Vol 7 No. 42 - July 11, 2007

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Injury mars fireworks, holiday celebrations

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper City hikes garbage fee 30 percent

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Mayor wants fireworks controlled

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Six months in, Barford up to challenge

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Nallys withdraw two of three lawsuits against Sandbar

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper City gets grant for tourism promotion

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Quilters cover those in need

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Florida leads nation in boating fatalities




Injury mars fireworks, holiday celebrations

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – A Groveland man was seriously injured while he watched the fireworks on the Fourth of July.

Thomas Michael Pechous, 43, was sitting on the beach, leaning on his hands, which were behind him, when he felt something brush against his hand.

"The man reported that he raised his hand to flick it off when a firecracker exploded," said Sgt. John Kenney. "His hand was injured pretty badly. They were going to Bayflight him out, but then they found out there was a hand surgeon on call at Blake."

Pechaus was transported to Blake where he had surgery on his right hand. Parts of thumb, index and middle fingers were missing, according to Kenney. Pechous is a construction worker.

"The beach was so crowded, you couldn’t even see the sand," Kenney said. "We talked to everyone in that area, but no one admitted to throwing the firecracker."

Kenney said he thinks the firecracker was an M-80.

In another incident, a young girl reportedly received very minor burns on her thighs when embers from the fireworks at the Beach House on July 3 blew in her direction.

"It’s my understanding that the injuries were very minor, really just a couple of small blisters," said Bradenton Beach Police Sgt. Lenard Diaz.

Diaz said the girl’s father approached an officer to report the injury. He said his daughter didn’t need an ambulance.

The father later reportedly called the ambulance himself. It took a while to arrive at the scene because of the heavy holiday traffic.

According to a spokesman at Manatee County Emergency Services, EMS technicians reported there were a few small blisters on the girl’s thighs. They advised the parents to apply aloe or Lidocaine. The girl was not transported to the hospital.

City hikes garbage fee 30 percent

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Bradenton Beach residents can expect to pay 30 percent more in sanitation fees beginning in January.

The city commission voted Thursday night to approve the increase, some of which will be allocated to reserves for a new sanitation vehicle, Mayor John Chappie said. The fee also will cover recycling costs.

For residential single-family homes, duplexes, mobile homes and condominiums with trash cans, the fee will increase from $150 a year to $195. Condominium owners using Dumpsters will see an increase from $125 a year to $162.50.

The city does not raise the fee often, Chappie said, adding that a decade passed with no increases until the last hike, which was 25 percent.

In other business, the commission:

• Approved the purchase of a reconditioned recycling truck for $47,620;

• Approved a proposal to rebuild a ramp south of the bath house for $7,793;

• Approved lighting on the city pier for $12,345;

• Approved $4,708 to Townsend and Associates for professional services on a grant from the West Coast Inland Navigation District;

• Approved $6,927 for building official services;

• Approved employee benefits, pay and leave time for a reinstated employee.

Mayor wants fireworks controlled

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – In the wake of a serious injury to the right hand of a construction worker, Mayor Fran Barford is calling for better control of illegal fireworks on Independence Day.

"I’m very concerned about this," she said. "People are being maimed, not just here, but all over the state and all over the country. We have to get a handle on this – the Island mayors and our county."

Barford was reacting to the news that an illegal firecracker, probably an M-80, exploded on the hand of Thomas Michael Pechous, 43.

Pechous was sitting on the beach at the end of Magnolia Avenue. He reported to police that he was leaning back on his hands when he felt something land on his right hand. When he raised his hand to flick off whatever it was, it exploded, removing parts of his thumb and first two fingers.

"I feel really bad that this has happened on my watch," Barford said. "We need to enforce the fireworks and drinking laws. The county is going to have to help us here. It’s just overwhelming."

