Vol 7 No. 37 - June 6, 2007

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Pier damaged as Barry brushes Island

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Give from your heart in two ways

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Cortez Trailer Park residents get their chance

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Charlotte Long: First woman mayor of Holmes Beach

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Deputy fire chief returns from state fire duty

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Law could make condo teardowns easier

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Sgt. Dave Giddens retires from HBPD

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Artist memorializes Cortez families




Pier damaged as Barry brushes Island

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA ISLAND — Tropical Storm Barry blew past the Island on Saturday, causing widespread street flooding, structural damage to the Rod & Reel Pier and a fuel spill from the barge dredging the Lake La Vista Inlet.
The storm actually made landfall in Pinellas County between 11 a.m. and noon during one of the highest tides of the season. The two-foot storm surge on the Island pushed canals over seawalls while the roughly 1.5 inches of rain flooded streets in all three cities.

Meanwhile, high water and high surf caused a cross member to break away from the deck at the Rod&Reel Pier, forcing authorities to shut down the popular attraction, according to Manatee County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Kenney.
"The stringer came away, so we had to close the pier," he said. "Then the box that holds the sewer pipe from the restaurant back to shore came loose. Fortunately, no sewage spilled, but there was damage."

Kenney said the restaurant was scheduled to be closed Monday and Tuesday for the installation of a new air conditioning system.

"This brought an early shut down, and from what I understand, they’ll be open for business again on Wednesday," he said.

"It was really something," said Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford. "We had a lot of flooding and the barge had a fuel spill."

The barge is the vessel that is clearing the channel of the Lake La Vista Inlet. It was moored just inside the channel to avoid the choppy waves of the bay.

"Apparently it scraped along the rocks of the jetty, got a little tipped and spilled some fuel," Barford said.

Kenney said some fuel apparently sloshed from the fuel tank onto the jetty rocks where the barge was sheltering.

"We called the Coast Guard and they came out and handled it," Kenney said. "It was just a couple of gallons, and we don’t think much fuel got into the water or bay."

"We had a lot of street flooding," he added. "It all just came at once. A seasonal high tide and the surge hit pretty much together. Water from the bay was coming over sea walls and backing up out of storm drains."

Joan Dickinson, who lives on North Bay Boulevard, had a lot of water in her garage and sloshing against the walls of her house.

"I didn’t sandbag in time," she said. "I wasn’t really aware the storm was going to do what it did. I have a lot of wet boxes and a lot of sand in my garage."

Dickinson said Barford came by and she was grateful for the commiseration.

"It was wonderful that the mayor stopped by to see what she could do," Dickinson said. "There wasn’t really anything she could do, but it was nice to know she cared. Sgt. Kenney helped me sandbag."

"Sandbagging is not actually in my job description, but we offer full service law enforcement – whatever the situation calls for," Kenney said.

There was also flooding on North Shore Drive and on Jacaranda.

"It was all tidal flooding, and there’s not much you can do when the tides are high and you get a surge," Dickinson said. "You just have to wait ‘till it goes down."

There also was a serious issue with sightseers, according to Barford.

"People came out, lots of people came out to see what was happening out here," she said. "When cars and trucks go down a flooded street, you get wake. That wake can make the water go right into people’s houses."

Barford said the city placed barricades so that no cars could go down the streets with the worst flooding.

"Let’s just hope that all the predictions for the season are wrong," Barford said. "This was just a little storm and we had some issues with it."

There was some localized street flooding in low-lying areas, according to Holmes Beach Police Lt. Dale Stephenson.

Marina Drive was under water from Gulf Drive through downtown Holmes Beach up to about 67th Street. The roads into Seaside Gardens were badly flooded.

"The road was completely under water," said Patricia Bryan, who lives in the Gardens. "Our docks were under a couple of inches, too, but you expect that. June and December have the highest tides of the year, and this was the highest tide of the month. So the storm came at high tide in June. The water came over sea walls and up the boat ramp and into the street."

Bryan said she didn’t think things got bad enough to actually come into anyone’s house.

"We stood on the dock in water up to our ankles and fished," she said. "The fishing was quite good. We caught a trout, some grunts and a catfish. It was a very nice trout."

