The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 8 - November 12, 2008

headlines

Bridge reopens early
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/MAGGIE FIELD

HOLMES BEACH – Quinn Construction, Inc., opened the Anna Maria Island Bridge to traffic on Thursday almost three hours before schedule, to the relief of many, especially to those stuck in a gigantic traffic jam at the time.

The reason for the traffic jam is not clear, but authorities agree that it was the largest problem the Island experienced since the bridge was closed Sept. 29 so crews could replace the grate and concrete on the roadway of the 51-year-old drawbridge. Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby had a Cosby had a possible explanation for the jam.

"We didn’t have an accident or a breakdown on the road at that time," he said. "It could be that a lot of people decided to come out to the Island to drive over the bridge when it reopened."

Audrey Clarke, information officer for Parsons Brinckerhoff, the project’s managing contractor, said Quinn Construction crews were already preparing for an early opening.

"I talked to them around 4 p.m. and they were sweeping up the dust on the roadway and getting ready to open it," she said. "They got a call from one of the project managers later who asked if they could go ahead and open it because of the traffic jam."

In preparation for that soft opening, the crews took down signs warning that the bridge was closed around 4 p.m. and that may have led to the traffic jam, according to Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore.

"They took down the warning signs on the mainland and cars started going toward the bridge," she said. "I’m sure the same thing happened on the Island."

Clarke said they notified a lot of the agencies that had made special preparations for the closure last week. She said the Cortez Bridge openings would remain as they have been during the closure and they will change back to normal after Nov. 13, the date the bridge was originally expected to be reopened.

The U.S. Coast Guard changed the opening times for the Cortez Bridge to minimize disruptions during heavy use periods, since it served as the only direct link to the mainland during the AMI Bridge closure. Those changes included no bridge openings for tall boats during rush hours and openings only on the half-hour during the daytime.

Clarke added that stoplights on the Island that had been re-timed for the project all would be changed back to normal during the next few days.

Whitmore said the county commission voted down a request to keep the right turn arrow for eastbound traffic on Manatee Avenue at 75th Street.

Clarke noted that rehabilitation would continue on the bridge up to April 2009, but there would not be anything more serious than lane closures during that time.

"They’ll be working on the substructure, the bascule piers and the deck," she said. Most of the work will be under the bridge."

Meanwhile, the speed limit across the bridge has been raised from 25 mph before the closure to 35 mph. The bridge remains a construction zone and those receiving speeding tickets while there are workers on the bridge will have to pay double fines, Clarke said.

Tall bridge price tag: $78 million?

In light of the reopening of the Anna Maria Island Bridge comes word that a replacement bridge might be cheaper if it’s taller.

When the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) announced its $9.1 million rehabilitation project last year, there were those who said they preferred the bridge be replaced. FDOT said that it only had the funds for the rehab project and that the county should petition its state legislators to set aside funds for a new structure.

The county has been working on such a request and had came up with an estimate of $140 million to replace the current structure, but County Commissioner Carol Whitmore refused to accept that figure.

"I told them that the estimates 15 years ago had never exceeded $80 million," she said. "They told me to get an estimate from the state."

Whitmore contacted Chris Piazza, the state engineer in charge of the replacement bridge project.

"He came back with these figures last week," she said. "A low-rise drawbridge like the one we have now would cost $90 million, with engineering included, a medium rise bridge 45 feet high would cost $98 million; and a high, fixed-span bridge 65 feet high would cost $78 million."

Whitmore said she e-mailed those estimates to her fellow commissioners last week and that they would like to discuss funding for a new bridge at an upcoming meeting.

The bridge rehab project is supposed to add 10 to 15 years to the life of the structure. FDOT has estimated that the earliest the state could get engineering, planning and financing secured for a new bridge would be 10 years.

Whitmore said she recommended that the state adapt the engineering that was used when it tried to replace the bridge 15 years ago to today’s standards and maybe save some money.

"We don’t need to re-invent the wheel," she said.

Search for Sabine intensifies
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Musil-Buehler

The search for missing Island businesswoman Sabine Musil-Buehler took a grim turn Monday when Manatee County Sheriff’s Office investigators said they found a small amount of blood inside her car and evidence that pieces of seat covering and carpeting were removed. Investigators are trying to determine if the blood came from Musil-Buehler, the 49-year-old co-owner of Haley’s Motel in Holmes Beach.

Musil-Buehler has not been heard from since Wednesday, Nov. 5. Her estranged husband, Tom Buehler, filed a missing person’s report after police called him to report finding her car in the hands of a stranger in Bradenton. The two have been separated for several years, but they continue to have a working relationship.

Silvia Zadarosni, who has known Musil-Buehler for 15 years, said late Monday that they had set up a fund for a reward for information in her disappearance. Those wishing to contribute should go to Whitney Bank in Holmes Beach.

Musil-Buehler had been living most recently in Anna Maria with William J. Cumber, 38, who was released from prison on probation in September. Court records show he was convicted of setting a fire in 2005 that destroyed a home owned by his ex-girlfriend. Cumber told deputies that he and Musil-Buehler got into a fight Tuesday night because she caught him smoking a cigarette and she left in her car.

Possible homicide

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office had been investigating the case as a missing person, but they are treating it as a possible homicide because of the blood found in the car, according to spokesman Dave Bristow.

Musil-Buehler was last seen last Wednesday night in the area of 14th Street and 26th Avenue in Bradenton and her car, a Pontiac Sunbird convertible, was found in the area of 12th Street Court and 26th Avenue, also in Bradenton. The man driving the car, Robert Corona, fled but was found later that night and arrested on charges of driving with a suspended license and resisting or obstructing a law enforcement officer without violence.

Corona told deputies he had been partying with Musil Buehler and had taken drugs with her. Corona later recanted that story, possibly to get out of an auto theft charge, Bristow said. Corona was charged Monday with grand theft auto and his bond was set at $10,000.

Generous nature

Tom Buehler and Musil-Buehler were well known in the community for their public participation in fund-raisers and other activities. They recently hosted Haleyween, a Halloween party at the motel as part of Bridging the Gap. Buehler said he’s particularly concerned about her relationship with Cumber, who has a history of domestic violence, according to his record on file with the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court.

Zadarosni said that Musil-Buehler became involved with Cumber through the prison release program.

"Sabine and Bill had been having problems and she arranged to get counseling," Zadaronski said.

Rik Johns works at Haley’s Motel and since her disappearance, has pretty much run the place. He has worked there two years, but has been Musil-Buehler’s personal trainer for seven years. He said she works out three times a week.

Johns said that she had been busy recently with work and with Haleyween. He said he did not notice any change in her demeanor during that time.

"We had a couple of long talks and around the first part of October, and I got the impression that she was getting ready to leave him," Johns said. "One day it was good and the next day it was bad."

Johns said that Musil-Buehler generosity may have made her a victim.

"She would do anything for anybody, especially if it involved animals or people who are down and especially if she thought she could help," he said.

Sage Hall, another friend of Musil-Buehler’s, said that three friends of Musil-Buehler’s flew in from Germany over the weekend. Two of them were planning to come, as they do on a regular basis, and the third heard that Musil-Buehler was missing and decided to join them. She said that Musil-Buehler had no enemies and everyone she ever knew remained friends, even from her distant past in her home country, Germany. As for herself, Hall said that Musil-Buehler was instrumental in her career in videography.

"She helped me start Star Fruit Productions," she said. "Sabine was my first customer and whenever I had a question, I could call her and she would help me."

Buehler said a lot of people are concerned and that has led to a problem for the Sheriff’s Office.

"They have been besieged with calls about her," he said. "They would prefer people call Crime Stoppers at 866-634-TIPS, if they are concerned.

People who have information on her should call the Sheriff’s Office at 747-3011.

