Vol 7 No. 7 - November 8, 2006


Online travel firm says Anna Maria #1

Funeral home has closing sale

Boil water notice for Thursday

Community Center construction on schedule

Chorus and Orchestra open season

Sand sculptors to compete at Sandblast Nov. 18

City considers projects manager

Political action encouraged on red tide




Online travel firm says Anna Maria #1

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – As Anna Maria Island heads into another season, there is a hopeful sign that it will be a good one.

TripAdvisor, an Internet travel website that fields inquiries and reviews of destinations from travelers worldwide, places Anna Maria Island at the top of its TravelCast Top Ten Hot U.S. Destinations for 2007.

It’s a list that includes Kailua, Hawaii; Siesta Key; Macon, Ga.; Breckenridge, Colo.; Millinocket, Maine; Vail, Colo.; Bishop, Cal.; Franklin, Tenn.; and Eureka, Calif.

TripAdvisor spokesman Brooke Ferencsik said that this is not a list of the most popular destinations, just those generating the most interest lately.

"TravelCast evaluated the change in search activity, reviews from tourists who visit these areas and forum postings to come up with the list," he said. "This doesn’t mean that Anna Maria is the most popular designation for the upcoming year, but it’s the one that has generated the most buzz."

Ferencsik said that there are no specific figures available on how many inquiries web site visitors had made, but he said that TripAdvisor averages 20 million inquiries per month on its site, which indicates the amount of interest that is there for these destinations.

Ferencsik said that part of the Island’s appeal appears to be its reputation for beautiful beaches and laid-back lifestyle.

"One of the common factors in the list of top 10 destinations, except for Breckenridge and Vail, appears to be that they are not high-traffic areas," he said. "People seem to be looking for some place more relaxing than your typical tourist areas like Orlando or Miami."

Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce President Mary Ann Brockman said that the news was "great."

"It’s really positive news and we need it," she said. "We had a mild hurricane season and red tide hasn’t been a factor, but with rising insurance premiums and taxes tearing at our business community, this is the kind of news that we need."

Brockman said she expects a great season for the Island this year, and she hopes the powers that be can take more measures to help solve the tax and insurance crises before too many business owners give up and sell out.

Kent Davis, a member of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council, was elated when he heard the news, but he said he is not surprised.

"I remain totally enthused about Anna Maria Island," he said, "It remains one of the most relaxing, unspoiled destinations in the world."

Davis, who developed Siam Garden resort in Anna Maria and then sold it, remains active in the Island’s tourism industry through his involvement with the council.

Funeral home has closing sale

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – A sale organized by Julie McClure Estate Sales drew a lot of shoppers Friday at Griffith-Cline Funeral Home’s Island Chapel following the news that somebody had bought the property.

The chapel closed its doors for business almost a month after The Sun reported it was being sold.

Buyers came in droves Friday morning to look over the office furniture and fixtures marked with prices on masking tape, but the big news was that they had a buyer for the property, although nobody knew who that buyer is.

"We’re looking to close on that property next week," said Michael Grice, the Wedebrock Real Estate agent who listed the building. He did not disclose the price or the buyer, saying only that it would remain a commercial office building.

"The purchaser plans to do some real quality upgrades to the property," he said. "There will be some new businesses that will locate there that will be an asset to the area."

Meanwhile, as the stock of desks, office chairs and artwork on the walls dwindled, officials at Griffith-Cline said that funerals would be handled at their chapel at 720 Manatee Ave. W. in Bradenton.

Ken Griffith, owner of the company, was unavailable for comment, but he told The Sun on Oct. 10 that he was selling the Island chapel because of the rising cost of insurance and taxes. He said the chapel did not bring the amount of revenue that would justify the expense of keeping it open.

One business that will likely feel the loss of the chapel is The Island Florist, located a few blocks away in the Island Shopping Center.

Owner Herbert Sesterhenn said that he feel sad about the loss of any business on the Island in light of the rising cost of insurance and taxes.

"We’ve seen the natural foods store die, Mama Lo’s and several others because of taxes and insurance and we’re going to see more," Sesterhenn said. "They’re all going to go away unless something changes."

Sesterhenn said the volume of business from the Island chapel was not that high, but they were able to help with last minute details because they were nearby. He said that Bette Kissick, who worked at the chapel, was a treasure who would be missed.

"Bette lives out here and knows a lot of people, and her presence was very comforting to families who were going through the trauma of a funeral," he said. "She is very caring and helped people through a bad time in their lives."

Griffith-Cline built the Holmes Beach chapel in 1961. Griffith said in an earlier interview that it was an emotional decision to close the Island chapel, but one that had to be made.

Boil water notice for Thursday

The Manatee County Utility Operations Department has issued a boil water notice for residents and businesses from Gulf Drive and East Bay Drive in Holmes Beach to the north end of the Island following replacement of water valves and a water shutoff between midnight and 7 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 9.

Customers are advised that once service is restored, all water used for drinking or cooking should be boiled at least one minute as a precaution. As an alternative, bottled water may be used. This precautionary notice will remain in effect until a bacteriological survey has shown the water to be safe.

The department sent pre-recorded notices to all phone numbers in the affected area earlier this week. For more information, call 792-8811, ext. 5216, from 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or 747-HELP after 4:30 p.m.

Community Center construction on schedule

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — The long anticipated Community Center construction project has begun and the walls should begin rising in about a month.

The project’s superintendent, Bernie Chilton, of Walbridge Aldinger, said winter residents are coming back to the Island and stopping by the construction site for a look and to talk.

"The longer I’m here, the more I see how important this is to the community and how much it is used," he said.

Chilton said the foundation work is progressing with the under slab plumbing installed and the electrical conduit 75 percent competed. Workers are also digging the elevator pit along the Magnolia Avenue side of the property.

"It’s been kind of quiet, but the activities are important ones. Having the foundation started is a big thing and in three to four weeks it will culminate in pouring the building slab. We’re getting important details in place."

Chilton said walls will begin rising in about a month and the exterior of the building should be completed by the end of February. Then interior work will begin. Completion is expected at the end of June 2007.

"We’ve had some visitors asking when they can use the tennis courts, but there are too many issues with safety and security," Chilton said. "We knew all along that tennis is important, so we’re working on finding a solution."

Chilton said the company is helping with logistics of the groundbreaking ceremony planned for Nov. 16 and noted, "They’re trying to make it a good positive event. They held off until now so people could return and be a part of it."

Regarding the project, Chilton observed, "All the planning has been well worth it. There’s a long way to go, but everything is positive."



Chorus and Orchestra open season

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

The Anna Maria Island Community Chorus and Orchestra (AMICCO) under the direction of Alfred Gershfeld opens its concert season on Sunday, Nov. 19, at 2 p.m. with "Celebration of Autumn" at Island Baptist Church, 8605 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria.

General admission is $15. Tickets may be purchased in advance by calling 778-1217 or after Nov. 12 at the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, 5313 Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach. For more information, visit http://www.amicco.org/.

The program will showcase the talents of its members recruited from the greater Bradenton and Sarasota area, some coming from as far away as Tampa and Nokomis. Organist Robert Winslow will perform Bach's Fantasia and Fugue in G minor and, with the orchestra, Handel's Organ Concerto No. 4.

Tenors Bill Kelley and David Kesler, bass Bernard Hahmke, sopranos Ruth Danielle and Jeanne Larrañaga and alto Martha Di Palma will join the chorus and orchestra in performance of Bach's Cantata No. 192 and selections from Mozart's Coronation Mass. The orchestra will perform Mozart's popular Symphony No. 25 in G minor.

Maestro Gershfeld, artistic director and principal conductor who has been with AMICCO since its inception, now travels from Miami, where he is professor of conducting and director of orchestras at the New World School of the Arts, to conduct AMICCO concerts and key rehearsals. He relies on newly appointed Assistant Conductor Jon Magendanz to rehearse the orchestra in his absence and on the chorus director to prepare the chorus. James W. Johnston, music director at First United Methodist Church in Bradenton, is serving as guest chorus director for the November concert.

Sand sculptors to compete at Sandblast Nov. 18

The sixth annual Sandblast, a sand sculpture competition that pairs youth groups with local business sponsors to raise funds for Keep Manatee Beautiful, is set for Nov. 18 at the BeachHouse restaurant in Bradenton Beach. Ed Chiles and the restaurant are the event’s sponsors.

A professional sand sculpture team called Team Sandtastic will start three days before the event by building a huge exhibition sculpture at the site that will have a pirate theme. The public is invited to the free clinics conducted by Team Sandtastic on Nov. 15 through 17 from 5 to 6 p.m. at the restaurant to learn sand sculpture tips, tricks and techniques.

On Nov. 18, teams will begin arriving at 7:30 a.m. to get first pick of the 15-by-15-foot plots. Sculpting commences at 9 a.m. and continues until 1 p.m. the Anna Maria Island Privateers will also be part of the competition. A team of judges includes the restaurant’s general manager Becky Shannon, a professional sand sculptor with Team Sandtastic and master marine artist David Miller with Maui Art.

Team Sandtastic (www.teamsandtastic.com) has won many contests and awards across the globe. In July of 1998 at Georgia Stone Mountain Park, the team created the tallest sandcastle ever hand built in under 100 man hours and holds that current Guinness World Record. It stands at 28 feet, 7 1/4 inches.

