Vol 7 No. 26 - March 21, 2007

City hall cleanup cost skyrockets

Sign rules, dock use top upcoming commission agenda

CART joins statewide tax reform alliance

Red drift algae makes landfall on Island

Tour of Homes raises $34,250

The wait gets shorter at Key Royale Club

Finale for chorus, orchestra

Attorney seeks conflict waiver




City hall cleanup cost skyrockets

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – The fix for the city hall mold and asbestos problem will probably run to about $112,000.

The work to remove the asbestos that will be disturbed during the removal of the mold and to restore city hall to move-in condition will take until the middle of June.

City hall is temporarily located in the Island Baptist Church while experts assess and mitigate the problems that arose as a result of several leaks that occurred while the building was getting a new roof last August.

The city has hired an attorney who specializes in construction litigation. Mark Nelson has contacted Roof USA to offer them an opportunity to fix the problems.

"Within thirty days after your receipt of this notice, you are entitled to perform a reasonable inspection of the property to assess each alleged construction defect," Nelson wrote in a March 12 letter to Roof USA. "I understand that an independent adjuster hired by your insurance company has already performed an inspection. The city requests that all inspections be completed ASAP in order to mitigate the city’s damages."
In his letter, Nelson demands a written offer to remedy the problems at no cost to the city, a written offer to compromise, a timetable for making payment or a written offer to compromise on the payment for the repairs.

Nelson asks the roofing company to submit a written statement disputing the claim or stating that they will not compromise and settle the claim in the event that they are unwilling to accept responsibility.

The letter sets a time limit of 45 days for Roof USA to respond.

"Please respond as quickly as possible because the city of Anna Maria is incurring damages on a daily basis for the cost of operating city hall from an alternative location pending repairs," Nelson writes.

He further notes that the city has to be out of its temporary quarters at the Island Baptist Church by June 25 as that’s the day that Vacation Bible School begins at the church and the classrooms now being used by the city are reserved for the school.

"The costs of moving into a second alternative location prior to June 25, 2007, would be significant," Nelson’s letter states.

Nelson is requesting that Roof USA provide the city with a written agreement allowing the commencement of repairs immediately.

City commissioners got the word on the costs and the pressure to get the repairs done at a special meeting March 9.

Mayor Fran Barford said the $111,750 cost could go up a bit more if the city has to pay for expert testimony. Additionally, the final figure for the legal bill is not known.

"We have to get moving on this right away," Barford said. "I know it looks like we’re not doing anything, but I can assure you the staff and I have been working on this night and day. We had to get everything assessed and then we had to follow the directions of our attorney so we can so we can get the roofer to pay for the damages.

"We also have to be out of here by June 25. We can’t be operating here with the kids from the bible school running around."

Barford said she wanted to thank the staff at the church.

"They couldn’t be nicer or more gracious to us, especially given that we are uncertain when we can move back to city hall."

City commission and other meetings are being held at Holmes Beach city hall until the building is deemed safe for occupancy.

Sign rules, dock use top upcoming commission agenda

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Commissioners agreed to grapple with two issues that have generated a great deal of controversy in the past — regulating signs and the use of docks in dead-end canals.

The sign issue began a year ago when the planning commission recommended changes to the sign ordinance as part of its revisions of the land development code. This prompted representatives of real estate companies and other business to make their own suggestions for changes.

City commissioners discussed the issue several times, but talking stopped in August when City Attorney Patricia Petruff advised commissioners about the Solantic case that "wreaked havoc to the sign ordinances of most cities in the state." The case indicated that many exemptions in existing sign ordinances were illegal because they were not content neutral.

In September 2006, Frank Davis, of Island Real Estate, submitted a list of suggestions regarding the size, height, number and placement of real estate signs and what attachments would be permitted.

"A lot of modifications were proposed, but we did not decide on anything," planning consultant Bill Brisson told commissioners last week. "Nothing has been changed from the old land development code except a couple of definitions. If you’re really content neutral, the only thing you can regulate is the location and size."

