Vol 8 No. 4 - October 17, 2007


Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Dr. Dave to make house call at Bayfest

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Anti-Semitic graffiti brings anxiety to local family

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper No sex in the city, says board

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Skate park closed due to vandalism

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Commissioners get fireworks update

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Tourist council shocked by bridge plan

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Planter removed after pleas

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Arson-sniffing dogs train at CrossPointe Fellowship




Dr. Dave to make house call at Bayfest

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – The weather is cooling and Bayfest will be waiting Friday night with the perfect prescription for any musical maladies - the Dr. Dave Band.

The popular group will headline the festival’s first-ever pre-celebration party, which lasts from 5 to 10 p.m. and is free.

Dr. Dave will take the main stage, at Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard, from 7-10 p.m. and will be preceeded by another popular local band, Project SRQ, from 5-7 p.m.

Sponsored by the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and The Anna Maria Island Sun, Bayfest has become the Island’s largest and most popular festival. More than 10,000 people attended the one-day affair last year, and cooler weather should bring out even more visitors this weekend.

The Friday night kickoff party is expected to draw a good crowd and snacks and refreshments will be available from a variety of vendors.

At 10 a.m. the next day, the festival begins with 110 vendors selling fine art, crafts and local items including furniture, clothing and jewelry. Several not for profit organizations will participate as well, distributing information on their causes ranging from Turtle Watch to the Cortez Historical Society.

Once again, classic car enthusiast Bill Mergens has brought in more antique and high performance automobiles ranging from restored Ford Model As to hot rods and exotic models. Bring your camera to snap shots of a chromed beauty or a car much like one you might have owned at one time. Eighty to 100 cars will be on display, with The Sun and the Chamber picking winners.
The children’s area provides fun for youngster ranging from games and activities to face painting, clowns and magicians. The proceeds from the children’s area will go to the Matthew Lannon College Fund to help the son of Anna Maria Elementary School Resource Officer Pete Lannon, who died of cancer earlier this year.

Bring your appetite with you when you come. Local restaurants will be serving in the food court. Everything from burgers to grouper will be on sale with tropical snow and kettle corn to boot.

There will be soda, water, beer and margaritas to quench your thirst plus raffles to raise money for the Chamber’s scholarship fund, the Matthew Lannon fund and participating non-profits.

Don’t forget the music. The lineup starts with Jimi Gee and Friends from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., the Bootleg Reggae Band from noon to 2 p.m., Koko Ray and the Soul Providers from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. and Michael Mac from 5 to 7 p.m.

Shops in Bay View Plaza, at the north end of the street, will participate and Bill Bowdish and the Gulf Drive Band will entertain in front of the Anna Maria Historical Society Museum.

Anti-Semitic graffiti brings anxiety to local family

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH — Holmes Beach police are investigating some anti-Semitic graffiti that was painted on three traffic signs and on the pavement at 71st Street and Marina Drive last week. The graffiti appeared on Sunday, Oct. 7.
The graffiti brought anxiety to a Jewish family that lives near that corner, outrage to neighbors and calls from the national media to the Holmes Beach Police Department.

"We feared for our children’s safety," said the Jewish father of two middle school children who live on the street and who asked that his family not be identified. "We’ve been driving our kids to school."

He said that it’s hard not to take any anti-Semitic activity personally.

"People who aren’t Jewish sometimes have trouble understanding how awful this is to us," he said. "It’s not all that long ago that we had the Holocaust. Jews were loaded into box cars and carted off to be cooked in the ovens of the Nazis. Neighbors turned against neighbors."

The man said he’s trying not to be paranoid about the incident in which signs were defaced to read "Dead Jew children." A stop sign was painted over with a swastika and a Star of David was spray painted onto a traffic control sign and onto the pavement.

"It’s hard not to feel signaled out when we’re the only Jewish family on this street, and everybody knows it," he said.

The Holmes Beach Police Department does not see the anti-Semitic graffiti as targeted towards this family or any family, according to Detective Sgt. Terri Davis.

"I think it’s juveniles, and I think when we conclude our investigation, we’ll find that it’s kids acting stupidly," she said. "I don’t think that kids realize the significance of the Holocaust or of Hitler and what he did. As the survivors of that time die out, kids growing up today don’t realize how hurtful that sort of thing can be unless they are Jewish or they have a family who will teach them."

Davis said she thinks the anti-Semitic graffiti was "an act born out of ignorance."

"I’ve had calls from the Anti-Defamation League and from national newspapers and television stations," Davis said. "They think we have the KKK here or an Aryan hate group. That is not why this happened. That is not how our Island is."

She said the investigation into the anti-Semitic graffiti and other graffiti on the Island is continuing.

"The charge would be criminal mischief. It doesn’t rise to the level of a hate crime. These are kids, children. We don’t believe they understood the full implications of how hateful and how hurtful their acts were."

The results of the investigation will be ultimately turned over to the state attorney’s office, where a decision about what to do with the perpetrators will be made.

"But they will be treated as juveniles, and any charges and any consequences will be decided on an individual basis," Davis said.

And both parents in the one Jewish family on the street said they are trying hard not take the graffiti personally.

"But when the graffiti refers to ‘dead Jew children,’ it’s hard not to worry about your kids," the mother in the family said.

"We’re trying to use this as an opportunity to talk to our children about anti-Semitism, and we hope other parents will do the same," she emphasized. "I wish these kids would have to go to the Holocaust Museum in St. Pete and see how hateful and hurtful what they wrote would be."

No sex in the city, says board

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners said last week they plan to approve an ordinance that bans sexually-oriented businesses in the city.

"My office prepared two ordinances for you to consider," City Attorney Patricia Petruff explained. "One would pass any type of judicial challenge. It provides a distance requirement that has been set so there are one or two locations for that type of business."

This ordinance provides a distance requirement of 2,500 feet from a school and 600 feet from a church, library, public park or recreation area (except a linear park with no active recreation facilities), another adult use establishment or any land zoned residential or A-1. It would allow adult business in two locations – the sites of the current Walgreen’s and Island Bazaar.

She said the second ordinance takes into account the city’s geography and limited commercial locations and the fact that the county provides for adult businesses.

"It prohibits adult businesses within the city," she continued. "That ordinance could be subject to challenge, and I don’t know if it would withstand a challenge. You need to make a choice and move on."

She said the commission could adopt the ordinance that bans the businesses and if challenged, adopt the one that permits them.

The ordinances were the result of an inquiry the city received in July from a company that wants to rent an office to film sexual activities and put them on the Internet. At previous meetings, Petruff told the board that they can’t prohibit such businesses but can regulate them.

"We don’t need it here," Commissioner Pat Morton stressed. "I don’t like opening the door for somebody to come in and start something."

Commissioners John Monetti, David Zaccagnino and Pat Geyer agreed.

Monetti noted, "Close all avenues and hit the high ground," and Zaccagnino added, "Let the chips fall where they may."

Attorney Howard Payne, of Anna Maria, who spoke on the issue at the last commission meeting, told the board, "I’m glad you’re taking this stand."

Payne offered some revisions to the ordinance and Petruff invited him to meet with attorney Ed Conrad of her office to discuss the changes.

Skate park closed due to vandalism

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – The city has closed its skate park and postponed the ceremony to name the park after the late Officer Pete Lannon due to vandalism that occurred the night of Oct. 8

"They ripped off a railing and pulled off the dedication sign (to skate park donors Rex and Helen Hagen and Dan and Kay Kay Hardy) and the rules of the park sign," Lt. Dale Stevenson said. "Both the signs were recovered. One was in the garbage can and one was under the Privateer’s boat.

"We have multiple suspects and hope to make arrests soon," Stevenson said.

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said the city is in the process of installing high-tech video surveillance equipment at the park, which will remain closed until the equipment is in operation.

Anyone having information on the perpetrators is asked to call the Holmes Beach Police Department at 708-5804 or Manatee County Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS if you wish to be anonymous. You could be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000.



Commissioners get fireworks update

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — Illegal fireworks this year on the 4th of July blew three fingers off a construction worker’s hand. The year before, a man had his ear blown off.

Those accidents and the huge scale of the illegal fireworks set off on the Island beaches on Independence Day spurred Mayor Fran Barford to set up a task force to deal with the problem.

"Traffic was so thick, we had trouble getting emergency vehicles to the scene and getting the EMT’s out to the victim," Barford said. "Then the ambulance had a hard time getting him off the Island and to the hospital."

Representatives of Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and Longboat Key have all expressed commitment to the task force.

"I am really passionate about this," Barford said. "It’s vital for the health, safety and welfare of our citizens. We simply have to get our arms around this and come up with a management plan."

With that, she turned the meeting over to Manatee Sheriff’s Sgt. John Kenney, who heads up Anna Maria law enforcement.