Manatee County passed a law two years ago making it illegal to sell any fireworks that explode or become airborne. Prior to that, anyone could purchase the fireworks that are now illegal simply by signing an affidavit stating that they were going to use the explosives for agricultural purposes.
The Island beaches have long been a popular place to set off fireworks, and crowds flock here to watch the fireworks on July 3 that are set off at the Beach House restaurant and at the Sandbar restaurant on July 4.

They often bring their own fireworks to set off while they watch the legal displays.

"It’s impossible to control," said Sgt. John Kenney, Anna Maria’s chief law enforcement officer. "The beach is so crowded, you can’t even see the sand. It’s just wall-to-wall people. You’d need an army to control that."

Kenney said the drinking on the beach that night is also a problem.

"People lose their judgment and are a little out of control with their fireworks," he said.

To control the problems of holiday crowds, drinking and illegal fireworks on the beach would be difficult.

"First, you’d need to do an operational plan," he said. "Then you’d need a lot of manpower to execute it. It would be very difficult."

Kenney said law enforcement officers would not be allowed to stop people and search them as they come onto the Island or check people randomly on the beaches. "You can’t just search people without cause," he said. "You can’t even look into someone’s picnic basket or cooler without cause. It’s against the law."

Barford said she’s going to wait until she calms down and then try to find a way to prevent the situation from getting out of control again next year.

"This is a holiday when we are honoring our country’s birthday," she said. "It was so scary that night. We need to get a plan in place and they just enjoy the legal fireworks, which are just beautiful."

The legal fireworks are put on at the two restaurants by the Bell Company, compliments of Ed Chiles and his staff for the enjoyment of everybody.

"We plan to continue to do this," Chiles said. "This year the fireworks were just great — carried on in the great tradition that Jim Taylor established. We had two good shows without incident. The Bell crew had the big shoes of Jim Taylor to fill, but they did it."

Bell had two accidental explosions in area displays this year, including one in St. Pete Beach. Some of their employees received minor injuries. No spectators were injured.


Six months in, Barford up to challenge

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — Mayor Fran Barford sat in her office one day last week and looked back at her first six months in office. It was just another day at city hall, but it was also a long journey from her election to being able to sit in her office.

The first challenge facing Barford when she took over the reins of the city last November was that mold had grown to dangerous levels after a leak in a re-roofing project in August of 2006 caused water intrusion into the building.

"We knew it was bad, and we knew we had to do something immediately," Barford said.

When she learned from the mold remediation company that no one could be in the building during the remediation, she moved the staff to the Island Baptist Church, since renamed Crosspointe Fellowship.

"It was close quarters there," she said. "If I had a confidential phone call I had to make, I had to get in my car, drive home and make the phone call. Then I’d get back in my car and drive back to the church."

The worst day by far was the day asbestos was found at city hall.

"That was just awful," Barford recalled. "I thought we were moving along and there was an end in sight, and then to get hit with the news about the asbestos. It was just terrible."

Barford said she often couldn’t sleep in those days, because she would worry about the expense of the mold remediation and the difficulty in working with the roofing company to recover expenses.

"They just wouldn’t call me back," she said. "After repeated attempts to talk to them, I knew we had to get an attorney to help us."

All told, the cost of the remediation ran to about $120,000, not counting legal fees. The case is still in litigation, and until things settle out, no one knows how much money the city will recover.

Barford had also served as mayor of Temple Terrace, near Tampa. There, the mayor is also a non-voting member of the commission, just as she is in Anna Maria.

"It was quite different there," she said. "It’s a bigger city. There’s a city manager, and the mayor acts as a liaison between the city manager and the commission. Here the mayor is the city manager."

Barford said she was in Temple Terrace recently to attend the 85th birthday party of a friend.

"Someone asked me why in the world I had run for Anna Maria’s mayor," she said. "I told him it was because the city needed me. That’s just what I said in Temple Terrace. That just made him roar, he thought it was so funny."

The next big challenge after getting the mold and asbestos cleaned up and then moving operations back to city hall was to deal with the building department, according to Barford.

"We had a situation that was costing us a lot of money and that wasn’t really working for the city," she said. "We looked at options and found that we could provide excellent service to the city at $40,000 less than we were currently paying for building services."

The city is drawing up a contract with M.T. Causley to provide building services on a part time basis. There will be someone in the building office every day to go over permits and do inspections. The company expects to spend 20 hours a week in Anna Maria at a cost of about $1,000 a week.

"That was a very difficult decision, and I wanted to make sure the service to the citizens didn’t suffer," Barford said.

She said the real joy of being mayor is in her work with the city staff.

"They are just wonderful," she said. "Diane Percycoe does such a good job with the finances. She’s unbelievable. And now she’ll be coordinating the emergency management aspects."

As part of the emergency preparedness, the city staff turned out all the lights and had a lunch meeting over instant heat meals.

"We learned we’d need a lantern or a flashlight," Barford quipped. "We couldn’t read the directions on how to heat our meals. We all just laughed and enjoyed the training session, and I can tell you this — we are really prepared to serve this city in the event of a hurricane or other emergency.

Barford cited the work that Public Works Director George McKay did in getting the mold remediation done. She noted that City Clerk Alice Baird is keeping excellent track of the legal challenges facing the city. Administrative Assistant AnnMarie Thorpe can do a letter on absolutely anything, and she’s so good with the public. Barford named each staff member and pointed out what she feels are their strengths.

"I just couldn’t be happier with them," she said.

Would she run for mayor again if she knew the challenges that would be facing her?

"The city needed me," she said. "So yes, I would."


Nallys withdraw two of three lawsuits against Sandbar

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — Two of the three lawsuits that William and Barbara Nally had pending against the Sandbar restaurant have been withdrawn.

The Nally’s attorney, Dan Lobeck, confirmed that he filed papers for withdrawal late last week.

"We felt that we should just address most of this at the site plan hearing when the restaurant goes before the commission to amend its site plan," Barbara Nally said.

The Nallys did not prevail in a case against the city in an earlier case. They had sued Anna Maria, claiming the city acted improperly when it approved the Sandbar’s site plan application.

The flurry of suits arose when the Sandbar was sued in federal court for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In order to come into compliance with the ADA requirements, Ed Chiles, who owns the restaurant, had to add handicapped-accessible rest rooms and ADA compliant handicapped parking.

To do that, he had to go through the city’s site plan application process. The rest rooms were added, a permanent pavilion was built for weddings and other special events and a landscaped walkway goes between parking lots. Chiles was required to show that there was adequate parking for patrons of the restaurant.

Then the wedding business increased dramatically, and temporary tents were set up regularly to house the additional weddings.

At first the city was handling those weddings as special events, but now they have advised Chiles that he must apply to amend his site plan.

Chiles is waiting until the new site plan procedure becomes law, which should happen when the second and final reading of the ordinance governing site plans takes place at the July 26 city commission meeting. It’s at that meeting that the Nallys intend to address the problem.

The Nally home is located in the commercial district of the city. It’s adjacent to The Sandbar property.


City gets grant for tourism promotion

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and the city of Bradenton Beach have teamed up to qualify for a grant from Visit Florida, the state’s official source for travel planning.

The Cultural Heritage and Nature Tourism Grant for $3,000 will go to the city’s WAVES Waterfronts Florida advisory committee for the 2007-08 fiscal year that began July 1.

Bradenton Beach Project and Program Management Director Lisa Marie Phillips learned of the award at Visit Florida’s June 14 meeting at Coral Gables.

"The WAVES group partnered with the Chamber to get the grant because you had to have more than one member of Visit Florida to apply," Phillips said. "The Chamber belongs, of course, and the city belongs through its Scenic Highway advisory board."

The Phillips said she plans to put the money to use to promote the city as a clean tourism destination.

"We will reprint our Bradenton Beach Visitor’s Guide and develop a Web site," Phillips said. "These funds will be used in conjunction with Waterfronts Florida Partnership grant funds to promote Bradenton Beach as a destination for great waterfront-based eco-tourism activities and fulfill our benchmark as being ‘Blessed with History, Hospitality, (and) Spirit.’"

Phillips said she is planning meetings during August and September for the group to work on rewriting the guide. She said they would also include a postcard in the guide for people to mail in for more information.

"That makes it easier to track who is taking the guides and where they are coming from when they visit," she said.

The WAVES group gets its name from a pledge to principles concerning its Waterfronts: Accessible, Viable, Ecological, Sustainable. For a copy of its inaugural Visitor’s Guide stop by the Island Chamber of Commerce or call 778-4619.



Quilters cover those in need

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — The ladies meet every Tuesday at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church for friendship and fellowship and the desire to help someone else.

They are the group that makes functional quilts for those whose lives have been destroyed by fires, floods and famine and anyone else in need from soldiers to seniors.

"The ladies have so much fun," Albertine Veenstra, the group’s leader, said. "It’s wonderful place to socialize and we’re doing something for someone else.

"You can come in any time during the hours we are here and you don’t have to belong to the church. During the season we have 18 women who come from all over."

The women gather in the church meeting room at 9 a.m. and work until 2 p.m., breaking midday to eat their brown bag lunches. Each one has her job from cutting to sewing to tying to ironing.

"It’s like an assembly line," Veenstra explained. "You don’t have to know how to sew. We have plenty of other jobs. But if you want to learn to sew, I’ll teach anybody."

Material for the quilts comes from many places, and it doesn’t have to be new. Old sheets are good because they are big enough to serve as the backing.

"I go to yard sales and find old sheets and material," Veenstra said. "People also donate material. They can bring it to the church office."

"We also make table runners and other things to sell to make money to buy yarn, thread and other things we need," Laura Paysour added.

First the squares are cut using a template, then they are laid out in a pleasing pattern. The squares are sewn together on one of the seven sewing machines the ladies use and ironed before the backing is sewn on. The final step is tying the assembled squares to the backing.

"There are a lot of steps, but everybody likes what they do. When they are done, they get packaged up and sent to Redeemer Lutheran Church in Bradenton," Veenstra said.

"Trucks pick them up and they are taken to Lutheran World Relief in Maryland. From there, they go all over the world."

Locally, quilts are distributed to migrant workers, shut-ins, people who are sick and others. Quilts are sent to hurricane victims, most recently victims of Hurricane Katrina. They also make quilts for babies who are christened in the church.

The ladies made more than 200 quilts last year and distributed 90 of them locally.


Florida leads nation in boating fatalities

Florida’s boating accident rate, 671 for 2006, was second only to California’s at 757. Florida led the nation with 69 fatalities, compared to 47 for Texas and 44 for California.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) said the high numbers reflect the reality that Floridians own more than 1 million registered recreational vessels, and they use them throughout the year.

All but eight of the fatalities were the result of drowning, and none of the drowning victims were wearing life jackets.

The most likely county for boaters to be in an accident was Monroe, followed in order by Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Pinellas, Lee, Broward, Collier, Brevard, Escambia and Duval.

The most likely month for the accident to happen was July. The most likely time of day to be in an accident was 4 to 6 p.m., and the most common type of accident was a collision with another vessel or a fixed object.

Accidents occur most frequently on rivers or creeks, but the number of accidents on the ocean or Gulf or in a bay or sound are almost as high. Nearly 600 of the state’s accidents occurred while the vessel was cruising, and more than 400 of them occurred when the operator was not trying to change direction while cruising. Small vessels, especially those under 18 feet long, were the most likely to be involved in accidents.

A typical accident involved a privately-owned vessel, operated carelessly or without a lookout, with the operator being a male at least 22 years old – most likely 36 to 50 years old.


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