The problem with docks in the city’s dead-end canals was last discussed in the fall of 2005, after Brisson gave commissioners a report with suggestions for solutions. He submitted a draft ordinance to City Attorney Jim Dye in August 2006. At a recent meeting Petruff asked Brisson to contact Dye regarding the status of the ordinance.

"I met with Mr. Brisson last week and he brought me up to speed," Petruff said. "We agreed on some language changes. We believe that it will make the situations within the city that we are currently aware of better. It’s just a matter of putting it in ordinance form and brining it back to a work session.

Dead end canals are located between 70th and 71st streets, on the southeast side of properties fronting on Hampshire Lane and the south side of properties fronting on Key Royale Drive, between 67th Street and Key Royale Drive and between 71st and 72nd streets.

Also included are non-regulated, T-end-type canals where docks are located and associated with properties that do not directly have property boundaries adjacent to the waterways. These are along 85th Street, and Marina Court, 83rd Street and between Baronet and Concord lanes.

Commissioners plan to discuss both issues at the April 10 work session.

CART joins statewide tax reform alliance

Citizens Against Runaway Taxation (CART), the local tax reform organization, has joined with other local groups to create a statewide coalition known as the FTPA (Florida Taxpayers Alliance) with a base in excess of 100,000.

CART President Don Schroder said that the the Alliance has developed goals and strategies which allow the representative diverse groups to pool their resources and talents into a strong statewide organization.

"It was obvious to all of our groups that we had similar goals and that our efforts to bring about meaningful tax reform would be better served by speaking with one voice," Schroder said. "There are so many options on the table in Tallahassee that we felt a statewide organization could better understand how each option could be merged into a legislative approach that would be suitable and effective at the local level. The group has designated as its spokesperson Dr. David McKalip, chairperson of Pinellas County based Cut Taxes Now.

"The local governments will certainly be claiming that there is no room to cut even a penny from their budgets,” McKalip said. “Already they are forming ranks with well funded special interests and likely will continue to use taxpayer dollars to fund their political campaigns."

The alliance set the following goals to stop rising property taxes:

• Cap future spending growth to the lesser of 3 percent or inflation plus population growth.
• Cap future revenue increases from all level of governments and all sources revenue to the lesser of 3 percent or inflation plus population growth.
• Rollback local government revenue and spending (county, cities, special districts) to fair levels that existed prior to inflated budgets due to increased property valuations.
• Establish fair appraisal of property values and roll back to fair valuation levels.
• Ensure that only voters at the polls can overcome these limitations and rollbacks.
• Ensure that local governments are providing services based on zero-based budgeting.
• Ensure that excess revenue will be returned to the taxpayer or be used to reduce future tax burdens.

Red drift algae makes landfall on Island

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

The good news is that the red seaweed in the water that’s washing up on the beaches is not red tide.

The bad news is that it’s red drift algae, and an expert says that it can cause its own problems for people and marine life.

Red drift algae is not toxic in the same way as red tide, a microscopic form of algae that kills fish and marine mammals, contaminates shellfish and causes respiratory irritation in people, said Brian LaPointe, associate scientist at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution’s Center for Coastal Research in Ft. Pierce.

But as it rots, the red drift algae - a type of seaweed enjoyed as cuisine by Hawaiians and other Pacific islanders - can cause a rotten egg or sewage odor that can cause respiratory irritation, he said. The rotting seaweed also can harbor bacteria that can cause skin rashes, he added.

In the underwater world, it can suffocate seagrass beds and coral reefs.

Sanibel Island has experienced a severe red drift algae bloom this spring, he said.

"It’s bad on Anna Maria, but not as bad as it is in Sanibel," said LaPointe, who has been studying red drift algae on the Gulf coast for three years, since a particularly bad bloom washed up in Fort Myers.

His research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Florida, among others.

Red drift algae blooms commonly happen during the dry season – such as the current draught – when runoff that normally carries nutrients from rivers into the Gulf decreases. With fewer nutrients in the water, the Gulf becomes clear, allowing light to reach the bottom, he said, which encourages the growth of the red drift algae.

But it won’t last forever, he said. When the rains come, nutrient-rich runoff will increase, making the Gulf water cloudier and slowing the growth of the red drift algae to normal levels.



Tour of Homes raises $34,250

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

The 2007 Anna Maria Island Tour of Homes brought throngs of lookers onto the streets last Saturday to walk through six Island homes whose owners opened them up for a charitable cause.

That cause, the Anna Maria Island Community Center, is some $34,250 richer for it, according to Community Center Development Director Aida Matic.

In addition to the money raised by the approximately 700 lookers, who paid $15 per person in advance and $18 the day of the tour to walk through the houses, Beach Bistro owner Sean Murphy raised $680 from 68 people who attended his wine tasting.

The homes represented a range from historic to redesigned to brand new designs. Large tents were set up in the front yard of John and Penny Reinholz at 6503 Marina Drive for the Boutique and Food Pantry. Tables inside the tents displayed home decor items plus baked goods and snacks.

Outside the tents, several decorated chairs were on display, the subject of the silent auction, which raised even more money for the Center’s programs.

Finally, Bob Blake, of Holmes Beach, won the quilt raffle. He becomes the proud owner of a custom made quilt from the Eyeland Needlers. Proceeds also went to the Center.

The wait gets shorter at Key Royale Club

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – For the past few decades, there has been one fact that has remained constant in Holmes Beach – it could take years before you could get a membership to Key Royale Club.

That’s not true anymore, and it should put some fire into golfers who would love to spend their free time on the Island’s only golf course.

Back in 1965, when Jim Cochran built the course, you would get a membership free for purchasing a lot in Key Royale, the small Islet in Tampa Bay off Anna Maria Island.

Back then, the developer had the streets mapped along the canals that he dug, and Key Royale was another Florida development luring retirees from the north. The plan also featured 27 acres for the nine-hole executive golf course.

Today, the club boasts 636 members, 457 of them with golfing memberships. The club recently decided to make a special class for members over the age of 85 called honorary members. There are 60 of them and they don’t count against the cap put on golfing memberships. The club also voted to increase that cap.

The availability of golf memberships increased by 70, thanks to those two decisions by the board, according to board president Norm Mansour.

"We’ve always been known for our waiting list," he said, "but that list is down now."

Mansour said a lot of the members are seasonal residents who are gone in the summer. He said the board also decided to allow people on the waiting list to play golf from May 1 through Sept. 30.

"If someone signed up now, he could play this summer," Mansour said. "In fact, you might become a member within a few months."

Otherwise, you would need to befriend a member and play as his or her guest, Mansour added.

"We also have social memberships," said Nancy King, membership chair of the club’s board. "They can dine at the clubhouse and participate in activities there and can still play golf once a month."

And play golf they do. The club has weekly tournaments for men, women and mixed teams. There are special tournaments, such as the President’s Cup held each spring, just before many of the seasonal members go back north.

King said that there are also a lot of regular activities for social members.

"We have a welcome back party every fall for the seasonal members, a Christmas party, a cabaret night, a celebration on the Fourth of July," she said. "Plus, the clubhouse is available to rent by members for private parties."

The club recently finished an expansion project that added space to the clubhouse. They put in a new kitchen and an expanded parking garage for more than 400 golf carts. Those aren’t the riding carts that most golfers use.

"This is a walking golf course," Mansour said. "It’s small and golfers can wheel their clubs around, unless they are handicapped and need a riding cart. We do allow them for those who need them, but they have to store them off premises."

With all those members on a nine-hole course, one might wonder how hard it is to get a tee time.

"The fact is, we don’t have tee times," Mansour said. "We use a cueing system. You line up and wait until the party in front of you hits and is out of the way. Most of the time, it is unusual to wait more than 20 minutes."

The beauty of it all is that once you pay an initiation fee and your annual fee, you don’t pay every time you play. Renting a cart will cost you money, but that’s about all.

"The annual fees are really a bargain," Mansour said. "If you like to play golf or just want a place to socialize, this is the place to be, especially if you live on the Island."

For more information, call the Key Royale Club at 778-3055.


Finale for chorus, orchestra

The Anna Maria Island Community Chorus & Orchestra and Conductor Alfred Gershfeld are preparing a "Taste of France--a dash of Norway" for the season finale, March 25, at 2 p.m. in the Crosspointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria.

