Vol 8 No. 21 - February 13, 2008


Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Permit sought for Tidemark construction

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Cortez festival to offer seafood delights

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Study begins on new bridge

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper ‘Tricky’ year for tourism

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Debate heats up over trolley extension

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Romberger retires as Center therapist

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Mural commemorates volunteer fire department

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Working for the survival of sea turtles




Permit sought for Tidemark construction

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Shoreline Builders of Southwest Florida applied for a building permit Thursday for the first two units at Tidemark Resorts Marina Residences at Gulf and Marina drives.

“We ‘re excited about it, especially because we’re neighbors," Steve Titsworth, owner of Shoreline said.

The permit application is for Building A, which is located at the end of the spit of land nearest Catcher’s Marina. The cost of the project is listed as $735,500.

"We’re hoping to start in the next 30 to 45 days," Titsworth said. "Some of that has to do with how quick we’re able to get the permit. We’re in the process of reviewing our bids and refining our budget. There’s a certain amount of mobilization."

According Building Clerk Susan Lonzo, the first order of business for the city is to assign addresses to the project’s buildings. Currently, the entire project has one address. That process began Monday. Once addresses are established, notices will be sent to all affected parties such as the tax collector and property appraiser.

Next, Assistant Public Works Director Bill Saunders will review the permit application. Once his review is complete, Titsworth can pay the applicable fees, get the permit and start work. Lonzo said the entire process could take up to three weeks.

Titsworth said the next building slated for construction is Building B, which is beside Building A. It will have seven units plus restrooms and laundry facilities for marina users.

Other buildings in the marina project include the lodge with 10 units, Buildings C and D with eight units each and Building E with five units. There also are 30 units in the Tidemark Beach Residences, currently under construction at the site of the former Beach Inn at 66th Street and Gulf Drive.

All units in both projects will be sold as fractional ownership, a form of real estate in which the buyer purchases a portion of ownership. Each unit will be sold to eight different owners and each owner has unrestricted use with the exception of availability.

The project is seven years in the making. Developer Nick Easterling initiated it in 2001, and the city commission approved the plans in June of that year. However, the project hit a snag when Easterling filed for bankruptcy in 2004.

The following year, Reliance Realty Partners joined the project and the bankruptcy was resolved. In May 2007 Reliance bought out Easterling.

Cortez festival to offer seafood delights

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – Take a bit of salt air, add fresh seafood, live music and dancing, nautical arts and crafts, amusement rides and a maritime museum and you’ve got the 26th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival on Feb. 16 and 17 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The theme is "Net Working," which Cortez fishermen have spent generations doing in Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Visitors can get a taste of Cortez history with displays of handmade nets and traditional hand-built wooden boats at the new Florida Maritime Museum, housed in the restored 1912 Cortez schoolhouse. A short walk to the east end of the historic waterfront fishing village, the museum complex also includes several other historic buildings reflecting the heritage of Cortez and the history of Florida’s fishing industry.

Nautical aficionados will enjoy boat rides and tours from the Cortez docks, where marine life touch tanks will be on display, while seafood fans will have plenty of choices for smoked mullet, shrimp and other fresh fare.

Proceeds from the festival are used by the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage to purchase and restore 95 acres of mangrove wetlands east of the village in the FISH Preserve, one of the last few undeveloped shorelines on Sarasota Bay.

Restoration of the preserve is underway to provide a native habitat for plants, wildlife and birds, to improve the water quality of Sarasota Bay and for public enjoyment.

"The accomplishments of the Cortez community in preserving these wetlands is indeed astonishing and a testimony to private citizen involvement," said Karen Bell, chairman of the festival organizing committee.

"Your FISH Preserve is very impressive," wrote Jean-Michel Cousteau, ocean explorer and founder of the Oceans Future Society. "Its economic value cannot be judged in terms of dollars alone. I have seen from many places around the world, communities like the fishing village of Cortez, suffering from the demise of the natural resources base on which they depend. Your project is an important reminder of the vital connections between nature and humanity."