"All of us in law enforcement feel we have a major problem," Kenney told commissioners. "But the costs of trying to manage something this big are pretty prohibitive."

In Manatee County most fireworks are illegal. Use or possession of anything that explodes or becomes airborne is against the law. Nonetheless, people from all over Manatee and surrounding counties come to Anna Maria and Longboat Key to celebrate Independence Day by setting off fireworks.

The beaches are mobbed as people set off fireworks behind, in front of and all around each other, according to Kenney.

"It’s dangerous, there’s no question," he said.

One possibility is to have restaurateur Ed Chiles hold only one fireworks display on the Island. In past years, he’s hired professionals to put on a display at The BeachHouse on July 3 and at The Sandbar on July 4.

Barford said that Chiles has told city officials he’d do whatever the city recommends.

"We’ve talked to Ed about doing just one event," Kenney said. "Sam Speciale (Bradenton Beach’s police chief) volunteered Bradenton Beach, and Ed said he’d do whatever we wanted."

Kenney said that from a law enforcement standpoint, having only one legal fireworks display event would make the entire illegal fireworks situation easier to handle.

"It’s unbelievable out there," Kenney said. "I’ve seen it get worse every year. People and fireworks are a hard to manage. I don’t even want to speculate on costs and overtime costs."

Barford said that education might be the key.

"We need to let our citizens know what’s legal and what’s not," she said. "Maybe an amnesty program would work where people can turn in their illegal fireworks with no penalty."

She added that she thinks it’s important to let all the rental agents know.

The task force, which is comprised of law enforcement and fire officials and the Island mayors, will continue to meet and come up with a plan.


Tourist council shocked by bridge plan

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

The Manatee County Tourist Development Council was stunned by Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore’s announcement on Monday that the Florida Department of Transportation plans to close the Manatee Avenue Bridge for repairs for as many as 75 days.

"It’s a shock," TDC Chairman Joe McClash said. "I just don’t understand how anybody in their right mind could do something like this."

"This is incomprehensible that we get presented de facto that this is what’s going to happen," said council member Ed Chiles, of the Chiles Group. "It will kill our businesses in an extremely busy time of year."

Whitmore recommended requesting that it be postponed until sometime between April 1 and 15, when tourists visiting for Easter break will likely be leaving.

"But the longer the delay, the more we are into hurricane season," she said, which could endanger evacuation efforts from the Island to the mainland.

"I don’t think any closure is acceptable for 75 days," McClash said. "It will create too much harm to the community."

Other council members expressed concern about traffic jams at the intersection of Cortez Road and Gulf Drive and gridlock if an accident occurs on Gulf Drive.

McClash wondered how FDOT could have made the plans without advising the police chiefs on the Island, or anyone else.

"They should have had this conversation with the community before they contracted," he said. "Somebody should have been out there on the Island having meetings."

Council members said they would contact the governor’s office, legislators and other officials to kill the plan.

In other business, the council heard a proposal by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to launch a new tourism campaign highlighting locally-grown food.

The Off Season/In Season Dining Campaign is intended to draw visitors during off seasons for tourism that coincide with harvest seasons for local produce, including tomatoes, strawberries and stone crab.

"Our goal is to tie up traffic 12 months a year," CVB Director Larry White deadpanned.

"Only on the Island, don’t tell the mainland that," Council Chairman Joe McClash responded.

Preliminary ideas include providing strawberries in hotel rooms and featuring dishes made with locally grown products at restaurants, such as caviar from sturgeon grown at Mote Marine’s sturgeon farm in Sarasota County.

Council members suggested an open air farmers market on Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach and on Main Street in downtown Bradenton.

In other business:

• McClash recommended that the piers on the Island be repaired or replaced, possibly with an extra penny added to the tourist tax.

• The council heard a proposal to sell electronic banner advertising on the trolleys.



Planter removed after pleas

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – A group of business owners learned last week that you can fight city hall and win.

Marina Mall owner Frank Eldridge told commissioners that the 80-foot planter being installed as part of the city’s traffic calming plan is wreaking havoc with the mall’s ingress and egress and parking, and commissioners agreed to remove it.

"We have 39 feet average from the front of the entrance to the businesses to the edge of that planter," Eldridge explained. "That’s not enough for the average citizen in this community to make that swing and get in a parking space.

