Vol 7 No. 48 - August 22, 2007

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Tourism agency may aid trolley

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper It’s musical chairs in upcoming election

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Last call for O’Connor tourney

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper It was only flat on the bottom

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Pier completion delayed by rain

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Red tide report mirrors municipal trend

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Swimmers in jeopardy, mayor tells county commissioners

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Causeway boat ramp project hits snag




Tourism agency may aid trolley

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – The Manatee County Tourist Development Council voted Monday to recommend spending $26,000 in tourism funds to keep the Island trolley free.

"The trolley is very important to tourism," Chairman Joe McClash said, adding that instituting a toll would slow down trolley service as riders fumble for change that they may not have.

Other council members agreed.

"I think the trolley is a no-brainer," council member Sean Murphy said, calling it part of the Island’s "charm."

The free trolley keeps cars off the Island, reducing congestion, added council member Marianne Barnebey.

The trolley also reduces the need for Island residents to use their cars, since their children can take the trolley to the beach or the skateboard park, council member Sandy Haas-Martens said.

The Manatee County Commission has the final vote on the expenditure, which is slightly more than half what the county needs to keep the trolley from charging passengers this fiscal year.

An initial suggestion to ask for a $1,000 contribution from the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce was abandoned, since the Chamber receives TDC funds. The TDC absorbed that amount into its total.

The remaining $24,000 will come from the three Island cities, McClash said.
The cities are only prepared to contribute to the trolley for one year, Haas-Martens said.

The funds are a "one-time shot in the arm" for the trolley, McClash said, necessitated by municipal budget cuts required by a new state tax law.

Chamber of Commerce President Mary Ann Brockman suggested raising funds by renting the trolleys that are out of service and promoting their availability through the Chamber.

A suggestion to increase the wait for the trolley from 20 minutes to 30 minutes was met with disapproval. Council member Ed Chiles suggested that, if anything, the hours should be extended from a 10 p.m. closing until 1 a.m.

Donation boxes could be installed in the trolleys to defer costs, he said.

Council member Barbara Rodocker requested that hoteliers not be asked to pay for the trolley in the form of an increased tourist tax.

The county commission will determine whether future funding is available to keep the trolley free.

Plans to expand the trolley service into a water taxi service are stalled due to the new tax law’s budget cuts, which will be aimed first at discretionary projects, McClash said.

"The state has destroyed a lot of ambitions that we have," he said.

It’s musical chairs in upcoming election

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The two city commissioners not facing re-election this year are running for mayor, the two other two are running for re-election and the mayor is eyeing the seat of one of the commissioners running for his seat.

Sounds confusing?

It might end up sounding like musical chairs.

Ward Two City Commissioner Michael Pierce has opened an account and filed the paperwork to run for mayor, and if he qualifies to get on the ballot, he will face Ward Four Commissioner Bill Shearon. Both men will surrender their commission seats to run for the seat vacated by John Chappie, who could not run again because of term limits.

Word has it that Chappie, who was a commissioner before he became mayor, will run for Shearon’s seat if Shearon qualifies to run for mayor.

Meanwhile, Ward One Commission John Shaughnessy and Ward Three Commissioner Janie Robertson have filed the paperwork to run for re-election.

What this means is that all five elected officials will like be running for their own seats or somebody else’s. If Chappie, Shaughnessy and Robertson face opponents for commission, voters might have to cast ballots to fill the whole slate of seats required to run the city’s government.

However, in a city of less than 1,000 registered voters, it’s likely one or all of those commission candidates will get into office for two more years without opposition.

Then there’s the question of whether they can find somebody to fill Michael Pierce’s commission seat.

Candidates have between noon on Monday Sept. 17 and noon on Friday, Sept. 21 to qualify for the election, which will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Last call for O’Connor tourney

Connor Bowling Challenge set for Saturday, Aug. 25, at AMF Bowling Lanes, 4208 Cortez Road, Bradenton. Pre-registration is required. Registration forms are available at Duffy’s Tavern, 5808 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, or by calling Billy O’Connor at 650-5488.

The donation is $25 per person, which includes shoes and three games. Bowling starts promptly at 6 p.m. and ends at 9 p.m. If you don’t want to bowl, but want to participate in the fun and make a donation to the Community Center, you can pay not to play.

This after party will be held at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar, 6696 Cortez Road W., Bradenton. Oyster bar owner John Horne has promised beer and margarita stations, a full bar and a limited menu for revelers.

Raffle tickets for a big screen television, donated by The Sun, the event’s sponsor, and hundreds of prizes from local merchants and restaurants will be available at the bowling alley. Tickets are six for $5.