Scheduled are favorite selections by French composers Maurice Ravel, Jacques Offenbach, Charles Gounod and Gabriel Faure. Audience favorites, bass-baritone Douglas Renfroe and soprano Lorraine Murphy-Renfroe, will join AMICCO in presenting this delicious fare.

Andrew Lapp, winner of AMICCO's first annual Young Artists' Competition, will provide Norwegian flavor performing the first movement of Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto. An eleventh-grade honor student at Sarasota Christian School, Andrew not only is an outstanding pianist who has won many awards and invitations for performance and study, but also is an award-winning composer, studies the organ, plays the violin in his church orchestra and accompanies his school's touring choir.

General admission tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door or in advance at the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, or by calling 778-1217. For more information visit www.AMICCO.org or call 778-1716.


Attorney seeks conflict waiver

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – After hearing an emotional plea from its city attorney, the Bradenton Beach City Commission voted to give her conflict of interest waiver to allow her to represent restaurant owner Ed Chiles in cases he might bring against the city.

By a vote of four to one, with Commissioner Bill Shearon dissenting, the commissioners voted to waive Ricinda Perry from a conflict of interest following a complaint from former city commissioner Anna O’Brien.

Perry represented Chiles when he presented his plans to convert parking space on the beach south of the BeachHouse restaurant into a controlled public parking lot on March 1. O’Brien appeared at that meeting to protest Perry’s appearance, calling it a conflict of interest. Following that, Perry put together the waiver.

When the waiver came up at the March 15 meeting, O’Brien said she had no ill feelings toward Perry, but felt she had broken a promise that she made when she was placed on call for city business that she would not represent any business on the Island.

Perry said that wasn’t exactly the case.

"When the city hired me, I was already representing Island Inc., the Chiles Group, David Stott and other local entities," she said. "Now, I only represent Chiles.

"The projects I worked on with the city were not related to these clients," she added. "There is a chance in the future that I might obtain information that would affect a client a little sooner than if I waited for it to be made public, but that’s not likely."

Perry also reminded the commissioners that she is not the city attorney of record, but was hired to represent the code enforcement board. She also spoke of the rates she charges the city for her work.

"What I charge the city is about 30 percent lower than my usual rate," she said, "I need to make that up by representing clients like Mr. Chiles."

Perry’s voice quivered as she spoke of not being trusted by the commission.

"If I resign from the city, my law firm, Lewis Longman and Walker, also resigns," she said.

The city attorney of record, Ralf Brookes, reminded the commissioners that Perry is bound by the Florida Bar ethics rules which state she cannot represent a client if it is adverse to another client.

"I’m sure that Lewis, Longman and Walker would not risk their practice by hiring Miss Perry if she were not ethical and I’m sure she would not risk her job by doing anything unethical," City Commissioner and Vice Mayor John Shaughnessy said.

Shearon took a stronger stand, saying his main objection to her representing Chiles is that he doesn’t want to see her sitting on the other side of the table when she does.

"My concern is that you can’t serve two clients," he said. "Based on the presentation made at the last meeting (on the Chiles parking lot), I feel very strongly that that issue will affect almost every gamut of the city."

He also said he can’t agree with an open-ended waiver.

Commissioner Janie Robertson said she objected to adding the waiver to a contract that she feels is working.

"I don’t like the part where the city waives anything from what it might do in the future," she said. "What do we gain by adding this?"

Mayor John Chappie said he felt the integrity of Perry and her law firm was being attacked and Shearon objected, saying he already said he wanted her to represent the city.

Robertson asked Perry if the city would lose her services if it voted against the waiver.

"Truth be known, I don’t want this (waiver)," Perry said, "This only says I will be bound by the code of ethics but I want to represent Mr. Chiles and the city. Ed was my client a year before the city hired me."

"I hope you understand where I’m coming from," Robertson said. "Each time the city waives anything, it loses some protection, but if you say you won’t work for the city without it, I would say it is in the best interest of the city to keep you."

The commissioners cast their votes to keep Perry on call.


"Write a letter to the editor about a story."


<< Go back to Index March 21


AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper