The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 34 - May 13, 2009

breaking news

Cumber sentenced to 13.5 years

HOLMES BEACH – William Cumber, the last person who reported seeing missing Haley's Motel co-owner Sabine Musil-Buehler alive last November, was sentenced on Thursday to 13.5 years in jail for violating probation on a 2006 arson conviction.

Cumber, 39, had previously admitted violating probation by leaving Manatee County without his probation officer's consent. He was arrested for driving with a suspended license in Marion County on Dec. 22, 2008, three months after completing a 3.5-year prison sentence for setting fire to the home of a Manatee County woman whom he felt had scorned him, according to the arrest warrant.

"I was running because I had no future. Bradenton was dead to me," Cumber told Manatee Circuit Court Judge Gilbert Smith during his sentencing hearing, which was attended by several law enforcement officers. "I made better choices in my time. That wasn't one of them."

Cumber, who was shackled in chains, criticized police and the media for drawing attention to his arson conviction after a duplex at Haley's Motel, 8104 Gulf Drive, burned 12 days after Musil-Buehler's Nov. 4, 2008 disappearance.

The pressure caused him to be shunned, to lose his new woodcrafting business and apartment on Anna Maria Island, and to suffer stress-induced physical and emotional problems, he said.

Recounting the last time he saw Musil-Buehler last election day, Cumber said that she left the home they shared at 208 B Magnolia Ave. after they argued over him starting to smoke after giving it up for her birthday.

Tom Buehler, Musil-Buehler's husband and business partner, reported her missing two days later after another man, Robert Corona, 38, was arrested for stealing her car, in which blood matching Musil-Buehler's blood type was later discovered. Corona is awaiting a jury trial.

"Who do they want to decapitate over it? Me," said Cumber, who has not been charged in either the missing woman's disappearance or the motel fire. The cases are still under investigation.

Sentencing factors

Cumber has 10 prior criminal convictions, four of them felonies, including battery, Assistant State Attorney Tony Casoria told the court, adding that fleeing the jurisdiction is an aggravating factor in the probation violation.

"The defendant describes himself as a victim of the media and a victim of the system, but there are many victims," Casoria said, adding that the state originally was lenient when it recommended 3.5 years in jail for the arson, for which he said 15 years would have been a "just" sentence.

"The defendant does not deserve leniency any longer," he told the judge.

Cumber's attorney, Thomas Ostrander, asked the court to consider placing Cumber back on probation, considering his efforts to improve himself in prison and his attempt to start a business, and saying that the prosecutor's 15-year sentence recommendation did not fit driving with a suspended license and leaving the county.

"Giving 15 years for these types of violations would be wrong and counterproductive," Ostrander told the court.

"The court is not finding you were absconding, but that's what the evidence tends to show," Gilbert told Cumber just before announcing his 13.5-year sentence. Cumber showed little reaction.

The sentence will be reduced by the 3.5 years Cumber already spent in prison for the arson, resulting in a 10-year sentence, possibly less with gain time for good behavior, Ostrander said. The probation violation could have resulted in a 30-year sentence.

"I just don't think the violation supports the severity of the sentence that he gave him," Ostrander said later, adding that a public defender may appeal the sentence.

High emotions

Friends of Musil-Buehler experienced a range of emotions on learning of Cumber's sentence.

"I'm ecstatic," friend Debbie Hall said. "But I'm still a little frustrated. I'm glad he's in jail. I just hope one day we find out what happened (to Musil-Buehler)."

"People that believed that he did it will feel like there is some justice," said friend Nancy House. "But I feel like proof is proof and they could never prove it."

House reported that she thought she saw the missing woman at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport on Nov. 13, but investigators said she could not be identified on airport tapes.

"It's still so sad. It's a sadness in my heart," House said. "She was a great lady."

Buehler did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

To report information on Musil-Buehler's disappearance or the fire, call the Manatee County Sheriff's Office at 747-3011 or the West Manatee Fire Rescue District at 741-3900.

Rewards have been established by the Sabine Buehler Benefit Fund at Whitney Bank, 5324 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach and the Manatee County Gold Star Club.


First turtle nest of the season

HOLMES BEACH — Sometime during the overnight hours between May 14 and 15, a female loggerhead turtle crawled ashore, dug a nest, deposited her clutch of eggs, covered them up with sand and returned to the Gulf waters.

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch volunteer Fred Mack and his wife, Sandy, were out the next morning walking their section of beach when they discovered the signs of the turtle's crawl and the disturbed sand that marked her nest. It was right in front of Martinique North.

