The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 8 No. 44 - July 23, 2008


Bridge closing dates won’t be changed

BRADENTON BEACH – Less than a week after it was made, the Florida Department of Transportation has rejected a request to move the 45-day closure of the Anna Maria Island Bridge up by a month.

That was the word from Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization Director Mike Howe at the Island Transportation Planning Organization meeting Monday afternoon.

Howe made a call to Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) District One Director Stan Cann just before the meeting for an update and got it. FDOT public information officer Cindy Clemmons-Adente said they could not move the date because there were too many variables.

Following the meeting, the public information officer for the $9.1 million bridge rehabilitation project, Audrey Clarke, said that the main reason for the rejection came from the U.S. Coast Guard. The Guard changed the Cortez Bridge opening times to accommodate the expected increase in automobile traffic caused by the closure of the AMI Bridge for 45 days.

Barry Dragon, Chief of Bridge Operations for the Coast Guard, said they had received no official request, but if they had, it would have taken a minimum of 120 days to change the rules again.

Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce, who was at the ITPO meeting, said he agreed with the decision not to change the closure, saying it’s a big, involved project.

"When you have a project with a lot of vendors, when one of them gets backed up, it backs everybody else up," he said. "In the end, it raises costs and that’s what would happen if they changed the dates of this project."

Pierce said that the people have known what the closure dates were since last December.

"Four hundred people agreed on the timing at meetings held by FDOT back then," he said. "To get 35 or 40 people to say they want to change it now isn’t enough."

Business owners and interested parties attended a meeting last Thursday to discuss moving the start of the closure from Sept. 28 to around Sept. 1. Many of them felt that the slowest part of the business cycle starts earlier than Sept. 28 and that business starts to pick up after the middle of October.

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford said she agreed with the FDOT decision.

"It’s a little late in the game and they should have gone through the elected officials before bringing the proposal to the people," she said. "FDOT did the right thing and it’s time to move on."

Hurricane Hank’s owner Paul Hoffman and his wife, Margaret, attended the meeting last Thursday. He said Tuesday that if they can’t do it at this late date, maybe it’s better.

"It’s probably the best thing to do," he said of the FDOT decision. "It might mess up the scheduling and delay getting the project done."

Center’s fishing tourney starts Friday

Be prepared to fish or just have fun at the Island Community Center fishing tournament Friday through Sunday, July 25 through 27.

The tournament will kick off with a captains’ meeting and Taste of the Island dinner at 5:30 p.m. on Friday at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach. Fishing begins immediately after the meeting and continues through Saturday, followed by awards banquet on Sunday.

Registration is $375 per boat. There will be cash payouts of $16,000 from first to 10th place in inshore and offshore divisions. The first 50 registrants will receive a Thunderstruck 7-foot spinning rod courtesy of Discount Tackle Outlet. Each entry includes two tickets to the awards dinner on Sunday.

There will be a children’s pier fishing event at the Anna Maria City Pier on Saturday for children 14 years old and under from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Registration begins at 8 a.m. The fee is $20 and includes a tourney T-shirt, lunch and a ticket to the awards banquet.

The event is limited to 40 children and the AMI Privateers will be on hand to help the children and provide lunch. Bait is courtesy of the City Pier Bait Shop and Restaurant. Some fishing poles are available for those that need them. Prizes will be awarded at Sunday’s banquet.

Everyone is welcome to join the fun and excitement at the weigh-ins on Saturday night from 8:30 p.m. to midnight. Offshore division weigh-ins are at Galati Marine and Rotten Ralph’s at the end of South Bay Boulevard in Anna Maria. Rotten Ralph’s will stay open late to serve food. Inshore division weigh-ins will be held at Galati Marine, MarVista restaurant on Longboat Key and the 59th Street marina in Bradenton.

Everyone likes a good party, so all are invited to Sunday’s awards celebration from noon to 4 p.m. at the Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria. An old Florida style feast, provided by Ed Chiles and the Sandbar, MarVista and BeachHouse restaurants, includes fried grouper, chicken, hush puppies, cole slaw, fried green tomatoes, cheese grits and more. Tickets are $10 for those age 15 and older, $6 for those ages 6 to 14 and free for those under the age of 6.

There will be live entertainment and dancing to the tunes of Shaman, a full bar, raffle prizes and guest speaker Glen Pla from the Catch 47 TV show, "Average Angler." Cash payouts and prizes will be presented for offshore and inshore division winners and children’s pier fishing. All proceeds benefit the children’s sports programs at the Center.

Sponsorships are available and include Blue Marlin, $10,000, one available; Kingfish, $5,000, four available; Tarpon, $2,500; and Snook, $1,000. There are also program book sponsorships at $500 for a full page, $250 for a half page or $100 for a business card.