There were no reports of any problems in Bradenton Beach.

The storm came ashore in Tampa Bay across Pinellas County. Once it hit land, it rapidly lost power and was downgraded to a tropical depression.

The storm, which hit on the second day of the 2007 hurricane season, brought rainfall amounts of as much as seven inches to parts of the bay area.

West Manatee Fire and Rescue’ Chief Andy Price said the highest wind gust hit 32 mph., which was recorded by the wind gauge at the fire station in Holmes Beach.

Give from your heart in two ways

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

If you participate in the Island Blood Drive next weekend, June 9 and 10, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., you’ll be giving from the heart in more ways than one.

First, your donation of blood will help supply those who need it through Florida Blood Services. Secondly, when you sign up for the weekend blood drive, an anonymous donor will give $100 to one or more of five non-profit organizations.

• The Anna Maria Island Community Center donations are designated for their new building fund and for program scholarships to ensure that no one is ever turned away due to an inability to pay.

The Community Center Board of Directors agreed to donate $25 of each $100 the Center receives during the blood drive to the families of Holmes Beach Officer Pete Lannon and Kathy Joyce, of the Community Center. Both passed away recently after battling cancer and the money will help pay medical bills.

To contact the Community Center, call 778-1908.

• The mission statement of the Anna Maria Island Privateers is "Pirates for Children and Community" and the annual Island Blood Drive donations provide funds for a scholarship fund for high school graduates, as well as renewal scholarships for previous winners. To contact the Privateers, call Elizabeth Christie-Cline at 778-8519.

• The Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island has been serving the Island community and Manatee County through monetary donations and hands-on service projects for more than 40 years. The funds raised from the Island Blood Drive will be used for local charities, school, hands-on projects and Rotary humanitarian projects worldwide. To contact the Rotary Club, call 746-7517.

• The Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center Inc. is a non-profit volunteer organization providing treatment and care for injured and orphaned wildlife, with the goal of returning all native species back to the environment. Donations obtained through the annual Island Blood Drive are utilized to maintain facilities and continue service and treatment to the wildlife. To contact the Wildlife Rehab Center, call 778-6324.

• The purpose of the West Manatee Fire/Rescue Volunteers is to vitalize the history of the district. They maintain the Bradenton Beach Historic Volunteer Station, built in the 1950s by Island volunteers, as well as an antique fire truck used for parades and children’s’ visits. The Island Blood Drive helps provide the non-budgeted necessities for the district’s firefighters, to improve their life-saving abilities. To contact the WMFR Volunteers, call 737-9025.

Bloodmobiles will be set up at the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach; Publix, 3900 E. Bay Drive, Holmes Beach; and the BeachHouse restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach.

To make an appointment, call 746-7195 or log onto www.fbsblood.org.

The first 250 donors will receive a free T-shirt and the chance to save up to three lives in our community.

Sponsors are Tropicana, Pepsi, the BeachHouse restaurant, The Bradenton Herald and The Anna Maria Island Sun.


Cortez Trailer Park residents get their chance

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – It’s what they’ve been hoping, praying and protesting for.

Every Saturday morning since March, Cortez Trailer Park residents have stood along Cortez Road protesting owner Butch Howey’s decision to sell the park to developer Carlos Beruff for $10.8 million.

With signs saying, "Here today, where tomorrow?" and "Pray for us," the residents, mostly retirees, drew attention to their fear of being evicted from the waterfront park, where they own their trailers but not the land.

A majority of the homeowners’ association voted in March to offer Howey the same amount of money that Beruff did, but to their surprise, Howey refused. Several of Howey’s family members live there, including his 86-year-old parents, who have lived at the park since 1959.

Now, Beruff has changed his mind for reasons he has not disclosed, and so has Howey.

"Beruff has terminated his contract and they can buy it," Howey said last week. "They say they’ve got the money. They’ve been hollering and screaming, and I would strongly encourage them to buy it. That would be fine with me."

Beruff did not respond to a request for comment.