Mattick, Webb elected in Anna Maria; Bartelt wins in Bradenton Beach
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY
Jo Ann Mattick, center, won her bid for reelection and celebrated
at a victory party at the Rod & Reel Pier. She is pictured here with three
of her 17 grandchildren. On the left is Will Bouchard, 9, Mattick and
Emma Bouchard, 10, who is holding Jackson Aiden Mattick, 4 months.

Island voters turned out in force to select two city commissioners in Anna Maria and one commissioner in Bradenton Beach.

Incumbent Jo Ann Mattick easily won re-election with 626 votes. That represented 31.7 percent of the vote in a field of four candidates. Chuck Webb took the second seat by a narrow margin over Bob Barlow. Webb had 540 votes, or 27.3 percent of the ballots cast, to Barlow’s close second of 522 votes for 26.4 percent. Mark Alonso came in fourth with 277 votes, or 14.3 percent.

In Bradenton Beach, Bob Bartelt, a political newcomer, defeated Bill Shearon with 55.6 percent of the vote to Shearon’s 44.3 percent.

Turnout

Turnout for the 2998 presidential election was high, overall with an 81 percent turnout in Anna Maria, an 89 percent turnout at Holmes Beach precinct located at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church and 76 percent turnout at the St. Bernard’s Catholic Church. In Bradenton Beach, there was a 78 percent of the registered voters went to the polls.

Presidential election

Anna Maria voters were a little atypical in their vote for president. Countywide, 52.9 percent of the voters cast their ballots for the McCain/Palin ticket and 45.9 percent voted for Obama/Biden.

Island-wide, 55.87 percent were for McCain, and 44.2 percent were for Obama.

Same sex marriage amendment

There was a significant difference in the way Island residents voted and the rest of the county and the state voted on Amendment 2, which defines marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Statewide, the amendment passed with 62 percent of the vote. In Manatee County, it passed with 61 percent of the vote. On the Island, the margin was much slimmer — 52.0 percent were in favor of the amendment while 47.03 percent were opposed. In fact, the total vote in Bradenton Beach was against the amendment by a margin of 50.1 opposed to 49.8 in favor.

The margin in Anna Maria was close as well. 50.3 percent of the voters were for the amendment while 49.7 percent were against it.

In Holmes Beach, the margin in Precinct 92, which votes at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 53.8 were in favor of the amendment; 42.6 percent were opposed. At Precinct 93, which votes at St. Bernard’s Catholic Church, 53 percent were in favor of the amendment; 46.9 percent were opposed.

City hall parking, entrance being re-worked
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Mayor Fran Barford gestures as she explains how the Gulf Drive
parking lot will be arranged to provide an entrance to city hall.
SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY

ANNA MARIA — The best-kept secret in the city may not be a secret much longer. City officials are hard at work on a project to make the entrance to city hall easy to find.

"We have an address on Gulf Drive, and we should have an entrance on Gulf Drive," Mayor Fran Barford said. “As it is now, people can’t find our entrance off Spring Avenue, and if they do get into one of our parking lots, they can’t find the entrance to the building."

There’s a sign on the door to the entrance that faces Gulf Drive says to use another (unspecified) entrance. The door to the side of the building facing Pine Avenue says it’s for employees only. The easetside if the building provides access to the Sheriff’s Office, and most of the time, deputies are out in the city, so that entrance is locked.

"People really wander around up there before they find the entrance," Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick said. "That’s why I wrote a letter about it nine months ago."

Even the precinct workers at last week’s presidential elections said voters were having a great deal of trouble finding the entrance to the building.

Some residents have commented that it reminds them of the old Kingston Trio song about the MBTA where "the man was lost forever ‘neath the streets of Boston."

But the secret to how to get into the building won’t be a secret for much longer.

"We have the equipment right here for the drainage work in the Pine Avenue parking lot, so we’ll just do a little work and make the entrance a straight shot from the front of the building," Barford said.

The parking lot off Pine Avenue is closed. The asphalt is being dug up and will be replaced by a material that will let storm water percolate down instead of washing off and running down Pine Avenue. There will be pavers up close to the building where the staff parks.

"With all that equipment here, it won’t cost much to work on the Gulf Drive area," Barford said.

She wasn’t sure of the exact cost, but she expects to have the figure for commissioners at their next meeting. Any expenditure of more than $2,500 requires prior approval of the commission.

City asked to withdraw lawsuit over dock

HOLMES BEACH – An attorney for a couple being sued by the city over a dock has asked the city to withdraw its petition.

In 1999 John and Diane Crawford entered into an easement agreement with their neighbor at 603 Ambassador Lane to install a dock and a boatlift that would encroach into the setback of the neighbor, said the lawsuit filed in March. Based in part on the agreement, the city issued a permit for the dock and boatlift.

In April 2007, the city issued a permit to the new owner of 603 Ambassador Lane to demolish that part of the existing dock on that property to meet the 10-foot setback required by the code.

It also issued a notice of violation to the Crawfords for their dock and boatlift. The city maintained that the permit was issued in error and asked the Crawfords to remove all portions of the dock and boatlift that violate the setback provisions of the code.

According to the Crawford’s attorney, Scott Rudacille, the couple and the city have attempted to come to an agreement, however, "the new property owner has refused to participate in any discussions regarding a resolution.

"At this time it has become clear that the new property owner wishes for the taxpayers of Holmes Beach to fund his personal crusade to get out of his responsibilities. His desire is that the city will use its resources to help him avoid his contractual obligations under this private agreement between the two parties."

Rudacille said the new property owner should use his own funds if he wishes to litigate over the agreement.

Landowner sues county, FISH Preserve

CORTEZ – The owner of a piece of property inside the FISH Preserve has sued the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) and Manatee County.

The suit, filed by Iris LeMasters on Sept. 23 in Manatee County Circuit Court, alleges that the county failed to treat her request to vacate a right of way in the same manner it treated a similar FISH request.

LeMasters has owned 4435 114th St. W., a vacant parcel inside the FISH Preserve, since 1997, according to the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s Office Web site, which lists the purchase price for the half-acre property as $3,000. The appraised value is $18,075.

LeMasters advertised the parcel for sale during the 2005 real estate boom at $1.2 million. Duncan Real Estate advertised the lot as follows: "Build your Florida dream home on this one-of-a-kind half-acre bayfront lot completely surrounded by preserve."

FISH, a not-for-profit corporation, attempted to negotiate a purchase of the property from LeMasters in 2007, but LeMasters declined.

FISH has been acquiring property in the 95-acre tract over several years to establish a public preserve with hiking and kayak trails, using more than $500,000 in funds raised from the popular annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival.

The group has cleared non-native vegetation on the preserve and installed walkways and bridges to make the park accessible to the public, and is clearing kayak trails that lead to the bay.

With few exceptions, including a parcel owned by Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash, FISH owns most of the real property in the FISH Preserve surrounding LeMasters’ property, according to FISH President Allen Garner.

The LeMasters property recently has been cleared of non-native species including Brazilian peppers and Australian pines, Garner said, leading the FISH board to believe that she intends to develop the property.

According to Roger Allen, site coordinator for the FISH Preserve and the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez on its western boundary, her property has no road, water, sewer, electric or cable lines leading to it. Protected mangroves line the property’s Sarasota Bay waterfront, preventing water access by LeMasters, he said.

In her lawsuit, LeMasters claims that in May 2007, Manatee County approved FISH’s application to vacate rights of way in the preserve - including one next to her property - without her knowledge, then denied a similar application she made in November 2007 to vacate a portion of Sarasota Drive, a platted roadway next to the plaintiff’s property that does not yet exist.

The county cited several reasons, including a requirement that FISH join the application, which it declined, according to the lawsuit.

LeMasters claims that the county has not treated her requests to vacate rights of way in a similar manner to FISH applications and requests that the court declare that she has a legal right to require the county to process her application. She also asks for injunctive relief, stating that she cannot use her property until the platted road is vacated.

FISH filed a motion to dismiss the case on Oct. 23, claiming that the county’s statutory authority to vacate the roads is purely discretionary and does not require the county to consider the request. The motion also states that LeMasters failed to demonstrate that money damages would not resolve the economic injury she would suffer if the county continues to refuse the application.

The motion has not yet been set for a hearing.

Bridging the Gap Briefs
Learn about Island arts and culture

Cultural Connections of Anna Maria Island will showcase the arts and culture of Anna Maria Island at artsHOP weekend on Friday through Sunday, Nov. 14 through 16.

Friday, Nov. 14:

• Island Historical Museum, 402 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, Seminole Indian clothing exhibit, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• Anna Maria Island Art League, 5312 Holmes Blvd., Holmes Beach, open house featuring Florida wildlife-themed Fauna and Florida exhibit and raffle of Robert Johnson’s wildlife painting to benefit Wildlife, Inc., of Bradenton Beach, 5:30 p.m.;
• Artists Guild Gallery, 5414 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, open house featuring the work of Cheryl Jorgenson, a community art project and a raffle, 5:30 p.m.;
• Island Gallery West, 5368 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, open house featuring the work of Barbara Orear and a raffle, 5:30 p.m.
• The Studio at Gulf and Pine, Anna Maria, opening reception for Women’s Contemporary Art Exhibit, 4 to 7 p.m.;

Saturday, Nov. 15:

• Bridge Street Market, Bradenton Beach, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.;
• Island Historical Museum, Seminole Indian clothing exhibit, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.;
• Arts and Crafts Show in the Holmes Beach field to benefit the Island Butterfly Park, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.;
• Island Players, 10009 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria, live performance, 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 by calling 778-5755.

Sunday Nov. 16:

• Arts and Crafts Show in the Holmes Beach field to benefit the Island Butterfly Park, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.;
• AMI Community Chorus and Orchestra, afternoon concert at Crosspointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria, 2 p.m. Call 778-8585 for tickets.

Concert celebrates Center’s anniversary

The Concert on the Green on Saturday, Nov. 15, will celebrate the Island Community Center’s 48th anniversary and its first year in the new Center.

Food and craft vendors will be offering their wares from noon to 4 p.m. and the concert will be held on the Center’s fields from 1 to 4 p.m. The featured band is Yesterdayze, a high-energy, six-piece band with great vocals re-creating your favorite songs from the 60s.

Participants are asked not to bring food or drinks as there will be a variety of food, beer, sodas and water for sale. Bring your lawn chairs and blankets and be prepared to have fun.

Golf tourney benefits junior golf program

Proceeds from the Gap’s family golf tournament will be donated to the Bud Stokes Junior Golf Program at the Island Community Center. The program teaches youths to play the game.

The Key Royale Golf Club will open its course to non-members for the tournament on Saturday, Nov. 15. It is open to all players, including juniors 10 years old and older who own their own clubs.

Registration starts at 11 a.m. and the tournament begins at noon. There will be gift bags, team and individual prizes and optional games of chance.

The tournament is limited to the first 72 players and applications with the entry fee of $18 must be submitted to the Key Royale Golf Club, 700 Key Royale Drive, Holmes Beach, or the Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria, by Wednesday, Nov. 12.

Find application forms at the Key Royale Club, the Community Center, The Sun, 9801 Gulf Drive , Anna Maria and the AMI Chamber, 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

See homes for sale on trolley tour

All aboard for the Gap’s Progressive Realtor Open House Trolley Tour on Saturday, Nov. 15, from 1 to 4 p.m. Stops will include real estate offices, businesses offering home-related products and services and individual owners who are selling their homes.

Get a list of participating offices, homes and businesses by boarding the Island trolley for the tour. Refreshments will be available at most stops.

Find produce and gifts on Bridge Street

Start your Christmas shopping early at the Bridge Street Market in Bradenton Beach on Saturday, Nov. 15, 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.


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