The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 8 No. 48 - August 20, 2008


Island residents calmly wait and watch as Tropical Storm Fay moves slowly into the Florida peninsula.
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Tim Riedy, of Hurricane Liquors, sets his sandwich board outside the front
door offering "vital hurricane supplies" consisting of beer, wine and a fine
selection of distilled products for those contemplating a hurricane party.

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Roger Allen, of the Florida Maritime Museum, cut short his vacation
to return and install hurricane shutters for the first time since
the Cortez schoolhouse was renovated into a museum. SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

An extended family from England, Scotland, Canada and the U.S. occupy
two tables. David Faulkner, second person in on the left, said they’re
all prepared with plenty of beer, ice and film for their cameras.

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Egret’s Landing in Holmes beach gets the plywood treatment
in advance of Tropical Storm Fay. SUN PHOTO/JOHN REITZ

Island cities and Cortez prepared for the possible arrival of Tropical Storm Fay Monday by handing out sandbags, processing re-entry tag applications, removing future debris from streets and beaches and battening down the hatches.

The Manatee County Emergency Operations Center monitored the progress of the storm as it wound its way across Cuba and through the straits toward the Florida Keys. Shortly before noon, officials announced that the county government would close Tuesday so that employees could deal with the storm.

Island cities also took precautions. The Bradenton Beach City Commission passed a resolution declaring a state of emergency at 9 a.m. and Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford declared a state of emergency in her city at 2 p.m.

This is the first close encounter with a named storm in years and it produced a run on several essentials.

The staff at Jessie’s Island Store reports it had to call for another shipment of gasoline as residents and visitors went through 17,000 gallons in two days. The staffs at all three cities reported a run on re-entry tags and all three cities were busy providing sand bags. One hundred sand bags were delivered to Anna Maria Elementary School on Monday, Principal Tom Leavengood said.

While the new main building is elevated and safe from flooding, the art room, the music room and the auditorium are at ground level and need protection, he said.

As custodians put away loose items around the school, officials debated whether to let children out early, then decided not to.

"It’s safer to keep them here than let them out early and have them possibly go home to an empty house," he said. Later, the school superintendent announced that schools would be closed Tuesday.

Construction was suspended on the turn lane extension at Gulf Drive and Cortez Road, on the Anna Maria Island Bridge rehabilitation and on the water project in Anna Maria.

"We’re concentrating on securing everything from the bridge so it doesn’t become flying debris," said Audrey Clarke, public information officer for the bridge contractor.

The contractors on the Anna Maria water project were working to secure the metal plates covering the road over the project area.

"They've put asphalt around those plates to secure them, and they've laid temporary asphalt across Gulf Drive where the cuts are for the drainage," Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford said. "We're working to be very pro-active about this."

All three cities have building department and code enforcement staff out warning contractors to secure their job sites and resorts to take tents and chairs off the beach.

For residents and visitors on the order of the day.

Gavin Middleton, who hails from Scotland, was having lunch at Minnie’s while he waited for the latest word on the storm.

"We’re ready," Middleton said. "We have beer, ice and plenty of film for our cameras."

Middleton and his 14 family members thought the approaching storm would be a "fantastic experience."

Holmes Beach Realtor Steve Bark said he thought the storm would be going inland around Naples, but he has his preparations in hand, just in case.

"I have extra wine," he joked, adding that if an evacuation order came, he’d get off the Island.

Down the plaza at Hurricane Liquors, Tim Riedy was preparing a sign offering vital hurricane supplies, which he said included "beer, wine and booze."

Father Rob Mongiello, of St. Bernard’s, was lunching next door at Hurricane Hank’s.

"We’ve got the hurricane shutters going up on the church," he said. "When I first came here to St. Bernard’s, my old church, Sacred Heart in Punta Gorda got hit hard by Charley. I’m praying that doesn’t happen here."

The Bartlett’s, including 17-year old triplets Lauren, Jay and Alex, weren’t paying much attention to the storm. Their father, Barry said the family was here four years ago during Hurricane Charley and had to evacuate.

"There weren’t any hotel rooms when we got off the Island, so we had to go all the way to Orlando," he recalled. "What’s this one doing? I thought it was going to be south of here."

Watchful waiting

Overall, the Island seemed to be in a state of watchful waiting. Holmes Beach resident Jim Guerino was putting up his hurricane shutters.

"I don’t think we’re going to get a direct hit," he said. "But it doesn’t hurt to be prepared."

Two commercial fishing boats out of Cortez will ride out the storm at Fort Jefferson, south of Key West, said Karen Bell of A.P. Bell Fish Co. The last boat returned to port in Cortez on Monday.

At Cortez Bait and Seafood, fish were loaded into the freezer and fishermen pulled their boats out of the water and stored them in the parking lot at the boat works, Kim McVey said.

Just down the street at the Florida Maritime Museum, metal shutters went up on the newly-renovated Cortez schoolhouse, which has served as a hurricane shelter in the past. The historic store under renovation next to the museum has newly-installed hurricane windows.

"We’re confident in the buildings," museum coordinator Roger Allen said. "They were built to the highest building codes knowing we’re going to have hurricanes."

Boats were moved to the FISH Preserve, antique, irreplaceable hand tools used for boatbuilding were moved to higher ground and the maritime library was wrapped in plastic.

Boats boarded in dumping probe
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Officer Charles Irons prepares to board a boat in
the Bradenton Beach mooring field for inspection.

BRADENTON BEACH – When the bright red U.S. Coast Guard boat approached, flanked by Bradenton Beach Police Department and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office vessels, some people who live on their anchored boats hopped into their dinghies and made for shore.

Others who stayed on board their boats told officers that some of their neighbors are dumping raw sewage into the Intracoastal Waterway and Sarasota Bay, and they’re glad to know that something is being done about it.

"I hope you get them out of here," said one liveaboard who declined to give his name, saying he feared retribution.

The three law enforcement agencies are working together to find boaters who violate laws against sewage dumping. U.S. Coast Guard regulations require all recreational boats with installed toilet facilities to have a marine sanitation device (MSD) that locks closed to prevent treated or untreated sewage discharge.

Officers boarded and inspected several vessels off Bradenton Beach on Wednesday, using red dye to test for leaks in sanitary systems.

So far, they’ve made no arrests, but the investigation will continue indefinitely, Bradenton Beach Police Officer Tom McGill said.

"If one person is doing this, it’s too many as far as I’m concerned," McGill said, adding that he and his children dive and swim in area waters.

Officials were organizing the team when The Sun published a report last month that two divers spotted toilet paper tangled on a coral reef ledge off Leffis Key in Bradenton Beach.

The divers nicknamed the location “TP reef.”

Seagrass beds and mangroves flourish in the water bordering the man-made preserve, providing habitat for juvenile fish. Empty bay scallop shells are common just offshore, indicating the presence of bay scallops at one time. The presence of live scallops indicates high water quality.

After the story was published, other readers reported sewage dumping at the Bradenton Beach mooring field to the north of Leffis Key.

Both places were targeted by the team on Wednesday.

After seeing The Sun article, the Manatee County Health Department tested water samples from the shallows around Leffis Key one day last month, but found no evidence of high bacterial counts, Tom Larkin said.

"We defer the investigation to agencies with the authority to check the vessels," he said, adding that county budget constraints would make it difficult to permanently add new areas to the department’s list of testing sites.

Inaugural scallop search is on
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/RUSTY CHINNIS This is what volunteers will be searching
for during the First Annual Sarasota Bay Great Scallop Search.

Bay scallops, stand up and be counted.

The new Sarasota Bay Watch organization will kick off its First Annual Sarasota Bay Great Scallop Search on Saturday to count the blue-eyed bivalves.

The scallop search will focus attention on Sarasota Bay's resources, promote community involvement and educate residents and visitors about the estuary, according to Sarasota Bay Watch President and Sun Outdoors Editor Rusty Chinnis.

The newly-formed group is committed to preserving and restoring Sarasota Bay’s ecosystem, doing for it what Tampa Bay Watch has done for Tampa Bay. The waters being targeted include those in Anna Maria Sound, running the length of Anna Maria Island on its east side.

Tampa Bay Watch, which is providing training for Saturday’s event, has conducted an annual scallop search since 1993. Sarasota Bay Watch directors participated in the Tampa Bay search on Aug. 16 to pick up some pointers before their inaugural event.

The group also is partnering with Mote Marine Laboratory’s Dr. Jay Leverone, a staff scientist in Mote’s Center for Coastal Ecology, who is advising Sarasota Bay Watch on the ecology, restoration and fisheries management aspects of the bay scallop population.

The event will be limited to 30 boats and crews, who will receive lunch and Sarasota Bay Watch T-shirts. To register, or to learn more about Sarasota Bay Watch, visit

Grouper plan may catch on

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council has decided to submit a proposed individual fishing quota (IFQ) program to fishermen in a referendum.

"We have overwhelming support from the fishing communities, including the (recreational) Fishing Rights Alliance and environmental defense groups," said Gulf Fishermen’s Association President Glen Brooks, calling the decision "spectacular."

The association, which represents more than 200 commercial fishermen, restaurants and others, supports the IFQ plan because it allows for a year-round fishery for both small- and large-scale fishermen, he said.

"This is the only thing that will keep us in a year-round fishery without eliminating the small guys," Brooks said. "With IFQ, a guy catching 200 pounds a year and a guy with 50,000 pounds a year will both be able to keep fishing."

Without the IFQ plan, small-scale fishermen will not be able to meet the landing requirements on permit endorsements, he said.

The current system created a vicious cycle, according to the association: Fishermen race to catch as many grouper as possible as fast as possible before the quota for the entire fishery is met, regardless of weather conditions, leading to large numbers of fish caught at the same time, which lowers prices for fishermen, encouraging them to catch even more fish.

The IFQ plan will allow greater flexibility to fish when the weather and market conditions are favorable instead of having to fish during certain times regardless of weather, according to the association. It also will boost income for grouper fishermen and crews and provide a year-round supply of fresh grouper for consumers, retailers and wholesalers.

The council voted 13 to 3 for the referendum at its meeting last week in Key Largo. The referendum is expected to be held in the fall.

School opens on an uncertain note
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT The Dells, Lily, Matie Rose, mom Shannon
(in background), dad Scott and Tyler all came for the first day of school.

HOLMES BEACH – The first day of school at Anna Maria Elementary went smoothly, although nobody knew what the second day would bring, or when it would occur.

There were questions about whether the first day would happen, thanks to Tropical Storm Fay churning south of Florida, but the Manatee County School District decided to start the school year on schedule.

As the parents were saying goodbye to their kindergarten students in the auditorium, Principal Tom Levengood expressed uncertainty about whether school would be held Tuesday. School Superintendent Dr. Roger Deering announced later that they would be closed.

"All I can tell you is to keep watching the news," he said. "We won’t know anything until we figure where the storm is going."

As the new students marched off to their classrooms with their teachers, their parents tried to keep a stiff upper lip. There were no displays of angst from the kindergartners who waved goodbye to their parents and said hello to public education. Their futures were tied to the staff of Anna Maria Elementary, a consistently A-rated school.

Holmes Beach Police Dispatcher Karen Clerkin took her place at the Gulf Drive crosswalk as officer Brian Copeman watched. Copeman is the resource officer and was chosen to teach the Drug Awareness Resistance Education (DARE) course last year.

"I’m looking forward to it this year," he said. "This year, I won’t have to worry about cramming everything into three months."

Copeman taught the course to the fifth graders during the last three months of the last school year after he took the course and became qualified in January. Copeman replaced Pete Lannon who died from cancer a year earlier.

Bridging the Gap event chairs meeting moved

The Bridging the Gap events chair meeting scheduled for Monday, Aug. 18, has been rescheduled for 5 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 21, at Ginny’s and Jane E’s at the old IGA. Event chairs are urged to come so that the committee can put together a calendar of events during the six week closure of the bridge. Here’s a list of events.

  • Bayfest and music festivals, Cindy Thompson, 761-4766
  • Tennis tournament, Kip Lalosh, 778-5446
  • Realtor progressive open house, Sandy Rich, 778-0426
  • Dog costume contest, The Sun newspaper, 778-3986
  • Sand castle tournament, Pam Fortenberry, 778-0436
  • Skimboard bash, Ronee Brady, 778-1001
  • ArtsHOP weekend, Joyce Karp, 778-2099
  • 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
  • Open air market, Ginny Dutton, 778-7370
  • Concert in the park, Mark Kimball, 518-6329 & Steve Bark, 720-3200
  • Haleyween party, Sabine Musil, 778-5405
  • Pickleball, Robert Taylor, 778-6465
  • Wing eating contest and karaoke contest, Tom Siwa, 419-341-1035.
  • Softball tournament, Jeff Levine, 744-6883.
  • Kayak tournament, Irene Pearman, 518-8906.
  • Potluck dinner and movie, AMI Community Center, Sandy Pruett, 778-1908.
  • Bridge Street Market, Nancy Ambrose, 518-4431.
City refuses TECO entry without agreement

HOLMES BEACH – Representatives of TECO/People’s Gas came away from a city meeting with indigestion when commissioners, once again, refused to allow them into the city without a signed franchise agreement.