In addition to the raffle, trophies will be awarded at the after party. Trophies include high and low game male and female, high series male and female and the Chuck Stearns Memorial High Game Trophy, The trophy is in honor of Holmes Beach Police Officer Charles "Chuck" Stearns, who passed away in 2005.

For information, call Billy O’Connor at 650-5488.


It was only flat on the bottom

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – A Holmes Beach Police officer arrested three people who had been seen burglarizing a vehicle at Manatee County Beach on Thursday, Aug. 16, around 1 p.m. Finding them was easy, thanks to a traffic jam in a construction zone and a flat tire.

According to a police report, the car’s owner observed two of the suspects rifling through her car. As they jumped into a Plymouth mini-van with a third party inside, she called police on her cell phone and gave them a thorough description of the vehicle and suspects.

Officer Michael Pilato found the vehicle at the side of the road in front of Club Bamboo, 2502 Gulf Drive, with a flat tire and the suspects inside. Their progress also had been impeded by sidewalk construction, which narrowed traffic to one lane. He apprehended them with the assistance of Rodney Brown, of Polk County, a civilian passerby.

The two juveniles were charged with burglary to a conveyance and resisting arrest without violence. Robert L. Shaw, 20, of Venice, was arrested and charged with burglary to a conveyance.


Pier completion delayed by rain

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – They’re oh so close, but recent rain showers have delayed the opening of the Bridge Street Pier and its restaurant until the second week of September.

Tom Edwards, of Southern Cross Contracting, Inc., the project’s contractor, passed out a completion schedule that shows Saturday, Sept. 8, as the date the restaurant franchisee, Rotten Ralph’s, would be able to move in.

Before that happens, Southern Cross will walk through the project on Tuesday, Aug. 28, with a punchlist of corrections to be made to the pier. On Tuesday, Sept. 4, city officials, Rotten Ralph’s owners Dave and Doreen Russell and Southern Cross personnel will go through the restaurant to make another punchlist of problems in the restaurant and eating areas.

Asked how they could open earlier, Edwards jokingly told the Russells that they could make the punchlist a short one. He said if they don’t find a lot of faults, it would not take as long to fix them and they might open earlier.

As for opening the pier for the End of Summer Festival on Sunday, Sept. 2, that won’t happen. Initially, Dave Russell had said he was hoping to be able to serve food to visitors to the pier during the festival, even if it was just hamburgers and hot dogs. Unfortunately, the pier won’t be open to visitors at all.


Red tide report mirrors municipal trend

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

A new report on red tide supports an idea that Sarasota County commissioners will vote on this week, and that Longboat Key commissioners may duplicate.

Mote Marine Laboratory’s Marine Policy Institute released its first red tide assessment last week, recommending that scientists and policy makers set aside the scientific debate on whether pollution causes red tide and agree to reduce nutrient runoff into waterways.

"Reducing nutrients from land may ease the severity and duration of red tides, and reduction should be part of a comprehensive management strategy that responds to red tides," wrote Marine Policy Institute Director Dr. Frank Alcock in the report.

Sarasota County’s fertilizer ordinance limiting nutrient runoff is scheduled for a vote this week, and the Longboat Key Commission has announced its intention to follow suit this fall if it passes.

A few scientists, including Dr. Larry Brand at the University of Miami, have long insisted that a direct link exists between nutrient pollution runoff and red tide. But most, including some at Mote, have argued a lack of research and evidence makes the link unprovable.

"Conclusive evidence remains elusive, but Florida needs to act now," Alcock wrote. "Florida needs to reduce nutrient loads to its watersheds for reasons that go beyond red tide and it needs to develop a comprehensive management strategy for red tide that goes beyond reducing coastal pollution."

"I would concur with that completely and START would concur completely," agreed Ed Chiles, chairman of Solutions To Avoid Red Tide, which advocates continuing efforts to control and mitigate algae blooms.

The report, entitled "An Assessment of Florida Red Tide: Causes, Consequences and Management Strategies," outlines a history of red tide research, possible causes and the algae’s impacts on people, marine life and tourism.

The key theme of the institute’s work is land-sea interactions, which made the topic of nutrient runoff an obvious choice, said Alcock, an assistant professor of political science at New College of Florida.

The report recommends reactivating the Florida Harmful Algal Bloom Task Force, which would be reviewed by an external panel of the state’s harmful algal bloom research and management programs.

"External review by experts could improve the way we do research in Florida," said Stuart DeCew, regional representative of the Sierra Club, which has championed the fertilizer ordinance and sees society moving past the controversy over whether pollution causes red tide.

"Common sense is prevailing," he said. "People know that when it rains, things change off the coast. The report lends credence to that."

The report also recommends the creation of an advisory panel made up of the nation’s leading economists, social scientists, policy specialists and environmental lawyers.

The institute was created last year to improve communication between the scientific community and society by providing assessments of red tide policy and advice to decision makers. It is funded by a grant from the New Amsterdam Charitable Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Ronald B. Morris and the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice.



Swimmers in jeopardy, mayor tells county commissioners

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — Mayor Fran Barford has followed through on a request from commissioners and the community to ask the county to install buoys near Bean Point.

"The safety of our residents and tourists is in jeopardy," Barford said in a memo to Manatee County Commissioners. "This situation is ‘an accident waiting to happen.’"

A channel has opened up between a sandbar and the shoreline on the Gulf side of Bean Point. It’s an area where swimmers like to wade, where snorkelers like to check out marine life, where kayakers like to paddle and where boaters like to run on plane to get out of Anna Maria Pass and into the Gulf. It’s an uneasy mix.

"There’s nothing we can do in terms of enforcement unless we have a speed zone posted there," Sgt. John Kenney recently told city officials.

Several commissioners have first hand knowledge of the area and say they have seen near misses between boaters and swimmers. Commissioners John Quam and Duke Miller in particular would like to see something done to ensure swimmer safety in the area.

Any speed limits imposed in the water, as well as any buoys installed, have to come on orders form the county. The city doesn’t have any jurisdiction.

So city commissioners asked Mayor Barford to send a memo to the county commissioners, which she did.

"We have a critical boating safety issue regarding a boating lane near Bean Point on the westerly side," Mayor Barford wrote in her Aug. 13 memo. "The build up of a sandbar has pushed the boating channel within 300 feet of the shoreline, where many swimmers are present.”

Barford related to commissioners that city staff and law enforcement had met with the county’s eco-systems manager, Charlie Huntsicker, in July and the city commission met with Bill O’Shea, county coastal program manager, to review the issue.

"The issue at hand is that the boating lane, with a 25 mph speed limit, was adopted by a Manatee County ordinance in 2004," Barford told county commissioners. "Since then, the sandbar has shifted closer to shore and boaters are endangering swimmers."

The city of Anna Maria is asking the county to amend its 2004 boating safety ordinance to create a no wake zone in the channel in question.

O’Shea suggested this as a first step when he met with city commissioners. He said he anticipates the county will be finalizing amendments to the boating safety ordinance – a process that is already under way – sometime in October or November.

The county is not obligated to act on the Anna Maria request, and O’Shea said there could well be opposition from boaters.


Causeway boat ramp project hits snag

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

BRADENTON — The city of Bradenton’s new representative to the Palma Sola Scenic Highway is catching up on the city-sponsored projects on the stretch of road that connects the Island with the mainland.

Seth Kohn, who replaced assistant Public Works Director John Ormando, said he is working on locating the bid documents for the Causeway’s landscaping designed by Beverly Burdette. The joint city/county funding available for the project is $250,000.

"This usually happens when you take over somebody else’s project,’ Kohn explained. "Hopefully, by the next meeting, it will have gone out to bid or I’ll have a report as to when it’s going to be bid."

Regarding the restrooms planned for the south side of the Causeway, he said there is about $8,000 worth of work outside the scope of the project agreement, which the city will address.

"Everything appears to be on schedule for that project. I’m fairly confident we’ll have bathrooms," he said.

However, he said the boat ramp project could be in jeopardy. A small boat ramp is planned for the south side of the Causeway near where the former Bongo’s restaurant stood. The ramp is to be funded by a $25,000 grant from the West Coast Inland Navigation District with a match from the city.

Ormando had reported at the June meeting that he had received all the permits for the ramp, and County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann said she would find out if the county would be amenable to entering into an interlocal agreement to operate and maintain it.

"My instructions are not to work with it right now," Kohn told the group. "I’ll provide you with an e-mail as to the city’s position."

"If nothing else we can start some conversation at the county level if there are issues that we can address," von Hahmann said.

Members discussed next year’s Florida Scenic Highway Conference to be held at the Sarasota Hyatt April 30 through May 2. There are expected to be 75 to 100 in attendance.

Bob Herrington, senior planner for the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization, said he is working on securing trolleys for a tour of the area’s three scenic highways – Palma Sola, Bradenton Beach and Tamiami Trail. The tour would end with a Sunset Celebration at the BeachHouse in Bradenton Beach.

Herrington said the conference would cater to two groups – those from already established scenic highways and those who are trying to establish scenic highways.

In other business, members agreed to apply for a grant from the Tampa Bay Estuary Program for doggie bag stations on the Causeway. TBEP is offering mini-grants of $500 to $7,500 for bay improvement projects and a specific topic being targeted is pet waste education.


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