"We’ve always wanted to purchase it," said Doug Morgan, co-chairman of the purchase committee for the homeowners’ association. Two years ago, Howey put the park on the market for $14.75 million, giving the association the first option to buy it, but their counteroffer was not accepted.

"We are working with a bank and two attorneys to make this happen," Morgan said, referring to the financing arrangements. "We’ll try to make it work for the homeowners."

The $10.8 million price tag translates to an average of $136,700 for each of 79 lot owners. The 5-acre park at the eastern end of the Cortez Bridge also includes a marina, a restaurant and a historic community center dating to the 1890s.

It’s a lot of money on a fixed income, but park resident "Turtle" Tom Van Ness says it’s not as bad as having to move away from friends who check in on you with homemade soup, some who have known each other for more than 45 years.

While the battle for their homes will not be over until the ink is dry on a sales contract, residents are breathing a sigh of relief.

"We’re so happy," Van Ness said. "I feel fantastic."

But the news came too late for some.

"Some people were worried sick," he said. "They sold their trailers and got out of Dodge. They’re going to be heartbroken."

The park’s residents have wide support from the historic fishing community, particularly from the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) and the Cortez Village Historical Society.

Cortez businesspeople met privately with Beruff to ask him to abandon his plans, and asked Manatee County commissioners and staff what type of construction might be permitted along the historic waterfront. The homeowner’s association discussed a lawsuit to claim a right of first refusal. Countless motorists honked their horns during the weekly protests.

"We don’t know why Beruff backed out. Maybe it got too hot in “the Kitchen,’" Van Ness said, referring to the Cortez nickname for Sarasota Bay.


Charlotte Long: First woman mayor of Holmes Beach

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Charlotte Long, 86, who served as the first woman mayor of Holmes Beach, passed away at Ridge Lake Hospital in Sarasota on Friday, June 1, while recovering from heart surgery.
Long served on the city council from 1975 to 1978 and as mayor from 1978 to 1986. She also served as chairman of the city’s board of adjustment following her eight years as mayor.
"She was wonderful, smart and clever," Betty Hill, Long’s city clerk, said. "She was a lady to the ninth degree. She was wonderful to work for and as mayor she handled situations and people well. We were lucky to have had her when we did because she brought stability to the city."
Mrs. Long was born, raised and educated in Cleveland, Ohio. In college, she majored in accounting and psychology. She met her husband, Bill, a widower with two teenaged sons in Cleveland. Later, the family moved to Madison, N.J., where Bill pursued his career as a computer sales manager.
The couple retired to Holmes Beach in 1970 and Mrs. Long became active in the Holmes Beach Homeowners Association. She was appointed to the city council in 1975 when Joe Ronan resigned and spent three years on the city council before beating colorful incumbent Mayor Jim Zerby for the top spot.
"She was elected mayor just as I was getting into politics," former mayor and current City Commissioner Pat Geyer said. "She taught me a lot. She was a strong lady and a very good mayor."
"She swore me in in 1979, when I started as a part-time auxiliary officer for the police department," Police Chief Jay Romine recalled. "She was always a pleasure to be around and she was a very competent mayor."
Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said he became acquainted with Mrs. Long in 1993 when she served on the board of adjustment.
"She was a real nice person," he said. "She was well liked and dedicated to the city. I respected her a lot."
After her four terms as mayor, Mrs. Long became very active in the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation. There she served a parish treasurer for many years and was a lector with the Episcopal Church Women.
Long-time friend Paula Tripp recalled, "In February 2003, the church presented a cross pendant to Charlotte and me for our years of outstanding service to the church."
In 2006, former Mayor Carol Whitmore honored the city’s women mayors in a ceremony at city hall.
"She was a great lady," Whitmore said. "She never hesitated to call and give me advice when I was mayor."
Several years ago, her grandchildren, Bill and Lisa Long, and their daughters, Rachael and Rebecca, sent Mrs. Long the following note:
"When I’m your age, I want to be able to say I’ve done as much as you and with as much passion. I want to say I’ve led a life guided by priorities similar to yours where friendships and family mattered the most. When I’m your age I hope people look at me and are reminded of the thoughtful, giving woman that you’ve always been."
Mrs. Long was preceded in death by husband, Bill, and is survived by her stepsons, Bill Long and his wife, Joy, of Lenexa, Kan.; and Thomas Long, of Bay Village, Ohio; grandchildren Bill and Lisa Long and Bill and Lisa Hess; and great-grandchildren Rachael, Rebecca, Holly, Ellen and Isobel Long; and Lauren, Brian, Josiah and Carolyn Hess.
A memorial service will be held Friday, June 8, at 11 a.m. at the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation, 4408 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. Griffith Cline Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


