Vol 7 No. 12 - December 13, 2006

 

Deadline looms for Center

Citizens rate hikes put on hold

Gulf opened to oil, gas exploration

Fire district presents awards at annual holiday dinner

Work to begin on city pier

Forecasters call for increased hurricane activity

A good year for Cortez

Hiaasen�s latest another winner

 

 

 

Deadline looms for Center

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

"I believe in miracles," Pierrette Kelly, executive director of the Anna Maria Island Community Center, said regarding a January deadline to raise $1.1 million for the new building. "I'm going to get this money. We've never missed a deadline yet."

Several months ago, Community Center officials entered into a contract with Northern Trust Bank and committed to raising $500,000 in cash and $600,000 in pledges by Jan. 7.

Center officials have already raised $2.5 million for the new building, which was originally estimated to cost $3 million. However, due to delays and the escalating cost of construction, the building's estimate rose to $5.2 million.

Center officials then negotiated with the construction team to reduce the cost to $4.8 million. Savings were realized by eliminating small things such as pavers for the parking lot and a privacy fence separating the playground area.

However, that still left them to raise another $2.3 million, hence the Northern Trust loan. They currently have $255,578.46 toward the $1.1 million goal and are hoping generous members of the community will come through with checks and pledges.

Kelly said she is hoping some people will take advantage of the Pension Protection Act of 2006. According to the act, anyone 701/2 years old or older can make an asset distribution of up to $100,000 from an IRA or Roth IRA without penalty.

Center officials also have applied for grants from the Kresge Foundation for $245,000, a local foundation for $250,000 and the Kiwanis Club of Manatee for $50,000. In addition, there are many naming opportunities available for donors to the project.

"The project will happen, but not without the support of our community," Kelly said. "We need some heroes. If you haven't gotten out your checkbook, now is the time to do it.

"People need to understand what the Center has meant on this Island over the years. It's a very important part of people's lives."

 



Citizens rate hikes put on hold

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

The Citizens Property Insurance Corp. has postponed expected rate increases until the Florida Legislature's special session ends next month.

"The governor, the House and the Senate are saying we need to revisit this issue, and if they change anything, they'll affect us," Citizens' spokesman Rocky Scott said.

The proposed increases range from 767 percent for commercial policyholders to 8.5-105 percent for homeowners, depending on their location. Increases approved by the Citizens' board of directors would be reviewed by the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation for approval.

"The rates are going to have to go up, but not all at once," Scott said. "We have to make this as painless as possible."

The session is scheduled to begin on Jan. 16.

Increases may begin to level off in late 2007 as homeowners take advantage of credits for hurricane mitigation measures, he said, adding that a major storm would cancel that prediction.

Citizens carries one third of the homeowners policies in Florida and is the fourth largest insurance company in the country. Created in 2002 by the Legislature from the Florida Residential Property and Casualty Joint Underwriting Association and the Florida Windstorm Underwriting Association, Citizens serves clients who cannot find coverage in the private insurance market.



Gulf opened to oil, gas exploration

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Before adjourning for the year, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation on Saturday that opens 8.3 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural gas exploration.

If the new law is signed by President George W. Bush as expected, it also will prohibit drilling in the U.S. military's training zone in the Gulf, which extends to 234 miles off Tampa Bay, until 2022.

In a statement, Bush commended Congress for passing the legislation, saying it would help to reduce dependence on imported energy sources by increasing access to domestic sources of oil and gas.

Florida Sen. Mel Martinez praised the legislation for protecting the state's environment.

"We sought protection and today we secured it. I feel good that we're moving in the right direction," Martinez said in a statement.

The legislation, included in a bill focused on taxes and trade, funnels 37.5 percent of the royalties collected from oil and gas production on federal leases in the Gulf of Mexico to Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Absent from the legislation was a proposed amendment by Massachusetts Rep. Edward Markey that would have required oil companies to renegotiate their existing oil leases to include royalty payments before being allowed to drill in newly-opened sections of the Gulf. The House voted down that amendment on Friday.

Markey defended his amendment, saying that the American public owns the public lands being drilled for oil, and accused oil companies of depriving the public of up to $60 billion worth of royalties.

The new legislation is more restrictive than a bill passed by the House last summer that would have opened the entire U.S. coast to oil and gas exploration as close as 50 miles from shore, with an option for states to limit it to 100 miles or more or allow it even closer than 50 miles.

Opponents of the legislation say drilling operations, especially accidents, could devastate Florida's west coast and the state's tourism industry.



Fire district presents awards at annual holiday dinner

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

West Manatee Fire & Rescue District personnel held their annual holiday dinner and presented annual awards on Sunday, Dec. 3, at the Bradenton Country Club.

Chris O'Kelly was named firefighter of the year. According to the nomination, "This firefighter has taken on jobs nobody else wanted, such as cleaning out the garages at Station 4 and disposing of hundreds of gallons of used motor oil."

As the MDA representative, O'Kelly organized the annual boot drive, which raised $3,610 and has served as the team leader for both the bike and brush teams.

"Since returning to the district, this firefighter has been a model employee," said the nomination. "He has raised the bar with his work ethic and leads by example."

