Vol 8 No. 19 - January 30, 2008


Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper City warned: provide parking or lose beaches

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Chappie runs for county seat

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Crash claims local cyclist

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Koenigs trial set for April

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper County to decide on dogs on trail

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper County wary of pier repair

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Businesses prepare for trolley on Bridge Street

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Panel ponders parking problem - again




City warned: provide parking or lose beaches

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – The Manatee County Board of County Commissioners has some advice for the city of Anna Maria – get serious about beach parking or you won’t get beach renourishment.

After going over a map of approved parking spaces for beach goers, spaces that are necessary to qualify got federal renourishment funds, Commissioner Ron Getman questioned some of the spots that were not near the beach.

"They may meet the technical requirement, but there’s a human factor here," he said after pointing to one space that is more than a block from the beach. "I see lots of spaces near the beach where homeowners have talked the city into making them no parking."

Commissioner Joe McClash said he agrees.

"I see some of the spaces are in the Rod and Reel Pier parking lot," he said. "Those spaces aren’t available during meal time when the restaurant is full."

Commissioner Amy Stein said that residents of Anna Maria would have to decide whether they want to open the area to more parking.

"Hopefully, Mayor (Fran) Barford can convince the city commission and the people that if they want renourishment, they will have to allow parking," Stein said.

Manatee County Conservation Lands Management Director Charlie Hunsicker and county beach engineer contractor Rick Spadoni, of Coastal Planning and Engineering, pointed out that the city of Anna Maria needs to come up with 38 more parking spaces to quality for full federal funding.

Hunsicker and Spadoni gave the commissioners an outline of their renourishment plans for this year and 2011. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is backing a 25,000 cubic yard project in Anna Maria to make up for storm damage of two years ago and the county wants to tie in with that project to put 420,000 cubic yards on Coquina Beach this year. The county would pay $145,750 of the $2.9 million for the FEMA project and half of the $12.98 million Coquina project.

In 2011, the county would pay $3.86 million for a nourishment project in Anna Maria and $3.83 million for a renourishment in the pattern of previous projects in 1992 and 2002.

County commissioners questioned whether the one cent set aside from the four cents per dollar bed tax would be enough to pay for the $14.334 million that the county will have to spend on all the projects. Hunsicker said that the county might have to borrow some of the other bed tax money collected to pay for the projects, and Getman suggested they look at raising the bed tax another penny.

"It is being discussed and will be debated soon," Hunsicker said.

Getman said he remembered the last time the county raised the bed tax a few years ago.

"There was a great cry, but it didn’t appear to hurt business," he said.

Commissioner Donna Hayes said she didn’t think she could vote on raising the bed tax until after they had an economic impact study.

Stein said she was concerned about relying on the federal government paying its share for the projects since the feds still owe the county more than a million dollars from the 2002 renourishment. She also said she felt they should change priorities of the tourist tax to include paying for renourishment first.

"I want figures of how an increase in the tourist tax would impact the industry," Commissioner Jane von Hahmann said. "If we do nothing and lose the beaches, it would be heavily impacted, but I don’t want to spend ad valorem taxes at this time to renourishment them."

Hunsicker explained that the money owed the county was due in 2004 for money saved when that project was not finished, due to weather and contractor problems. He said that the government transferred it to another project instead and they are still waiting for it.

"They no longer transfer those types of monies, so it won’t happen in the future," he said. "We are the last project in Florida to not receive payment."
McClash asked how the 2011 project in Anna Maria would affect the tourist industry.

"When you look at the central beaches and Coquina Beach, there is lots of tourist action," he said. "I’m not too crazy about tourist dollars being spent on the beaches (in Anna Maria)."

When McClash asked how much of the county’s money is already budgeted for renourishment, he said the 2008 projects were budgeted. The commission asked to see proof. The meeting ended with no decision on whether to proceed with any of the projects and there will be a future meeting to address the matter.

Chappie runs for county seat

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Former Mayor John Chappie is seeking to expand his boundaries following three successful terms at the helm of the city.

Chappie, a resident of Bradenton Beach since 1974, has filed to run for the Manatee County Board of County Commissioner District Three seat currently held by Jane von Hahmann, of Cortez Village.

Chappie’s political career began in 1997 after many years of serving on city boards and committees, including the Community Redevelopment Agency that planned the refurbishment of Bridge Street. He was elected to the city commission from 1997 to 2001, when he successfully ran for mayor. He served as mayor until terming out and ran unopposed last year for the remaining year on the city commission in Ward Four. He was recently appointed vice mayor.

Chappie pointed to his experience as mayor as reasons for seeking the county position.

"As mayor, I managed budgets and required that our employees and managers live with those budgets and deliver quality services," he said in a news release. "At the county, we also face tough budgets and tough decisions. I know how hard we taxpayers work for our money. We need to be frugal with every tax dollar."

Chappie, who said he is an environmentalist and fiscal conservative, said that the county needs to plan ahead and develop a strategy for change that will improve the quality of life.

In addition to serving as an elected official, Chappie is actively involved in many civic organizations and is a founding member of Legacy III, a non-profit corporation that is dedicated to protecting and educating the public about the environment, according to the release.