"I also believe that limiting access to the road only on each end of the property is going to certainly cause back up of traffic, and this is the slow time of year. I believe this is a traffic hazard and will hurt the businesses."

Eldridge said the business owners did not know about the project until the planter was being installed, however, Chair Sandy Haas-Martens said it has been discussed for two years and it has been in the newspaper.

Mike Brinson, owner of Anna Maria Island Accommodations, said 75 percent of the people who pull into the parking lot couldn’t get into a parking space on the first try. He also said that when vehicles try to go in and out of the parking lot at the same time, it backs up traffic on Marina Drive.

"Most of our customers are older people and they have a hard time parking straight as it is," Dennis Clark, owner of Four Seasons Nail and Skin Care, said. "I would like to see something that makes us all happy."

"It was not the commission’s intent to make anyone unhappy," Mayor Rich Bohnenberger pointed out. "When it first started, I wasn’t sure about limiting traffic in and out of there. I only favored making the turn lanes longer. Now is the time to decide."

Commissioner Pat Morton made the motion to eliminate the planter from the plan, which was unanimously approved.


Arson-sniffing dogs train at CrossPointe Fellowship

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

With nine arrests under her belt – or maybe under her collar – arson dog Lucky went through training exercises at CrossPointe Fellowship recently.

The old library on the church campus is about to be demolished, and campus manager and Holmes Beach City Commissioner Pat Morton thought it would be a great place for some dog training before it’s torn down. So, he offered it to law enforcement agencies for training their canine colleagues.

"This is just ideal," said West Manatee Deputy Fire Marshall Kurt Lathorp. "With the air conditioning off, the heat and the humidity are very much like what you have in the field."

The conditions in the church building are good for training, according to Lathrop, because the "scent cone" is different in an air-conditioned house or office, and the dogs really need a chance to experience field conditions.

"To me, this is just awesome," he said. "We don’t get a chance like this too often. In these conditions, the dogs get nasal fatigue much sooner, so we can get experience dealing with that, too."

The dogs’ noses get tired from too much sniffing, just like our eyes can get tired from too much reading, according to Lathrop.

Lathrop and Det. Michael Douglas, from the state fire marshal’s office, worked their dogs separately so they could critique each other’s techniques.
Lathrop and his dog, Lucky, have been a team for two years and the months of work and teamwork showed.

Lathrop got Lucky out of his air-conditioned truck and paused at the entrance to the building. Lucky sat at his side, looking up at her partner’s face.

"Go to work," Lathrop calmly said. With that Lucky jumped up, put her nose to the ground and made her way back and forth across the first room, tail wagging the entire time.

Lathrop had earlier placed drops of diluted gasoline several places in the building. It was Lucky’s job to find them.

Lathrop, with the leash loose, let Lucky do her work. With audible sniffs, she concentrated on finding the accelerant.

She sniffed and sniffed one spot near an overturned bookcase. She sat and looked up at Lathrop.

"Good girl," he said. Lucky wasn’t about to move, and she had found one of the spots where Lathrop had placed a drop earlier.

Lathrop reached into this bag and handed out some kibble, which Lucky obviously enjoyed.

She ultimately found all of the places she was supposed to, but not without returning twice to a couple of the places to get a couple of extra treats.

Misty is newer to the game. She and her handler, Douglas, have only recently graduated from their training and been certified.

Misty also found all the spots, but she and her handler were much less relaxed. That seems to come with experience. Misty has enough experience to return more than once to a spot to get extra treats, though.

"Sometimes they sit and look up when they just want treats," Douglas said. "If you think it’s maybe not a real finding, you just say, ‘go to work,’ and they get up and go back to work. If it’s a real place, they won’t leave until they get their treat."

In addition to the heat and humidity, the two arson dogs had to deal with the scents of several other dogs that had used the building earlier in the week.

"They had the bad boys here earlier," Lathrop said.

Morton explained that dogs from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and Bradenton and Palmetto Police Departments had trained with their handlers.
When they’re not working, arson dogs live with their handlers and their families like family pets.

Both Misty and Lucky originally came from Southeastern Guide Dogs. They went through all the same training as a guide dog, but they didn’t make the final cut. The primary reason dogs in that program don’t make the final cut is that they can’t get used to heavy traffic, which is something they have to be able to do if they go on to be guide dogs for blind people.

Lathrop said that State Farm Insurance sponsors the arson dogs and makes donations to the Guide Dog operation.

"So this way, it’s dogs helping dogs," he said.


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