To register for the fishing tournament or be a sponsor, call 778-1908 or go to

Sun forum to highlight county race

The Sun will sponsor a forum for candidates for the District 3 Manatee County Commission seat on Wednesday, July 30, in Holmes Beach City Commission Chambers, 5801 Marina Drive.

Candidates are incumbent Jane von Hahmann and challenger John Chappie. Since both candidates are Republicans, the election will be decided in the Aug. 26 primary.

The event will begin with a meet and greet at 6:30 p.m. The forum will begin at 7 p.m. Each candidate will have three minutes to make an opening statement. Opening statements will be followed by questions submitted by residents. Responses should be limited to two minutes. Each candidate then will have three minutes for a closing statement.

Property owner wins case on variance objection
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY This city sign on the south side of the beach
access path between South Bay Boulevard and Tampa Bay is the subject of
further controversy with the property owners at 504 South Bay.

ANNA MARIA — Laura Gee has won her court case against the city.

She appealed a city ruling granting a variance to neighbors Terry and Patricia Olesen, who own the property at 504 South Bay Blvd. Gee owns the property just to the north of the Olesens.

A variance is defined by city code as "the relief granted from the literal enforcement of a zoning ordinance permitting the use of property in a manner otherwise forbidden upon a finding that enforcement of the ordinance as written would inflict practical difficulty or unnecessary hardships on the property owner."

Judge Paul Logan quashed the variance to the setback requirement for side yards granted to the Olesens. The city granted the variance so the Olesens could install air conditioning equipment.

Judge Logan ruled that the variance was invalid because competent and substantial evidence was not presented to the city commission as to the hardship the Olesens were facing.

He found merit in Gee’s argument that moving the air conditioning equipment would cost somewhere between $840 to $978.

"Thus, the record (of the evidence presented at the City Commission hearing on the variances for the Olesen’s property) is not only devoid of evidence of hardship, but also affirmatively showed that the Olesens created the conditions that gave rise to the requested by seeking to renovate their longtime home," Judge Logan wrote in his ruling.

City Attorney Jim Dye advised Mayor Fran Barford in a letter that the Olesens have several options at this point: they may ask for a re-hearing before the court; they can appeal the order to the Second District Court of Appeal; they can file for a new variance for their air conditioning equipment and try to make a better argument than was presented the first time; or they can move the air conditioning equipment to a location where it does not violate city codes.

The Olesens have 30 days to make their decision.

Dye recommended to the mayor that the city wait to see how the Olesens respond to Judge Logan’s ruling.

First response and history

In an apparent first response to the ruling the Olesens demanded that the city remove a beach access sign from "their" part of the pathway between the Gee and Olesen properties.

The beach access in question played a large part in a long dispute between the city and the Olesens.

The city granted a permit for renovation and expansion to the home that has been in the Olesen family for more than 50 years.

Then there was a complaint in 2006 from a resident that the Olesens had placed a five-foot solid wall in the middle of a public beach access. The city issued a stop work order and the project ground to a halt.

The Olesens claimed they owned five feet of the 10-foot beach access. The city disagreed. The Olesens were never able to prove to the city’s satisfaction that they owned the five-foot strip of land.

The Olesens threatened to take the case to court.

In a mediated settlement, the Olesens agreed to release all claim to the disputed strip of land, and the city agreed to look favorably upon the variances the property owners said they needed to avoid having to tear out construction that was already in place.

Then the Olesens began to go through the city process of obtaining variances.

The Planning and Zoning Board recommended the city grant the Olesens all the variances they requested with the exception of the one required to place the equipment into the setback between the Gee and Olesen properties.

Then the case was scheduled for a hearing before the City Commission.

The Olesens poured the slab for the air conditioning equipment and began installing the hardware.

The City Commission heard the case and unanimously granted all the variances agreed on in the mediation settlement, including the one for the air conditioner.

At that point, Gee appealed the ruling, and now the court has ruled in her favor.

The next move, according to Dye, is the Olesen’s.

Scavenger hunt highlights October

When the bridge goes up, the Island will be alive with activity on the weekends as Bridging the Gap, a grassroots effort to attract visitors onto the Island, steps up to the plate.

One of the more interesting events will be the first ever Trolley Scavenger Hunt on Saturday, Oct. 11, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The scavenger hunt is open to individuals or families and there is a $5 fee per team, according to Chiles Group Marketing Director Caryn Hodge, one of the three co-chairs of the event.

"They will be directed to go into a business or to a certain spot," she said. "They will be looking for clues in the form of items or information to tell them where to go next."

There will be prizes for the winners including prize baskets, overnight stays, spa visits, boat trips, kayak rentals and other Island treats.

They are not taking reservations, you will have to check-in the morning of the event from 9 –to11:30 a.m. and then head out on the trolley.