David Miller (www.mauiarts.com) draws his inspiration from many hours of diving in the beautiful waters of the Hawaiian Islands, California, Mexico, and Jamaica. His work is shown in galleries across the U.S., Australia, Japan and Europe and locally on St. Armands Circle in Sarasota.

The 16 teams registered to compete are Ad-VANCE Personnel Services, Anna Maria Island Privateers, Bayshore High National Art Honor Society, Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County, Crusader Environmental Club from King Middle School, Intrepid Home Health, Lakewood Ranch High School Science Club, Lincoln Middle School Student Council, Manatee Community College EARTH Club, Manatee High School Anchor Club, Manatee High School Art Department, Manatee High School Environmental Science Students, Manatee High School Ocean Awareness Club, ManaTEENS, Reef Rakers and Sarasota Bay Buddies and Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island

To enter a team or sponsor one of the teams registered so far with a $300 tax-deductible donation, call Keep Manatee Beautiful at 795-8272 or e-mail keep@manateebeautiful.com.


City considers projects manager

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – City commissioners will advertise for a replacement programs/projects manager following debate over the requirements of the position.

The commission amended a description of the position, which was held by Dottie Poindexter until she resigned last month, taking out a requirement that the applicant have a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or a related field. The new language says a degree is preferred.

Poindexter was initially the city’s public works director, but she took on the new management position when the city commission decided it needed somebody to oversee capital improvements projects and programs.

Poindexter worked closely with the city’s Scenic Highway committee and WAVES, the Waterfronts Florida committee. Those groups are considering projects to improve Gulf Drive and the waterfront areas of the city, and both have been instrumental in getting and administering grants for those projects.

The position will be posted with a salary of between $47,000 and $59,000. That was a point of contention as the city commission debated the language of the job description.

“How long will we sit here with this post empty,” asked Commissioner Janie Robertson. “We could wait forever to get a civil engineer in here.”

Commission Lisa Marie Phillips agreed that the degree requirement could be a stumbling block.

“I talked with a friend who is a civil engineer,” she said. “When I told her what the salary is, she laughed heartily.”

City Attorney Ricinda Perry said she checked with other cities who have a projects/program manager and the salary was comparable.

“We already have a civil engineer in (Building Official) Ed McAdam,” said Commissioner Bill Shearon. “Couldn’t we require just some college?”

“This person will be working on government construction projects,” Perry answered. “You might want to require more than just some college.”

Phillips then recused herself from further discussion because she felt this decision might bring financial benefit to her in the future. She did not elaborate.

Mayor John Chappie suggested they delay a decision until they hold a work session, but the commissioners decided to go ahead and post the description without the engineering degree requirement.



Political action encouraged on red tide

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – A diverse group gathered in Cortez last week to discuss fighting red tide with political action in addition to scientific research.

Tourism-related business owners, environmentalists and coastal residents discussed promoting political action to battle red tide based on the widely-held belief that it may feed off the nutrients in pollution runoff.

Sarasota County passed a resolution earlier this year to "set the example for other public and private entities" by using less fertilizer in the rainy season and using slow-release fertilizer to reduce nutrient runoff into area waters.

"Right next door it’s happening," said Stuart DeCew, red tide and coastal pollution coordinator for the Sarasota Sierra Club, which sponsored the meeting.

"We want to rally a base of people who will contact local officials," he said, especially in neighboring Manatee County and its municipalities. "One county doing this won’t solve the problem. It needs to be replicated in other counties."

Red tide is an overgrowth of the microscopic algae Karenia brevis, which emits a neurotoxin that causes fish, seabird, sea turtle, dolphin and manatee deaths. In humans, it can cause respiratory problems when inhaled and digestive upset when consumed in contaminated shellfish.

A record red tide bloom on Florida’s Gulf coast lasted throughout 2005, creating a "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico discovered by charter Capt. Wayne Genthner, of Longboat Key, who told participants at the meeting that awareness of the problem must be transformed into political action.

The dead zone is recovering, but another, less severe, red tide bloom has persisted since July 2006 from Pinellas County south to Collier County.

The link between fertilizer runoff and red tide growth is scientifically unproven but possible, researchers say. University of Miami researcher Larry Brand announced the results of a study last month showing that red tide is increasing and gaining potency, which he attributes to an increased amount of nutrients in the ecosystem.

As part of the process to turn the Sarasota County resolution into an ordinance, four public meetings on red tide are scheduled this month at Twin Lakes Park, 6700 Clark Road in Sarasota — Nov. 14 for fertilizer industry representatives, Nov. 20 for civic and homeowner groups, Nov. 27 for governmental groups and Nov. 30 for environmental groups. All meetings will be held from 1 to 5 p.m.

Information from the meetings will be used in a recommendation to be presented in April to the Sarasota County Commission.


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