The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 4 - October 15, 2008


Bridge closing causing few problems
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTO/LYNN HENNEMAN A boat catches the concrete being washed off
the deck of the Anna Maria Island Bridge, part of the rehabilitation
project that has the bridge closed to vehicular traffic until mid-November.

BRADENTON BEACH – Week two of the bridge closure ended about the same as week one, with traffic as normal on the weekdays and a little busier on the weekend.

Morning and evening rush hours over the Cortez Bridge are a little busier than the light flow of cars that normally marks October, according to Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale, but he said weekends were heavier. He attributed that to Bridging the Gap activities and an abundance of sunshine on our beautiful beaches.

"We had a good crowd on the beach," he said. "So far the traffic has, at its worst, been about like what it is during season."

Speciale said the Florida Department of Transportation had been unable to retime the stoplight at 119th Street and Cortez, despite his request.

"They said it had something to do with the way the light operates," he said. "I saw someone at the light this morning, so they might be trying again."

Speciale said last week that light was the only problem for people coming onto or off the Island using Cortez Road.

Collin Schmidt, a lifeguard for the Manatee County Department of Safety, said that the beaches had more people than last weekend.

"It wasn’t a huge crowd," he said, "but it was more people than on a weekday."

Schmidt said the weather was hot, for October, which drew people out, and a lot of them were in the water.

"I don’t think the bridge closure had much effect on people coming to the beach," he said. "You have people who have favorite beaches and they’re going to go out of their way to get to those beaches."

Meanwhile, work continues on the Anna Maria Island Bridge. Crews used high-pressure water to remove a couple of inches of concrete from the roadway and they are replacing that concrete, using boats to collect the residue as it flows off the bridge. Project spokesperson Audrey Clarke said other crews continue to reline pilings. She said the project remains on schedule to meet or finish sooner than the Nov. 13 deadline.

Boaters were cautioned not to drive under the sections being repaired while work is being done and to try and stay in the ICW channel whenever possible.

Troublesome waterline project nearly done
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Paving crews finally got to work Monday morning on Gulf Drive.
The road has been torn up since June because of the project, which
was supposed to be finished by Sept. 15. SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT

ANNA MARIA — After months of dealing with the daily inconvenience of driving over uneven metal plates, putting up with dust, potholes and stop-and-go single lane traffic, motorists and residents soon may get some relief.

Crews were on site Monday morning beginning what is expected to be a four-day job re-paving Gulf Drive from White Avenue to Willow Avenue.

It can’t come soon enough for most residents.

"This has been the project from hell," said Mayor Fran Barford. "Our residents have put up with dust, inconvenience, foul language from wok crews and water interruptions long enough."

The cause of all the inconvenience has been the installation of a new potable water line that will deliver a greater volume of water to the homes and businesses in the city.

Manatee County has been installing the new line, which should help prevent some of the problems with low water pressure during the winter months when the population soars. It should also aid in providing enough volume to fight fires that may break out here.

The $325,985 project began in June and was to have concluded by Sept. 15, but there were problems from the beginning.


"We had no idea that the tidal fluctuations would have such an impact," said Walter Sowa, the Manatee County project manager overseeing the installation.

The changes in water levels caused Expertech, the company hired to lay the pipeline, to scrap plans to dig a few holes and auger in the pipeline between the holes.

"The water levels just kept changing and so they couldn’t keep the pipes stable enough," Sowa said. "They didn’t want to damage any existing lines."

So trenches had to be dug with the piping laid directly into the trenches.

The company and the county also noted they did not realize that Gulf Drive is the only north-south route in the city. They also didn’t know that nearly all the streets that intersect Gulf Drive are dead-end, thus making detours impossible. Both of these factored into the delay in finishing the project.

More problems

Then, when the new line was finally hooked up to the existing system, there were further problems.

"The line blew," said Dan Scofield, Utilities Operations manager for the county. That necessitated a mandatory boil water notice, which is issued whenever there’s a break in the line.

The existing line is made of asbestos piping.

"That’s good material, but it can be tricky to hook a line made of newer material into an asbestos line," Scofield said. "You really have to know what you’re doing."

The county has a project manager and an on-site inspector and the Expertech supervisor has been supervising the project, but still the line blew when the final hook-up was made.

"It was the coupling that blew," Scofield said. "They used the wrong coupling. You have to really know how to do this, and then things work out just fine."

