Vol 8 No. 3 - October 10, 2007


Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Bridge work

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Island Chamber honors McCaleb, Mixon

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Landscape project draws criticism

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper School prepares to honor Lannon

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Downed pole, wrecked car spell mystery

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper From England to Island for 15 years

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Drainage vote expected this week

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Authorities seek to douse fireworks




Bridge work

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – As the weather cools and we prepare for winter and our seasonal residents and visitors, the Florida Department of Transportation prepares for what will likely be the final rehabilitation of the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

Work on a $9.1 million rehab project on the 50-year-old drawbridge will begin in January, according to FDOT Public Information Officer Audrey Clarke.

The work includes replacing the reinforced steel in the moveable bascule plus updating the electronics of the mechanism that opens and closes the draw and the pier that holds the bascule.

"Engineers said this would add about 10 to 15 years to the life of the bridge, Clarke said.

Before the work begins, Clarke said FDOT would hold an informational meeting to explain the work being done. She said the plans for the work are already set and they would not take input at this point.

The rehab is part of a settlement FDOT made when it decided to extend the life of the bridge rather than replace it back in 1995. When FDOT first announced plans to replace the drawbridge, residents on and near the Island banded together to protest, saying they wanted to preserve the ambience of the Island. They also said that the drawbridge would be open to evacuees longer than a taller, fix-span like the one FDOT was planning to build. A group called Save Anna Maria (SAM) was formed and lawsuits were filed against the way the highway department informed the public of their plans, especially those who lived nearby.

The state ruled for the residents and plans for the fixed-span were scrapped and FDOT began a study of the bridge. That study showed it was in better shape than many thought and they devised plans to fix the piers holding the bridge, the mechanicals of the moveable bascule and this final rehab, which will begin in January.

The Sun will publish when and where the information session or sessions will take place, as that information becomes available.

Island Chamber honors McCaleb, Mixon

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – They were the first of the best and they were honored at the Sun House restaurant last Wednesday.

Architect Mike McCaleb was named the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year and Mixon Fruit Farms was named the Large Business of the Year.

Each received a plaque and applause from the crowd of Chamber members who attended the luncheon at busy Bridge Street in the heart of the city’s commercial district.

McCaleb is one the Island’s busier architects. He thanked the Chamber for the honor and said his wife deserved the credit for keeping him on track. She’s also his bookkeeper.

Mixon Fruit Farms sent four people to the luncheon. Owners Janet and Dean Mixon and Don Sandhuff and Rick Permuy.

The Small and Large Businesses of the Year awards are new to the Island Chamber and during her introduction, selection committee chairwoman Ellen Aquilina, of Sun Trust Bank, said that 90 percent of the businesses that belong to the Chamber could be classified as small.

Aquilina started the proceedings by naming the Small Business of the Year finalists. They were Beach Fitness, Island Chiropractic, Melinda’s Café, Island Mail and More and McCaleb.

There was only one other finalist for the large business award and that was The Chiles Group, which owns and manages the Sandbar restaurant in Anna Maria, the BeachHouse restaurant in Bradenton Beach and Mar Vista on Longboat Key.

Members of the selection committee were Amy Van Dell of Bright House Network, Judy Giovanelli, of Duncan Realty, Karen LaPensee, of LaPensee Plumbing and Wende Webb of Servpro of Bradenton.

Landscape project draws criticism

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Residents are praising the new sidewalks along Gulf Drive, but some were surprised when they saw a landscape contractor dig up sea oats on the western side of the road and put new plants into what look like gardens. The highway department chose four types of plants to put into those gardens.

The four types of plants are:

• Beach sunflower, a groundcover found on the beaches of Anna Maria Island that blooms year-‘round, attracts bees, butterflies and birds and can take the full sun,

• Coontie, a non-blooming plant that needs to be watered regularly and is poisonous if ingested, according to www.davesgarden.com,

• Cord grass, an ornamental grass that can be planted in the water and needs a lot of water,

• Railroad vine, a plant that can extend up to 20 feet, can take full sun and is poisonous.

"I questioned why they would take out the sea oats," Bradenton Beach Projects and Programs Manager Lisa Marie Phillips said. "They said it was Florida Department of Environmental Protection approved and permitted. I don’t agree necessarily."

Ultimately, it may have been Phillips who let these details proceed. She said FDOT gave the city the plans to approve right after she took the post and nothing raised a red flag at the time.

According to the engineer for this project, Chris Piazza, who works for the Florida Department of Transportation, the sea oats were removed to allow sidewalk or landscaping to be installed.

