Vol 8 No. 17 - January 16, 2008


Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Campaign to curb fireworks intensifies

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper 2007 a good year for Island tourism

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Trees gone, questions remain in butterfly park

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper City reacts to request from boat captain

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Commission adopts comp plan changes

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper County: Signs need bigger supports

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Privateers raffle one-of-a-kind quilt

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Planks for the memories on ‘Walk of Fame’




Campaign to curb fireworks intensifies

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – Island emergency officials agreed that a unified educational effort is the best way to diffuse the escalating problem of fireworks being set off on the Island on holidays, particularly on July 4.

"The law is the law; we just can’t enforce it," Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford told the Island Fireworks Task Force last week. "There’s so many people out here at the times of these illegal fireworks’ displays that we can’t manage it, so we need to come up with a plan to educate people and better manage it."

Holmes Beach Lt. Dale Stephenson reported that he and Deputy Fire Chief Brett Pollock, of West Manatee Fire & Rescue, had agreed on language for the informational sign at 75th Street entering the Causeway for the New Year’s holiday educational effort.

"It was not promoting fireworks; it was just asking people to be safe," Stephenson explained.

The sign was in place for about 24 hours before County Administrator Ed Hunzeker ordered it removed.

"He didn’t approve of the message because he thought it was promoting fireworks," Stephenson continued.

He said when he explained the situation to Deputy County Administrator Karen Windon, she apologized and said she wasn’t aware of the task force, but would work with the group in the future.

Pollock said the group should transmit all its correspondence and minutes to Windon and ask the county to send a representative to the meetings.

Getting the message out

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale pointed out, "The next sign message should be short enough for people to read it fast. We should get together and figure out standard verbiage for the signs and give it to the county."

Barford reported that Sgt. John Kenney said the Sheriff’s Office could film an informational video to be used as a public service announcement, and Pollock suggested airing it on METV also.

"We should do it all together to show unity," Speciale said. "We could do it at the fire station in Holmes Beach with the fire trucks and police cars and all of us there."

West Manatee Deputy Fire Marshal Kurt Lathrop said he has complied a list of the rental agencies in the district and said they could write an informational letter to be put in rental units. Others said they should post it on the Web sites of rental agencies, the AMI Chamber of Commerce, the Island police departments and the fire district.

"Part of our education approach was going to be articles in the media. When should those start?" Barford asked.

Longboat Key Fire Marshal Lou Gagliani suggested Memorial Day weekend.

Barford said they could also put a notice in local utility bills.

Speciale said all the agencies involved should use the same message, and Barford asked members to bring suggestions to the next meeting.

Residents speak

Anna Maria resident Rick DeFrank said there are certain areas where people congregate to shoot fireworks and he said that police should fine them immediately.

"This was on my roof after the last Fourth of July," he said holding up a large firework. "This is worse than somebody shooting a gun up in the air and a bullet coming through the house."

Margaret Jenkins said she has been picking up pieces of fireworks from her yard since Christmas and stressed, "I don’t want this in my yard and something should be done to make people obey the law."

Larry Albert asked about enforcement policies on the Island.

"It’s illegal, but the Island is so inundated with visitors that we cannot manage it," Barford replied. "All the cities are in the same position. It’s over whelming.

"Then there’s a legal process to confiscate them so they don’t explode in the police station and a reclaim opportunity with quite a bit of paperwork and documentation."

Randall Stover asked why police couldn’t put the confiscated fireworks in a bucket of water.

Lathrop explained that disposal falls under hazardous materials regulations and transporting fireworks to a place where they can be properly disposed of also is an issue.

"Once these explosives get wet and dry out, they become unstable," Gagliani added.

Jenkins suggested an educational effort in the schools and Lathrop said it is a good idea but the School Board must approve it.

The group’s next meeting was set for Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 10 a.m.

2007 a good year for Island tourism

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

More people stayed in hotels and motels on Anna Maria Island in 11 of the 12 months of 2007 than in 2006, according to the latest statistics from the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

May occupancy, the only exception, was down less than 1 percent from 2006.

The favorable trend stopped at the Longboat Pass Bridge. In the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key, occupancy dropped in seven months of 2007 compared to 2006. However, Key accommodations owners set a new record high average daily room rate - $217.27 a night – the highest on both Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island in four years.

The most expensive month in 2007 on Anna Maria Island was December, at an average of $154.02 a night. Anna Maria Island’s highest record average room rate is $186.21 a night, set in March 2006.

Cost-conscious visitors can bank on the cheapest months being October and November, according to the statistics. On Anna Maria Island, the cheapest month in 2007 was November, with rates averaging $127.70 a night. On Longboat Key, the cheapest month in 2007 was October, averaging $128.07 a night.

The low-end rates are comparable to the record four-year lows set in October 2004 due to bad weather: $120.85 on Longboat Key and $126.27 on Longboat Key and $126.27 on Anna Maria Island.

Overall, rates were higher in six months of 2007 on Anna Maria Island than they were in 2006, and were higher in eight months on Longboat Key.

Visitors looking for peace and quiet should start planning their trips for September, December or January. On Anna Maria in 2007, the least crowded month was January, with 30.4 percent of the rooms filled, while the least crowded month in the past four years on the Island was December, with only 27.4 percent of the rooms filled.

On Longboat Key, the least crowded month for the past two years has been September, with 30.4 percent of the rooms filled in September 2007 and 25.5 percent of the rooms filled in September 2006.

Tourism businesses saw the biggest crowds of 2007 in March, with 84.7 percent of rooms filled on Anna Maria Island, down from the four-year record of 94.3 percent occupancy in March 2005.

On Longboat Key, businesses also had their best 2007 crowds in March, with 85.5 percent occupancy, down from the four-year record in March 2004 of 97.7 percent.

Trees gone, questions remain in butterfly park

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – The removal of two ficus trees from the Island Butterfly Park sent Nancy Ambrose, chairman of park, into a tizzy Monday, Jan. 7.

Ambrose has lobbied the city for months to remove the trees in the park adjacent to city hall. She said they have cost the North American Butterfly Association Manasota Chapter, which planted the park, thousands of dollars to trim. She also has maintained that the roots have damaged bricks in the park.

"I was excited at first, then I was panic stricken, because I thought the city would think I hired someone to remove them," she explained. "I called David (Commissioner David Zaccagnino) and he called the mayor and found out the mayor had them cut."

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger announced at last week’s city commission meeting on Tuesday that he had the trees cut because it was more cost effective to do that than relocate the bricks.

Last fall a misunderstanding arose over the trees when Ambrose thought they were to be removed. At the time, Bohnenberger said the city would not remove them but help Ambrose relocate the bricks to another area. Ambrose took up the personalized bricks in preparation for relocating them.
"We’ll have to get an estimate on getting the stumps ground and the roots removed and the get bricks put back because I don’t think the city is planning to do it now," Ambrose said.

Bohnenberger said he would consider having city employees help Ambrose with the bricks. He also said he is drafting an agreement between the city and the butterfly group to delineate the responsibilities of each with regard to the park.

‘I’m not used to Rich’s way of doing things," Ambrose admitted. "His style is so different from Carol’s (former Mayor Carol Whitmore). We’re trying to figure out how to work together, but things are moving forward."


City reacts to request from boat captain

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – "Build it and they will come" was the theme of the 1989 movie "Field of Dreams." It also applies to a city with a newly refurbished public pier and a brand new day dock.

The Bradenton Beach City Pier Team decided to seek legal advice on how to handle a request from Dolphin Cruises charter boat captain Mark Bebernitz, who told them he was looking into ferrying customers to several local stops, including the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Bebernitz said he wanted to offer tours on his 26-foot boat, Red Skyy, possibly starting at Coquina Park Bayside, where there is abundant parking, to the Bridge Street Pier, across the bay to the Cortez Kitchen, south to Mar Vista and back to Coquina.

Bebernitz said he has been in business about two years and his boat is rated to carry 20 people, although he likes to stop loading when he gets 16. He said there are two other captains who would be willing to help him.

Bradenton Beach Projects and Programs Manager Lisa Marie Phillips said it was important that he clarify whether this is recreational or a people-mover service because if he was going to be a people mover, he would incur a responsibility to make sure his customers did not get stranded anywhere.

Bebernitz said his service would be more like an attraction for tourists, not a shuttle for people going to work.

Police Chief Sam Speciale told the group that they should ask the city attorney about designating a portion of the floating day dock for commercial operations, since he had also been approached by the owner of a commercial sailboat.

The rest of the pier team agreed and also asked Bebernitz to check out the pier and make a list of items he feels he would need. One area would be accessibility for the handicapped and another would be requiring the commercial operators to have liability insurance.



Commission adopts comp plan changes

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – More than three years after they authorized the revision of the comprehensive plan, the Bradenton Beach City Commission has approved proposed changes to help the city deal with its future development.

The changes now go onto the Florida Department of Community Affairs (DCA) for review and back to the city for adoption or any changes deemed necessary by the state.

The commission held a public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 8, and it made changes to the evaluation and appraisal report (EAR) that were made in a series of meetings first by a committee of citizens and then by the city’s planning agency, the planning and zoning board.

The changes made during the meeting were prompted by requests from property and business owners who felt that future land use map changes would restrict what they could do with their property.

Attorney Ricinda Perry, representing BeachHouse restaurant owner Ed Chiles, warned against changing the land use designation of the property south of the restaurant along Gulf Drive from recreational open space to preservation as recommended by the proposal. She said it would represent a taking of her client’s rights and that the city would be singling out that property. Chiles, who got into a dispute with the city for allowing customers to park in that area, has suggested working with the city to build a public parking lot on his land and city right-of-way land south of there. Chiles claims that the land was used for parking when he bought it and converted the restaurant that was there into the BeachHouse. The commissioners voted against the recommendation to change the land use to preservation, which prohibits parking.

Another change was after architect Mike McCaleb, appearing for Gulf Drive Café owner Wendy Kokolis, asked the commission to allow continued use of her land for a future restaurant expansion south that would include tiki huts.

City Commissioner Janie Robertson asked that they strike a paragraph in the introduction of the report that spoke of the city’s low-density, single family neighborhoods. It said that the city’s oldest mobiles home park, The Pines, "presents the most likely opportunity for voluntary re-development." She said she felt the paragraph targeted the mobile home parks for development and the commission agreed.

The commission also voted to exclude medium density residential property from eligibility for a planned unit development. The evaluation only suggested excluding low-density property.

If the DCA requires any changes, they would require a public hearing after they are approved by the planning and zoning board.


County: Signs need bigger supports

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – The pole that held the changeable message sign that fell onto Gulf Drive Nov. 14 still stands, minus the mast arm that came down with the sign that evening. Soon it will be replaced with sturdier equipment to make sure the sign stays up this time.

Vince Canna, Manatee County Public Works manager for the project that will put six signs around the Island and West Bradenton, said that the county’s engineer determined that the sign fell down because the mast arms are too small.

"The contractor was told to upgrade the size of the mast arms," he said. "Three of the signs will need stronger support pads, which will be their next step."

Canna said the larger concrete pads would be installed under two two-sided signs located at 31st and Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach and at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach plus one of the one-sided signs on the mainland.

The county had the sign contractor remove the two-sided signs after the one in Holmes Beach fell, but kept the one-sided signs up. Canna said at that time that they suspected the two-sided signs might be too heavy for the poles and mast arms. They weigh about a ton each, much more than the one-sided signs.

The sign at 31st and Gulf Drive fell within two days of when the new signs would go into use. When it becomes operational, the system will allow the county to inform motorists of conditions at the beaches such as weather, traffic and full parking lots and conditions on the bridges and roads, such as accidents. They are intended to inform beach-goers when it would be better to use public transportation.

Canna said the project was awarded to Traffic Control Devices, Inc., on a design-built contract, which means the company was paid to design it and then erect it. He said the county hired its own engineer to certify the structure after it was built. He said the county engineer had not certified the signs by the time the one fell down.

Canna could not predict how soon the signs would be up and working, but he said the larger poles and mast arms would be delivered as soon as this week.



Privateers raffle one-of-a-kind quilt

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Anna Maria Island Privateer Pam "Rattler" Alexander made a unique and beautiful pirate’s theme quilt, which was on display at the Privateers’ Thieves’ Market at Coquina Beach on Saturday, Jan. 12.

The quilt is black with panels showing skulls and crossbones, swords, muskets and other items associated with pirates. The backside is brown with items from the sea. It is a large quilt that could be used on a king-sized bed or proudly displayed on a wall.

The Privateers are selling raffle tickets for the quilt. Tickets are one for $10, three for$25 and 15 for $100. The winning ticket will be drawn on Feb. 17 at the Cortez Commercial Seafood Festival and you do not need to be present to win.

Alexander said that she visited her father, who lives in Lacygne south of Kansas City, to start the project. Her father owns a quilting machine.

Proceeds from the sale will go toward the Privateers’ projects that include children’s programs and scholarships.

If you would like to purchase raffle tickets, they will be on sale at the Privateers’ mullet smoke this Saturday, Jan. 19, starting at 7 a.m. in the parking lot of Publix, 3900 E. Bay Drive, Holmes Beach. You can also send a check to AMI Privateers, P.O. Box 1238, Holmes Beach, FL 34218.


Planks for the memories on ‘Walk of Fame’

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — It may not be a handprint at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and it may not be Hollywood, but the Rod&Reel Pier is offering it’s own form of immortality and recognition.

People being offered a chance to sign up to have some engraving done on one or more of the new planks that are being laid on the walkway out to the end of the pier.

"This is sort of a Rod&Reel tradition," said General Manager Dave Cochran. "You can see that the planks have really weathered, so when we started replacing them, we offered engraving again."

Cochran said the charge is $75 for up to 20 letters. Additional letters are $1 each. You can also purchase an icon such as a shark, a clownfish, a hook, birds, clams or several other nautical designs for $5 each.

"The charge doesn’t cover the cost of replacing the planks, but it helps," he said. "It does cover the engraving."

The boards are pressure treated and should last quite a while, Cochran said. The pier is closed every Tuesday while new planks are laid and engraved. The Tuesday closings will continue until the end of January.

"We get too busy during season to close on Tuesdays, so we’ll finish the work in May," Cochran said.

He said that 95 are planks have been engraved and laid. He has orders for 70 more, and there are about 150 left that are available for purchase.

"We get all kinds of people wanting planks," he said. "The locals are interested, our regulars are buying them and we have people calling up from Michigan giving us credit card numbers over the phone so they can have a plank, too. We have James Annis Construction doing the work," Cochran said. "And it’s going great guns."

One recent day, Matt Hauswirth, from New York, and his grandmother, Marilyn Plassaro, who lives in Bradenton in the winter and in Rhode Island in the summer, were looking down at the engraved planks as they walked out on the pier to have lunch.

"I’m looking to see what they say," Matt said. "This is really interesting," Plassaro said she thinks the whole idea of engraving the planks is great.

"I especially noticed the one that said it was ‘to Mom,’" she said. "She also liked the one that said "Sea Hagg."

There are order forms for the planks available in the restaurant or in the bar or you can call the Rod&Reel Pier at (941) 778-1885.


"Write a letter to the editor about a story."


<< Go back to Index January 16

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper