the destructive
1921 hurricane. In 1974, the inn closed and the property was sold
to the U.S. Coast Guard. Community effort spearheaded by the Cortez
Village Historical Society and the Organized Fishermen of Florida
saved the store from demolition in 1991. It was moved in 2006.
The 1912 schoolhouse
The Cortez Rural Graded Schoolhouse
was constructed in 1912 as one of six
schools built in Manatee County that
year. It replaced an older, one-room
wooden structure that still stands
in the village. Originally three classrooms,
in 1933, under a Federal Works Progress
Administration program, the middle
classroom was extended into an auditorium
with stage, forming a T-shaped floor
plan. It was used as a school until
1961, when it was leased to an art
school. It was ultimately sold to Robert
Sailors, a master weaver, who made
the building his home and studio. In
1999, Manatee County purchased the
property and carefully restored the
building. In 2006, it was reopened
as a museum and community center. The
Cortez Schoolhouse is listed on the
National Register of Historic Places
as part of the Cortez Historic District.
approves sign ordinance, then says ‘wait
sun staff writer
ANNA MARIA If you think pass/fail is reserved for school grades,
Commissioners approved on second reading an ordinance amending the
citys sign regulations, then later changed their minds and
rescinded the approval.
After the approval, Don Schroder, of ReMax Gulfstream, said, "Im
asking you to be thoughtful and reconsider your positions on some
of these things."
In the initial discussion, Commissioner Linda Cramer said she thought
commissioners wanted to allow attachments, such as riders or tubes,
if the total size of the sign did not exceed 4 square feet. City
Planner Alan Garrett said the consensus was only to allow a single
Cramer also asked if pole signs could be treated as a temporary signs.
Commissioner Dale Woodland said he is in favor of allowing pole signs
and of allowing riders or tubes attached to signs if they are within
the 4 square feet.
"Were reopening discussion on what we already decided," Vice
Mayor John Quam said.
"These houses are selling for over a million dollars apiece. If anybody
is looking for a house for sale, theyre going to see whatever size the
sign is, and theyre going to call and ask," Commissioner Duke Miller
The ordinance also limits for sale and for rent signs to one per
"What if a house is for sale and is rented by a different company?" Schroder
asked. "You need two signs. Youre limiting them in their ability to
get income from their properties and also to sell the property.
"Weve had inventory for two years and youre making it more difficult
for these people to sell their houses," he pointed out. "Youre
being overly restrictive in a very, very tight market."
The ordinance changes the number of days election signs would be
allowed in residential yards from 45 to 30, but there is no limit
on the number of signs allowed during that 30-day period.
Mayor SueLynn said the change would create a code enforcement nightmare
for the city to take down all the election signs that are currently
Commissioner Duke Miller suggested leaving the number at 45 for the
current election then changing it to 30 for next years election.
Quam said commissioners could accomplish that by changing the effective
date of the ordinance to Dec. 1 and the others agreed.
Garrett pointed out one problem is that during that 30-day period,
a resident could install 10 for sale signs in his/her yard.
"You have a countless number of elections going on at one time," Mike
Connolly, the citys special legal counsel for the sign code issue, explained. "If
you say were only going to allow one or two political signs, then you are
at risk of someone feeling that his or her ability to express his/her first amendment
right is being infringed upon."
The ordinance was approved with Cramer and Woodland dissenting.
Following a break about 9:30 p.m., Commissioner Chris Tollette said
that she wanted to reconsider her vote. She said she had concerns
about the limitation of one for sale or for rent sign per residential
property and the ban on attachments to real estate signs.
Tollette made the motion to reconsider the ordinance, and commissioners
approved the motion with Miller and Quam dissenting.
"This is where Roberts Rules of Order and the Sunshine law collide," City
Attorney Jim Dye remarked.
Dye said because people left the public hearing without knowing that
the commission would revisit the issue, they must be given a chance
to comment. He said the ordinance must be given another public hearing
and it must be advertised.
Commissioner set Oct. 19 for the public hearing.