Vol 8 No. 14 - December 26, 2007


Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Tax cap plan gains political support

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Island kids to appear in feature film

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Fire district honors lifesavers, achievers

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Property mediation prompts lawsuit

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Tai Chi class targets arthritis

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Fifth-graders to get DARE training

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Center’s new youth director has big plans

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Tax break for fire sprinklers in the works




Tax cap plan gains political support

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Marco Rubio congratulated the Coalition Against Runaway Taxation (CART) and other groups last week for backing a people’s initiative on property taxes.

The proposed Constitutional amendment, sponsored by Cut Property Taxes Now Inc., would cap property taxes at 1.35 percent of a property’s taxable value, and would apply to commercial, rental, homesteaded residential and non-homesteaded residential properties. It also would preserve benefits under the existing Save Our Homes amendment.

Under the proposal, "Every property will benefit, no matter what the value," including homesteaded properties, Rubio told about 100 people at a rally at Dolphin Aviation last week.

Even educated young couples earning good salaries can’t afford to live in Florida, partly because of high taxes, he said, citing a survey showing that one in five Floridians are considering leaving the state.

"Florida is looking like the place they came here to get away from," he said.

Former Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie and Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore were on hand to lend their support to the proposal, as was Sen. Mike Bennett.

"Spending is out of control," Bennett said, adding that the proposal is a good start to solving the tax problem, but that the Legislature also should pass other reforms.

"Until the Legislature acts, we have to do this," CART President Don Schroder said. "It’s a long haul. We have a long way to go."

The petition supporting the proposal is available at www.CARTonline.org. Petitions are due by Dec. 31.

Island kids to appear in feature film

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – If all goes right, some of the students at Anna Maria Elementary School might have a movie performance in their resumes some day.

Thomas Clay, of Osprey, has been shooting a feature film entitled "The Message" with locations in Manatee County. While none of the scenes have involved the beach or Island yet, some of the people in front of the camera have ties to Anna Maria Island.

Lexi Achor and Brennan Gallagher, who graduated from AME last year, are two of those in the film. Clay also used a bunch of AME students who rode in a Boys and Girls Club of Manatee County school bus.

"The Message," Clay’s first film, is a supernatural thriller. Clay, who was a cinematographer years ago and sang in a band in New Jersey, wrote the script.

"I always wanted to make a feature film and finally I knew the timing was right," he said. "It’s not an easy task. It took a lot of work, research and negotiations."

The film is  about a young woman and mother of two who is challenged to overcome her passive beliefs in religion  after surviving a serious auto accident. Clay said it is not based on a life experience of his own, just his beliefs.

"It’s a challenge to keep it true to what I believe and still make it entertaining," he said.

Clay said the hardest part of the job has been finding people to play the leads. He said several big name Hollywood actresses have expressed interest, but it’s a matter of availability.

"The big names are usually busy and would have to find time for my project," he said. "Meanwhile, I’m on a schedule and have been working on this for more than a year, so I can’t wait for them."

Most of the scenes have been shot in Bradenton and Clay praised the mayor’s office and the police department for their help. He said viewers will recognize Old Main Street and maybe a Bradenton bed and breakfast that were used as settings.

The schedule tentatively calls for shooting to wrap-up in February or March. Clay said he did not know how he would market and distribute the film and he’s too busy shooting it to worry about that now. He said the field for Indies, independently shot movies, is ever expanding and that the quality of those movies is often better that the big-money films that come out of Hollywood, if you’re looking for originality and content.

Clay said he has written three other movies and "The Message" was not the one he wanted to shoot first.

"I had one that had only three locations as compared to many more for this movie," he said, but something told me to shoot this first."

He promised to keep The Sun informed of how it goes and when and where we’ll be able to see it.

Fire district honors lifesavers, achievers

The West Manatee Fire & Rescue District gave awards to the following professionals and civilians at last week’s fire commission meeting.

• Lifesaving Award to paramedic Sherri Pellien and firefighter Mike Brooks.  On May 22, Pellien and Brooks, who were off duty, stopped to assist the victim of a pedestrian accident in the 6300 block of Manatee Avenue prior to the arrival of fire and EMS units.

The victim was lying unprotected in the eastbound lane after being struck. Pellien and Brooks positioned their personal vehicles to protect the victim and began to render care. An initial assessment and c-spine immobilization was conducted.

• Civilian Service Award to Evan Purcell and Ian Haddix. On May 13, Purcell and Haddix, both of Holmes Beach, were among those first on the scene of a motor vehicle crash in which the vehicle went off the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

The vehicle landed upside down in about 10 feet of water. Without any regard to their safety, both Haddix and Purcell went into the water to try and help rescue the victims in the water and the vehicle.

• Firefighter of the Year to John Stump. Nominated for his outstanding work ethic and dedication to helping improve the department through the numerous activities and projects, Stump is always going above and beyond what is expected of him.

This year he assisted Captain Kurt Lathrop with assembling trauma kits for the K-9 Down program, helped with the training for the animal O2 masks and conducted extensive research on new types of AEDs, which the district expects to purchase. Stump and his wife, Pam, also plan and conduct the annual children’s Christmas party.

• Fire Officer of the Year to Captain Tom Sousa. Sousa has reinvigorated the training division with his enthusiasm and productivity. From Jan 1 to Oct. 31, he has documented 10,295 hours of in-house and outside training for career and reserve personnel.

During this period, Sousa worked with the safety committee to prepare a comprehensive safety policy for the district, which was adopted by the board of commissioners. Additionally, he has worked with the fire prevention division to secure buildings for practical firefighter training for career, reserve and mutual aid purposes.

He is responsible for the reserve program in which reserve firefighters have performed 14,454 hours of shift work. His is recognized for his leadership, dedication and knowledge.


Property mediation prompts lawsuit

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — Local architect Laura Gee has filed a lawsuit against the city over variances granted to the owner of a house under construction at 504 South Bay Boulevard.

Gee has retained attorney Ricinda Perry who filed suit on her behalf against the city in the Olesen case.

The Olesens sued the city last year after a remodeling project the city had permitted for their home on South Bay Boulevard was red tagged.

One of the main disputes was whether or not the Olesens or the city owned the access to the bay on the north side of the Olesen property.

In a mediated settlement, the Olesens gave up any rights to claim the beach access and the city granted several variances to city codes they needed to complete the remodeling to their home.

Gee, the Olesen’s neighbor to the north, asked the city to deny the variance dealing with the placement of air conditioning equipment that is being installed in the setback.

"That’s right under my master bedroom window," Gee told city commissioners at the variance hearing. "This entire project has been permitted from the start with more illegalities than I’ve ever seen on a single building permit in all my years of practice as an architect."

The project was permitted under Former Building Official Kevin Donohue.

Mayor Fran Barford said she wishes the neighbors could work this out.

"I know both families, and they’re going to be living next to each other," she said. "Maybe I’m just in the holiday spirit, but I wish they could get together and just kind of work things out. They’re both good families."

The city has not yet responded to Gee’s lawsuit.



Tai Chi class targets arthritis

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA –Sherry Fideler’s Tai Chi for Arthritis beginners class begins Thursday, Jan. 3, at the Island Community Center and is open to everyone who wants to improve their overall health in a slow relaxing fashion.

"It was developed by Dr. Paul Lam, who has arthritis," Fideler explained. "It’s an abridged form of Sun-style Tai Chi because it’s the least strenuous and has the highest stance.

"He took everything out of the form that might be uncomfortable for people with arthritis, such as kicks and quick movements. It can also be done seated for those who can’t stand."

Fideler took a course with Lam’s master trainers to learn to teach the course. Those who complete the course are certified to teach it. They must also take a refresher course every year to keep their certification.

Benefits of the course include developing healthier joints, strengthening the core muscles, improving balance and breath control and reducing stress.

"We learn to relax the tissues that connect the joints of our body," Fideler explained. "By doing that you are allowing the joints to open up and let blood go more freely to them."

 The exercise strengthens the core muscles, which takes work away from the joints. It improves balance because practitioners learn where to put their weight and how to shift it.

"Another wonderful benefit is breath control," she said. "We spend time breathing and learning how to breathe. The more air you take in the more oxygen gets into your blood stream. The more oxygenated your cells are, the healthier they are."

The exercise reduces stress because of the slow movements, which are very relaxing, and improves concentration and memory because practitioners learn to focus their minds.

Fideler said people will begin to feel the benefits in two to three weeks, but should practice five to 30 minutes daily.

"People say they feel so much better after the class," she said. "Tai Chi is like an onion. You peel a layer and there’s another one. You find more depth every time."

The class will be held on Thursdays from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Center, 407 Magnolia Ave. The fee is $5 per class for members and $10 per class for non-members.

Fideler is a fitness instructor who teaches many forms of fitness including intermediate Tai Chi for Arthritis, aerobics, Pilates, strength training and aquatic exercise at the Center, the Education Center on Longboat Key and the Manatee Family YMCA. She also is a nutrition counselor and has private clients.


Fifth-graders to get DARE training

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – After a tragic and lengthy interruption in the curriculum, it looks like the fifth-grade students at Anna Maria Elementary School will get the benefits of a nationally-approved anti drug, alcohol and tobacco program.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine has appointed Brian Copeman, an officer with 2 1/2 years of service in the department, as the new resource officer at AME. His first assignment after the holidays is to learn the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) course so that he can start teaching it, according to AME Principal Tom Levengood.

"He’s scheduled to go to Miami the last week of January to take the DARE course," Levengood said. "It looks like he’ll be able to teach the course to our fifth graders this year."

Copeman has some big shoes to fill. His predecessor, Pete Lannon, was a popular figure with the students, staff and parents at the school. He worked hard to perfect his course and amade alliances with the students that will likely last throughout their lives. He died in June after a battle with cancer. The students who graduated from the elementary school last year did not receive the DARE training.

After Lannon died, the school considered replacing the DARE program with Crossroads, a program that is used in other schools in the district. However, Levengood looked at both of them and felt that DARE was the better program and Romine agreed.

"I am thrilled that they will learn DARE instead of Crossroads," Levengood said.

Levengood said that they would introduce Copeman to the students in January.

"We will let him build support with the students," he said.

Meanwhile, Copeman will also be building support with business owners in Holmes Beach. Half of his time will be spent at the school and the other will be spent in the business community.

"We want him to go around on foot patrol and talk with the business owners to see what’s going on," Romine said. "We figure if someone sees something suspicious when they come to work, they might not take the time to call us, but if Officer Copeman stops in to say hi, they’ll be more likely to tell him."



Center’s new youth director has big plans

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – Caroline Pardue’s enthusiasm appears to be limitless and as the new youth program director at the Island Community Center, that’s a good thing.

"It’s an umbrella," she said of her job. "I oversee anything having to do with youth and teens and connect all the sports, youth, teen, after school and performing arts programs and make sure they’re in sync. For the past year, they’ve all been separated while the new Center was being built, and I’m trying to get them together again."

Pardue, who has a degree in parks and recreation management from Virginia Commonwealth University, has worked with community centers, the Bureau of Land Management as a park ranger and the National Park Service on the national mall in Washington, D.C. Her husband, Scott, was also with the National Park Service in Washington, D.C.

"Scott got promoted to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park," she recalled. "We lived in Gatlinburg, Tenn., for three years. Then he was promoted to the DeSoto National Monument as superintendent and we moved here."

The couple lives on the Island and their daughter, Charlotte, is a kindergartener at Anna Maria Elementary. Pardue said she finds the Island a "great social place for our family to make friends."

Pardue has big plans for the youth programs at the Center and is seeking instructors for golf and tennis and volunteers to be tutors in the after school program. She also is planning to offer a Red Cross babysitting class, a cooking class and a family night to teach children about stranger safety.

"If somebody has a passion and has a week or two to give that course to children or teens, call me," she said. "We don’t have the money to have instructors on staff, but we can give them a percentage of the fee.

"And if someone wants us to offer a program, call me. We have all this wonderful space, and we’re always looking for ways to enrich the children’s lives."

Pardue can be reached at the Center at 778-1980, ext. 9211.


Tax break for fire sprinklers in the works

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Fire Chief Andy Price told fire commissioners it would cost the district between $22,000 and $55,000 per year to offer a tax break to residents that install sprinkler systems in their homes depending on the percentage of the discount.

"I also contacted our attorney about how to do it," Price said. "We can do it in our (annual assessment) rate resolution. So we don’t have to do a special resolution."

In a previous meeting, commissioners had discussed whether to give the tax break on both required and non-required sprinklers systems, to those with newly installed systems and existing systems and whether to tie it to the square footage of the home.

"On the issue of how do you give it and who do you give it to, the attorney said all members of a class have to be treated the same or you have to come up with rationale to give it to one and not the other."

"Our rationale is for people to put sprinklers in their buildings," Commissioner Jack Emery responded.

"My feeling is if they sprinkle the building, they’ve made it safer for them and for us," Price said. "So why not give a break for a sprinkled building, but whatever we decide, I’ve got to deal with the financial impact."

Price said if the district offered a 20 percent discount, it would cost $44,000 per year.

"I would like to see a legal opinion on giving the discount to non-required systems because it encourages people to do it." Emery said.

"The other rationale would be that residential homes have a higher percentage of fire-related deaths than commercial buildings," Deputy Chief Brett Pollock added.

Price then asked commissioners how to proceed on an ordinance requiring sprinklers in new residential buildings.

"I am establishing a blue ribbon committee to determine who has to do it, but if we pass an ordinance, they won’t get the tax break unless they do it before the ordinance is adopted,"

Commissioner Larry Tyler said that they must also work with the county on the ordinance.


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