"I never expected to find a nest this early," said Mack, who is in his ninth year of volunteering for AMITW. "I've found a few other nests over the years, but it's sort of exciting to find the first nest of the season. It's just serendipity, you could say."

With this first nest, everyone needs to be especially vigilant about keeping their lights off or shielded and keeping beach furniture pulled back off the beach, noted AMITW Director Suzi Fox.

Cities enforce their ordinances

Since lighting can cause sea turtles, both female nesters and newly hatched babies, to head the wrong direction (called a disorientation,) and furniture and tents left out on the beach can trap turtles, all three Island cities have turtle protection ordinances in place. Each city approaches the problem of lighting and beach furniture in its own way, but each city takes the responsibility of protecting turtles seriously.

Anna Maria

In Anna Maria, which is primarily residential, the beachfront is mostly dark. There are one or two spots that are problematic every year, but Code Officer Gerry Rathvon said overall she's pleased with the way the property owners work to keep the turtles safe.

"Pretty much everyone's in compliance," she said. "We have some problem places this year where landscaping has changed," she said. "But I'm working with the property owners."

Rathvon said the main recurring issue in her city is the fact that every week, there is a new crop of renters, and they don't always know about turtle protection.

Holmes Beach

On the beaches of this city, which has the longest stretch of beach on the Island, Code Officer Nancy Hall enforces the turtle protection ordinance.

"My main goal is to educate everyone," she said. "When we have a problem, it's usually with a renter who just doesn't know any better."

Hall said she's had pretty good results working with owners and rental management companies, and she'll continue to work in this area.

Hall said she spends about 20-30 hours during turtle season making random inspections of her city's beaches.

"What takes up the most time for me, is researching the property owner," she said. It's not always obvious who the owner is."

Bradenton Beach

The southern-most Island city has some unique problems.

"Because the Island is so narrow here, we can have a light in a parking lot on the bay that will cause a turtle on the Gulf to get disoriented," said Building Official Steve Gilbert. The city's two code enforcement officers, Gail Garneau and Wendy Chabot, work under Gilbert.

"Also, we've seen in the past the lights on the businesses across Gulf Drive from the beach can be a problem," he said. "So it's not only the properties that are directly on the Gulf that have to be looked at."

Bradenton Beach is the only city that has done a comprehensive look at what it costs the taxpayers to enforce the turtle ordinances.

Gilbert says all the work, including the monitoring of lighting done in the dark, researching property ownership, notifying home and condominium owners, phone calls, special masters fees and other related costs runs to more than $30,000 a year.

"That's a lot of money for the taxpayers of this city," he said.

This year, though education will be a prime responsibility of the code officers, the city plans to institute a citation process.

"We can't keep educating year after year," Gilbert said. "It's too expensive.

Now there is a citation that will work just like a traffic ticket. People violating the ordinance will have to pay a $75 fine or appeal the citation.

Easy to comply

It's not that difficult to comply with lighting regulations, according to the code officers in all three cities.

Anyone who wants to find out more or get advice and help can call the code officer in their city for information about inexpensive solutions that will work to protect turtles and not jeopardize human safety.

City to consider a cell phone tower
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

A proposed cell phone tower would look like this unipole.

BRADENTON BEACH – If police and first responders had their way, there would be more than one cell phone tower on Anna Maria and they might get their wish soon.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale talked about the situation at a city commission work meeting on Tuesday, May 5, where an additional tower was on the agenda.

"Cell phone tower coverage out here is terrible," he said. "Our officers use cell phones in addition to their radios and they can't get reception a lot of the time.

"The mayor and I went to a meeting at the county department of public safety where they talked about adding one on their property where they plan to build a lifeguard facility," he added. "The next day, we were approached by a company that wants to put one on our city property."

The tower, as proposed by Ridan Industries, of Tampa, would be 150 feet tall and would be located just south of the police station and the public works facility. Ridan President Kevin Barile gave a presentation, along with James Eatrides, CEO of Alpha-Omega Communications, LLC, of Longboat Key.

Barile said that there are several types of towers that they could use. The monopole, like the one at the West Manatee Fire station at 10350 Cortez Road W., includes small antennae around the base for each of the carriers that would subscribe to it. He said they could also build a tower disguised as a tree, but Eatrides said it would just look like a big phony Christmas tree.

Barile said the tower they would like to build would be a unipole, which would be a single round pole that is less noticeable.

"All unipoles have Fiberglas bodies that hide the small antennae," Barile said. "They have a slim profile that is less intrusive."

Barile said that they would have a deck around the pole about 10 – 11 feet off the ground so that the city could park its vehicles below it. He said it would fit in well with the area.

"It is three feet in diameter for the first two-thirds of its length and then it tapers off above that," he said. "It actually resembles the sailboat masts at the (Bradenton Beach) marina when you see it from Cortez Road."

The tower would be built to withstand 130 m.p.h. winds and it would be engineered to fold over at 100 feet up under load, so the wind could not blow the whole tower over.

They would propose a five year contract at $24,000 a year rent to the city with five-year extensions up to 50 years. Ridan would pay all expenses for construction and landscaping plus expenses for maintaining the landscaping.

Eatrides estimated they would have such a tower up and ready to run around April 2010, if they get started soon. The city commissioner agreed to let City Attorney Ricinda Perry look at Ridan's proposal and work with them on a contract.

Local Medicaid case resolved

ANNA MARIA — The Medicaid fraud case against the two owners of Acute Care Team, an Anna Maria health services provider, has been resolved with no admission of guilt being entered.

Jeanne April Ferguson, Holmes Beach, entered a no contest plea to one count of Medicaid fraud last week. She was sentenced to five years probation and ordered to pay $50,000 in court costs and restitution to Medicaid. If the fine is paid within a year, Ferguson's probation will be lifted.

Adjudication in Ferguson's case is withheld pending the successful completion of the terms of her probation, according to Lauren Berns, the prosecuting attorney in the case.

Nancy Ann Wood, also of Holmes Beach, was ordered to pay $50,000 in court costs and restitution. She has been placed in a pre-trial intervention program.

When a defendant is placed in a PTI program, there is no adjudication at all, Berns said.

If Wood successfully completes the terms of her probation, the charges will be dropped and will not be part of her record. She will be removed from probation as soon as she pays the restitution.

Berns confirmed the terms of Ferguson's case. He withheld comment about Wood's case, because with the PTI, the case technically is not yet settled.

All parties signed off on the agreement before Judge Diana Moreland on May 5.

Stephen Romine, the attorney for Ferguson and Woods, said his clients accepted the plea arrangement with the state attorney's office last week, because it was in their best interest.

"You'll note that they did not admit guilt, and that's because they aren't guilty, Romine said. "Their legal expenses were rising, there were no guarantees about the outcome of jury trial and they wanted to put this whole thing behind them."

Agents from the state attorney general's office staged a raid on the ACT offices early in the morning of Dec. 20, 2006.

Ferguson, Wood and five of their employees were arrested after an 11-month investigation. The seven were initially charged with submitting $2.6 million in counterfeit claims to the state Medicaid program. Medicaid provides essential services to people who can't afford the health care they need.

Each of the seven was charged with one count of Medicaid fraud, a third degree felony, and one count of organized fraud. The latter could have resulted in a 30-year prison sentence.

The organized fraud charge was subsequently dropped.

Three of the employees made a deal with the state attorney to plead guilty and testify against Ferguson, Wood and two other ACT employees.

Respiratory therapists Andrea Suarez, Carla Camacho and Stephanie Nichols were sentenced to 15 years probation in exchange for their testimony.

ACT Office Manager Heidi Rickert testified that neither she nor her employers knew the three respiratory therapists weren't providing the services for which they were billing. She refused to change that testimony and was sentenced to five years probation and $20,000 in restitution and court costs.

The case against the seventh defendant, Cynthia May, who also maintains that no one in the company knew the three therapists weren't providing the services they said were providing in a Bradenton group home, remains pending.

Relay for Life on AMI this weekend
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTO PROVIDED Barry Gould, president of the Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island,
gives American Cancer Society volunteer Nancy Ambrose a check for $300 at their
May 5 meeting to be a track marker sponsor at the Relay for Life on Anna Maria
Island on May 16 and 17. Other sponsors are SS20 Building Systems, the Survivor
Registration/Hope Sponsor, and the Chiles Group and AMI Resorts who teamed up
to be a track marker sponsor.

From 3 p.m. Saturday, May 16 until 9 a.m. Sunday, May 17, teams will take to the track at the south end of Coquina Beach for the Fourth Annual Relay for Life on Anna Maria Island.

The theme of this year's relay is Relaying Around the World, and teams have each chosen a country to decorate their area. Come on out to see the decorations, to eat, to shop or to participate in the raffles.

Team England will have popsicles, water, tea and glow sticks; Anna Maria Oyster Bar offers s'mores, breakfast sandwiches, coffee and coozies; Team TJ will have lap beads, quilt squares and bead bracelets; Pretty in Pink/Island Real Estate a bake sale; Pancreatic Pineapple Mashers will serve up sausage sandwiches and chips plus sell temporary tattoos; Curves has many great silent auction items for you to bid on, hand crocheted beaded bracelets in cancer colors by Twistlet Sisters, coolies and rugs made from recycled plastic bags, decorative fish from recycled bottles and fresh fruit cups; Historic Bridge Street Merchants offers kettle korn, a raffle with 45 prizes, sky lanterns and chair massages from 6-8 p.m.; Cortez Kiwanis is serving hotdogs and chips; SunTrust Saints a rummage sale with something for everyone, The Geckos Gang has face painting, pizza, and water; Star Fish Co. has their great smoked mullet; Team Sunflower will be having a bake sale and selling sunflower fans and photos with Star Wars characters, Pink Ribbon Pirates is promoting a kickball tournament that will take place at 2:30 a.m. and having chance drawings; Walgreens offers hamburgers, soda, peanuts, sunflower seeds, Cracker Jack and the Pittsburgh Pirates Speed Pitch machine. Who couldn't use a little extra cash these days – be sure to stop by the Anna Maria Island Sun booth to participate in our 50 – 50 drawing.

Join them at 3 p.m. on Saturday for the opening ceremony with soloist Lindsey Bell and the survivor and caregiver laps. Teams take the track at 4 p.m. with special theme laps happening: a 4 p.m. team review and purple parade; a 6 p.m. bubble lap; a 6:30 p.m. crazy hat; an 8 p.m. Road to Recovery with cardboard cars; at 9 p.m., the beach lap; and at 10 p.m., a purple parade.

At 10:30 p.m., the Relay Olympics start off with the teams wearing items to represent their country as they walk, and from 11 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., the Olympics will include a hula hoop and limbo contest, karaoke gong show, "So You Think You Can Dance" review, "Dude Looks Like a Lady" contest and a gender bender lap. From 2 – 6 a.m., laps will be glow stick, backwards, toga, pajama, conga, clownin' around, egg on a spoon, patriotic and rise and shine.

Don't miss the bands performing – Larry Wilhelm 5 – 6 p.m., Later Days 6 – 7 p.m., Blues Pig 7:30 – 8:30 p.m., HWY 41 from 9 – 10 p.m. Plus DJ and performer, Mike Sales will be entertaining from 3 p.m. – 9 a.m. The luminaria ceremony and lighting will be at 8:30 p.m. with luminarias being sold in honor or in memory of a friend or loved one from 3-8 p.m. Members of the Pittsburgh Pirates will be helping with the luminaria set up and lighting. Sunday at 8 a.m., Rev. Rosemary Backer from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church will lead a non-denominational service followed by the closing ceremony at 8:30 a.m.

For information contact Nancy Ambrose at 518-4431 or Kimberly Borsheim at 745-1214 ext 5806.

Circuit court judge dismisses Sorg lawsuit

HOLMES BEACH – A 2007 lawsuit filed against the city by William and Diane Sorg was ordered dismissed by Circuit Court Judge Edward Nicholas on April 13.

"There is no allegation that plaintiffs availed themselves of the right to appeal the final administrative order to the Holmes Beach City Commission within 30 days following its entry in order to contest its validity," the judge wrote.

The case began in October 2004, when the code enforcement board found the Sorgs, of 3707 Gulf Drive, in violation for making repairs on a balcony without a building permit and levied a fine of $30 per day.

When the fine was not paid within the 30-day period, it was recorded with the county, creating a lien on the property. The fine reached $28,000 before the couple came into compliance in May 2007. However, the fine still stood.

In the lawsuit, the Sorgs asked that the city remove the lien and allow them to build a quadraplex. However, the city has maintained that the structure is a duplex. The Sorgs further maintained that they do not owe the fine imposed by the code enforcement board.

In September 2007, city commissioners instructed the city attorney to begin the process of foreclosing on the property. In October 2007, Sorg appeared before commissioners and asked them to reduce the fine, but commissioners refused to do so. In December 2007, the Sorgs filed the lawsuit.

The Sorgs have 90 days to refile.

CDC changes swine flu guidelines for schools

Last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) eased guidelines for school closings regarding swine flu cases.

Previously, the CDC recommended closing a school for up to 14 days if a student or staff member contracted a laboratory-confirmed case of swine flu in order to keep the virus from spreading. The new guidelines call for keeping them out of schools during the period of illness and recuperation, when they are infectious to others.

According to a CDC press release, "We have learned that in many communities, the virus is widely circulating. When influenza becomes common in a community, it is unlikely that actions such as closing schools or daycare facilities are effective when it comes to slowing or stopping the spread of influenza viruses.

"Instead, such measures bring significant cost – such as interrupting student learning – without significant public health benefit. In addition, we have learned that the disease currently being caused by this novel flu virus appears to be similar with that typically caused by seasonal influenza."

"We got the directive from the CDC, and we are in parallel with what they recommend," Margi Nanney, public information officer for the Manatee County Schools said last week. "We can use flexibility with the way it's handled internally. It's up to the school based on the severity and number of cases."

The CDC further recommends that schools focus on identifying ill student and staff members, advising them to stay home for at least seven days if they are ill and urging everyone to practice good cough and hand hygiene. It advises that students or staff members who become ill during the school day should be isolated and sent home.

At press time, the county has three laboratory-confirmed cases of swine flu.

County approves bridge choice

A day after the Metropolitan Planning Organization agreed with the Florida Department of Transportation's (FDOT) choice for a new bridge from the mainland to the Island along Manatee Avenue, the Manatee County Commissioners did the same.

Although FDOT did not need the approval of either body, it took its choice to them to solicit comments. During discussion, county commissioners said they were behind the choice of a high, fixed span with two sidewalks aligned south of where the current drawbridge is located.

Commissioner Carol Whitmore, reacting to accusations at a Save Anna Maria (SAM) meeting that the county commissioners' minds were already made up, asked FDOT engineer Chris Piazza whether he had seen any prejudice by the commissioners during the process of gathering data for the decision. He said he had not.

Whitmore talked about her decision to oppose another low-level drawbridge.

"It's about safety," she said. "Without a safety lane, emergency vehicles cannot get on or off the Island.

"During the debate 16 years ago, I was for a mid-level drawbridge," she said. "A lot of people thought I was for a tall bridge, but I wasn't."

SAM President Ursula Stemm asked the commissioners to slow the process so those opposed to the high fixed span could have their say.

"In order to prevent a hasty decision, I am asking the commission to form an unbiased design committee," she said. "I also want to see an environmental impact statement on a tall bridge."

Stemm said the fixed-span won't affect traffic congestion.

"I live in Holmes Beach and commute to the mainland daily and witness bumper to bumper traffic leaving the Island," she said. "A fixed-span will not alleviate the traffic problem."

Environmentalist Mary Sheppard asked about the impact a new bridge would have on the seagrass and Commissioner Joe McClash said they could mitigate the damage like they did with the Port Manatee expansion project a few years ago.

"Recently, I had the opportunity to go on an airboat ride at the port and seagrass mitigation is part of the reality there," Commissioner Donna Hayes added.

There is no money to build a new bridge to replace the 52-year-old structure that was refurbished last year and early this year. McClash said that maybe the county should ask for the full amount, estimated at $150,000, from the state while the federal government is giving out stimulus money under the National Economic Recovery Act.

Whitmore talked about a trip to Tallahassee recently to lobby state lawmakers for money pertaining to certain projects. She said that County Conservation Lands Management Administrator Charlie Hunsicker had discussed the bridge with the delegation.

Hunsicker said that one lawmaker told him they should not ask for all the money at once, which is why they asked for $16 million to fund the engineering for the new structure for the next few years.

Hunsicker convinced McClash to go with what they requested.

The next stop for the bridge plans is the United States Coast Guard, which has the final decision on the design.

Singers raise dough-re-mi for cancer
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTO/NANCY AMBROSE Bill Bartlett, right, displays a one-of-a-kind
T-shirt for auctioneer Ron Coffey, left. Wearing a matching polo, Bartlett
sold the shirt off of his back, minutes later, to help boost proceeds.

Pelican Pete's Seafood Bar and Grill in Cortez hosted nearly 200 karaoke singers and patrons raising money for the American Cancer Society. Attracting people from as far away as Apollo Beach, "Karaoke for a Cancer Cure" raised more than $2,000 for cancer research.

"It was a fun blend of prize drawings, contests, and auctions throughout the night," remarked Reminisce karaoke jockey, Dee Clouse.

Up for bid were a four-day beach condo getaway, paintings by local artists and chances to be the next singer behind the microphone.

"I couldn't be happier," said Pete's owner Sylvia Marnie. "The singing was great and our customers generously contributed to the cause."

The event was coordinated by Nancy Ambrose and Bill Bartlett.




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