Deputy fire chief returns from state fire duty

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

West Manatee Deputy Fire Chief Brett Pollock recently returned from a two-week deployment to wild fires north of Orlando.

Pollock is the safety officer for the Florida Inner Agency Blue Team, a part of the Florida Division of Forestry (DOF), and is called when needed for fires, hurricanes or other emergencies.

"When I got there we shadowed the crew that was managing the fire," he said. "I knew it was going to get big. I ordered two safety officers and the forestry department ordered more resources."

Pollock explained that safety officers are responsible for the well being of firefighters and support team members.

"We have to go out and look at the hazards and come up with a plan to keep everyone safe," he said. "We have to know how many firefighters are out there and what shifts they are working. We have to keep them hydrated and alert them to areas that could be dangerous."

Pollock said some of the hazards were creatures such as alligators, snakes and bears; dead trees from a 1998 fire that could fall on firefighters and unpredictable conditions at night.

"We had over 100 firefighters on duty at night and we had to be aware of the unpredictability of the fire behavior," he continued. "It was getting big at night because of the weather conditions."

More than 500 firefighters worked three fires that raged across Flagler, Volusia and Lake counties. The largest, the Airport Road fire, had burned about 2,00 acres when Pollock arrived and grew to 6.575 acres. The Lee fire covered 2,600 acres and the Red Oak fire covered 850 acres.

Gov. Charlie Crist and state emergency management officials visited the camp and gave briefings. Sprint/Nextel brought a portable cell tower and the DOF brought in a huge trailer with equipment to tie together communications between agencies. The Red Cross and Salvation Army fed the crews.

“It’s good to get out there and see that type of situation," he concluded, " because if you don’t go out in the field and see what works, you won’t know how to deal with it when the crisis comes. It’s a learning experience every time you go out."


Law could make condo teardowns easier

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Legislation awaiting action by Gov. Charlie Crist could make condominium teardowns easier despite the objection of condo owners.

The act would allow 80 percent of condo owners to terminate the condominium entity and tear down the building, regardless of the percentage required by the condominium documents.

While the act would make it easier for condo owners to defeat a lone holdout in cases where a disaster damages the condo in excess of its value, critics say it would also open a loophole for developers hungry to redevelop old Florida-style residential condos into new, luxury vacation units with high-end profits.

"The rights of the membership will be overridden by what is a land grab by developers with the assistance of the Legislature," said attorney Dan Lobeck, whose Sarasota law firm represents more than 600 condo associations in the area, including Anna Maria Island.

For example, if a condo’s documents specify that 100 percent of the owners must agree before the building can be torn down, the act would override the documents, requiring only 80 percent of the owners to agree.

If the condo documents specified that 75 percent of the owners must agree, the act would not increase the requirement to 80 percent, he said.

Unless the governor vetoes Senate Bill 314, approved last month by the Florida Legislature, it will go into effect automatically on July 1.

A similar bill was vetoed last year by Gov. Jeb Bush, who said it used state power to enrich developers, Lobeck said, comparing it to a controversial U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a municipal government can take private property for public purposes.

"I remain hopeful that the governor will veto it for the same reasons Bush vetoed it," he said.

The act would also weaken the rights of mortgage lenders, who are usually protected by condo documents that require their consent for a teardown, he said.

The act strikes a good balance between group and individual property rights, countered Travis Moore, a lobbyist for the Community Associations Institute, a 26,000-member national organization of community association members and property managers.

The group supported language in the act that allows 10 percent of the owners to cancel a termination attempt by a negative vote or by putting their objections in writing, he said.

"Otherwise, if 80 percent of the owners said, ‘We want to go ahead and terminate,’ it would have taken 20 percent of the owners to stop it," he said. "We wanted to make sure that 10 percent would be enough to stop it. Our position was that we wanted to make it so that people could get their value out without one person having a veto over everyone else."

"It’s an improvement over last year, but not much of one," Lobeck said. "It would still override the provisions of the documents."



Sgt. Dave Giddens retires from HBPD

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Sgt. Dave Giddens will spent his last day as a police officer on June 8 the same as he has the previous 12 years with the department — cruising the city’s streets on the night shift.

Giddens’ years with the city are only a portion of his 33 years in law enforcement. Giddens, who grew up in Bradenton and attended Southeast High School, started with the Palmetto Police Department in 1974.

"I was there a couple of years, but I quit in 1977," he recalled. "I went back in 1980 and retired from there in 1994."

"I coaxed him out of retirement to take the job here," Police Chief Jay Romine pointed out, "and I’ve talked him out of retiring from here for a couple of years. I’m happy for him that he’s retiring, but not for us."

Giddens came to Holmes Beach in 1995 as a patrolman, but an opening for a supervisor came up shortly after he began. He took the test and became a sergeant.

"He’s been a model supervisor," Romine said. "He’s so even keeled. Everybody likes him and he gets the job done. You never like to lose ones like that."

Giddens said he’s seen a lot of changes, both throughout the county and in law enforcement since the 1970s.

"The biggest changes in law enforcement have been the use of computers, the equipment and the educational criteria," he said. "Police officers are better trained but I still think experience is a better teacher."

Of his experience in Holmes Beach, Giddens said, "The last 12 years out here have been wonderful. There are a lot of nice people in the city that support the police department."

Once he retires, Giddens and his wife, Debbie, a dispatch supervisor at the Palmetto Police Department, will take a vacation out West. He said after a couple of months off, he plans to find a part-time job. He will also serve as an auxiliary police officer for the city working eight hours a month.

Giddens and Debbie have four children — Alisha, 36, who owns a dog grooming shop; John, 34, a cook at Peach’s; Jeremy, 30, a detective with the Bradenton Police Department; and Brett, 21; and two grandchildren —Emily, 11; and Christopher, 3.


Artist memorializes Cortez families

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – Librarian Rhonda Kitchens celebrated Memorial Day a little differently this year.

She spent the holiday weekend commemorating the original families of the Cortez fishing village by painting their names on a picnic table at the Star Fish Co. on the docks.

Surprisingly, given her career, the names are not in alphabetical order. But that’s the artistic side of the folk artist known as RhondaK.

RhondaK put her career on hold, bought an old boat for $1, called it the Tikimama and lived aboard off Cortez – ironically, in the area known as “the Kitchen" – between October 2005 and October 2006. She earned less than $10,000 that year, saying she was the happiest she’s ever been.

"It’s very liberating," she said, explaining that she owns no more than she can carry in her Jeep.

Last year, she moved to Sarasota to take a job as a librarian at the Ringling College of Art and Design, but she has a plan to buy another boat and move back to the waters off Cortez within the year.

Meanwhile, she visits and paints. At one Star Fish Co. table, where restaurant patrons enjoy fresh mullet, crab and other seafood landed at the adjacent dock, she has painted the names of the founding Cortez families.

Nicknames of some past and present Cortezians and names of some Cortez veterans, who are listed on the fishermen’s memorial in the restaurant parking lot, also are memorialized.

At another table, she featured the starfish for which the restaurant is named.

"The starfish is all about regeneration," she said. "What breaks, regrows. What falls away rebegins."

RhondaK considers her table paintings as working memorials that tell stories and provide a sense of place to diners and tourists.

Regulars will recognize the Tampa native’s work from the rustic signs displayed for sale at the restaurant and other Cortez businesses.

Popular sentiments include: "Cortez – Our fish tales are bigger than your fish tales," "May your fish always be larger than the holes in your net," and "If you keep your mouth shut, you won’t get caught," next to a dangling hook and a fish with a closed mouth.

For more information on her art, visit RhondaK’s website at www.rhondakwrites.com.


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


<< Go back to Index June 6

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper