Vol 7 No. 22 - February 21, 2007


Dispute flares in GSR case

Consultant’s cost hikes mushroom

Newly paved roads worry residents

Activists to fight for Australian pinesl

Trolley passes Bridge Street test

Manatee County plans more preserve activities

County pursues new renourishment funding

Traditional ceremony welcomes new ladder truck

Public hearing set for city comp plan




Dispute flares in GSR case

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

A new skirmish between GSR Development and its creditors broke out in Tampa bankruptcy court last week as the court held a three-day evidentiary hearing in the Chapter 11 case.

GSR’s Chief Restructuring Manager, Bill Maloney, asked the court’s permission to hire RoseBay Real Estate to sell GSR’s 15 lots at Villa Rosa in Anna Maria for a total of $9.1 million.

The court previously had approved RoseBay to sell GSR’s vacant Rosa del Mar property in Bradenton Beach, and the company has since received numerous inquiries about Villa Rosa, RoseBay broker Lynn Parker said.

In his petition, Maloney said RoseBay would seek both individual lot buyers and developers who might purchase the entire Villa Rosa property. If a developer is found, any individual buyers that RoseBay locates could buy from the developer, Parker said.

The 15 canalfront lots are priced from $560,000 to $795,000, prices set by Maloney and subject to court approval. Parker called the prices "within striking range."

Meanwhile, the official committee of general unsecured creditors disputed the property’s stated value and opposed a compromise reached in the case.

They asked the court’s permission on Friday to separately pursue their claims on the Villa Rosa property against Randall A. Bono, Bon Eau Enterprises, LLC, a/k/a Bon Eau Investments, Randall A. Bono, LLC, The Real Estate Law Firm, Thomas Coelho, Derek Filcoff, Steven Noriega and Robert Byrne.

Noriega and Byrne are principals in GSR.

In their petition, the creditors’ committee wrote: "The debtor, and in particular Maloney, has attempted without any success to market and sell any real estate assets of the debtor for a price that would return anything to the estate. This failure does not result from any lack of ability or other shortcoming on his part, but from the fact that the market for real estate on the Island has been shattered."

The court had not yet ruled on the motions as of press time.

Consultant’s cost hikes mushroom

ByTom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The city commission has agreed to pay extra expenses incurred by an engineering company, even though the firm ran up a tab above and beyond what was authorized without telling the city.

Building Official Ed McAdam brought the problem to the commission’s attention during a regularly scheduled last Thursday.

On Aug. 31, 2004, Wilson Miller Engineering, was authorized to bill up to $4,000 for "agency coordination and permitting" on the Gulf Drive corridor enhancement project. The city increased that amount by $4,000 later when it became apparent that the mission would incur more expense. Later, more time and expense were incurred and the company finally told the city, after the fact, that it would need an additional $12,000.

McAdam said the increase in expense was due to a long list of government agencies and their different departments that were involved in obtaining permitting.

In addition, McAdam said Wilson Miller would need approximately $12,000 for obtaining 10 easements to assure a five-foot-wide sidewalk is built along Gulf Drive. That brought his request for funding authorization to $24,000 to keep the project, which is due to be completed later this year, on track.

City Commissioner Bill Shearon said that when the commission approved the 90-percent plan for the project last year, they were not told of the impending overrun.

"There was a breakdown in communications," Mayor John Chappie explained.

"I’m just having a hard time approving stuff that hasn’t been brought before us," Shearon said.

"I think we need to put a process in motion for the future so that we can see things as they happen," Commissioner Michael Pierce said.

McAdam agreed, saying the city had already changed the way it allocates work and money for multi-task projects. He said the engineer for the city’s canal dredging, Townsend and Associates, gets a notice to proceed for each task with the amount authorized and the time schedule on it.
"I think you need to insert a bright-colored page in your contracts saying changes and additional budget have to be authorized," City Attorney Ricinda Perry suggested.

The commission approved the additional funds on a four-to-one vote with Shearon voting against it.

Newly paved roads worry residents

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – A lot of the roads are newly repaved in the city, but the job appears to be unfinished.

"I don’t know what we can do," said Bill Snow, a member of the city’s capitol improvement advisory committee. "We talked to George (Public Works Director George McKay) about the the edges weeks ago. We emphasized that something needs to be done before some other poor lady gets hurt."

Snow was referring to an incident where Nancy Pedota suffered a bad break to her leg when the bicycle she was riding encountered a pothole at the edge of the old pavement on Spring Avenue.
Snow said he was in the paving business for more than 20 years up North.

"We always did the edges of the road as part of the contract," he said. "Either we finished the edges or we brought the shoulders up to match. I was surprised that they don’t do that in Florida."

Snow said McKay told him he was going to be getting some kind of an outside contract to get the edges of the resurfaced roads finished.

"But I haven’t seen anything," he said. "There is no oversight. We (the capitol improvement advisory committee) can only advise. We can outline what needs to be done and we can arrange the money, but we have no real power."

Commissioner Dale Woodland is the commission’s liaison to the CIAC. He said he remembers the meeting where members of the committee expressed concerns about the edges of the pavement.

"But I don’t remember anything specific being said," Woodland recalled. "We talked about a lot of things, and I remember we talked about the edges. Tom (City Engineer Tom Wilcox) said we’d need to get another contract to have someone come out and put rock at the edges of the pavement. But I don’t know who was going to be responsible for that."

Woodland said he’s realizing that there’s no procedure for translating the discussions and wishes that arise out of CIAC committee meetings into deeds.

"I don’t know who should be responsible for that," he said. "Maybe it’s the chairman of the committee; maybe it’s the public works director; maybe it’s the mayor; maybe it’s me as the liaison from the commission to the committee. It’s something I definitely will resolve."

Woodland said it is obviously vital that things get put into writing outlining what needs to be done, how it is to be done and putting everything into a timeframe.

Activists to fight for Australian pines

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Two groups might combine forces to take up for the much maligned Australian pine following Manatee County’s removal of 66 trees along Cortez and Coquina beaches two weeks ago to make room for a paved trail.

Activist Marsha Lindsey, who belongs to a group called STOP (Stop Taking Our Pines) that has fought to keep the trees in Holmes Beach and Anna Maria, attended the latest meeting of Save Anna Maria (SAM) at the request of SAM member Billie Martini.

Martini started the discussion saying she was upset when she learned that the county was taking down the trees along the beach.

"I called someone at the county who said we have no say in what they’re doing," she said. "He said it was state policy to eradicate Australian pines."

Martini said she asked the county for some information and got a brochure that listed a whole bunch of reasons the pines are bad.

"At the end, they listed a few good uses for the pines such as making poles, fences, furniture," she said. "There was no good use for live trees, however."

Lindsey said she felt there was a place for some of the pines, but she said she supports keeping them trimmed so they don’t become a hazard in high winds.

Lindsey said she has joined forces with STOP leader John Molyneux, who is also a member of the Holmes Beach Beautification committee.

"Our hope is to co-exist with the trees and not eliminate all of them," she said. "I did not see enough damage from the 2004-05 hurricane seasons to change my mind about their safety."

"If we argue with all these governmental agencies, we need to agree that the trees should be kept pruned, Al Wiedorn.

"If they take down these magnificent shade trees, they should be required to replace them with other shade trees," Margaret Chapman said.

Martini suggested that SAM join STOP to fight against complete eradication of the Australian pines, but the group voted to table the issue until after the Holmes Beach Beautification Committee holds its seminar on native plants on Tuesday, Feb. 20, so they could learn more about the subject.

In other news from SAM, president Sheila Hurst, vice president Jay Hill, secretary Nancy Deal and treasurer Billie Martini were all installed for second one-year terms. Martini initially said at last month’s meeting that she would not serve again and Mollie McCartney, a newspaper reporter, accepted a nomination, but McCartney said at this month’s meeting that there were complications to her serving as an officer of the group.



Trolley passes Bridge Street test

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

The trolley is likely to be coming to Bridge Street soon, although it was already there one afternoon.

Bridge Street shop owners and their customers were startled late last month to see a trolley come rolling down the street, but they might get used to it some day. Manatee County Area Transit Director Ralf Heseler sent a memo to Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie a week ago saying they would start sending northbound trolleys down Bridge Street to see if riders would use it. That may not come until construction of the pier is finished, since the trolley would have to use the small roundabout in front of the pier to turn around. The roundabout is currently closed due to the construction.

Several officials from the city and county governments were on board as the driver tried to navigate the roundabouts on both ends of the street last month.

"We want to get the feel of this," said Manatee County Community Services Director Fred Loveland. "We want to see if this is doable."

Chappie, Bradenton Beach Building Official Ed McAdam, Manatee County Area Transit official Rodney Beggs, Hesseler and this reporter all took the ride from the turnaround at Coquina Beach to Bridge Street and back.

The experiment had its ups and downs. On the first trip down from Gulf Drive, the driver started the turn into the roundabout too late and had to back up, to avoid parking barriers in front of the Pines Trailer Park. We went back out onto Gulf Drive northbound and turned right at city hall where several people were waiting at the large trolley shelter for a ride. They tried to get on until we explained that this was a test ride and was not running the entire route.

We came back to Bridge Street via Bay Drive, where large beer trucks sometimes park along the road to supply the restaurants and bars in the commercial district. Fortunately, there were no trucks parked there as we drove by. It would have been a tight squeeze.

Once again, we went through the roundabout and this time it was successful. We didn’t have to back up.

Mayor Chappie said the city could move the sidewalk on the southeast side of the roundabout to allow drivers more room.

One reason city officials want to have the trolley come down Bridge Street is to accommodate travelers with luggage. The city is building a water taxi dock at the Bridge Street Pier, and officials hope it will someday bring in tourists without cars.

"I picture tourists getting off their plane at the airport, taking a shuttle to the Crosley Mansion and then taking a water taxi across the bay to the Bridge Street Pier," McAdam said. "From there, they could take the trolley to where they are staying and never have to rent a car during their vacation."

Manatee County plans more preserve activities

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

The Manatee County Conservation Lands Management Department has a range of activities planned all month in county preserves. These free, educational events are an opportunity to learn more about unspoiled Manatee County flora and fauna while helping to keep these lands pristine. Here’s the lineup for the rest of the month:

• Friday, Feb. 23, 10 a.m. to noon, Emerson Point Preserve., Home School Program: Mangroves, Mussels and Mud! In a world where the waters meet, anything can happen. Trees survive in super salty soil and stilt-legged birds wade through the water. In this program, they will use hands-on activities to explore these phenomena and discover more about these wonderful waters. Participants will help out the estuary, too, by picking up trash and making the habitat safe for the animals that call it home. Come dressed to get a bit wet. Reservations are required. Call Jill at 729-0950.

• Saturday, Feb. 24, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Rye Preserve. Sunset Shutter Stroll. This evening you’ll wander through the woods for a different kind of sunset. This photo shoot will move from the subtle hues of dusk into the dark night, giving participants the incredible opportunity to practice flash photography for night shots in the woods and through the Rye Family Cemetery. Spaces are limited and reservations are required. Call 748-4501, ext. 3654.

• Wednesday, Feb. 28, 7:30 to 11 a.m., Emerson Point Preserve, Audubon Society Birding Tour. Early morning is the perfect time to spot birds in the county’s preserves. Learn to identify local birds and migratory visitors as you tour this preserve with the Audubon Society’s master birders, John Ginaven and Stuart Hills. Reservations are required. Call John at 798-9829.


County pursues new renourishment funding

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The stage is still set to bring new sand to Coquina Beach, but who will help pay for it and what quality it will be is still unsettled.

Manatee County had planned on getting sand from a dredging project off the south end of Jewfish Key and the north end of Sister Key, near Longboat Pass, to be used to renourish Coquina and Cortez Beaches, which had not been renourished previously.

After disclosing the fact that core samples from Longboat Pass and the Intracoastal Waterway showed dark sand, Manatee County Conservation Lands Management Administrator Charlie Hunsicker had more unsettling news for county commissioners on Tuesday.

"The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been unable to get the funding for the total restoration of those areas," he told The Sun. "In lieu of that, the board directed our office to seek out funding from the West Coast Inland Navigation District and get nationwide navigational permits to remove the sand."

Hunsicker said the county would seek a state grant to pay for half the cost, estimated to be up to $5 million. The county would pay its half of the cost with funds from the tax on lodgings. A percentage of those taxes is dedicated to beach maintenance.

Hunsicker said that if the county gets the grant and manages the dredging, it would control the quality of the sand that might go on the beaches, which are popular destinations for locals and tourists.

"The West Coast Inland Navigation District found two disposal sites for the sand that are not on the beach," he said. "We can separate bad from the good.

"Since the new dredging will be a smaller project than what the Corps had planned," he added, "we will have less sand to store in those off-beach areas."

The original Island renourishment in 1992 did not extend past Fifth Street South where the residences ended because the grant said the project was intended to protect residents and their property.

Subsequent renourishments missed the area because it was not a part of that original project, and erosion there has prompted Hunsicker to seek renourish for those beaches for more than a year. He said if everything goes as planned, the county would hope to start renourishing by November.

The Corps of Engineers had previously conducted maintenance dredging projects in the area, which is prone to shoaling due to inflow and outflow between the Gulf and bay. Under a previous agreement, Longboat Key and Manatee County were to have been alternating recipients of the sand.

As Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie was speaking to the county commission last Tuesday evening, Longboat Town Manager Bruce St. Denis appeared seeking some of the sand, even though the city had gotten sand on the previous two dredgings. Hunsicker said the county might be able to give some of the sand to Longboat and still get what it needs for Anna Maria Island.

He said the new scenario is better for the Island than with the old project, which the Army Corps would have overseen.

"Under this scenario, Manatee County would set the specifications and hire the contractor," he said. "We would be able to control the quality of the sand going on the beaches."



Traditional ceremony welcomes
new ladder truck

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – An old fire department ceremony was revived to welcome West Manatee Fire & Rescue District’s new ladder truck earlier this month at Fire Station 2 in Cortez, which will be home to the truck.

Present and retired fire personnel, fire commissioners, EMS personnel, Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore and representatives of Pierce Manufacturing joined in the fire station’s bay for the wetting down ceremony.

"The reason we did this early in the morning is because I wanted to make sure the crews that will be working of this apparatus would be able to participate in this new wetting down ceremony," Fire Chief Andy Price explained

"We’ve never done this before, but it’s been a tradition in the fire service for many years. As a department, we’ve decided that we want to go back to some of the old traditions."

Price said a committee of fire personnel, including Battalion Chief Rich Losek and firefighters John Stump, Paul Hopkins, Nate Bergbom and Mike Bugel, evaluated the need for a new ladder truck and then made the case for replacing the old ladder truck with one with enhanced capabilities.

"These are the guys who will be using the truck. They surveyed the district and found that our old truck would not reach some of the highest buildings and the new construction," Price pointed out.

"People are tearing down single-story homes and putting up the maximum amount of square footage and height. We found we could not reach the roofs and we could not get to the sides to put the ground ladders up."

Also if the truck were not replaced, the district’s Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating would go up, Price said. A low ISO rating translates into savings for homeowner’s on fire insurance premiums.

The truck has a 100-foot ladder tower, which pivots 360 degrees, with a large bucket at the end. The bucket can hold four firefighters to take them to the top floors of a building to fight a fire or it can hold up to four people that firefighters need to evacuate from a building.

In addition, it contains a 200-gallon per minute pump, a compressed air foam system, a hydraulic generator and side air bags to protect firefighters.

Price also thanked the board of fire commissioners for approving the truck’s purchase.

Firefighters then wet down the new truck with hoses, pushed it back into the station and buffed it out. Following that, everyone held up their radios to hear the dispatcher welcome the new truck with the following announcement, "We would like to wish Truck 123 (old ladder truck) and Ladder 129 (new ladder truck) and those assigned to them a safe journey and the skills necessary to provide the best possible service to our visitors and citizens. Ladder 129 is hereby placed into service at West Manatee Fire & Rescue Station 2 this first day of February 2007."


Public hearing set for city comp plan

By Laurie Krosnay
Sun Staff Writer

ANNA MARIA — Public hearings that will start the real legal process for updating and amending the city’s comprehensive plan are set for early next month.

"The hearings we held up to this point are all related to the Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR), which is just a report telling the state how and what the city plans to do when they update the plan," said Planner Tony Arrant. "The EAR is not law, it is not adopted by ordinance and it does not change the plan. It is simply a report."

Arrant said the EAR process is complete at this point and he's preparing copies to be sent to the proper state agencies.

"Now the city must actually hold the public hearings to start the real legal process for updating and amending the comprehensive plan," Arrant said.

He said that these are public hearings where affected parties should participate, because the result of these hearings will actually change the Future Land Use Map and the goals, objectives and policies of the plan.

"We included all these changes in the EAR, but we still have to hold separate public hearings for the plan amendment process," Arrant said.

The first of two hearings has been scheduled for March 6 at 7 p.m. at Holmes Beach City Hall. This first hearing will take place before the planning and zoning board, which acts as the local planning agency. A second and final public hearing will be scheduled before the city commission later.


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