Carlo Valente received two nominations for rookie of the year that cited his leadership on projects such as the bicycle helmet program and the co-ed softball team.

"He is always willing to lend a helping hand, either on or off duty," said the nomination. "While on duty, this firefighter displays a leadership quality at this early stage that is expected of a veteran firefighter."

Meritorious service awards went to firefighter Dan Tackett and Captain Chris Kiernan.

Tackett serves on the safety committee and pension board and has served on the strategic planning and step program committees.

"This firefighter works behind the scenes to help other firefighters to improve their physical conditioning and capabilities," said the nomination. "With his involvement in the health and fitness program, our department has seen an improvement in the overall physical conditioning of our personnel."

Kiernan was lauded for leading the remodeling at Station 4 in Bradenton, often on his own time, which has saved taxpayers thousands of dollars.

“He takes an active role in training our new reserve firefighters and believes that early development in their career is essential," said the nomination.

The civilian service award went to Dr. Joseph Soler, the district's medical director.

Fire district personnel also received the following years of service awards:

• 25 years: Deputy Fire Marshall Kurt Lathrop;

• 20 years: Chris Shepard and Mary Stephens;

• 15 years: Chris Kiernan, Jeff Lonzo and Tom Owen;

• 10 years: Darren Vollmer, Larry Tyler and Dr. Joseph Soler;

• 5 years: Paul Hopkins, Dan Tackett and Greg Van Edema;

• 1 year: Ben Rigney, Carlo Valente and Danielle Burger.

 

 

Work to begin on city pier

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH - A contract is in place, a sign has gone up at the end of Bridge Street and the saws and hammers will soon be making noise as the pier project begins.

That's the latest on the pier rehabilitation following a vote a week earlier to approve the project, designated as a major development.

Spectrum Construction was the low bidder and following the approval, the pier construction team consisting of city department heads and Commission Bill Shearon, met with representatives of the builder. Spectrum informed the city that Dec. 6 was the first day of the project, although construction is not expected to begin until after the holidays.

The city embarked on the project after a storm two years ago damaged the roof of the restaurant. A subsequent inspection by a structural engineer said that the pier and its buildings were in bad shape and posed a hazard to the public, prompting the city to close it. The city reopened it to anglers, but regular vandalism forced it to close it again and place a fence at the roundabout end of the parking lot.

Using funds from the Community Redevelopment Agency graduated tax money and several grants, the city began making plans to tear down the restaurant and bait shop. It hired engineers who determined that pilings under the restaurant were in bad shape and could not be saved. The city hired a contractor who replaced them and put on a new deck.

The city also hired an architectural firm to design a new restaurant and added a day dock, a dock for an eventual water taxi, an office for an eventual mooring field harbor master and a building to house information about the city and area. The plans also call for a walkway south of the restaurant that leads to the fishing area without going through the outdoor eating area.

If all goes well, the city expects the project to be completed next summer.



Forecasters call for increased hurricane activity

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Undaunted by a forecast for this year's hurricane season that was rendered inaccurate by late-developing El Nino conditions, the prognosticators are back telling us to batten down the hatches next year.

The 2007 hurricane forecast, issued last Friday by Colorado State University meteorologists Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray, calls for seven hurricanes, 14 named storms, 70 named storm days, 35 hurricane days, three intense hurricanes and eight intense hurricane days. All of those numbers are higher than the average from data collected between the years 1950 and 2000. In fact, the prediction calls for 40-percent more hurricane activity than normal.

The report says that the El Nino conditions last year that caused upper level winds to shear most of the storms apart before they could develop should dissipate before the active part of the hurricane season arrives.

Last year's El Nino winds were a relief for those living in the hurricane regions. The first forecast, issued Dec. 6, 2005, called for more activity than the one issued last Friday, but it never came true. For 2006, there were nine hurricanes forecast and five observed, 17 named storms predicted and nine observed, 45 hurricane days forecast and 20 occurred, 85 named storm days forecast and 50 observed, five intense hurricanes predicted and two occurred, 13 intense hurricane days forecast and three observed. The net storm activity was forecast to be 95 percent above average, but it turned out to be 85 percent of average.

Last week's forecast is the first of six to be issued. There will be updates in April, May, August, September and October.

Whether El Nino is still around by then is yet to be seen, but local emergency officials urge everyone living along the coast to be prepared for the worst.

Forecast for 2007

Activity

Average

Forecast

Named storms

9.6

14

Named storm days

49.1

70

Hurricanes

5.9

7

Hurricane days

24.5

35

Intense hurricanes

2.3

3

Intense hurricane days

5.0

8

Accumulated cyclone energy

96.1

130

Net tropical cyclone activity

100.0

140

 

2006 forecast and actual results

Activity

Forecast

Observed

Named storms

17

9

Named storm days

85

50

Hurricanes

9

5

Hurricane days

45

20

Intense hurricanes

5

2

Intense hurricane days

13

3

Net tropical cyclone activity

196

85


 

A good year for Cortez

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ - The Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage and the Cortez Trailer Park celebrated the accomplishments of 2006 with a Christmas dinner Friday night at the Bayside Banquet Hall.

Highlights of FISH's year include last week's relocation of the 1890s Bratton store to the Florida Maritime Museum site, said FISH president Allen Garner, as well as the completion of the schoolhouse renovation earlier this year.

The year also saw the long-awaited dredging of the Cortez channel in Sarasota Bay and the beginning of the cleanup of the FISH Preserve, which is being cleared of exotic plants and is now accessible thanks to the construction of a new bridge and walkways, he said.

Traditional wooden boatbuilding classes are in full swing, including a surf boat used for lifesaving, historic sites manager Roger Allen said, inviting all ages interested in woodworking to the museum to participate.

The trailer park had good news too - it is no longer for sale, which had concerned not only park residents but Cortez residents, who had predicted a large residential condominium development on the waterfront site.

Upcoming events in Cortez include the 25th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival and the publication of a new cookbook, both in February, the renovation of the Bratton store at its new location and the ongoing collection of photographs and memorabilia for the maritime museum. For more information, call 708-6121.

 

 

Hiaasen�s latest another winner

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

The newest Carl Hiaasen is out, flying off the shelves to a lot of buzz.

"Nature Girl" is a bit smoother than Hiaasen's previous novels. The satire seems more sophisticated, less raucous. The characters are whacky, as usual, but they are more finely drawn and seem to have more humanity.

Take, for example, Honey Santana. She wants terribly to reform Boyd Shreave, a rude and obnoxious telemarketer who phones her one evening at dinnertime to sell her some land in Florida. It's the rudeness that has Honey furious.

Shreave is obnoxious in an over-the-top way that Hiaasen has made his signature.

Honey concocts a scheme to bring Shreave to Florida. She's going to take him on an eco-tour of the Everglades to show him the beauty of nature. This will surely make a better person of him, Honey just knows, and that will result in a kinder, friendlier, more thoughtful world.

Honey is clinically crazy and an altogether sympathetic character, as Hiaasen's heroes and heroines usually are.

She wants to make the world a better place, especially for her son.

In "Nature Girl," Shreave, awful as he is, is filled out with a background, a childhood, a dreadful mother and greed. He's more multi-dimensional than Hiaasen's bad guys usually are. Don't get me wrong; he's lazy, obnoxious, narcissistic and thoroughly disgusting. But he's not as two-dimensional as some of the characters in Hiaasen's earlier novels - the bad guys in "Lucky You" for example.

Then there's Sammy Tigertail, a half white-half Seminole who spent half of his childhood in the white world with his father and is finishing his growing up among his mother's people. He's failed at alligator wrestling. He's now taking tourists around the Everglades on airboat tours.

His first client, Wilson, drunk from his foray into the casino, is about as slapstick a caricature as one would expect from a Hiaasen book.

When a small snake drops onto him from overhead and he dies from a heart attack, Sammy decides it will look bad to come back from his first trip with a dead client. He goes through Wilson's pockets.

"In his pockets the Seminole found the disposable camera, $645 cash, a wallet, keys to a rented Chrysler, a cellular phone, two marijuana joints, three condoms and a business card from the Blue Dolphin Escort Service. Sammy Tigertail put everything back, including the cash," Hiaasen writes.

So, we have this unsavory tourist with no apparent redeeming qualities - a standard Hiaasen character, present in one form or another in all his previous books.

Wilson, however, comes back from the dead and haunts Sammy Tigertail.

He's lonely and wants the Seminole to move his body somewhere where he'll have company.

He appears and disappears several times in the story, adding a layer of something almost sympathetic to Wilson's character.

Fry, Honey Santana's 12-year old son, is arguably the most sympathetic character to emerge in the entire Florida mystery genre.

He matter of factly holds his wildly and gently crazy mother together while visiting regularly with his city councilman father, who spent several years incarcerated for a youthful marijuana conviction.

When Honey takes Shreave and his mistress, Eugenie, to Dismal Key in kayaks, where an encounter with Florida nature is going to make a better person of him, she goes missing.

Chasing Shreave and Eugenie, who was briefly famous as the mistress of a man who murdered his wife in a hurricane, is a private detective hired by Shreave's wife to get the goods on her cheating husband.

Also following along is Piejack, the owner of a fish store and Honey's former employer, who fondled Honey causing her to slap him and hit him in with a wooden mallet in his crotch. He loves Honey.

Fry and his father follow everyone, trying to rescue Honey from herself.

Most of the action takes place on Dismal Key, which is an actual place, by the way. Hiaasen's descriptions of the beauty of the Florida wilderness beauty are complete with vicious swarms of mosquitoes and armies of ants.

"Nature Girl" is a fine read. Hiaasen continues to grow in stature and popularity.

A Miami Herald syndicated columnist, Hiaasen continues to entertain and grow, producing his own brand of biting satire and always battling greed and out-of-control development in the Sunshine State.

Shreave lives through his ordeal with Sonny. He moves on in his life to sell Florida real estate.

Hiaasen at his finest.

"Nature Girl," published by Alfred A. Knopf, is available at booksellers everywhere for $29.95.


 

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