Festival admission is $2, with kids under 12 admitted free. The entrance is on Cortez Road at 46th Avenue West. Free parking is available in Cortez village, with expanded parking east of the village and south of Cortez Road. Shuttle parking is available at Sugg Middle School, 3801 59th St. W. in Bradenton, and at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach. Shuttle bus fare is $2 round trip. For more information, visit www.cortezfishingfestival.org.

Study begins on new bridge

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – As the rehabilitation project begins on the Anna Maria Island Bridge, work has also begun on its replacement.

The Florida Department of transportation has begun a Project Development and Environment (PD&E) study with the aim of determining whether the bridge will be replaced and, if so, the type of structure that would be built.

The study is expected to take as long as 12 months to complete.

After gathering engineering and environmental data, FDOT will begin an analysis of various two-lane replacement bridges including bascule and fixed-span structures of various heights. There will also be a no-build alternative.

These alternatives will be presented to the public and local government officials at an information workshop and a public hearing.

According to a newsletter issued by FDOT last week, the public information workshop will be scheduled this summer to provide residents and interested people the opportunity to offer their input on the project. All of the approved alternatives will be presented.

A formal public hearing will be scheduled for the fall, hopefully not while the bridge is closed during the rehabilitation project, to display the preferred alternatives.

Throughout the study process, FDOT will offer presentations to various governmental groups and interested organizations.

Exact dates and times for the workshop and hearing have not yet been set and funds for the possible replacement of the 51-year-old drawbridge have not been set aside, but FDOT officials know that time is running out on the structure. The $9.2 million rehabilitation project will extend the bridge’s life some 10 to 15 years.


‘Tricky’ year for tourism

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

The mortgage crisis and an early Easter may pose challenges for tourism operators in 2008, according to the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"We all should be prepared for the fact that it’s a tricky year at best," CVB Director Larry White told the Manatee County Tourism Development Council on Monday.

With Easter falling early on March 23, the Easter and spring break tourism seasons will overlap, said Walter Klages of Research Data Services, a research firm newly hired by the CVB to assist in its efforts to attract visitors.

A bigger problem than the shorter season is that condominium owners who purchased units in the real estate boom to flip them have been unable to sell, he said. As a result, a significant number of condo owners are renting their units to generate income, and the glut of units on the rental market may make it harder to find renters. 2008 tourism occupancy statistics may decrease while collections are increasing due to the development, he predicted.

January tourism was significantly up on Anna Maria Island from this time last year, White reported, with 41.5 percent of the rooms surveyed filled, up from 30.4 percent in January 2007.

In the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key, 58.6 percent of the rooms were filled, barely down from 58.5 percent last January.

Nightly room rates on Anna Maria Island were up, averaging $153.50, up from last January’s $150.90. Rates also were up in the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key, averaging $161.75, up from $156.18 last January.
In other business Monday:

• The council learned that Research Data Services will survey visitors to gather information including why they chose Anna Maria Island, what their other choices were, whether it was advertising, the Internet or some other vehicle that persuaded them, how frequently they come here, where they are from, what their travel budget is, whether they are traveling with children, whether they arrived by air or by car and whether they were satisfied with their trip.

• The council re-elected Sandy Haas-Martens as vice chair.


Debate heats up over trolley extension

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – City hall was packed last Thursday night as pro and con debated before the city commission on the matter of extending the trolley’s route down Bridge Street.

The pros were mainly Bridge Street business owners who feel having the trolleys drive past their front doors will help bring business to the city’s commercial district. The cons came from residents of the Pines Trailer Park who feel it will be a hazard to pedestrians and bring fumes and noise pollution to their front doors.

BridgeWalk and Sun House restaurant owner Barbara Rodocker kicked off the public comment segment of the commission meeting saying the trolley will help solve a long-standing problem.

"We agree it will eliminate some cars that take up parking spaces," she said. "It will bring more people and help build a better tax base and that is good for everyone."

She also suggested one way to open up parking to more shoppers is to enforce laws already on the books.

"As I understand it, there is a two-hour limit for parking in the city-owned parking lot next to our lot behind BridgeWalk," she said. "I have never seen anybody check to see how long cars are parked in that lot."

Bridge Tender restaurant manager Johnny Maschino said he disagrees with the county’s decision to only have northbound trolleys turn into Bridge Street.

"The southbound trolley picks up 72 stops before it gets to Bridge Street, but the northbound trolley only picks up one stop," he said. "For the residents of the trailer park, this is an opportunity for you to have free transportation stop at your door.’

Arthur Foster, who lives at The Pines, explained their opposition to the trolley extension.

"We’re really not against the trolley coming down Bridge Street," he said. "We’re opposed to the use of the roundabout by the trolley. It’s a tight circle and there’s tremendous pedestrian traffic. The trolley could turn right at the roundabout and go down Bay Drive one block and then out Third Street to Gulf Drive."

Foster speculated that some people who come out of the pier restaurant might see the trolley come down the street and hop on it, leaving their cars parked in a spot in the pier parking lot.

Pines resident Bona Wortman offered to be on a committee to find a solution to the difference in opinions. Eileen Suhre, who served on the original Community Redevelopment Agency with her late husband, Richard, said she thought walking would be better than having the trolley come down the street.

"It’s healthier and people need to exercise," she said. "People need to walk more."

Former Mayor Connie Drescher, also a Pines resident, said she had served on several committees tackling the parking problem in the city.

"The trolley is the best thing that we could come up with," she said.

The city commission took no action on the issue, since it had not been put on the agenda.

A week earlier, Manatee County Area Transit sent a trolley down Bridge Street and it successfully turned around in the roundabout after Police Chief Sam Speciale helped move some portable bollards back to the wall in front of The Pines. The county is still working out details on the plan to add Bridge Street to the trolley route.


Romberger retires as Center therapist

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – Island Community Center therapist Shirley Romberger will retire on Feb. 15, but plans to remain available on a volunteer basis for consulting and group work.

"I’ve been here 10 years as a licensed marriage and family therapist," Romberger said. "For a long time, I was the sole therapist, but I went part-time when they hired Rosemarie (Fisher), which enabled us to offer evening hours.

"When I first came here, we were doing therapy in Pierrette’s office, on the kitchen floor and on the benches at the ball field. Then Pierrette made the old poolroom into an office that I shared with Rosemarie. Now in the new building, we have two offices."

Romberger’s duties included leading groups such as parenting and children of divorce, teaching life skills to children in the after school program and doing individual and family therapy.

She said she plans to stay with the parenting group, which had a slow start because people had difficulty admitting they needed help. The group, which meets on Mondays from 6 to 7:30 p.m. and offers babysitting and pizza, has grown to 20 parents.

"We try to put the fun back into parenting," she explained. "We talk about how to help our children grow up to be responsible, happy adults.

‘It’s a cooperative effort because some parents have been coming for years. We do a session with parents helping parents and ask them to try techniques and report back to the group."

She said she and Fisher work closely with counselor Cindy Harrison at Anna Maria Elementary School, who identifies children having problems and refers them to the Center. They also work with other local agencies such as HOPE, Family Resources and Manatee Glens.

While she hasn’t seen any dramatic changes in people’s issues and problems over the past 10 years, Romberger said they are not intimidated by getting help as they once were.

"It’s not that we sit here with all the answers," she pointed out. "It’s the process of talking it out with someone new and out of that discussion the client usually finds the solution or begins to see what’s happening in a different way."

Her replacement is Terri Milen, a mental health counselor, who has been working with Romberger since December. Originally from Michigan, Milen lived in Colorado, where she earned her master’s degree in counseling, before moving to the area.

"Warmth and sunshine," Milen responded when asked why she moved to Florida. "I had family and friends in Florida and I‘ve always wanted to live near the water."

She met Fisher while networking and learned about the Center. She said she is currently working on her goals and plans for the program.

"I hope to collaborate with the youth program director to put together a teen girls’ program," she said. "We will work with the girls on common sense, being good leaders and the importance of education."

She said she also plans to visit area schools and let counselors know what the Center offers.

"I’m excited to work with Rosemarie and the staff," she said. "We all work well together."



Mural commemorates volunteer fire department

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – Harold Hill is not one to shy away from a challenge, so when he learned of plans to paint a mural on the wall of the West Manatee Volunteer Fire Station, he was ready to help.

"One of the Privateer’s told me that they wanted a wall mural to commemorate the volunteers of the fire district, so I talked to Rhoda (Rhoda D’Ambra, president of the fire district’s volunteer organization)," Hill explained. "One of the main things they wanted to focus on was the old fire truck.

"Then we came up with the American flag, the memorial for Brian (firefighter Brian Reed, who was killed in the line of duty in 2001), the two volunteers running with their gear and the old patch and the present shield. I put it all together and made it work."

Hill, who completed the mural two months ago, said it took him four days to paint. He said he didn’t draw the mural first, but just began painting.

"I used a big spray gun and an air bush," he said. "It was challenging because you can only paint so much before you have to step back and look at it. I really enjoyed it. It was the first wall mural of that size that I’ve done."

Hill said he has done some smaller murals, including three bay doors for S & S Custom Innovations, a motorcycle shop in Palmetto.

"I painted the three bay doors to look like the inside of the shop," he said, "but the majority of my work is airbrushing motorcycles and cars, mostly custom graphics.

"Most of my business is word of mouth. People at auto body and motorcycle shops recommend me to their customers. I take the customer’s idea and turn it into something I can paint on their vehicle.”

Hill said he has never had formal art training and began his career after a stint in the military by air brushing T-shirts in Michigan.

"I did that for 10 years, and then people wanted me to paint their vehicles," he recalled. "It’s a little unnerving to go from a $5 T-shirt to a $5,000 vehicle."

However, he got tired of the cold weather and moved his family to Bradenton 11 years ago, working for dealerships until he got his air brushing business established. His wife, Judy, takes care of the business end while he concentrates on painting.

"She really kept things gong when we were on the lean side,’ he said.

To contact Hill, call (941) 209-0562 or e-mail him at scalawagzgraphicz@yahoo.com. He hopes to have his Web site up soon, but until then you can view his work at www.myspace.com/scalawagzgraphicz (click on pics).


Working for the survival of sea turtles

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ST PETERSBURG — Members of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch joined scientists from all over the state this month in an attempt to learn what is killing sea turtles.

They gathered at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg to perform field necropsies on 80 turtles that had been found dead around the state over the past several months. A necropsy is the animal or reptile equivalent of a human autopsy.

"We get together several times a year and do these," said Alan Foley, a scientist with the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission. "We can spot any trends that are occurring and, hopefully, we figure something out to help before it’s too late."

The turtles were primarily endangered green sea turtles and threatened loggerheads. Scientists from Clearwater Marine Aquarium, FWRI, Mote Marine Laboratory, and a handful of citizen volunteers gathered to see what the dead turtles could tell them.

"We can usually determine why they died." said Vikki Socha, a scientist with Mote. "You can tell if it was a boat strike, parasites, fishing lures, shark bites, plastic bags, parts of aluminum cans, fishing line or disease."

Both Socha and Foley said that the cause of death is often the result of trash and debris that humans leave behind when they go to the beach.

"Fishing line kills a lot of turtles," Foley said. "And once plastic bags get in the water, they look like jellyfish to the turtles. Jellyfish are one of their favorite foods."

Once a turtle swallows a plastic bag, it can get lodged in the digestive system, eventually causing starvation, according to Foley.

Scientists were also on hand to study the fibropapilloma tumors that are increasingly being found on green turtles.

"But we are seeing evidence that some turtles seem to be able to heal themselves," Foley said. "That’s good information."

Overall, the necropsies were not a pretty sight, and gallows humor was pretty widespread in the room. It wouldn’t be everyone’s idea of how to spend a sunny Saturday morning.

"It was just awesome," said AMITW Section Coordinator Christina Swosinksi and director of the AMITW/Knowledge Learning Corp. summer turtle camp. "I learned so much. You could really see the cause and effect. You hear about this when you study turtles, but to actually see it is just incredible."

Swosinski, who is taking classes at MCC, did a research paper on the fibropapilloma tumors last semester.

And AMITW Director Suzi Fox, who often assists with the necropsies, said she’s glad to help.

"You are working elbow to elbow with scientists from all over the state," she said. "To tell you the truth, I feel kind of honored to be asked to help out."

The results of the necropsies will be added to records of the causes of turtle death that have been accumulating over the past decade or so.

Following the necropsies, everyone went out to lunch.


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