Vol 7 No. 16 - January 10, 2007

New AME principal appointed

Meeting targets parking shortage

New roof springs another leak

Free home fire safety survey can save your life

Phillips named programs and projects manager

County asked to look at all piers

Teachers celebrate year one

'Oceanfest' to benefit START documentary film fund




New AME principal appointed

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – The search for a new principal for Anna Maria Elementary School is over, and the new person has close ties to the school.

Tom Levengood, principal at Bayshore Elementary School for the past 12 1/2 years and husband of AME reading coach Becky Levengood, has been appointed to the position by Manatee County School Superintendent Dr. Roger Dearing. He replaces Kathy Hayes, who has taken a similar position at Gullett, a brand new elementary school in Lakewood Ranch.

Hayes has postponed the Student Advisory Council (SAC) meeting scheduled for Monday, Jan. 9, to Tuesday, Jan. 16, at 3 p.m., where Levengood will be introduced to the school. A transitional team, composed mainly of SAC members, is being appointed to help Levengood get settled into his new position.

Levengood said that this was not the first time he considered applying for the Island school position.

"I thought about applying when Tim (Kolbe) left," he said. "But we were right in the middle of building a new Bayshore Elementary School, and I wanted to see it through."

Kolbe quit the position four years ago to head the elementary school teacher training program for the district. Hayes succeeded Kolbe.

Levengood said he had heard about the high level of parental and volunteer participation at AME and he would welcome it.

"It will be a breath of fresh air to see that much participation," he said. "I grew up in a small town and went to a small school, so I can appreciate what the Island school is all about."

The school system advertised for a new AME principal right after Hayes announced her decision to transfer to Gullett in early December. The district got 10 applicants for the position, but Levengood was the only one who is was currently serving as a principal.

The district was also preparing a team to help choose the new principal from those applicants who would have undergone questioning at a public forum. However, according to district bylaws, the superintendent can appoint an applicant who is currently serving as a principal, which circumvents the process and the forum.

Kolbe said he thought the parents, students and staff at AME would like Levengood.

Hayes, who served as principal at AME for four years, was pragmatic about moving on.

"I want to thank all the parents and community members who provided support," she said. "I will always have fond memories of my time here.

"I will definitely miss the students and the staff members," she said. "I definitely feel that our paths cross and I never like to say ‘goodbye' to anyone, just ‘See you again.'"

Meeting targets parking shortage

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – It's time to sound off about the parking shortage in this resort city, and city hall will be open on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at 5 p.m. to hear suggestions.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie announced last week that he had hired city planner Allen Garrett to facilitate the meeting. Garrett currently serves as part-time city planner in Anna Maria.

The parking problem came to a head last month when the city commission was considering a large scale development plan for the refurbishment of the Historic Bridge Street Pier. Business owners and residents expressed opposition to the number of parking spaces reserved for the restaurant being planned there, saying that reopening the restaurant would force patrons to park on private property.

At that time, Chappie made a deal to seek a solution to the parking problem while the city oversees the pier project. The commission approved the development plan and the meeting is the first step in sticking by Chappie's promise.

Residents, business owners and visitors are welcome to come to the meeting. Chappie said he would welcome any and all ideas and suggestions to add parking spaces in the city, especially in or near the city's commercial district on Bridge Street.

The city is also looking to install a park-and-ride lot on the bay side of Gulf Drive at the north end of Coquina Park. Employees of businesses in the commercial district would be encouraged to park there and take the trolley to work, freeing parking spaces near the businesses for customers.
For more information on the meeting, call the city clerk's office at 778-1005, ext. 3.

New roof springs another leak

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — There’s been another leak in the new roof at city hall, just as the new mayor begins to nail down a solution to the mold problem from the first two leaks.

The latest leak wasn’t too bad.

"It was around a plumbing pipe," said Public Works Director George McKay. "The pipe sticks up out of the roof, and the sealant around the pipe wasn’t tight. The leak was only about a couple of cups full of water."

The most recent leak happened sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Day and didn’t cause damage, according to McKay. He said the company that installed the new roof came out within a couple of days to repair the sealant.

The previous leaks were another story, however.

Roof USA began to install a new roof on the building in August of last year. Workmen left one afternoon without properly covering the building after the old roof had been removed.

During a heavy summer rain, water leaked into city hall saturating ceiling tiles, walls, insulation and carpet.

Several days later, other workmen unscrewed a pipe without emptying the water. The water in that pipe caused still more water damage.

Since then mold has grown in the walls, attic and ceiling tiles requiring professional mold removal.

"The protocol calls for us to be out of the building when the work is being done," said newly elected Mayor Fran Barford.

"There’s quite a lot of work that needs to be done, and it won’t be cheap."

The mold inspection alone cost several thousand dollars, as did the development of the protocol detailing how to rid the building of mold. The cleanup is expected to run into the thousands of dollars. McKay is in the process of getting estimates for the work now. Add to that the expense of relocating the offices while the work is being done. Expenses will be high.

Barford contacted the Florida League of Cities, the city’s insurer, and learned that the city is indemnified up to $10,000 for mold problems.

At the city commission’s December meeting, she asked for and got permission to spend up to that amount to address the situation.

At that time, she told commissioners that the League would reimburse the city for anything spent on mold up to $10,000. Then the League would go after Roof USA to recover the costs.

Barford said she plans to discuss the mold problem with commissioners at their Jan. 11 work session.

Free home fire safety survey can save your life

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — The first thing firefighters saw was the house number dangling from a yard sculpture.

"There is a city ordinance that tells you what size the letters must be," explained Captain Kurt Lathrop, deputy fire marshal for the West Manatee Fire & Rescue District, as he pointed to the illegal house number display. "It must be visible from the street. If we’re driving down the street in the middle of the night, we need to be able to see it."

"Come home from different directions and see how it looks," firefighter Brian Gaskill advised. "Decide where you can see it best."

My husband and I were a few minutes into a free home fire safety survey offered by the fire district and already busted. We hoped we fared better as the survey progressed.

"We just make recommendations to make your home safer," Lt. Jeff Lonzo stressed. "We don’t report anybody for anything."

"We offer these surveys to the public so we can look for hazards and electrical problems that could cause us to come back (to fight a fire)," Captain Ernie Cave, public education coordinator, said. "You are under no obligation to comply with what we suggest because you are inviting us into your home to make recommendations."

The next thing firefighters looked at was the breaker box mounted on the outside of the house. It passed muster, but Lonzo said if you have any open slots in the box that do not have fuses in them, install a blank or someone could get shocked reaching into an open slot.

The door lock was next, and Lathrop pointed out that it was a keyed deadbolt and the key was in the inside lock, as he recommends. If the key is in the lock or on a string hanging from the inside of the door, you don’t have to search for it when you’re trying to make a quick exit with flames lapping at your back.

Once inside, Lathrop asked, "Do you have a fire escape plan? Most fire fatalities are found within three feet of a door or window. Identify your egresses and use them to develop a plan."

Parents also must rehearse the fire escape plan with their children and practice it at different times of the day, he said because "fire is not time specific."

Smoke detectors

Lathrop then asked if we had smoke detectors and where they were located. He said if the homeowner doesn’t have smoke detectors, firefighters will supply and install them.

The firefighters checked to make sure ours were operational, and Lathrop asked if the one in the kitchen went off when we used the oven.

"Not since we got our new oven," I replied, recalling that when we had our former oven, it set off the smoke alarm on a regular basis, prompting us to quip, "Dinner’s done!"

"Forty percent of all fires in the home are cooking related," Lathrop revealed. "The first thing people do when the smoke alarm goes off while the oven is on is take the batteries out and then forget to put them back."

He also said that many people put a smoke detector at the far end of a hallway instead of at the front end and noted, "You don’t want the smoke to get all the way down the hall before the alarm goes off or you could get trapped in the bedrooms.

"We try to promote to kids that a smoke detector is like having a big nose on the wall, but it doesn’t define what or where the problem is," he said. "We tell them, ‘If it goes off, get out.’"

He asked if we had a fire extinguisher, and I sheepishly said we had one, but it went out of date and we never replaced it. I said we kept it under the kitchen sink, another mistake.

"Most kitchens are designed with one way in and one way out, so don’t put it there. You should have to leave the kitchen to get it, then you can decide if you want to use it or call us," he explained.

Other hazards

Lathrop also checked for overloaded extension cords, missing outlet covers and overloaded outlets. We did well in this department, but I did ask him about my power strip/surge protector for my computer.

"Your power strip is fine because it has the ability to shut itself off," he said. "Always buy one that is UL or FM approved."

Regarding outlets and extension cords, he pointed out," If you have an outlet with two plugs; that’s what it’s designed for. An extension cord is a temporary use. And when buying an extension cord check whether it’s for indoor or outdoor use."

The fireplace received approval, but Lathrop cautioned, "Get the chimney cleaned yearly or every other year, depending on how much you use it. Here many people burn pine, which has a lot of creosote in it. Creosote sticks to the inside of the chimney and is very flammable."

Other advice Lathrop offered was if you have bedrooms upstairs and don’t have an outside stairway, get a folding ladder. If you have children, make sure lighters and matches are in a safe place.

Firefighters will also check your garage for chemicals to make sure they are stored safely, your pool chemical storage area and your pool’s pump and electrical connections.

"The hardest thing we face is people saying, ‘It won’t happen to us,’" Lathrop said. "We are trying to be proactive, but people don’t realize we offer these types of programs."

As he went through the house, Lathrop filled out a report that included recommendations. One copy is left with the homeowner and Lathrop files the other copy.

To schedule a free home fire safety survey, call the fire district at 741-3900 and ask for Cave.



Phillips named programs and projects manager

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Former City Commissioner Lisa Marie Phillips, who worked on getting grants for city projects and started the ball rolling on the city’s Waterfronts Florida designation, has been named the new programs and projects manager.

Phillips is the second person to head the city’s newest department, succeeding Dottie Poindexter who resigned Oct. 5 citing problems with scheduling and long hours.

"I didn’t really have to look too far," Mayor John Chappie told the city commission after disclosing his choice. "She knows the system; she knows how to write grants.

"Part of her assignment is to run the Waterfront Florida Committee," Chappie added. "She knows that program better than anyone."

One of the problems with replacing Poindexter, who transferred over to the new department from public works, is the knowledge she had of all of the programs and projects in the city – from grant applications to capital improvements.

Chappie said Phillips’ knowledge of those things outweighed her lack of experience in some of the other areas needed for the job. He told the commissioners that the city had received several good applications for the position since advertising for it in November.

Phillips spent one full term as city commissioner in the second ward after being elected for a one-year term in 2003 to finish the term of Dawn Baker.

After a somewhat rocky start that included an ethics case against her by a citizen, Phillips began pushing several environmental issues for the city. They included an annual Eco Expo to showcase local issues such as water use, storm drainage, pollution prevention, replacing plastic bags at the beaches with cloth ones and building a sustainable natural habitat. She was also a vocal supporter of a proposed water taxi and pushed the county into considering the Bridge Street Pier as a stop for one, if and when it comes to fruition.

Phillips was able to pull together an application for the Waterfronts Florida program on short notice that won the city a designation. With that designation came grant money to hold visioning sessions and further opportunities in the future for more grants.

Phillips did not run for re-election last November, saying she needed to find a way to make more money. She got a part-time job for a consortium of governments and businesses boosting commerce along the Manatee River in Bradenton and Palmetto.

Following the meeting, Phillips said she was thrilled to be able to take the position because she loves her city.

County asked to look at all piers

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH– Mayor John Chappie says he hopes the county doesn’t forget about the three groins on Coquina Beach as it rushes to rebuild a pier that was built over a groin at the Manatee County Beach in Holmes Beach.

Chappie was reacting to the story in The Anna Maria Island Sun last week that quoted a county parks and recreation official as saying tthe department is looking into a fix for the pier, which was closed to anglers and strollers last month.

Indeed, the three groins in Coquina Beach are in need of attention. One resembles an accordion because the deck collapsed where it meets the pilings that were set out into the surf many years ago.

It appears the problem has caught the attention of the newest member of the Manatee County Commission. During the comments portion of the county commission meeting on Jan. 4, former Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore said she hoped the county would address the pier at the Manatee County Beach. Whitmore was elected to the county commission last November.

Fellow commissioner Jane von Hahmann, who hails from Cortez, asked the county to also try to find the funds to fix up the three groins along Coquina Beach and Whitmore concurred.

Manatee County Conservation Lands Management Administrator Charlie Hunsicker has also been pushing to improve those groins. His plans call for building piers over them, much like the one at the Manatee County Beach, to turn them into fishing and strolling piers.

Last summer, Hunsicker asked the city of Bradenton Beach to formally request that the county look for grants to improve the groins. The city commission approved a letter making that request in the fall, and it was presumably sent to the county.

The next step appears to be up to the county administrator’s office or the parks and recreation department to find the funds to fix the groins as well as rebuild the pier.


Teachers celebrate year one

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – An anniversary came and went quietly last week as students, teachers and staff at Anna Maria Elementary School returned from the Christmas and New Year’s holiday break. It was the first year in their new campus.

A year ago, parents and students volunteered to help teachers and staff move into new classrooms and offices over the holiday break.

"We were here every day," said media specialist Lynne McDonough. "My kids and the parents helped get everything moved in.

"There were lots of parents helping move books and furniture into the classroom," she said. "We were ready to go that first week back."

Kindergarten teacher Melanie Moran remembered that period when they were under the gun to get everything done over the holidays.

"It was hard work, but it’s over," she said. "I just feel very happy about our new school and my classroom."

It seems that the excitement of the past year in their new digs has erased the memory of that extra effort many gave to make sure the move went smoothly.

"I was talking the other day about how fast this year’s vacation went," McDonough said. "My daughter had to remind me that we worked all through the break last year."

A lot has happened in the year since the move, and the staff and students have adjusted to the new building. As with any new construction, there have been the usual problems in getting used to new things and the usual breakdowns.

"One thing I learned (about this experience) is that it is never done," said Principal Kathy Hayes. "We’re still working on warranty issues, which is an unfortunate part of building such a large complex.

"Overall, it’s a delight," she said. "I still think it’s the most beautiful little school in the state."

The larger classrooms, with large storage areas and close proximity to toilets and running water, have definitely made life easier for everyone. Teachers are also becoming attached to their new surroundings.

"It’s feeling more and more like home," said fifth-grade teacher Anne Kinnan. "I’m starting to staple things to the wall."

Hayes said parents are relived that the new building better addresses the issue of security.

"So many of the parents who talked with me feel their children are safer in the new building," she said. "They’re happy to be dovetailing with the country’s new security measures and that it is much easier to restrict access to the new school in times of emergency."

While all of the teachers we talked to said they were happy to be in the new building, there were some who reminisced about the openness of the old campus where you walked outside from one classroom to another.

"I’ve been here 29 years and I miss the old place," said Kinnan, "but the new one is healthier, cleaner and nicer."

Kinnan said, however, that she finds herself spending much more time indoors.

"Sometimes I’ll get here at 7:30 in the morning and when I leave at 4:30 in the evening, I realize it’s the first time I’ve been outside all day," she said. "Nowadays, the teachers fight for more outdoors exercise duty."



'Oceanfest' to benefit START documentary film fund

START (Solutions To Avoid Red Tide, Inc.) will launch its fundraising drive to produce a high-definition (HD) documentary film on red tide at Oceanfest, a gourmet dinner with seafood selections from some of the Suncoast’s most renowned restaurants.

Oceanfest will be held at Mote Marine Laboratory on City Island on Thursday, January 18, from 6 to 9 p.m. The event’s program will include an update on START’s activities by Ed Chiles, chairman of the board; an announcement of expansion of Mote’s beach reporting system by Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick, senior scientist at Mote and a long-standing member of the START Board; and a preview of the HD film footage in Mote’s Immersion Theater. Proceeds from the event will go to START’s Documentary Film Fund.

START is partnering with the Essential Image Source Foundation (EISF) to fund and produce this film on red tide. Susan Sember, founder/president of EISF and the film’s producer, will be present to introduce the HD video preview. The film depicts activities by START, Mote Marine, Florida Fish & Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) and NOAA to protect and nurture our Gulf marine environment. The film also features leading scientists and researchers relating the progress in detecting, monitoring and mitigating the effects of red tide.

The gourmet dinner will be provided by local restaurants, including the BeachHouse, the Broken Egg, the Colony, Euphemia Haye, Harry’s Continental Kitchen, the Longboat Key Club and Resort, MarVista, Mattison’s Riverside, Moore’s Stone Crab, Pattigeorge’s, the Sandbar, the Sun House, and the Waterfront.

Dinner selections include seafood delicacies such as grouper wonton tacos with wasabi caviar, seafood lasagna, mini crab cakes, cold crab meat salad, baked salmon in puff pastry, and snails Leslie and Caesar salad. Key Lime pie and chocolate Godiva pie are also on the menu.

There will be a wide variety of wines and beverages provided. A martini bar will also be available.

Music for the evening will feature steel drums and a woodwind quartet.

Approximately 50 tickets are still available at $25/person. They may be reserved by calling the START office, (941) 747-5656 or toll free, 888-757-8278, from 8 a.m. to noon.

Sarasota officials are investigating and may file charges against him.

During the chase, the three squad cars used by the officers were wrecked and had to be towed. According to Stephenson, who made the report on the incident, the Manatee County Sheriff's Office sedan ran into the Bradenton Beach sedan, which was pushed into the Holmes Beach pickup.

Stephenson said the sedans were total losses and the pickup suffered a couple of thousand dollars worth of damage.

No law enforcement officer was injured in the crash.


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