Entrants will be expected back to the starting point around 2:30 or 3 p.m. where their efforts will tabulated and prizes given. Hodge said they will have complimentary food and refreshments for them when the get back.

The organizers, which include Linda Haack, of BridgeWalk, and Billi Stuckart, of Memories By Billi, said that contestants will be given reusable cloth bags to put their loot in and there are openings for sponsors who want to have their names on the bags. They said that prize donations would be gratefully accepted. For more information, call Caryn Hodge at 778-8705.

Here’s a preliminary list of events for Bridging the Gap along with event chairs and their phone numbers. Volunteers are welcome.

• Tennis tournament, Kip Lalosh, 778-5446
• Realtor progressive open house, Sandy Rich, 778-0426
• Dog costume contest, The Sun newspaper, 778-3986
• Anna Maria block party, Ed Spring, 778-9399
• Sand castle tournament, Pam Fortenberry, 778-0436
• Skim Board Bash, Ronee Brady, 778-1001
• Artwalk, Nancy Ambrose, 518-4431
• Fishing tournament, Jake Spooner and Dana Snell, 778-3400
• Mini-golf tournament, Jake Spooner and Dana Snell, 778-3400
• Progressive raffle, Sandy Rich, 778-0426
• Trolley scavenger hunt, Linda Haack, 779-2545, ext. 1130, and Caryn Hodge, 778-8705
• Key Royale Golf Tournament, Tom Tollette, 779-1888
• Bicycle tour, Lauren Sato, 352-514-6545
• Motorcycle run, Laura McAdams, 792-6366
• Five-Mile Flea Market, Ginny Dutton, 778-7370
• Concert in the Park, Mark Kimball, 518-6329 and Steve Bark, 720-3200
• Holly Trolly, Sabine Musil, 778-5405
• Pickle Ball, Robert Taylor, 778-6465
• Three-mile Run/Walk, Irene Pearman, 518-9806
• Wing eating contest and karaoke contest, Tom Siwa, 419-341-1035.

Traffic woes could end soon
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Traffic backs up along Gulf Drive in Anna Maria Monday
morning while work on the water line continues.

ANNA MARIA — The end is in sight as a project installing a new, larger water line for the Island’s northern-most city nears completion.

"The project is going very well," said Walter Sowa, the project director for the installation of the 12-inch water line, which is replacing an 8-inch pipe. "We’re right on, if not a little ahead of schedule, and I expect that we’ll be done on or before Aug. 12."

Sowa said the only problem with the project has been with the tide fluctuations.

"We really didn’t expect that much of an impact," he said. "The conditions under the road really change dramatically between the high tide and the low tide."

Manatee County supplies the entire Island with potable water, and the old 8-inch pipe was deemed unable to carry the capacity needed for effective fire fighting.

"This will be much better for us," said West Manatee Fire Chief Andy Price. "The capacity just wasn’t there, and it was a concern."

Price noted that the lack of capacity was the reason he couldn’t sign off on the permits for since-stalled Villa Rosa project on South Bay Boulevard.

"We had to order that each dwelling have a sprinkler system," he said. "There just wasn’t the capacity to fight a fire that might have broken out there."

The new, bigger pipe will not increase the pressure in the lines, according to both Sowa and Price. There had been some concern that the new line would increase pressure to the point that it could blow out some of the older pipes in the system.

Not so, say Sowa and Price. Both stress that only the capacity will increase.

‘Think of filling a soda can with water," Sowa explained. "Now fill up a coffee can, and pour the water out of both at the same rate."

Sowa said if you put your hand under the hypothetical cans, the pressure would feel the same; it’s just that with the coffee can, you have much more water, much greater capacity.

The new line is being run along Gulf Drive from the church at Peppertree up to Willow Avenue.

Metal plates cover the holes that the contractor has dug into Gulf Drive. An auger is then used to tunnel under the road to the next hole.

Sowa said the auguring was chosen over just digging a trench and laying the new pipe into it so that the existing water line can remain in place and functional.

"You want to have a backup," he said. "Everywhere else in the county, if you have a break in the line, you can tap into another nearby source until you can fix the break."

Whether you trench or auger to lay the waterline, the cost would be about the same. In this case, the county is paying $329,985.59 for the new line with its increased capacity.

And when the pipeline is installed across Gulf Drive, expect more traffic delays.

"We’ll announce that, and we’ll keep at least one lane open as much as we can," Sowa said. "It shouldn’t take more than a day to get across the road. And there will probably be some work at night when there is less traffic."

There also will be at least one interruption in water service when the new line is tied into the old one. The exact date of that interruption hasn’t been determined yet.

When it does happen, everyone north of the project area will be under a boil water notice for at least 24 hours until a testing sample comes back clean.

Residents have been advised to keep plenty of bottled water on hand to deal with the planned shutoff and also to deal with any unexpected breaks in the existing waterline.

Fire board OKs sprinkler discount
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/PAT COPELAND Fire Commissioner Mike Mulyck
inspects the district’s new multi-purpose response vehicle that
will be used to patrol the five county preserves in the
district’s jurisdiction.

HOLMES BEACH – West Manatee fire commissioners approved a resolution that offers a 25 percent discount on their fire assessment to property owners who install non-required sprinkler systems.

The resolution includes installing sprinkler systems in new construction or retrofitting them in existing construction and both commercial and residential buildings. The systems must be properly installed and maintained.

"Will we inspect them?" Commissioner Jack Emery asked.

‘Yes," Fire Chief Andy Price replied.

Price asked property owners to call him at 741-3900 if they think they are eligible for the discount.

Deputy Chief Brett Pollock said the district received its multi-purpose response vehicle approved for purchase in February. The vehicle will be used to patrol the five county preserves with limited access and narrow trails that are within the district’s jurisdiction.

"We started Tuesday with scenarios at Robinson Preserve," Pollock explained. "We got our time down from 32 to 15 minutes from the time the vehicle left the station until it got to the patient. We actually drove it from Station 4 (on 67th Street in Bradenton) to the park at 28 mph and that saved a lot of time.

"EMS and the Emergency Communications Center participated. We found out that if your cell phone has a GPS feature, if you call 911, it will pinpoint you at the park."

"We’re working with EMS and the park to develop markers so people can tell us where they are," Price added.

The vehicle is equipped with firefighting equipment, emergency lights, a Stokes basket for rescue operations and a trailer to move patients from inaccessible areas, and it is amphibious. Pollock said the $71,000 vehicle came in $7,500 under budget.

Price said an agreement between the fire district and the Florida Department of Transportation regarding payment for extra manning when the Anna Maria Island Bridge is closed will be sent to the district’s attorney for review.

"The request is for $236,501," Price said. "We will submit vouchers to be reimbursed, and we may not use it all because I gave them the worst case scenario."

He said the district is considering moving the administration to Station 4 during the bridge closure because all administrative personnel except him live in town.

Price brought to commissioners’ attention the possibility that the city of Bradenton could annex more of the district’s territory. The territory includes land between Manatee Avenue and Cortez Road from 75th to 43rd streets and the remaining portions of Perico Island and Palma Sola along the Palma Sola Causeway. It would be a third of the district’s jurisdiction on the mainland.

At the next meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 21, commissioners plan to approve the 2008-09 budget.

‘No swimming’ advisory posted at Island beach
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Testing sites on Anna Mari and Longboat Key

BRADENTON BEACH — The Manatee County Health Department last week issued a no swimming advisory because of high bacteria levels in the water just south of the roundabout on the Gulf end of Bridge Street.

Testing is done on a weekly basis at 10 sites around the county. The results of the past few weeks necessitated the advisory. The test detected high levels of enterococcus bacteria, which usually comes from fecal bacteria.

"We just kept getting high readings in that area," said Tom Larkin of the health department.

The Bradenton Beach testing site is just past the buildings south of the Bridge Street Circle and just north of the first groin.

"If you look there, you’ll see that groin is a favorite place for gulls, anhingas and cormorants to hang out," Larkin said. "The groin is covered with droppings."

Larkin said that last week’s rainfall could very well have washed the droppings into the waters of the test site."

The Bradenton Beach testing site was located just off the sandy area south of the BeachHouse restaurant, but this year it was moved south to the present location.

"We always tested there, because we thought it was public land, but it’s not," Larkin said.

Since the testing site has been moved, there is no data piled up as yet that would indicate whether or not high bacterial levels are common there.

"This is our first rainy season of testing there," Larkin said. "We’ll just have to wait and see if this is the norm."

When there are high bacterial levels, people can contract rashes or flu-like symptoms. The high levels are especially troublesome for the very young, the very old and anyone with a compromised immune system, which would include people undergoing chemotherapy.

The county conducts weekly testing of the waters off Palma Sola Bay north and Palma Sola Bay south. Testing is done at the north and south ends of Bayfront Park and at both ends of the Manatee Public Beach. On the southern tip of the Island, the Bradenton Beach site and both ends of Coquina Beach are tested as well as Whitney Beach on the north end of Longboat Key.

Advisories have been posted along the Palma Sola Causeway and at Bayfront Park in the south, but this is the first time a no swimming advisory has been posted in the waters of the Gulf.

The testing is done as part of the state mandated Florida Healthy Beaches program each Monday morning. Results are usually available by Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.

People who want to see test results as they come available can type Florida Healthy Beaches into their search engine. That brings up a map of the state. Click on Manatee County and the all the testing sites in the county pop up. You can then click on the site you’re interested in and get the latest testing results.

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