"The FDEP cleared all of our activities and even made us place more coastal friendly planting, based on their review of the landscaping plans," Piazza said.

The question is, are these four types of plants more coastal friendly than the sea oats that were there? Nobody knows for sure, but it appears somebody may have made the plans without walking the area. Meanwhile, the railroad vine is already starting to grow over the sidewalk in some areas.

"I questioned them putting the railroad vine next to a sidewalk," Phillips said.

Mayor John Chappie said he would consider taking the railroad vine out, if it becomes more of a nuisance, but he might have to wait.

"The landscaping comes with a 12-month establishment plan," Piazza said. "If it dies, the landscape contractor would act to re-establish it. After the 12 months, the city is free to plant what it wants in the beds."

Chappie pointed out that FDOT hired Piazza to engineer this project, as well as a couple of others the city has on hold at the moment. He said that FDOT provided the engineer as part of a trend to get small enhancement projects off the ground. He said a lot of smaller communities have been awarded grants and they lack the personnel to get them started and the money for the grants backs up within the department. Chappie said that when Piazza took over, a lot of things happened quickly, and the city lost control of some aspects of it.

The FDOT enhancement grant that financed the sidewalk project was for $400,000, and they installed new sidewalks from Cortez Road south to 28th Street on at least one side of the street and sometimes on both sides.

Until the one-year establishment plan runs its course and the city takes control of the landscaping, there will be trucks on Gulf Drive provided by the landscaper to water the plants regularly. After that, the city takes control. Meanwhile, Piazza asks that the plants get a chance to establish themselves.

"Give it a chance," he said. "Once they are established, you might find they are an addition to the roadside."

If not, the city might return the gardens to the state they were in before the project, since it has to take care of them after that first year ends.

School prepares to honor Lannon

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – In a couple of weeks, the area in front of Anna Maria Elementary School near the street crossing will look "super."

AME Principal Tom Levengood said that they are preparing for the dedication at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 18, of the memorial for former crossing guard and resource officer Pete Lannon, who died of cancer earlier this year.

Later that day there will be a spaghetti dinner hosted by Sean Murphy to raise money for a college fund for Pete’s other son, Matthew.

The theme for the memorial is the comic book hero Superman for Lannon, who was tagged as "Super Pete" during his fight against pancreatic cancer for nearly a year. There will be a bench near the crosswalk with pavers and decorative bricks on the ground and stained glass panels in the colors of Superman – bright blue, red and yellow. Four large pads on the ground will have a drawing of an Etch-A-Sketch with a blue heart drawn on it.

"It will be blue for his police background and it will be a heart to show the love everyone had for him," Levengood said.

The pathway that leads from the sidewalk to the bus pickup and drop-off point in front of the school is being named Lannon’s Way, a name that took some thought by organizers of the memorial.

"It’s called Lannon’s Way because it is a reminder that his way was the right way," Levengood said.

They will erect a street sign with that name near the bus stop loop as it crosses the sidewalk. Levengood said they would be putting a rain garden around the sign in the future. A rain garden has native plants whose roots help filter water as it seeps down to the underground water table.

Lannon loved art and he was talented on the Etch-A-Sketch, but he also liked to make bells out of old scuba tanks. His son, Pete, Jr., found one his dad was working on before he became sick and he will finish it and it will be put up near the bench. Finally, the PTO has ordered a red cedar tree that will be planted near the site. Lannon loved Christmas and the tree will be decorated for the holidays with suet and birdseed decorations.

An arbor will be erected near the site and flowers that bloom in the Superman color scheme will be planted.

"Everything that’s going in has some meaning to our relationship and the children’s relationship with Pete," Levengoood said. "His wife, Debbie, and Pete Jr. are planning to be here. We want to keep it simple and meaningful. We contemplate it may be emotional for older children and adults."‑



Downed pole, wrecked car spell mystery

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – A palm tree almost split in half, a concrete light pole hanging over and a wrecked 2005 Nissan spelled mystery for Holmes Beach police early Sunday morning, Sept. 30.

The cause of the crash that totaled the car and destroyed the tree and light pole was unknown, and police had only the license tag from the vehicle to go on, until they received a telephone call from an attorney later in the day.

According to officer Rob Velardi, who answered the call regarding the debris and damaged car in the 5500 block of Marina Drive, the car appeared to be going at a high rate of speed northbound when it went onto the median and hit the palm tree and light pole.

Velardi’s report said the pole impact exploded the pole into many pieces. The car then bounced back onto the roadway and stopped facing west. The airbag had been deployed, which probably saved the driver’s life and allowed him to flee the scene. There was no blood anywhere inside the car. The car is registered to Steven Vandergriff, of Palmetto, according to police.

Damaged to the car was estimated at $10,000. The palm tree was valued at $500 and the light pole at $2,000. Velardi’s report said that if the driver is found, he would face charges of hit and run and careless driving.

At approximately 10:45 later that morning, attorney Andy Mooney called Holmes Beach, saying he represented Vandergriff regarding the accident. He said he had advised his client not to talk with police and that police would have to go through him for more information. He provided police with Vandergriff’s insurance information on Tuesday.

According to Holmes Beach Police Lt. Dale Stephenson, there were no witnesses to the accident and they cannot charge the owner unless they can identify him as the driver of the vehicle.

Police released the hold that they had on the vehicle, which was towed after the accident, and cautioned Mooney to make sure Vandergriff was available while the investigation continues.


From England to Island for 15 years

By Martee Wills
special to the sun

When Toni Appleton blows into town, things happen. The dynamic Englishwoman is spending a month on Anna Maria Island with her husband, Peter, a retired Yorkshire physician.

This is the 15th year the Appletons have made their annual trip to Anna Maria and, never one to stand on the side of the pool, as she says, Toni is practically a member of the Manatee River Garden Club. She is again giving a demonstration of the latest trends in floral design.

International fashions in flowers often originate in the United Kingdom, where Toni's skills are honed. She is one of England's outstanding floral designers, experienced at decorating cathedrals, great houses and halls where the queen will be visiting.

In addition to the floral demonstration, Toni will conduct a day-long workshop Wednesday, Oct. 17,on creative pedestal designs, with the participants doing one of their own design.

The Appletons live in a picturesque village near Leeds in Yorkshire, England, in a beautifully restored 400-year-old house. They have a lovely garden which is full of plants and flowers for cutting to go into flower arrangements. Both natives of the area, they collect paintings by other Yorkshiremen. Hanging among this original art in their home are profession-quality oils and water color paintings by Toni herself, who admits to being "quite pleased with the results."

The "standing on the side of the pool" expression originated when the Appletons's son, Johnathan, now a London graphic designer, was a teenager and wanted to snorkel and scuba dive. Despite being active in flower clubs (which we call garden clubs) and even helping form four new ones, Toni dived into snorkeling and then took the "full sub aqua dive" course. This led to wetsuit diving in the North Sea, which is very cold all year. "But I didn't dive with my son," she said. "That wasn't cool."

In the meantime, daughter Sarah wanted to take up horseback riding. Toni says, "Having ridden as a girl, I was glad when some nearby land was available to rent and we became horse owners.That started many years of ponies and horses, going to shows and giving riding lessons and mucking out stables. This ended when boys and college had more attraction."

Sarah, who now is a legal representative with her own firm, and her 16-year-old daughter, Sophie, live nearby and Sophie has accompanied her grandparents four times to Anna Maria.

Outgoing and optimistic, Toni says, "I have a very good life with my husband of 47 years." She admits he indulges her many interests. An avid fisherman, Anna Maria holds its own charms for Peter. Jovial and laid back Peter obviously takes pride in his wife's accomplishments. He has attended many world and national flowers shows with her, where she says modestly, "I have had some success in competition."

A highlight for her was being part of a team who arranged flowers for an art gallery opening by Her Majesty the Queen. They were told to practice their curtseys in case they were presented. "This didn't happen," Toni said, "but the Queen smiled at everybody and it was a very special moment. As you can see, I am a great monarchist."

The Appletons travel a great deal, but now that Peter works only a few hours a week, their hope is to begin spending a longer time each year on Anna Maria Island.

Toni's floral demonstration will be a fund-raiser for the Manatee River Garden Club. Club members will prepare and serve a gourmet brunch and then Toni will create a number of arrangements, often using contrived components she invents. She has learned to incorporate Anna Maria's native floral offerings such as the palm "boats" that fall and the driftwood she picks up on the beach.

This event will begin at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Manatee River Garden Center, 3120 First Ave. W, Bradenton. Tickets are $20 and may be purchased at Robyns Nest gift shop or by calling Cindy Perez at 794-1444.

For more information, call Martee Wills, 747-3670. For information about the design workshop, call Janice Hamlin, 745-5920.



Drainage vote expected this week

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — City commissioners are expected to vote on Thursday to fund the upcoming Phase One drainage project.

The city will pay half of the $539,000 price tag, and money already has been earmarked for the project and set aside.

Southwest Florida Water Management District will pay one quarter of the cost, and the Stormwater Improvement Management project will pay the other quarter.

In a series of public meetings City Engineer Tom Wilcox, Public Works Director George McKay and City Commissioner Dale Woodland told residents that the primary purpose of the project is to remove pollutants from stormwater runoff before it is dumped into the canals and the bay.

Some water will percolate down into the soil in a series of grassy, shallow swales that will run in city alleyways. Other water will go through filtering devices that will remove heavy metals, herbicides and pesticides before it goes into the canals and bay.

The project is also expected to help alleviate street flooding, though Woodland said that that is secondary.

"This is a barrier Island," he said. "We are going to get flooding, but we can make it go away a little faster, and we can prevent some of the pooling on the streets where the wake from cars washes it onto peoples properties, and in some cases their houses."

The main concerns seemed to come from residents of Hardin Avenue who said the project would cause flooding on their street, which is a little higher than most of the city and where there hasn’t been a flooding problem.

Wilcox said that would not occur.

Another concern has been the maintenance of the project as the years go by.

"The maintenance is built into the grant," McKay said. "We have to do it."

He explained that the city is already maintaining the swales and filter drains from the Gladiolus/North Shore basin project that was completed earlier. That project area, after a couple of initial problems, is working well, Woodland said.

He raised a last-minute concern about the type of filters that are being planned for the project. He said the concerns came to the surface after a meeting with Juan Florensa, public works director for Longboat Key.

"The Vortex Separator and similar devices which work well for handling large volumes of water, but are high maintenance, expensive and may meet the OSHA requirements of a confined space, which requires special personnel training," Woodland said. "LBK uses Williams Testing to vacuum their vaults and similar devices."

Woodland said after talking with Florensa, he’d like to see a maintenance plan that estimates yearly labor hours and costs as part of this drainage plan.

Thursday’s vote will take place at a special city commission meeting at 6:45 p.m. at city hall.


Authorities seek to douse fireworks

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — The Island’s Fireworks Task Force agreed to work on a management plan to help control the use of illegal fireworks after Island elected officials asked law enforcement and fire district officials to work on the issue.

"I’m very concerned about the safety of the citizens here in this city," Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford told the group in its first meeting last week. "It’s very difficult to get your arms around this in terms of enforcement."

"It is unbelievable on the beach on July 4," Sgt. John Kenney, of the Manatee Sheriff’s Office, said, "and every year it’s gotten worse. To be able to control it from a law enforcement standpoint will take unlimited manpower and resources. It will have to be a concerted effort and it will cost a lot of money."

Deputy Chief Brett Pollock, of West Manatee Fire & Rescue, said the county’s fireworks ordinance calls for an educational effort.

"You can educate till the cows come home, but it will do you no good because 50 percent of the offenders come from Tennessee or Georgia or other states and bring their fireworks here to set them off," Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine pointed out.

"The educational component I was speaking of is using variable message boards before they come out here," Pollock explained. "Either some type of amnesty or not using illegal fireworks or fireworks will be confiscated. Put those up several days before."

Deputy Fire Marshal Kurt Lathrop, of West Manatee Fire & Rescue, said he has contacted rental companies about putting information on the fireworks ordinance in their rooms, and Pollock suggested working with the AMI Chamber of Commerce.

On the beach

Police said people on the beach often have more sophisticated fireworks than those used in the professional displays, and the large numbers of people with fireworks makes it difficult to control their use.

"You could walk up to somebody and take all their fireworks and it doesn’t do any good," Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said. "If we notice a group of people that are firing off really big ones, we’ll go to them and say, "That’s it.’

Romine said his officers approach people with fireworks and tell them they are illegal, and if officers have to return, they confiscate the fireworks. He pointed out that 95 percent of the time they are dealing with not only fireworks, but also alcohol.

Barford said management initiatives include using the message board as suggested by Pollock, having disposal containers for confiscated fireworks and working with the Chamber to educate renters.

Romine said he would take the issue to the next Manatee County Law Enforcement Council meeting.

Barford said she spoke with Ed Chiles, who sponsors professional fireworks displays at the BeachHouse and Sandbar on July 3 and 4, and he is willing to combine them into one night or eliminate them. The consensus was to ask Chiles to limit the fireworks display to one night.

The next task force meeting is planned for Monday, Oct. 29, at 10 p.m. in Anna Maria City Hall.


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