The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 1 - September 24, 2008


Bridge to close Sunday night
Daily routines will change dramatically for many as the Island is left with only one bridge to the mainland for 45 days.
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/MAGGIE FIELD Workers from Tampa Electric Company
prepare to install an underwater natural gas pipeline from
the mainland to the Island. The project must be done before
the Anna Maria Island Bridge is closed Sunday night at
midnight or wait until the bridge reopens 45 days later.

HOLMES BEACH – When the barricades go up on Sept. 29 blocking traffic from going onto the Anna Maria Island Bridge, the various service providers will be ready. The question remaining, though, is: Will the rest of us?

Spokespeople, elected officials and department heads outlined their preparedness last Thursday evening at the final public meeting before the bridge closure.

Audrey Clarke, spokesperson for Parsons Brinckerhoff (PB Americas), the general contractor for the $9.1 million rehabilitation project, emceed the meeting, which brought together representatives of most of the agencies and companies that would be affected.

Greg Wilson, PB Americas project administrator, said the bridge would be closed at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28, and would remain closed until Nov. 14.

"Barricades will go up at both ends of the bridge," he said. "The variable message signs will display the news that the bridge is closed."

Wilson noted that the left turn extension southbound on Gulf Drive at Cortez Road had been completed last week, well in advance of the closure. That extended lane would hold more cars waiting to use the remaining access to the mainland, the Cortez Bridge. He said that they would make it easier to use the roads involved in the detour.

"We are pleased that the Florida Department of Transportation has dedicated one lane at 75th Street and Cortez Road to right turns," he said. "We will adjust the timing of the stoplights at 75th Street at Manatee Avenue and Cortez Road to handle more traffic onto the Island."

He noted that Bradenton Beach police will have an officer at the Gulf Drive and Cortez Road intersection during rush hour to handle the flow of traffic. He said sailboaters would be asked to make an adjustment.

"During construction, there will be one-leaf openings of the bridge for tall ships," he said. "Sailboaters will be asked to bring their outriggers in as they go through the opening."

No pedestrians

Wilson said the Anna Maria Island Bridge would be blocked from pedestrians.

"During this phase, we will be blasting the old concrete on the bridge and removing lead paint , so it won’t be a safe place for people to be," he said.

Ken Spillette, PE, the senior project engineer, also noted that anglers would not be allowed to use the bridge because of the construction hazards present.

Emergency service providers said they would be putting changes in effect that they had come up with months ago after finding out about the closure.

"We will add an additional pumper to Station 1 in Holmes Beach and house one at the old station in Bradenton Beach, at least for a while," said West Manatee Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Brett Pollock.

"We have signed an agreement with Air Med to provide aerial medical assistance as needed," said Manatee County Emergency Services Director Mark Edenfield. "We’re going to get you to the hospital and get you there in a hurry."

"We will operate in a supporting role for the other agencies," said Manatee County Sheriff’s Department Sgt. John Kenney, who is stationed in the city of Anna Maria. "We have equipped our cars with push bars and when a car breaks down on the bridge, we will be able to move it in an expeditious manner."

Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann said she thought that the 45 days when the bridge is closed would go swiftly. Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore thanked FDOT for coming up with $30,000 to finance a free bus shuttle to and from the Island during the closure.

Shop local

Mark Davis, chairman of the board for the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, asked people to remember their local business community.

"Shop the Island and enjoy," he said.

Chantelle Lewin, Anna Maria Island Sun Advertising Director and co-founder of Bridging the Gap, told everyone to come out to the Island on the weekends.

"It’s a grassroots project with members of the business community, private individuals and non-profit agencies working together to attract people out to the Island," she said.

Holmes Beach Police Lt. Dale Stephenson had some advice for motorists.

"Follow the flow of traffic and don’t try to take shortcuts," he said. "With the way the stoplights will be timed, traffic will flow."

Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce said he thought the planning that has gone into this closure was fantastic.

"It’s all falling into place," he said. "I noticed that there were almost as many people up front representing agencies involved in this as there were people attending the meeting. That shows how much effort has gone into making this work."

Trolleys, buses to adapt to closure

Manatee County and public and private schools are adding buses to keep people moving in the heavy traffic expected during the 45-day Anna Maria Island Bridge closure beginning on Sept. 29.

Manatee County Area Transit will add a shuttle bus to the existing route six from Blake Medical Center on 59th Street West in Bradenton to Anna Maria Island, said Ralf Heseler, division manager for MCAT.

"Leave your car at home," he said. "We will provide a good ride for you and you may become a regular customer."

From 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. seven days a week, riders catching the shuttle bus at Blake – a hub for the bus system – can ride free to the Island, where they can pick up the free trolley at Coquina Beach; those catching the shuttle bus along Cortez Road will pay $1.25 for a trip to the Island.

County buses are expected to run to and from the Island between 15 and 30 minutes apart, but may take longer depending on traffic, he said, adding, "It’s going to be a day by day thing."

Manatee County school students should not see much difference in their bus schedules after the bridge closes, said Audrey Clarke, public information officer for the bridge project.

Each bus that currently runs three routes will run only two routes, allowing each bus more time to navigate the anticipated heavy traffic, she said. She added that adjustments to the bus schedules will be made if necessary.

During the first week of the bridge closure ,at least, law enforcement officers will monitor and assist with traffic control, Clarke said.

St. Stephen’s Episcopal School will add a second van to its bus route to minimize disruptions to students’ schedules, said Paula Heap, director of communications.

"We currently have one van running from Longboat Key to Anna Maria Island coming across the Manatee bridge," she said. Beginning on Sept. 29, two vans will travel across the Cortez Bridge, one headed south to Longboat Key and one to Anna Maria Island.

"We will try to keep to the time schedule as close as possible," she said. "We’ll gauge it on a day by day basis."

To keep roads clear for buses and other traffic, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office vehicles will be outfitted with push bumpers to keep stalled cars moving if necessary, and Manatee County has suspended plans for road work that would impact the western part of the county.

Battling the bridges: Cortez humpback bridge repairs done, remains closed
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE The opening of the Cortez humpback bridge
on 127th Street West will be delayed until the developer of the Bradenton
Boat Club, which is financing the bridge, provides a warranty.

CORTEZ – The newly-renovated 127th Street humpback bridge near the eastern end of the Cortez Bridge is finished, but remained closed at press time pending a warranty from the builder.

Manatee County has asked for a security bond on the bridge before approving the opening, said developer Norman Burke, who financed the $825,000 bridge rehabilitation project to accommodate customers at his nearby, newly-constructed boat storage facility, the Bradenton Boat Club.

Typically, the county would have paid a contractor to rehabilitate the bridge and required a 10 percent bond as a guarantee against defects before a certificate of completion was issued, he said.

"But we gave the county a gift. We paid 100 percent of the bridge cost and now they want us to post this bond," he said.

The bond is about $75,000. Burke has offered a three-year warranty on the bridge if the county waives the bond requirement.

"We don’t accept a warranty on somebody’s word," Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann said. "They built it, they’ve got to warranty it."

The county will work with Burke this week to negotiate substituting a letter of credit or a legal agreement for the bond requirement, she said, adding that the Bradenton Boat Club also has not received the county’s final approval to open.

Once an agreement is reached, the bridge can open immediately, Burke said.

Battling the bridges: Wrong materials closes bridge in Anna Maria
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/PAT COPELAND Workers repair the humpback bridge
on North Bay Boulevard Monday morning.

The humpback bridge on North Bay Boulevard across the Lake LaVista Inlet has been shut down for repairs.

A hole in the pavement on the bridge was noticed earlier this year. It kept growing, but it took a while to get inspectors there make sure the problem was with the pavement and not with the structure of the bridge, according to Public Works Director George McKay.

"It’s the bonding agent they used," McKay said. "It was the wrong bonding agent, and the pavement isn’t adhering to the surface of the bridge, but the bridge itself is fine structurally."

The city repaired the bridge about 1 1/2 years ago. Engineering Consultant Tom Wilcox of HDR designed the repairs and oversaw the project.

The work was guaranteed for a year, but that time has passed, so the city will have to pay the approximately $12,000 to fix the problem.

The problem on the North Bay Boulevard will be fixed and a substance will be injected into the Crescent Street Bridge in the hopes it will prevent problems from developing there.

McKay said he anticipated the bridge would close down Mon., Sept. 22 through Thursday Sept. 25 while the repairs are made.

City settles lien issue for attorney’s fees

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners recently agreed to release a property from a lien resulting from a code enforcement board fine of $57,250 and accept $1,500 from GRP Loan, LLC to cover the city attorney’s fees.

The case began in September 2007, when the code enforcement board ordered then owner Robert Byrne to clean up the overgrown property at 6804 Marina Drive. When the property wasn’t cleaned up, the board imposed a fine, and when the fine wasn’t paid, the city placed a lien on it.

City Attorney Patricia Petruff said she was contacted by Gregg Ahrens, an attorney for GRP, who said he thought the lien had been foreclosed because there was a notice of lis pendens (a pending lawsuit) filed before the code enforcement action was taken, the property was found not in compliance and the order imposing lien had been issued.

"He sent me some documents with respect to that very specific issue," she explained. "There is an attorney general’s opinion indicating that a notice of lis pendens does act as putting all parties on notice that there is something going on with the property.

"The proper action for the city would have been to join in that foreclosure lawsuit and indicate that we had a non compliance issue going on. If there had been any excess money at the foreclosure sale, that lien may have been paid off.”

She said she felt that Ahrens’ interpretation was correct and that it would not be an appropriate use of taxpayers’ dollars to try and foreclose on the lien. She said he offered $1,000 to settle the issue.

Commission Chair Sandy Haas-Martens asked how much Petruff’s time cost the city, and Petruff said a little more than $1,000. Commissioner Pat Geyer suggested asking Ahrens for $1,500, and Petruff called him and he accepted the offer.

Rescued pelican goes back to nature
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTOS PROVIDED The pelican had a hook through
its beak and fishing line wrapped around its beak

BRADENTON BEACH – Fishing and cutting bait can be devastating to pelicans, as visitor Missy Wojciechowski, from Sebring, discovered over Labor Day weekend.

While walking on Bradenton Beach, she and her aunt came upon some people trying to help an injured pelican. Her aunt called Ed Straight, of Wildlife Inc. Education and Rehabilitation, luckily located a few blocks away, who rescued the bird.

"He had a hook right through his beak," Straight said, with a fishing line wrapped tight around his beak, keeping him from eating or drinking, and looped around his wing, holding his head down. "We kept him for a week or two until he was okay and released him."

"I think it's pretty amazing that the pelican walked up onto the middle of the beach, around all those people, and just waited," Wojciechowski said.

Save Our Seabirds of Wimauma and Sarasota has produced an instructional sign posted at area fishing piers that offers this advice if you hook a pelican: Do not cut the line, as it can become tangled around the beak or in tree branches, trapping and starving the bird. Net the bird, cover its eyes, push the hook through and cut off the barb, then back the hook out. Dispose of monofilament line in trash receptacles to reduce wildlife entanglement.

If you see an injured bird or other wildlife, call Wildlife Inc. Education and Rehabilitation at 778-6324.

Leak in new waterline causes delays

ANNA MARIA — A leak in the new potable waterline the county is installing along Gulf Drive in Anna Maria is causing more problems.

"They’re still working on it now," Manatee County Project Manager Walter Sowa said on Friday. "There is a leak along a 30-foot stretch that is hard to get dewatered enough to tighten."

As a result, workers can’t find the leak.

Sowa said he expected the contractor to work through the weekend to get the problem solved.

Once that issue is resolved, pressure tests will be run again. Once those are successful, the county has to do bacteriological sampling. When that comes back clean, the new water system will be hooked into the existing water system.

"There’ll have to be a water shutdown at that point," McKay said. A boil water notice always follows a water shutdown. The chances that bacteria could get into the line are small, but the notice is always issued as a precaution.

The county project is on the east side of Gulf Drive from Crosspointe Fellowship at White Avenue north to Willow Avenue.

The city of Anna Maria is finishing up the work it’s doing on the portion of a drainage project it’s doing along the west side of Gulf Drive.

There’s been an impact on traffic along that stretch of Gulf Drive, the only north-south route in that part of the Island, since the county began installing the waterline in June. For the most part, traffic has moved with only small delays, but motorists have complained about having to bump over the large steel plates that cover the holes in the road.

Both Sowa and McKay said they’re hopeful that both projects will be complete this week and paving can begin sometime the week of Sept. 28.

That entire stretch of Gulf Drive will be paved, with the county paying of the east side and the city paying for the west side.

Once the paving begins, it will take about four days. After that, motorists and bicyclers will have clear passage.

Skim competition set for Oct. 5
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTO PROVIDED Local skimboarder Chris Cover skims down the
line. He will compete in the Beach House/West Coast Surf Shop
Skim Comp on Oct. 5 in Bradenton Beach.

BRADENTON BEACH – Some time last century, someone cut a piece of plywood into a circle and added water, and skimboarding was invented.

Jim Brady, of the West Coat Surf Shop in Holmes Beach, recalls kids sliding on their boards across a smooth, ankle deep cushion of water at Manatee Public Beach’s sandy shoreline as early as the 1960s.

When plywood boards turned into Fiberglas and high density foam a couple of decades later, the hobby began to evolve into an organized sport with both professional and amateur contests like the one scheduled for Oct. 5 at the BeachHouse in Bradenton Beach.

"It’s come a long way," said Brady, who sponsors the Skim Comp, which benefits red tide research at Mote Marine. The Sun newspaper also is a major sponsor of the contest.

Now, skimmers don’t just scoot across the flats, they aim into the waves breaking on the beach and do skateboard-style tricks off them, or ride them like surfers, said Bob Smetts of Glaspro in Venice, which makes Zap skimboards, another contest sponsor.

The company has made foam core and Fiberglas skimboards for 25 years, and light, high tech carbon boards for the past decade, said Smetts, who learned to skim on a plywood board.

Skimboarding, which developed with skateboarding, is not just for kids anymore, with professional tours and big money contests, he said, adding, "There’s older guys in it now because a lot of the younger ones stayed with it."

One is Chris Cover, 17, a senior at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School in Bradenton, who will compete in the junior men’s division of the Skim Comp.

"I learned at the public beach in the eighth grade," said Cover, who has competed the past three years, making the semi-finals last year.

Cover, who also surfs, wakeboards and skateboards, likes to ride waves surf style, usually facing the wave, but also launches straight into them for tricks. His favorite spots are Sea Grapes and Beer Can Island.

"It’s not as easy as it looks," he said. "A lot of people assume it’s easier than it is. It takes dedication and time to excel."

Skimboarders from Anna Maria Island can skim anywhere, he said. "We don’t have many waves, so for us to excel, it’s harder."

Case in point: Brad Domke, now one of the top skimboarders in the world, whom Cover met on the Island before Domke moved to the east coast.

About a dozen serious skimboarders practice on the Island, while for most, it’s just a hobby, he said.

King Middle School seventh grader Luke Shackelford, 12, calls it a hobby, although he’s competing for the third year in a row and won second place in his division two years ago.

"I do airs going out the back, and sometimes I ride the lines like surfing," said Shackelford, who rides a black carbon fiber board made by Zap and is sponsored by the West Coast Surf Shop. "I like how it’s kind of like surfing. I like riding the waves."

Younger riders are spreading the sport faster than their elders did, Smetts said, posting videos on personal Web sites such as My Space.

New skimboarders get inspired both by the videos and at local contests, where they get a chance to see what’s possible with new equipment in person, he said.

To register for the Skim Comp, call the West Coast Surf Shop at 778-1001.

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