Vol 7 No. 21 - February 14, 2007


Twenty-five years of mullet and music

Sand color causes concern

No trolley around Bean Point

Add asbestos to mold problem at city hall

Long-time employees recognized in Holmes Beach

County to work with city on replacement trees

GSR property sales efforts increase

Galvano addresses island insured

Nonagenarian Landraitis honored by players




Twenty-five years of mullet and music

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ - Blue Fulford sits in the shade making a net as the smoky smell of mullet wafts by. Charley Canniff and his wandering singers perform sea shanties in the village streets. White pelicans scatter as Roger Allen launches a handmade wooden sailboat into Sarasota Bay.

This isn’t Disney; it’s real Florida, Cortez-style, and the commercial fishing village will celebrate its heritage this weekend during the 25th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival.

In 1982, Cortez fishermen got the idea to educate people about seafood and the people who catch it.

"The whole purpose was public education that net fishing wasn’t the destructive force that some people were portraying it as," said Allen Garner, one of the original festival organizers and president of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH).

"We wanted to show that we were regular working families trying to carry on like our dads and granddads," said Mark Taylor, another organizer and a Cortez chapter director and state president of the Organized Fishermen of Florida (OFF).

"Everybody was pulling together because of the anti-fishing lobbying," said Danny Woodson, a festival organizer who now works in seafood sales in Tampa. "OFF had meetings at the firehouse and we decided to start a tradition."

The closeknit community pitched in. Sheila Mora went door to door collecting signed approvals from nearby property owners. Villagers made fish chowder, which was gone by noon the day of the first festival, organizer John Stevely recalled, estimating that thousands attended.

"It overwhelmed all of us because we thought would it be a small event," Woodson said.

The novice event promoters learned other lessons, too.

"We forgot to make arrangements to deposit the festival receipts," Stevely laughed. "I drove home with the proceeds, I think it was around $3,500, in the trunk of the car until I could deposit them when the bank opened."

For the first six years, the festival was a loss, but less money was lost each year, Taylor said. To keep it going, a $1 admission was charged, later modestly raised to $2, where it has stayed ever since.

At first the festival was one day only. It was held on the President’s Day Monday holiday for a couple of years to avoid interfering with Cortez businesses, Garner said, but there were worries about losing everything if the weather was bad that day. A plan to expand to two weekend days required negotiating with the village churches to open at 1 p.m. on Sundays, which the festival still respects.

Ministers from churches in and out of Cortez have been invited to give the ceremonial blessing of the fleet at each festival. One year, just before the blessing, the crowd got more of a glimpse of village life than organizers intended when a couple of fishermen chose that moment to start brawling on a boat behind the minister, recalled Taylor, who helped break up the fight.

In the early days, fishermen lined up their boats in the fish house parking lot from the smallest to the largest, and Stevely would lecture on what the boats were used for, jumping from one to another, Taylor said.

"We mended nets and demonstrated poling skiffs, and the Miss Cortez fleet shuttled people to Cortez from Coquina Beach," he said.

In the early years, there was no stage for the bands, recalled longtime festival participant Richard Culbreath, whose popular country band is scheduled to play at this year’s festival.

One Saturday, it rained, and drummer Bill Ashley set up under the Star Fish Co. stairs to stay dry. It would have been a great idea, except that as people walked up and down the stairs, they were kicking mud on him, he laughed.

At a later festival, in true Cortezian style, a stage was constructed on a boat trailer, which gave a whole new meaning to the words rock and roll when the band members started stomping their feet.

Over the years, Mora, who founded a women’s auxiliary, has designed festival T-shirts and written and illustrated four Cortez cookbooks, while other volunteers have built ticket booths, cooked Cortez hot dogs (fried mullet in hot dog buns) and built a track for blue crab races.

More children’s events including pony rides and rock climbing were added, seafood vendors multiplied, the festival moved from the east end of the village to the west end and nautical artists were invited to participate.

Since its second year, the festival has purchased some of the art works, Garner said, many of which were moved this month to the new Florida Maritime Museum at the east end of the village for display. Some of the Cortez collection also is on display at the community center.

When the constitutional amendment to ban gill nets was passed in 1994, putting many fishermen out of work, Stevely wondered if the devastated community still had the will to organize the festival. But the response was loud and clear, he said - "Now more than ever."

"We’ve lost the nets, but it’s become a profitable venture," Garner said. So with the festival proceeds, the FISH organization has taken a new tack - purchasing and preserving 95 acres of environmentally sensitive land east of the village on Sarasota Bay called the FISH Preserve.

"It makes me proud that it still continues," said Taylor, who left fishing after the net ban, as did Woodson.

"I’m not surprised it lasted 25 years," said Woodson, who is planning to attend the 25th anniversary by boat. "Even though we don’t have gill nets, we have heritage."

Sand color causes concern

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Dark sand scheduled to be dredged from Longboat Pass and the Intracoastal Waterway could wind up on Coquina Beach, the Manatee County Tourist Development Council learned on Monday.

Charlie Hunsicker, of the Manatee County Conservation Lands Management Department, briefed the board on a pending emergency project by the Army Corps of Engineers to correct a dangerous shoaling condition in the Intracoastal just south of Longboat Pass, and the pass itself.

"Lack of routine maintenance has created a condition where boats jockey for position," he said.

The dredged sand was scheduled to be deposited on spoil sites including Coquina Beach as part of the county’s beach renourishment program, Hunsicker said.

But an examination on Friday of core samples of the sand showed it was dark and silty, causing concern, he said.

An alternative would be to remove the Australian pines from Beer Can Island at the north end of Longboat Key and dispose of the sand there, Hunsicker said. Other alternative sites are Cortez and the Sister Keys, except that a healthy population of gopher tortoises there would have to be relocated, he said.

About 70,000 cubic yards of sand will be dredged, and the designated spoil site on Coquina Beach is 5,000 cubic yards, he said.

When he first heard of the proposal, "My mind closed around the nightmare scenario of having the darkest stuff on Coquina Beach," Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Larry White said.

Council Chairman Joe McClash tried to calm fears, saying that the sand could be deposited at other spots including across from Coquina Beach on the east side of Gulf Drive. He added that the sand may not all be dark, and that there is time to investigate the problem, as Army Corps projects move slowly.

No trolley around Bean Point

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – The trolley will not be going around the north end of the Island any time soon.

An Anna Maria resident brought up the idea of extending the trolley route at a meeting late last year of the Island Transportation Planning Organization.

Mark Alonso said he found it disturbing that a resident or a visitor could take the trolley anywhere on the Island except into his neighborhood.

Since then, there has been a lot of discussion among residents about the trolley as well as several articles in The Sun.

Mayor Fran Barford talked to county transit officials who said the trolley could navigate the narrow roads and humpback bridge to access the north tip of the Island.

"But I’m worried about our humpback bridge," she said. "I know that trucks and school busses use that bridge every day, but the trolley would use it every 20 minutes. I just hate to think of the wear and tear on that bridge. As mayor, I really feel this is a major issue."

Commissioner Duke Miller concurred with Barford about the potential impact on the bridge over the Lake La Vista Inlet on North Bay Boulevard.

Miller pointed out that the city owns that bridge.

"When that bridge wears out, it’s going to be very expensive to replace it. It’s not built to current standards, and we’ll have to acquire more land. That trolley would really take its toll."

Barford said she knows that there are some elderly and physically challenged people who live in that area who would like the trolley to come close to their houses.

"But we talked to MCAT, and there are other ways people can get around," she said, referring to the Handy Bus system in the county.

Other commissioners agreed that there had to be some transportation access for people on the north end who need it, but that the trolley wasn’t the only option for providing that.

"There is a need in this city for some people who aren’t as mobile as the rest of us," Commissioner Dale Woodland said. "It’s a long distance from Bean Point to Pine Avenue (the northern most street used by the trolley.), but the trolley may not be the best way to handle this."

Commissioner Chris Tollette expressed safety concerns pointing out that walkers, bicyclers, rollerbladers and cars already share quite narrow roads in that area.

"I think we would create a major hazard for everyone by adding the trolley," she said. "But I do agree that we should come up with a solution for those people who need help getting to the doctor or to Publix."

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Tara O’Brien said she thinks there are other issues impacting possible trolley service to the north end.

"I think that we are trying to avoid the elephant in the room – the tourists," she said. "The fact is that the majority of people using the trolley are tourists, and we don’t want them here."

Resident Randall Stover was opposed to the extension of the route.

"The idea is ludicrous," he said. "We’d be spending on it like a drunken sailor. We are talking about taking the commercial bus service through the residential area.”

At the end of the discussion, commissioners opted to leave the trolley route alone. The trolleys will continue to use the city pier as their northern terminus.

Add asbestos to mold problem at city hall

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — More problems have been discovered at city hall. Now there’s asbestos to deal with.

The asbestos was uncovered as technicians from In Star, a mold remediation company, were poised to begin removing the mold that has been growing in several areas of the building — the result of a bad leak that occurred last August during a re-roofing project. There have been several smaller leaks since then.

Mayor Fran Barford told city commissioners at their Feb. 8 work session about the asbestos.

"We don’t know the full extent of it yet," she said. "The mold and asbestos will have an impact on each other. We can‘t do one without the other."

The mayor had Scott Russell from Environmental Safety Consultants advise commissioners on the impact of the asbestos find.

"The asbestos was found in particulate material on some drywall," Russell said. "We need to do some fairly widespread testing."

Russell said that testing would be done early this week, and until that testing is complete, estimates on how much asbestos will need to be cleaned up and how much that will cost remains unknown.

Barford told commissioners that the asbestos has to be removed before the mold can be removed.

"The mold remediation will disturb the drywall, so that needs to be taken care of first," Barford said.

Asbestos was found and removed previously from city hall during a remodeling project in 2004.

"We didn’t test the areas where the asbestos is now," Public Works Director George McKay said. McKay oversaw the remodeling project.

"You don’t need to do anything about asbestos unless you are going to disturb it," he added. "The mold removal will disturb the asbestos, so it has to be removed."

Barford has mentioned several times that she has nightmares about the problems.

"I see mold and reconstruction in my dreams," she told commissioners.

After the asbestos is removed and the mold is removed, the building will undergo reconstruction. New drywall will have to be installed, and the carpeting and ceiling tiles will have to be replaced, as will the chairs behind the dais in the commission chambers.

"We won’t know how much the reconstruction will cost until we get in there and see the extent of the mold," Barford said.

City hall operations have been moved to the Island Baptist Church while the problems at city hall are cleared up.

Original time projections for the cleanup and reconstruction were set at seven weeks. It’s not known exactly how finding the asbestos will affect the timetable.

Costs for the first phase of the cleanup, not including reconstruction, are already at $32,500.

The city is initiating a lawsuit against Roof U.S.A., the company that did the re-roofing project that resulted in the original leak that started the chain of events. Commissioners have been told the city should retain a construction attorney, and the city attorney is looking for one.

Meanwhile, commission and some other city meetings are being held at Holmes Beach City Hall.



Long-time employees recognized in Holmes Beach

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Mayor Rich Bohnenberger recently recognized seven employees who have worked for the city for 20 or more years each.

"I guess it’s a good sign," Bohnenberger said of their longevity. "Nobody works because it’s fun, but it’s a good place to work if you have to work. I think the city is better off for that,because in other communities in the area they have constant turnover. We’ve been fortunate."

Bohnenberger presented plaques to the following employees: Police Chief Jay Romine, 20 years; Lt. Dale Stephenson, 20 years; Officer Rob Velardi, 20 years; and Assistant Public Works Foreman Gary Blunden, 21 years.

Romine and his wife, Jayne, have a daughter, Ashley. Stephenson and his wife, Kelly, have three children, Melissa, Deanna, and Brian. Velardi and his wife, Angela, have three daughters, Adriane, Alise and Amelia. Blunden and his wife Debbie, have a son, Chris, and a daughter, Amy.

Employees unable to attend the ceremony included Officer Jim Cumston, 20 years, and Public Works employee Wayne Vandermolen, 21 years. The plaque of the late Public Works Foreman Skip Nunn, 30 years, will be presented to his wife, Ginny. Bohnenberger presented a plaque to Officer Michael Leonard for pursuing and capturing the CVS robbery suspect on Christmas day.

County to work with city on replacement trees

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The trunks and gnarled roots of the Australian pines that littered the Cortez Beach parking lot have been removed. Following a period of protest by a group of people who wanted the trees to stay, the county is looking forward to replacing them with native trees.

The trees were taken down as a prelude to installing the Coquina Beach Trail, a joint project of Manatee County and Bradenton Beach.

Manatee County Parks and Recreation Department Project Manager Tom Yarger updated the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway Committee on the project at its meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6 and offered the city a voice in deciding what trees will replace them.

"It might be a good idea to have residents voice their opinion through a group like the Scenic Highway Committee on what kind of trees they want to see there," he said.

Mike Sosadeeter, who also works for the Parks and Recreation Department and who serves on the Scenic Highway Committee, suggested they get a list of native, salt tolerant trees from which to choose, but Mayor John Chappie had another suggestion.

"Maybe you should look at Mike Miller’s list of trees from his website, perfectisland.org," the mayor said, referring to the Anna Maria resident whose Web site includes lists of native plants that he developed during16 years of volunteer planting for the city of Anna Maria.

Yarger told the committee that the county is not replacing every tree with a new one. He said they would work to replace the shade canopies that were reduced by the tree removal.

"We need to strategically pick areas where they need shade," he said.

City Commissioner Bill Shearon, whose district encompasses that part of the city, said the reaction to the tree removal was 50-50.

"Half said they’re glad the trees are gone, and the other are not happy," he said. "I’m afraid that when the county comes in to put up more trees along the road, some of the homeowners are going to be unhappy because the new trees will block the view of the beach that they have gained."

Yarger said the county would take the sightline into consideration and would not plant a new tree in front of somebody’s picture window.

"I’ll bet dollars to donuts that the property owners on the south end are not going to want something planted on the beach," Chappie said.

Chappie said one problem is the fact that the county placed large rocks along the shore to fortify the beach and those rocks are only a few feet under the sand. He said the Australian pines, with their shallow root system, were one of the few, large shade trees that would grow there.

"We’ll finish the trail and then some up with a plan for replanting," Yarger said. "We’ll bring to the Scenic Highway Committee after that."


GSR property sales efforts increase

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – More Bradenton Beach properties owned by GSR Development are going up for sale pending approval by the Tampa bankruptcy court.

The assets of the company, whose principals are Robert Byrne and Steven Noriega, are being liquidated to pay creditors under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code.

GSR’s Chief Restructuring Manager Bill Maloney has requested that the court approve a non-exclusive brokerage agreement to sell the vacant Gulffront Rosa del Mar property at 2508-2516 Gulf Drive N.

The agreement would protect non-exclusive brokers’ commissions while allowing multiple brokers to market the property, according to the request.

Maloney said that he has been approached by more than a dozen Realtors with potential buyers for Rosa del Mar, which was planned as a 14-unit condominium.

If they cannot produce a buyer by April 1, a national firm may be brought in, according to the agreement.

Maloney also asked the court to appoint Michael Saunders & Co. as the exclusive listing broker for 110 Seventh St. S. #1 and #2, Bradenton Beach, as part of a compromise with creditor Bayfront Holdings. The Gardenia units are priced at $895,000 and $925,000, respectively.



Galvano addresses island insured

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Two Liberty Mutual customers were reassured by state Rep. Bill Galvano on Saturday that their insurance would not be cancelled.

Gov. Charlie Crist’s Jan. 30 executive order prevents property insurance companies from dropping customers, regardless of whether the company sent a non-renewal notice before or after that date, he said during a speech to the Kiwanis Club in Holmes Beach.

The freeze is in effect until the new legislation passed in January is implemented, he said.

To another customer who heard that the company is leaving Florida, he said "probably not," because of the new law.

Galvano also assured another audience member whose private insurance has increased from $1,200 to $3,700 that she will see some rate relief as a result of the new law.

Insurance customers can now negotiate rates by raising their deductibles, excluding wind coverage or excluding contents coverage under the new law, he said.

Galvano also said that the Legislature asked the federal government’s assistance in providing regional or nationwide reinsurance at a lower rate, which would be passed on to consumers as savings.

The new law will require insurance companies to disclose profits so that state regulators can determine if rates are unreasonably high, he said.

"It’s the first time we were focused on the numbers rather than rhetoric."


Nonagenarian Landraitis honored by players

By Bill Bartlett
special to the sun

Last Saturday, the Anna Maria horseshoe players celebrated the 90th birthday of one of their most beloved players, George Landraitis. Immediately following the morning’s games, about 60 players, spouses, children and friends gathered at the North Shore Drive home of Steve and Joanne Doyle, where a buffet luncheon was held in Landraitis’ honor. E-mails and greeting cards were opened from around the world and each prompted a story by Landraitis about its sender. During my two years with the Anna Maria horseshoe group, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Landraitis well through his stories, which are never short on animation or pearls of wisdom.

Born in 1917, in Hartford Connecticut, Landraitus is the son of immigrant parents who managed to escape Lithuania shortly before the upheavals bought on by the Bolshevik revolution and WWI. He was eager to live the American dream and showed little interest in the ways of old Europe that were still so much a part of the older generation. Instead, he boldly struck out to live a life where free thinking and forward looking, versus the traditions of heritage, guided him.

His talents as an artist blossomed throughout his childhood, and after high school, he enrolled in the Hartford Art School, now part of the University of Hartford. Landraitis always wanted to be a sculptor and the upper body strength he developed as a high school track star would have suited him well. He was strong and lean. He was not only able to walk around on his hands, he even had the strength and balance to walk up stairs in that position.

While a student, this slender, bespectacled, studious-looking young man ran the school’s art supply store where, in addition to earning a decent income, he loved being the center of attention. It was there that he caught the eye of another student destined to become his wife. After their graduation in 1940, he and Mary Rita Keane married and set out to pursue their new life together in the world of art.

Following his dreams to New York City and Chicago, Landraitis became a seasoned artist. Believing he would be drafted with the outbreak of WWII, he returned to Connecticut so his wife and children could be near family.

"I fought the war from a mahogany desk," muses Landraitis. "I was a technical artist for Pratt and Whitney," where he illustrated aircraft engine maintenance manuals in support of the war effort.

Over the next 15 years, Landraitis established himself as a premier artist. During that time, children Charles, Joan, Rob and Paul were born, and they quickly learned and embraced the values and visions of their father as they grew up. Memories of painted faces at Halloween, snowmen who looked more like Marilyn Monroe than Frosty, and their father’s observations of nature and his appreciation of the unusual and beautiful inspired them as they matured.

Charlie, the oldest of the children, is an associate professor of mathematics at Boston College and remembers his father’s creative talents around the house. "We had a summer cottage on Amston Lake where dad loved to fish and play horseshoes, outperforming all comers."

He also loved cars and some of his more interesting acquisitions were several Studebakers, a ’55 Chevy Nomad wagon, and a sporty British Rover sedan, England’s equivalent to the Edsel.

"I can remember a number of times when the wood-grained shifter knob came off in his hand while driving," laughed Charlie, "and that was just one of its problems"

"Being the only daughter, I was expected to be lady-like, a hard thing to do with three brothers," recalls Joan Landraitis Navin. "I can remember wanting to keep up with them in sports while also being quite competitive in school."

After getting her B.A. in child development from St. Joseph’s College and her masters degree in counseling at Western Oregon State University, Navin pursued vocations as a teacher and a school counselor, but eventually followed her talented father into the arts.

While staying home to raise her children, Navin discovered she loved photography. She honed her photographic skills through studies at the University of San Diego, Dickinson College and Penn State University. Navin now has a thriving business doing outdoor fine art prints and her own line of photo note greeting cards.

"Having a business somewhat similar to dad’s has led to many lively and helpful discussions over the years and has given us a way to know each other better as adults."

After moving to Florida, Landraitis continued to paint both watercolors and oils, and also became an avid photographer, frequently developing his own film. His kids treasure the watercolor landscapes and fanciful caricatures of the people he painted. While residing in one of the Cortez Village fishing cottages and local stores. Landraitis has always been an avid horseshoe player and one of his more whimsical paintings adorns the equipment shed at the Anna Maria horseshoe pits. During a night out with longtime horseshoe friend, Jack Cooper, Landraitis drew a picture of a pelican throwing a horseshoe. Jack took it home and brought it to life in a wood carving likeness that is now the players’ revered Champion’s Trophy.

His second son, Rob, still lives in Hartford, where he’s a used car sales manager with over 25 years in the business.

"I’d go to his office on Saturday mornings just so I could watch him draw," Rob said. Afterwards, we’d go shoot some pool and it was really cool to just hang out with him after he’d worked all day."

The walls of Rob’s home are a mini-gallery of his dad’s art work, and in his younger days, Rob illustrated for his school newspaper and several newsletters. Knee replacement surgery, during his early 40s has slowed Rob down a bit but he draws every morning for 30 minutes before work during his physical therapy sessions.

"Dad was my fishing buddy. I remember taking one of his new fishing rods and on my first cast, the reel fell off into the lake. I was able to retrieve it, clean it up but I never did tell Dad about it."

Oops – cat’s out of the bag now, Rob.

Youngest son Paul continues his father’s legacy of forward thinking as a partner at Integral Development Associates, a successful Washington state think tank specializing in a new generation of applied philosophy and psychology called Integral Theory.

"I can remember dad whistling while he worked, absorbed in an illustration or portrait for hours on end," recalled Paul. "Before the psychology of flow was ever named and researched, dad spent significant portions of his work-life in that creative, undistracted, enjoyable state of full engagement with challenging and meaningful work."

He also remembers his days at the summer cottage. "Dad built a wall from the fieldstone on our property. He loved to fit the stones together. To him it was like playing a beautiful natural jigsaw puzzle. After sitting and painting or drawing for long hours in his city office, he’d released his tensions by hauling stones to make something functional and attractive."

When asked why he chose the economic uncertainty as an independent over the security of corporate America, Landraitis replied, "I’ve watched friends working for years under a boss they hate; it is very sad. If a client is too big of a jerk, I am free to fire him and move on. I don’t think it is worth getting an ulcer to have a little more certainty about where your next paycheck is coming from."

When asked about his greatest success, Landraitis’ answer was short, "My children. I’m blessed with great kids.”

The 90-year old Landraitis shared his secrets to longevity.

"First, be your own person. Give away the best of yourself every day, especially love and empathy to your fellow man. In order to have friends, you have to be a friend first."

His beliefs and love of mankind are the underpinnings of the fellowship I’ve found to be so prevalent among the horseshoers. And while his game is not as sharp as it once was, Landraitis takes great pride when finding himself in the playoffs or the winners circle.

"I can still show these young whipper-snappers a thing or two," he said.

No doubt!


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