Crash claims local cyclist

HOLMES BEACH – A Holmes Beach man has died after a motorcycle accident Thursday night in the 5300 block of Gulf Drive.

John Michael Cagnina, 23, of Holmes Beach, died Saturday at Bayfront Hospital in St. Petersburg of head injuries. He is the son of John D. Cagnina and the grandson of the late Ernie Cagnina, a former mayor of Anna Maria.

According to a Holmes Beach Police press release, Cagnina was involved in a one-person motorcycle accident on the curve near the Time Saver store and was ejected from the cycle. He was flown by Bay Flight helicopter to Bayfront Medical Center where a spokeswoman said his condition was critical on Friday. He had hit some large landscape rocks after sliding on the street. He was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.

Mark Kimball, who lives near the accident scene, said it appears he lost control while going around the curve.

"I heard him as he slid on the road," Kimball said. "It didn’t sound like an auto accident. There wasn’t glass breaking or anything."

Kimball said Cagnina looked like he was badly hurt at the scene.

"It appeared he had a punctured lung or something," Kimball said. "He wasn’t awake but it looked like he was having trouble breathing."

Cagnina apparently was riding a brand new Yamaha that belonged to a man he met at a nightclub that night. That man was on the scooter that Cagnina had driven to the bar, according to an acquaintance that did not want to be identified. After he heard the crash, Kimball said noticed there was a second rider.

"I looked out the window and the guy he was with had stopped," Kimball said. "I asked the guy if he knew the victim and he said not too well."

Funeral services are pending.


Koenigs trial set for April

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

The man accused of shooting Sue Normand once in the abdomen on Dec. 5 at her business will have his day in court in April, if all goes as planned.

The court has set several dates in the case of Mark Koenigs, who is charged with aggravated battery with a firearm, three counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a firearm and aggravated assault with a firearm. There will be a case management conference on Wednesday, Feb. 20, at the Manatee County Courthouse to discuss discovery issues, pre-trial motions that are pending or contemplated and issues such as conflict by attorneys, competency by the defendant. They will also discuss a trial date and length of time anticipated for the trial.

The court has also set the docket sounding date for 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 26, where the defendant and prosecution will confirm their intent to go to trial unless there is a plea bargain.

Finally, the court has set a preliminary trial date of Monday, April 7, at 8:30 a.m. in judge Diana L. Moreland’s courtroom. That date may change depending on the results of the two previous meetings and the caseload.


County to decide on dogs on trail

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – The Coquina Beach Trail is a hit with residents and visitors alike. The paved walkway that runs from Fifth Street South to the southern tip of the Island along the beach attracts hundreds of walkers, joggers, skaters and runners. It also attracts dog owners, giving rise to the question of whether dogs are allowed there.

Candie Pederson, park planner with the Manatee County Parks and Recreation Department, updated the Bradenton Beach Scenic Highway Committee last week.

"It’s still on the table," she said, referring to the decision. "It goes before the (Manatee County) Board (of County Commissioners) in mid to late February."

Bradenton Beach City Commissioner Janie Robertson asked if the county would want the city’s input and Pederson said "absolutely."

"I’m a rider," said Bradenton Beach Projects and Program Manager Lisa Marie Phillips. "I ride my bike there and I have no problem with the walkers, but I’m deathly afraid of dogs on a leash who could trip me up."

Phillips said she sees too many of the dog owners take the short trip from the trail to the beach, which is off-limits to pets.

"I have found that if they use the trail, they end up at the beach," she said. "I follow them and ask them about it and they say they don’t care."

Robertson suggested if the county wants to allow pets, it set time periods, such as early in the morning, to avoid problems between dogs on leashes and bicyclists.

"That’s a good idea," Pederson said. "That way, you don’t have dogs taking food off the picnic areas near the grills."

The county had been reluctant to actually set a rule regarding pets. They are not allowed on the beach, but are allowed in the beach parking lots. They are allowed on trails, but not trails near the beach.

Committee chairman Tim Lyons took a poll of members as to whether they want pets on the trail or not. They agreed they did not. They agreed to send their message to the city commission and see if it would decide how the city officially feels. They would then send that information to the county commission before commissioners decide once and for all whether to allow them or ban them.


County wary of pier repair

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – A consultant hired by the county wants to put a new top on the walking pier at Manatee County Beach, but a county commissioner feels it might need more than that to make it safe.

Brian Rheault made a presentation on the pier, which was closed for a while last year when a survey showed it was unsafe and the deck was falling apart. It was patched and reopened after the county placed fencing around it so people would not walk underneath and get hit by falling chunks of concrete.

Rheault’s plan was to keep the pilings and put a new deck over the existing substructure with aluminum grating to allow water to flow through it when storms bring high water. The cost would be $1.1 to $1.3 million and the build time would be eight to nine months.

"The pier is unsafe underneath and you want to keep the substructure," County Commission Ron Getman said. "Why wouldn’t you take up the old pier and build a new one?"

Rheault said that his plan would require the contractor to take up part of the pier substructure that’s over the land, but not over the water.

"I would like to see an estimate of what it would cost to demolish the old pier," Commissioner Joe McClash agreed, saying he would like a second opinion.

"The problem with removing the existing structure is that it allows the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) to look at it as a new pier and it would have to be rebuilt on a higher plane," Rheault said. "You would also need a long handicap ramp to meet state requirements."

Commissioner Jane von Hahmann said that a new pier would be too expensive.

Commissioner Amy Stein said that Rheault and Manatee County Conservation Lands Management Manager Charlie Hunsicker should have presented options, such as no build, rebuild or remove and replace.

"To remove the old pier and build nothing would cost approximately $750,000." Rheault said. "To encase the old structure with a new top would be $1.1 million."

Hunsicker also presented a plan to take out two of the three groins in the Gulf at Cortez Beach and put a new cover on the northernmost groin. He said that repairing it would cost $1,018,800. He also talked about possibility putting a new pier into the Gulf from Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach instead, but that proposal appeared to be shot down due to a lack of parking around Bridge Street.

"You’re going to provide an extreme amenity here and if you’re to provide an extreme amenity to the public, you’ll have to provide parking," Commissioner Jane von Hahmann said.

The commission will discuss those plans in the future.



Businesses prepare for trolley on Bridge Street

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Business owners on Bridge Street hope that the clang of the trolley bell will translate into more ca-ching in their cash registers and they’re pushing to make that happen.

Bridge Street merchants met with Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce last Thursday to discuss clearing the path so that the trolleys could make the side-trip in front of their stores a reality.

Pierce is concerned about having enough room for the large vehicles, which would turn around in the roundabout at the east end of the street next to the entrance to The Pines Trailer Court. Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) sent out a trolley recently to run up and down Bridge Street and there were concerns about delivery trucks blocking the path of the trolleys. Merchants at the meeting agreed that they would have delivery trucks park in areas off of Bridge Street.

During the experimental drive down Bridge Street, the trolley driver had to back up in order to make the loop in the roundabout, even though the city made the loop larger during its Bridge Street Pier rehabilitation. However, Police Chief Sam Speciale said that he found out that the main barrier is moveable.

"There were bollards in front of The Pines and we thought they were planted into the ground," he said. "We found out they are portable and can easily be moved."

Speciale said the city will ask Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) to bring out another trolley soon for another try.

MCAT Manager Ralf Heseler said his department will bring the issue before the Manatee County Board of Commissioners for their approval probably in February.

"We will address the positive aspects of going up and down Bridge Street, but there are some other aspects that concern me," he said. "There’s a lot of pedestrian traffic there and you have a cow catcher on the front of those trolleys. We want to make sure we don’t have a serious incident there."

Heseler said a trolley hit a woman in St. Armands Circle several years ago and she got caught in the cow catcher and was dragged for a distance.

The merchants last Thursday approved a letter to Heseler saying that they all concur that the street must remain clear and unblocked at all times to permit two-way traffic.

Heseler said during the trolley demo ride down Bridge Street, a man parked his car in the traffic lane and went inside a bar to use the ATM. They were stranded behind the car for 10 minutes.

The city and county have been talking about bringing the trolleys down Bridge Street since a parking committee determined that increased use of the free public transit vehicles would free more parking spaces for more customers. The city’s Scenic Highway Committee talked with Heseler at that time and the city has been waiting for several months to see that happen.


Panel ponders parking problem - again

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – Just when things seemed to be going well in the city, the parking issue rises to the surface again.

Manatee County officials informed Mayor Fran Barford that the city is 38 near-beach parking spaces short of what Anna Maria needs to qualify for renourishment money.

"This is serious," Barford told commissioners at their Jan. 22 meeting. "We all know the beaches are constantly eroding. The future of our city, of the whole Island depends on these renourishment projects."

Barford explained that state officials visited Anna Maria unannounced and counted the number of parking spaces.

"They did a survey and found we were short the 38 spaces," she said. "We have to provide them, or we won’t get the renourishment. There are some houses that could just wash away."

The area of Anna Maria north of the Sandbar restaurant was left out of the last renourishment project, because beachfront property owners refused to sign certain rights over to the county.

"These are public tax dollars, so we have to provide access," Barford informed commissioners.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said he was flabbergasted.

"I find this hard to believe," he said. "We have many more parking places than we did during the last renourishment project. How come we had enough then and we don’t have enough now?"

Commissioner Duke Miller agreed with Woodland.

The two were instrumental in hammering out a parking plan, along with Commission Chair John Quam, two years ago that seems to be working well. The commission voted to allow alternate side of the street parking. One side of the street is parking-friendly one year, the next year the legal spaces are switched to the other side of the street. Quam went over every street, measuring and marking where legal parking spaces could be placed.
The city has just moved the signs again for the beginning of the third year of the alternate side of the street parking plan.

"But we don’t have enough spaces close to the beach," Barford said. "We have interior spaces, but not enough close to the beach."

Commissioners, in the end, decided to assign Public Works Director George McKay to work out the problems with the county and the state.

Since there is city staff involved with the survey this time, it is assumed that presence of state and county officials will be announced prior to the commencement of the survey.


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