"Bradenton Beach gave us the OK to continue our work while we negotiate the franchise agreement," Leroy Sullivan, TECO external affairs manager, told commissioners. "This will help us expedite getting our construction completed by that September (bridge closing) deadline. We request that the commission reconsider."

Commissioners said the company could not come into the city until the agreement has its second reading, which is scheduled for Aug. 19.

Lance Horton, TECO director of business services, asked commissioners to reconsider their decision if the agreement is not finalized on Aug. 19.

"It is a very common practice," he said. "In the event that something comes unwound, it will be a great concern with us. We’re under the gun with DOT."

Prior to the first reading of the agreement, Horton, told commissioners that the document they have is not the latest version and it is still being revised.

City Attorney Steve Dye then passed out a memo summarizing the key points of the agreement including:

  • The agreement is for 15 years.
  • The agreement covers the whole city.
  • TECO is liable for People’s Gas Services actions.
  • The franchise fee is 6 percent monthly.
  • If the city or county needs the lines moved, TECO will do it at its expense. If someone else needs lines moved, they must pay for it, but TECO will do it.
  • TECO will provide a minimum of $2 million in insurance for an injured person and $5 million for an incident.

Dye asked Horton how much the city would make on franchise fees. Horton said it would depend on how the customers purchase the gas. With approximately 25 commercial accounts, it would be a minimum of $6,000 and a maximum of four to five times that amount.

Board to reconsider 30-day rental period in R-1

HOLMES BEACH – At the request of Commissioner David Zaccagnino and several rentals agents, the board agreed to reconsider its decision to limit rentals in the R-1 district to 30 days.

"I had a lot of inquiries about rental licenses not being renewed in R-1," Zaccagnino said. "I thought we were going to keep it at seven days. People are applying for rental licenses and finding out that it’s 30 days."

In January 2007, commissioners agreed to change the rental period from seven to 30 days at the request of planning commissioners, but rejected a recommendation to change it in the R-2 district. The R-1 district is primarily properties from 66th Street to the city limits east of Marina Drive, but there are pockets of R-1 in other parts of the city.

"We had a deluge of people writing us and calling us saying, ‘We’re in a residential area and we’re getting all these weekend people and people in and out and we don’t know who our neighbors are,’" Chair Sandy Haas-Martens said. "We discussed it at length."

She said a small number of homes are affected and that owners with a valid rental license who were renting for seven days can continue to do so for 10 years to give them time to recoup their investment.

"After all the discussion, you decided there was not a dramatic number of rentals and that it was a good time to stop it before it got worse," Planning Consultant Bill Brisson recalled.

Zaccagnino asked how long there have been seven-day rentals in R-1.

"Since1999," Mayor Rich Bohnenberger replied. "We had no definition of a motel operation and defined it as seven days. We also agreed not to impose any more rental restrictions unless the request came from the public."

Zaccagnino said with the current economic situation, people need the revenue from rentals.

"I live across the street from a weekly rental," Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said. "I supported rental restrictions for years, but times have changed."

Barry Gould, of Island Vacation Properties, said that people are not coming to the Island because of the expense.

"People want to come for shorter periods," he stressed. "When they come they spend money in the restaurants and shops and allow homeowners to be able to pay their taxes and mortgages."

Ken Gerry, of the White Sands resort, disagreed and pointed out, "We have to have commercial license, be inspected, have commercial insurance. It puts us at a disadvantage, because the people who rent houses don’t have to do those things. I can’t beat their rates. It affects our business. The businesses need the business."

In the rest of the city, there is a seven-day minimum in the R-2, R-3 and R-4 districts and a 30-day minimum in the R-1AA (Key Royale) district.

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