Scofield said there was never any danger of asbestos getting into the water supply, because the line itself was not broken; it was just the coupling that broke. Health department standards deem asbestos, which is no longer used, to be a safe material as long as it’s not disturbed.

"There are miles and miles of asbestos pipeline in the county," Scofield noted. "It’s perfectly safe, and we stay on top of making sure it’s safe."

When the line blew, an advisory boil water notice that had been issued for Thursday morning was changed to a mandatory boil water notice that wasn’t lifted until Monday morning at about 9 a.m.

Mayor Fran Barford said she’s had enough.

"You can’t imagine the calls we get here at city hall," she said. "People are just tired of it. The workers use loud and foul language all day long. No one gives us the information we need to field the calls. It’s just been awful."

Barford said it’s been frustrating to have a project under way in her city without the ability to control it in any way.

"This is entirely under the direction of the county," she said. "We have no say about what happens when."

With the paving scheduled to be done this week, motorists should be driving over smooth roadway by this Friday.

"I’ll believe it when I see it," Barford said.

Bayfest has something for everyone

ANNA MARIA – One reason Bayfest is so successful is because it has something for everybody, even the guys.

Let’s face it, a man will do anything for his lady, but his idea of a fun afternoon might be slanted more toward something with 350 horsepower than handmade dangly wire earrings or oil portraits of the Rod and Reel Pier. He might wander off while his lady (and his credit cards) make the rounds at the arts and crafts booths.

When Bayfest returns to Pine Avenue in Anna Maria on Saturday, Oct. 18, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., the cars will be back.

Bill Mergens is the man who organizes the curbside car show, which includes antique tin lizzies, street rods, exotic sports cars, pony cars and muscle cars.

A lot of us grew up when tail fins ruled the roads, when a Goat was a small Pontiac with a big engine and a Barracuda was a Plymouth, not a fish. The car show runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., when judges choose winners and the winners get their plaques. There will be a disc jockey spinning oldies. New to this year’s Bayfest is a motorcycle show from 4 to 6 p.m.

By the way, those shiny vehicles usually command more than a sideways glance from the women as they walk down Pine Street.

Be sure to bring an appetite because the local food court will be better than ever with everything from fresh seafood to burgers and hot dogs.

Political forums this week

The Anna Maria Island Sun will host two candidates’ forums for Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach. The first forum will be on Wednesday, Oct. 22, at Anna Maria City Hall, featuring the four candidates for city commission. The second will be on Thursday, Oct. 23, at Bradenton Beach City Hall with the two city commission candidates for that city. The events start at 6:30 p.m. for meet and greet followed by question and answer sessions at 7 p.m.

Questions submitted to The Sun in advance will be given priority. E-mail them to or mail them to The Sun, P.O. Box 1189, Anna Maria. You can also fax questions to 778-6988 or bring to our office at 202 Palm Ave., in The Island Sun Plaza, Anna Maria. Please specify to which city’s candidates the questions apply.

N. Bay bridge fix to cost $38,000

ANNA MARIA — It’s going to cost about $38,000 to fix the North Bay Boulevard Bridge, which has begun to sag in parts of the approach.

City Engineer Tom Wilcox, of BDI, told commissioners at the Oct. 9 work session that the soil and sand under the approach on the south side of the bridge is gone. The bridge crosses the Lake LaVista Inlet.

"There’s a lot of wave action there, and it’s a 56-year-old bridge, as near as we can tell," Wilcox said. "That’s a pretty good lifespan for a bridge."

Wilcox and Public Works Director George McKay had contractors punch about 50 holes into the asphalt and found that there were voids in the roadbed.

"We put an 8-foot rod into one place and we about lost it," Wilcox said. "We’ve put a hand auger in to check. There’s no support under that surface."

Estimates for fixing the bridge ranged from $7,517 to $72,464.

There was consensus among the commissioners present that the bid from URETEK ICR Florida was the best option for the city.

"I like that they are the only ones that will give us a 10-year guarantee," Commissioner Chris Tollette said.

Wilcox explained that the company uses a lightweight polyurethane to inject into the voids where it expands to fill the space and provide support and stability for the roadbed. He also said the company would seal the base of the apron of the bridge under water so that no more soil can leach out.

"And we can do some things to be proactive about prolonging the life of that bridge," Mayor Fran Barford said. "We need to control the speed of people going over the bridge. I’m told that the best way to do that is to have a stop sign at both approaches to the bridge."

The city spent $25,000 last month to repair the asphalt surface on the North Bay Bridge after the pavement separated from the bridge itself.

That separation occurred because the wrong bonding agent was used when the bridge was repaired a little over a year ago. Because the warranty on that work had expired, the city had to pay to correct the mistake. Employees from Wilcox’s firm were responsible for on-site inspection of that recent repair.

According to Wilcox, there is no indication that there are similar problems with the other approach to the North Bay Bridge or any problems with voids under the Crescent Street Bridge.

There are no plans to do testing in either area.

Percycoe is finalist for statewide award
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY Anna Maria Fran Barford hugs City
Treasurer/Finance Director Diane Percycoe after announcing
earlier this year that she had been nominated for City the
Finance Official of the Year award.

ANNA MARIA — Diane Percycoe has been selected as one of five finalists for a statewide award.

Mayor Fran Barford nominated Percycoe, the city’s finance director and treasurer for the award from the Florida League of Cities Florida Cities of Excellence Awards program.

"When one of your staff members, such as Diane Percycoe, city of Anna Maria’s treasurer and director of finance, is so admired, respected and regarded with fondness by her colleagues, elected officials, fellow governmental agencies and the general public, you know you’ve got a winner on your team," Barford said when she announced in July of this year that she’d nominated Percycoe for the award.

The City Finance Official of the Year honors a city finance official who displays excellence in the following areas: judgment, initiative, integrity, innovation, professionalism, commitment, citizen relations and involvement with his/her respective professional association, according to a press release announcing that Percycoe is one of five finalists for the award. Other finalists include the finance officers for Cape Coral, Eustis, Opa-Locka and North Miami.

Winners of this and several other awards for this year’s Florida Cities of Excellence awards will be announced at an awards luncheon in Orlando on Nov. 21.

Scavenger hunters drag home loot
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Calvin Wallace caught a fish for his mom, Christina Wallace,
one of the items required for the Island Trolley Scavenger
Hunt on Saturday. SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE

Scavenger hunters boarded trolleys on Saturday to scour Anna Maria Island for everything from seagull feathers to live fish still on the hook during the first-ever Island Trolley Scavenger Hunt.

The mobile game was one of dozens of Bridging the Gap events designed by organizers and sponsored by The Sun to bring people to the Island while the Anna Maria Island Bridge is closed.

Furiously scanning the eight–page list of things to find, teams quickly devised strategies like sitting one on each side of the trolley aisle to look at both sides of the street at the same time. While some items could be identified from windows, others required getting on and off, making for a hot six hours of fun.

Julie Quinlivan and Sally Woodward placed first among 60 teams and 170 participants, with six other teams not available at press time taking prizes. The team moved to the Island in April, and thought the hunt would be a good way to learn about it as newcomers.

It was an educational experience even for longtime residents like Jeanie Chamberlain, who has lived here more than 30 years. Can you name the 12 chain stores on the Island without driving up and down Gulf Drive?

It wasn’t easy finding a real estate sales flyer for a property priced over $2 million, especially in these economic times, but Anna James and her dad, Buddy James (a/k/a The James Gang) found one for $2.9 million. Well, finding it and selling are two different things, after all.

Several searchers unabashedly approached fishermen at the Anna Maria City Pier to accompany them back to the check-in point with a live fish still on the hook. Christina Wallace had her son, Calvin, catch a fish to avoid embarrassment.

"That’s just bait," shouted one highly competitive "A" personality. But a ballyhoo is still a fish, and it was still alive in its bucket, Calvin pointed out.


Some items were easy if you live here – the number of stop lights on the Island, for example. Some were harder – all the lodging establishments with bird-related names (and no, there is no such place as The Pelican Dive).

The six-hour event wasn’t long enough to find everything on the list, but it was too long for some in the intense heat, said Chamberlain.

Nevertheless, "It was lots of fun," her teammate, Sara Green, said.

What could be more fun than learning how to say "What’s the soup of the day?" in German at a schnitzelhaus in paradise?

The hunt also provided people a chance to forget about the fact that the bridge is closed and won’t reopen for another four weeks or so.

"The whole thing was absolutely fantastic," said Sun advertising director Chantelle Lewin, one of the primary organizers of the Bridging the Gap campaign. "To see all of these families out here having such a great time is wonderful. I really don’t think they even cared that the bridge is closed. They were too occupied having so much fun."

Bridging the Gap Briefs

Shop Bridge Street Market

The popular Bridge Street Market in Bradenton Beach returns on Saturday, Oct. 18, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Vendors will offer fresh produce and flowers, flower arrangements and plants arts and crafts T-shirts and clothing, jewelry and more. For information, call Nancy Ambrose at 518-4431.

Pumpkin-carving contest will reward creativity

Haley’s Motel, 8102 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, is sponsoring the Gap’s pumpkin-carving contest and the winner will receive two nights at the motel.

Bring your carved pumpkin to the motel on Saturday, Oct. 25, where it will be photographed and placed on display. People are invited to stop by and vote for their favorite. The winner will be announced on Halloween night.

Enjoy kayaking fun at BeachHouse

Join the BeachHouse restaurant, Beach Bums and Native Rentals for a day of kayaking excitement on Sunday, Oct. 26, at the BeachHouse, 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Free kayak demos will be offered all day. Novice kayak instructional clinics will be offered every hour on the hour. Kayak fishing clinics will be held at 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

A 100-yard splash kayak relay race will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Relay teams will be co-ed and each relay team will consist of four people. Pick up teams will be available.

You can register the day of the event, but pre-registration is recommended at Native Rentals and Retail, 5340 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, 778-7757, or Beach Bums, 427 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, 778-3316.

Participants pre-registering will receive five free raffle tickets. Raffle prizes include a kayak, a low-rider bicycle and an Anna Maria vacation package. You must be present to win.

Dog costume contest to create ‘winner’ dogs

Register by Oct. 23 for The Sun’s annual dog costume contest on Saturday, Oct. 25, at the AMI Sun Plaza, 202 Palm Ave., Anna Maria, weather permitting. Sign in is at 12:30 p.m. Prizes will be given for the most original, cutest, and best celebrity. All dogs must be leashed and owners are responsible for droppings.

Click to view Adobe PDF of Calendar of Events Click to download the Adobe Free Reader

Counseling can help with stressed out lives
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/PAT COPELAND Terri Milen, a mental health counselor, and
Rosemarie Fisher, a clinical social worker, offer counseling during day
and evening hours at the Island Community Center.

ANNA MARIA – Grocery and gas prices have gone through the roof. Your pension and stocks continue to take a dive. Your job is in jeopardy. Family members are at each other’s throats.

With the uncontrollable events that cause the most stress in our lives worsening daily, many feel they have nowhere to turn. That’s where they’re wrong.

We’re lucky to have on of the most affordable and easily accessible counseling programs of any community in the area in our back yard – the Island Community Center’s Family Foundations program.

"We want to bring attention to the fact that we’re here," explained Terri Milen, a mental health counselor with the program. "We want to be able to help as many people as we can.

"No one is turned away. Everybody gets help when they need it and we work on a sliding scale, so it’s affordable for everyone."

"We understand that everybody is under increased stress, whether its from the financial or mortgage crisis or ordinary everyday experiences," Rosemarie Fisher, the program’s clinical social worker, added. "These are really tough times.”

Financial stress affects lives in many ways, they said, "It is the primary thing families cite as the cause of difficult relationships," Fisher said. "They lay blame rather than finding ways they can resolve it together.’

"One person usually handles the finances and when everything’s OK, it’s fine, but when things are not good, it causes problems," Milen added. "People have a difficult time talking about money when it is an issue."

Milen said they have several clients who want to separate or divorce but can’t because they can’t afford to live apart. Fisher said others are afraid they will lose their jobs.

They said many people don’t understand how counseling can help.

"They’re trying to micromanage their lives and as a result, they don’t address the big problems," Milen explained. "They can come in here and get a different perspective on their lives.

"We can identify certain strategies they can use to manage their lives and understand what things they can control. It also helps to know they are not alone."

"We cannot control the big events going on in the world, but we can teach people how to talk to their partners and kids and create a supportive environment for their families and learn new tools for that," Fisher added.

Milen said some people feel a difference after one session, and Fisher said sessions are structured to the needs of the client. People can get an appointment within a week, and sooner if there’s an emergency, they said.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper