The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 13 - December 17, 2008


Requests swamp Island food pantries
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY AID volunteer Norma Shearer and AID
President John Bonser check supplies at the Roser food bank.

The number of Island residents seeking food from local food pantries has skyrocketed this year to record levels, according to relief workers.

The national economic downturn, the workers maintain, has come to the Island in a big way.

"We really didn’t think that anyone on the Island could possibly be going hungry, but there are families with children, elderly people and others who are going hungry, " said John Bonser, president of All Island Denominations, an ecumenical group that has been helping Island residents since 1982.

Most of the people in need live on the Island and many work as wait staff, while others are in construction or work in the hotels and motels, Bonser said.

The bottom line, he added, is that they can’t afford to buy groceries.

In fact, requests for food from the Roser food pantry, which AID helps stock, has quadrupled from just months ago.

Lately, as many as 50 bags of groceries have been given out each month.

"I see such a need," said Diane Pierce, one of the coordinators of the food pantry. “It’s been bad. Sometimes we have so many requests we run out of food in the pantry and have to go to Publix to fill in what we don’t have donated."

"We serve only Island residents," Bonser said. "There are other organizations to help people off the Island. We serve people who live here and usually work here."

The purpose of AID is to offer charitable assistance to those persons who are in need on Anna Maria Island, according to the group’s mission statement. All of the churches on the Island have representatives in the 30 or so member organization.

"When you live on the margins from paycheck to paycheck, being out of work for only a week or two can put you over the edge," said Rosemary Backer, pastor at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.

Pastor Rosemary said some of the people she’s referred to the food pantry are seasonal workers who are laid off during the slow times. Some are from the construction industry, where jobs are few and far between now.

"These are mostly people who are ready, willing and able to work," she said. "There just aren’t any jobs."

"We try to give a hand up, not a handout," said Dianne DeLong, the other coordinator of the food pantry. "Sometimes it just takes that little bit of help to get someone over a hard time."

AID offers one-time assistance from the food pantry. A bag of groceries contains two dinners such as macaroni and cheese, or canned spaghetti, two cans each of soup, vegetables and meat, one can of fruit, a pack of rice or potatoes, peanut butter, jelly, cereal, a few tea bags or cocoa, one sleeve of crackers, a roll of toilet paper and a baggie of soap.

"We give them a $10 voucher to Publix so they can get milk and fresh produce and anything else they might need there," said Roser Church’s Pastor Gary Batey. The vouchers may not be used for alcohol or tobacco products.

Each person in the household gets one bag. And each recipient is also counseled as to where and how to find with other forms of assistance such as food stamps and job banks. When there are children in the household, the one time per year help rule is bent a little, according to AID volunteers.

The group also has a small budget and can offer one-time help with rent, utilities or prescriptions. The volunteer who handles most of the applicants for that service has an extensive background in social services, and she screens the applicants carefully.

Every church on the Island contributes to the food pantry. People who belong to a church can drop off their non-perishable items when they attend services.

"And to attend the Kiwanis meetings Saturday mornings at Café on the Beach, everyone has to bring a can," said Michael Pierce, mayor of Bradenton Beach.

There is great need, and people who don’t necessarily find themselves in church every Sunday, but who want to help their neighbors, can do so by taking canned goods, other non-perishables and paper products to Roser Church any weekday. The door to the office is on Pine Avenue at about the mid-point of the building.

Anyone wanting to contribute financial assistance can send a tax-deductible donation to AID, PO Box 305, Anna Maria, FL 34216.

People in need of food or other assistance can call the AID help line at 725-AIDE (2433). To pick up the food, you’ll have to have an appointment so arrangements can be made to have volunteers get the bags ready.

Funding cuts prompt PTO call for voter action
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Anna Maria Island PrincipalTom Levengood (right)
talks to PTO board members about the funding crisis that the district
is facing. The board members at the meeting were (front left to right)
treasurer Lynda Hicks, president Caroline Pardue, vice president
Charlotta Langley and secretary Lisa Castro.

HOLMES BEACH – Budget cuts have become a concern of parents of children who attend public schools in Florida and there is only one thing they can do – change the system. But before they can change the system, they need to rally support from citizens to contact their state elected officials.

That’s what the Anna Maria Elementary School PTO talked about last Thursday at its monthly meeting and Principal Tom Levengood told them the Manatee County School Board had resources to help.

It all began when they reviewed their budget and talked about holding on to the money they earn because every fund-raiser they have held, except the fall fest, has been short of its goals.

The PTO has decided to help teachers and staff as they deal with budget cuts from the county, but some of the cuts have already taken a toll.

Levengood said the school district has formed a speaker’s bureau of personnel who will be coming to school to address Student Advisory Councils (SAC). When he heard that, Levengood decided he would open up the SAC meetings to the public.

"I’ve asked if they would do it not just for the SAC meetings," he said. "I would like to open it up to the PTO and the public."

Levengood said the district has not been able to assign speakers to events because it is making sure it has accurate facts and figures for them when they do speak. He said the ongoing budget cutting is taking its toll on school personnel, but most parents and students have not been affected yet.

"Recently, there was an uproar in Pinellas County when the district threatened to close five elementary schools," he said. "That would affect thousands of students."

Levengood said the budget crisis is the result of a faltering economy, which produced less money for schools through sales taxes. He said parents need to contact their state elected officials and demand that Florida returns to funding education through real estate taxes, like it did years earlier.

"We cut a lot last year for this year’s budget and they asked for additional cuts, which we made, and we’ll be cutting the budget more for next year," Levengood said. "So far, the cuts haven’t affected the kids yet. We’ve been able to move Gary Wooten into P.E. when we lost that position and make other moves. Now they’re talking about losing media, music, art and all those things that add to education."

Levengood said the class size reduction act voted in on a referendum hurt budgets as well. He said he voted against it, even though it would assure quality education for the students, because there was no funding to implement it. He said the district delayed basing its teacher needs on individual class size and is sticking with overall school average, which allows some classes to have more students than the law allows.

"When we go to class size, the district will have to hire hundreds of new teachers which they can’t afford."

Levengood said he would advise everyone when the county schedules a speaker for Anna Maria Elementary and the public will be invited as well. He said for now, the best we can do is write our state elected officials and tell them we need better school funding.

FDOT: Cost of project $877,000
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Chris Piazza, an engineer with the Florida Department of
Transportation tells members of a city committee that their
project will cost twice as much as the grant they’re getting.

ANNA MARIA — A state estimate for a project to upgrade the business district and the area around the city pier has come in at $877,000 – more than double what city officials originally thought it would cost.

Members of the transportation enhancement grant committee had planned for the project to cost roughly $370,000, and were going to pay for it with money from a federal grant. The project would include a boardwalk, picnic shelters, benches, landscaping at the base of the city pier and possibly other enhancements along the Pine Avenue/Gulf Drive business corridor.

But Florida Department of Transportation engineer Chris Piazza, whose department is administering the grant, told the committee last week that the enhancement project was going to cost a lot more.

One reason his estimate was so high, Piazza said, was because FDOT adds a total of 45 percent to the cost of a project to cover such things as mobilization fees and fees to maintain traffic flow during construction. The “padding” also goes to cover any potential increases in construction costs.

In this case, the cost to manage the traffic on Pine Avenue at the base of the pier would be $87,000.

"It’s standard procedure," Piazza said. "We have to do it this way when we have just a concept and not an actual design. And we’re two years out from construction. Nobody knows what the costs are going to be then."

Committee members were quick to express their dismay at what they called the “outrageous waste.”

"No wonder our government is in the shape it’s in," said Michael Coleman. "We can do the project ourselves and we can do it well within the (original) amount of the grant."

The grant can be administered in one of two ways. The first would be by FDOT, where only state-certified contractors may submit bids and the 45 percent cushion has to be built in.

The grant also could be administered by a governmental body certified by the federal Local Agency Program. (LAP) Manatee County, for example, is LAP certified.

"I really and truly believe that we can put this out to bid and build it as we want it and be well within the amount of the grant," said Steve Kring, a local contractor.

Both Kring and Coleman compared local costing to FDOT costing, which uses only suppliers who are listed with the agency, and said they could get the same materials such as pavers and boardwalk materials for less than half what FDOT pays.

"Three thousand dollars for a palm tree?" asked City Commissioner and Committee Chair Jo Ann Mattick. "You pay $3,000 for a palm tree? I purchased a nice, tall one recently for $300!"

Committee members decided to look into the LAP certification process and use either the county’s certification or possibly get the city itself certified.

Both Kring and Coleman said they would refrain from bidding on the project since they are members of the committee charged with coming up with the design and there could be a conflict of interest.

Mattick said she has spoken to Mayor Fran Barford, and she is going to check out what’s involved with getting the city LAP certified or submitting the grant under the county’s certification.

"I think that’s the way to go. We still need to go out for bids, but we’d do that anyway. We could eliminate the 10 percent mobilization fee and the traffic control and we wouldn’t have to pay $3,000 for a palm tree," she said.

Mattick said she is confident the committee’s plans can be realized at a cost well within the amount of the grant and still have money left over to landscape other parts of the corridor.

The committee plans to present its concept for using the grant to the city commission. No meeting date has been set yet.

Crash injures local teen

An 18-year-old Bradenton man who was raised on Anna Maria Island was seriously injured Sunday when the car he was driving hit a tree on Manatee Avenue West, near the mainland entrance to the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

Tim Andricks was airlifted to Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg after he was removed from his badly damaged Jeep Cherokee. He was listed in critical condition as of Tuesday morning, according to a Bayfront Medical Center spokesperson.

Police said he lost control after his SUV hit an embankment and flew into the air, hitting a sign and landing against a tree. He was headed east on Manatee Avenue. Andricks worked for Brett VandeVrede, owner of Holmes Beach Auto Service, for four years.

"He has worked with us all through high school," VandeVrede said. "He was going to vo-tech to study mechanics, although he’s still in high school."

VandeVrede said that he knew Andricks’ mother, Lynn, before Tim was born and that he changed Andricks’ diapers when he was a baby. Andricks has three brothers.

There were no passengers in the vehicle when the accident occurred.

Mike Wallem, who works at the Anna Maria Island Community Center, remembered Tim being a good soccer and basketball player at the Center.

Another Center worker, Kyle Guessford, said his brothers hung out with Andricks and that Tim was a "good guy."

Bethlehem Walk focuses on meaning of Christmas
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Caitlin Tribble, as Mary, and Charlie Gianiotes,
as Joseph, re-enact the borth of Christ at the Roser Church Bethlehem Walk.
The event drew crowds of adults and children.

In what has become a Christmas season tradition, Roser Memorial Church again re-enacted the birth of Jesus by having a couple, acting as Joseph and Mary, go around the neighborhood asking for room.

It is a tradition that many people look forward to being a part of and many of them dressed in costume. There were also animals of the time and region – a donkey, a llama, sheep and even a baby lamb that got a lot of attention.

With all that happens during the holiday season, Roser Church’s Christian Education Administrator, Kelly Tribble, feels the Bethlehem Walk refocuses people on its true meaning.

“It really puts a religious touch to Christmas,” Tribble said. “The kids enjoy learning about the birth of Jesus and participating in it.”

Tribble’s daughter, Caitlin, played Mary. Charlie Gianiotes, whose parents, Steve and Stephanie, had to cancel their appearance because of ilness, led the procession with the donkey in tow. Roser Church’s Rev. Gary Batey led the group in singing hymns as they walked to the next stop. When they returned to the church, they all appeared at the steps leading to the doorway and Rev. Batey read from the Bible, they sang another hymn and then all went inside for snacks and refreshments.

It was a beautiful night and the daytime’s warm weather stayed around long enough to keep anybody from feeling too cold.

It was another Christmas celebration on Anna Maria Island.

January meeting for Agnelli request

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners told the city attorney to draft a resolution with stipulations for a special exception requested by John Agnelli to park construction equipment at Agnelli Group Professional Park, 6000 Marina Drive.

Commissoners first heard from the city’s planning consultant, Bill Brisson, who did not recommend granting the special exception.

"The property is already non-conforming as to impervious surface coverage, so there is no opportunity to add additional paved parking unless it is some form of wholly impervious material," Brisson said. "The ability to provide the appropriate number of parking spaces is questionable and will certainly result in a drive aisle of marginal width in the rear."

Brisson also pointed out that outside storage must be screened and it does not appear that it can be accommodated on site.

"After considering all the foregoing factors and issues, it is our recommendation that there comes a point where the limitations of a site must be recognized, particularly in light of the impact of the use of the property upon its neighbors, and that this special exception should be denied."

Attorneys speak

Agnelli’s attorney Ricinda Perry called Brisson’s report incomplete and inaccurate and noted, "It’s so simple. My client wants to park his truck with a trailer behind the business. I don’t see that has a humongous impact or is so detrimental to the community that we need to deny it."

She presented several stipulations that she had crafted including allowing material storage along the rear of the building; parking commercial vehicles, trailers and equipment along the rear property line; limiting the number of heavy equipments and commercial vehicles to seven; allowing temporary outdoor storage, limiting the height of the vehicles to 11 feet.

Bob Hendrickson, an attorney representing four property owners, said he had not seen the stipulations and pointed out, "We’re here to discuss land use issues. Miss Perry claimed that this is all about nothing; that it’s insignificant; that’s it’s just a couple of trucks.

"The application says it’s for a construction services establishment, to allow commercial and service vehicles equipment, materials and other items. He wants to use this property as a staging area for other projects on the Island."

He asked the commission to limit the number, size, weight and types of vehicles and the hours of operation and not allow outside storage of materials. He said his clients, not Agnelli, installed landscaping and a six-foot fence.

Commissioners debate

Chair Sandy Haas-Martens asked about limiting the special exception to Agnelli. According to the code it goes with the land. City Attorney Patricia Petruff said they could do that, but it would be difficult to enforce and Hendrickson agreed.

"Decide what will work for both," Commissioner David Zaccagnino said. "We have to be careful what we do with the businesses on the Island.

"It’s a luxury to have mom and pop businesses out here that have an interest in our community. The more pressures we put on local businesses, the less there’s going to be."

Commissioners John Monetti and Pat Morton agreed with Brisson.

Haas-Martens suggested limiting the vehicles to four, limiting their height, not allowing outdoor storage of materials and limiting hours of operation to between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. She also suggested that Agnelli install a six-foot vinyl fence on his side of the property.

The attorneys agreed to work with Public Works Supervisor Joe Duennes to draft stipulations, which will be discussed at the Jan. 13 meeting.

Missing woman’s boyfriend maintains innocence
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Police and fire investigators searched through
the burned out duplex next to Haley’s Motel on Monday morning. They
said they could not comment on the ongoing investigation.

HOLMES BEACH – William J. Cumber misses his girlfriend, missing hotelier Sabine Musil-Buehler, and has no idea where she is, he told The Sun last week.

Cumber, 39, may have been the last person to see Musil-Buehler, 49, on Nov. 4 after an argument at their home over his cigarette smoking.

Cumber said he wishes he could relive that night.

"I wouldn’t have stepped outside and smoked a cigarette," he said. "I know that sounds unbelievable, but that’s what happened. If I could change it, I would, but I can’t."

Musil-Buehler left in her car after drinking "a whole bottle of wine. She normally doesn’t drive after one freaking glass. I kind of feel responsible because if I wouldn’t have been smoking…" he said, his voice trailing off into quiet tears.

Cumber said he thought she was headed for her other home, which she shares with Tom Buehler, her estranged husband and co-owner of Haley’s Motel, 8104 Gulf Drive.

"She left," he said. "I have no control over what anybody else does. I can only control what I do. That’s the bottom line. I ain’t got nothing to do with whatever happened."

What happened remains a mystery.

On Nov. 6, police found Musil-Buehler’s car in Bradenton, driven by Robert Corona, who was arrested for theft. Blood found in the car was later determined to be hers, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Then, on Nov. 16, a duplex at Haley’s was destroyed by a fire, prompting police to question Cumber extensively, and later, search the home he shared with Musil-Buehler.

On Monday, fire and police investigators searched again through the burned out duplex. Police also combed the Holmes Beach neighborhood around Haley’s on Friday, asking neighbors if they could identify a man in a photograph taken the night of the fire. The white male, crouched near a vehicle smoking a cigarette, was wearing a baseball cap and a hoodie sweatshirt.

Nearly two years before the fire, on Jan. 4, 2006, Cumber had pleaded guilty to the arson of his ex-girlfriend’s Bradenton home and was sentenced to 42 months in the Florida Dept. of Corrections.

"It’s so ironic," said Cumber, adding that he thinks that someone is trying to set him up for the crime. "How ironic is that? Come on, get real."

Reports that he was angry over the missing woman refusing to give him money are untrue, he said.

"I didn’t ask her for any money," he said. "I didn’t need any of her money."

Things are different now. Cumber lost his woodworking business and left his apartment earlier this month.

"I’m going through a crisis right now," he said. "I’m pretty much homeless. I’m job hunting. It’s not like I’m out there, robbing or something, I’m just doing the best I can.

"It’s just hard," he continued. "I ain’t out here doing drugs. It blows me away. There ain’t a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t think about it.

"It’s not fair," Cumber said. "It’s not fair that she’s gone. Where is she?"

Suspect in disappearance has had troubled past

William J. Cumber III has had a troubled past in Manatee County, according to records at the Manatee County Clerk of Court.

The following is a list of run-ins Cumber has had with the law.

• Arson of an occupied structure at 1700 31st St. W., Bradenton, on Sept. 1, 2005, a first degree felony. Four adults and two sleeping children were in the home, which was a total loss, but no injuries resulted. According to the arrest warrant, Cumber stated that after arguing with his girlfriend, one of the home’s residents, he crawled through a patio screen with a lighter and set fire to a chair. He said he did not have the intent to burn the house down but wanted to leave a message because he felt scorned. Cumber pled guilty on Jan. 4, 2006, and was sentenced to 42 months in the Florida Dept. of Corrections with credit for time served, followed by three years probation, restitution for losses and no contact with homeowners Richard Parker and India Turner.

• Possession of drug paraphernalia on Feb. 19, 2003, a first degree misdemeanor. Cumber pled guilty on April 15, 2003, and was sentenced to six months probation, $211 court costs, evaluation for drug/alcohol counseling and 25 hours community service. He violated his probation on Nov. 23, 2004, and was sentenced to credit for time served.

• No valid driver license on Sept. 25, 2002, a second-degree misdemeanor. Cumber pled guilty on Dec. 9, 2002, and was sentenced to five days in county jail and $211 court costs.

• Battery on a law enforcement officer on May 7, 2002, a third degree felony. Cumber pled no contest on Sept. 23, 2002, and was sentenced to 12 months probation, $261 court costs, $150 court facility fee, $40 public defender application fee and $150 attorney’s fees. He violated his probation on Nov. 18, 2004 and was sentenced to 364 days in county jail.

• On March 3, 2002, Jane Watson filed a petition for an injunction against Cumber after alleging he hit her in the stomach and leg, and later in the arm.

On May 6, 2002, he was arrested for domestic battery against Watson, a first degree misdemeanor. He pled guilty and was sentenced to 26 days in county jail with credit for time served, and 12 months non-reporting probation.

On Dec. 2, 2002, Cumber was arrested for violating the injunction, a first degree misdemeanor, and child abuse, a third degree felony, for causing scratches to Watson’s then-15-year-old daughter’s neck. No charges were filed.

In a letter to the judge dated Dec. 9, 2002, Watson wrote: "The problems that are involved are from his abuse of alcohol and other drugs … William is really a good guy. He is hyper and tends to react before he thinks of the consequences."

"The child abuse charge I don’t think is right because she started the argument and fought him, too. It was a fight, not abuse," she continued.

Watson filed a motion to dissolve the injunction on Dec. 12, 2002, stating that the two were living together and were having no problems other than the fight between Cumber and her daughter. The motion to dissolve the injunction was granted.

• Possession of under 20 grams of marijuana on June 26, 2001, a second degree misdemeanor. Cumber pled no contest on Aug. 21, 2001, and was sentenced to six months probation, 50 hours of community service, evaluation for drug/alcohol abuse and driver’s license suspension for two years with business purposes only granted and fined $250. He violated his probation on June 20, 2002.

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