The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 36 - May 27, 2009


LBK seeks help with pipeline

BRADENTON BEACH – The town manager of Longboat Key took the trip across the bridge to ask this city’s commissioners for help in rerouting a natural gas pipeline in the waters north of Anna Maria Island.

Bruce St. Denis asked city commissioners to write a letter to the U.S. Coast Guard and Florida Congressman Vern Buchannan supporting Longboat’s contention that the Port Dolphin gas pipeline would cut into the area where the best sand for renourishment is located.

"They agreed to move it once, but it is still in the barrow area where we get our best sand," he said. "We want it to go further north."

St. Denis said that the loss of that barrow area could have dire consequences.

"If there isn’t enough sand out there, we would be looking at the area where you get your sand," he said.

City Attorney Ricinda Perry asked what Longboat’s deadline is and St. Denis said within the next two to three weeks. Perry asked him to send her copies of Longboat’s documentation and she would ask the city clerk to put the issue on the agenda for the next commission meeting on Thursday, June 4, at 7 p.m.

The Port Dolphin project caused a furor among Manatee County officials when it was originally proposed close enough to the barrow area that the county uses to make it too dangerous to use. The company finally relented, moving the pipeline, but has balked at moving it for Longboat Key.

German TV to feature Anna Maria Island
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

A German television production crew filmed Kim Ibasfalean
of Captain Kim’s Boat Rides and Charters last week in the
Intracoastal Waterway behind the Mar Vista restaurant.

German television audiences will see 17 minutes of scenes from Anna Maria Island, Longboat Key and Bradenton on two travel programs in September.

Dodging unusual rains last week, a production crew filmed scenes for segments on the "100% Vacation" and "Travel Advice" programs that will feature the beaches, Snooty the manatee at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton, Prime Outlets in Ellenton and several hotels chosen by the crew, said Jessica Grace, of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

While German radio listeners heard about the Island during the Jazz on the Islands campaign two years ago, and stories have appeared in the German press, the two travel programs are Manatee County’s first introduction to German television audiences, Grace said.

It was the first time that Kerstin Woldt, a producer with the ARD Radio and Television Network, had been to Anna Maria Island, she said, and her favorite places were Bean Point and the two piers in Anna Maria.

The Island compares favorably to the Caribbean, she said, adding that accommodations here are more "luxurious," and people are equally friendly and casual.

Germans typically have a month of vacation time each year, and split it in half, she said. A two-week stay in Florida would likely include a week in Orlando’s theme parks and week at the beach, either east coast or west coast.

Relief over burglary arrests

AMISUN News Robbery Banker      AMISUN News Robbery O'Keefe
Patrick Banker                                   John O'Keefe

ANNA MARIA – The news that there were arrests following a two-month string of overnight burglaries on and near the Island travelled quickly on Tuesday, May 19. Victims expressed gratitude for the alert actions that resulted in the arrests while the suspects, John J. O’Keefe and Patrick Banker, were caught allegedly burglarizing The Waterfront Restaurant at 111 South Bay Blvd. for the second time.

"It was great, very exciting," said Waterfront owner Jason Suzor. "I got the call around 2 a.m. that they had just caught both of them. It good to have closure on the whole thing."

Suzor said it was good to know that the suspects were reportedly implicated in the other burglaries.

The owner of the Beach Bistro, which was burglarized April 13, praised the police.

"All of the departments worked together and speaking as a member of the Holmes Beach Police Pension Board, I am proud of them all," Sean Murphy said. "It’s a little unsettling when you get robberies, but every body should feel better now."

However, while the arrests may have solved one form of robbery, another is still unsolved. Police are still looking for a group of people who distract store clerks while one of them takes money and credit cards from the clerks’ purses, which are usually stored near the cash register. The suspects are African-American and one of them has been described as an older woman with a face-piercing piece of jewelry or a gold tooth. Ruth Mercer, who works at Two Scoops, which was hit by the group, said the news of the burglary arrests was great, but she still has hope that the other robbers are caught.

Pam Flow, who works at Two Sides of Nature, was a victim of the daytime robbers.

"The woman who was trying on clothes to distract me from the cash register was very nice and dressed nice," Flow said. "She acted like she wanted to buy and tried on a lot of clothes, but she said nothing fit and she would have to come back another time."

The other woman got away with money, a credit card and a driver’s license from Flow’s purse.

Fire board approves $5 increase

HOLMES BEACH – West Manatee fire commissioners last week approved an increase in the fire assessment of $5 for both residential and commercial properties, with no increase in the square footage rate or for vacant lots.

Fire Chief Andy Price told commissioners that he is proposing no increase in the operating budget, but a $5 increase for a capital budget for facilities improvements. Price said the district is applying for federal stimulus funds for improvements, but there is no guarantee it would receive the funds.

"We have to address future funding for our facilities," he explained. "We plan to develop a capital budget, and for that we need to generate revenue. We propose an increase in the base rate of $5 for future renovations."

Resident David Phillips said since the district is losing parcels through annexation by the city of Bradenton and has less territory to protect, there should be a decrease in the assessment.

"We still have to have the same number of firefighters and our costs are the same," Price replied.

Phillips asked why the facilities need renovating, and Price said they are old, too small to house the present crews and the district has to comply with certain federal and state standards.

"We’re trying to remodel to meet the needs of our people," Price explained. "Our stations were built 20 to 40 years ago and the district was all volunteer. If we don’t start planning now and have the funding to do the work in the future, it will just get worse."

"Our country is in bad shape," resident Al Robinson declared. "No one has the guts to cut and say we can do with less. We should be taking about cuts, not increases. We’re out of control."

Commissioners respond

"I had hoped we didn’t have to raise rates, but I recognize the importance of investing the future of the district and the community we serve," Commissioner Randy Cooper said. "I’ve been to all three stations and seen the condition they are in. We need to start saving for renovations."

Cooper asked Price how much commissioners could have increased the assessment. Price said they could have used the Florida Personal Income Growth Factor, which is 7.1 percent this year, and it would have increased tax bills by more than $30 for residential and $50 for commercial.

Commissioner John Rigney pointed out that this is the only fire commission in the county that is volunteer and that commissioners also pay taxes.

"Every time we look at a budget, we look at the well being of the public and the firefighters," Rigney said. "We want to spend the money wisely, and make our buildings work better."

"I’m worried about cutting our operating budget. Everything we buy – every tool, every medical supply – is going up in cost. I’m afraid if we cut too much we’ll be further behind next year."

Rigney proposed an additional $2 assessment for the operating budget.

Commissioner Larry Tyler disagreed and noted, "We can get along with that (the $5 increase). I don’t think we’re hurting any services. I’m not for an increase either, but we have to look toward the future."

Cooper suggested putting $1 of the $5 increase in the operating budget and the remaining $4 in a capital budget.

"Randy’s proposal would take some of the pressure off," Price acknowledged.

Commissioners approved Cooper’s proposal.

Mar Vista fireworks request scrutinized

ANNA MARIA – The Island’s Fireworks Task Force plans to send out its July 4 message that fireworks are illegal and will be confiscated to residents and visitors in a variety of ways.

Message boards will be parked along roadsides, flyers will be distributed to rental agents and public service announcements will be aired on government television stations. In addition, the information is posted on Island city and county Web sites.

Sgt. Dave Turner, of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, said the Sandbar plans to hire four off-duty officers to check for alcohol and fireworks’ violations. He said illegal fireworks would be confiscated and turned over to the bomb squad.

Mayor Fran Barford asked him to coordinate the collection with the Holmes Beach Police Department, which last year placed receptacles for the confiscated fireworks in the field by city hall.

"People don’t know the difference between legal and illegal fireworks," pointed out Bob Tollise, county hazmat coordinator. "I think they need to see it."

He suggested making a poster featuring photos of each kind and hanging it in Island businesses, particularly at the restaurants where the displays are planned. Barford said she would contact Ed Chiles, owner of the Sandbar, BeachHouse and Mar Vista, about it

Fireworks at Mar Vista

Barford asked Longboat Key Fire Marshal Lou Gagliardi about a request from the Chiles Group to have a fireworks display at Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant and Pub on Longboat Key on July 4.

"We’re reviewing it," Gagliardi explained. "They want to have a barge on the water and our concern is the fallout area for the boats and the docks."

He said Mar Vista is on a dead end street and it could cause serious traffic issues. He also pointed out that Mar Vista is on the Intracoastal Waterway and the Coast Guard has jurisdiction.

Barford said fireworks displays are planned for July 3 at the BeachHouse in Bradenton Beach and July 4 at the Sandbar in Anna Maria. She said if there is a display at Mar Vista, it would draw some of the crowd that comes to Anna Maria.

Suspects to be arraigned separately

One of the two suspects in a string of burglaries has hired an attorney, pled not guilty and requested a jury trial according to court records.

Patrick Banker, 18, of Sarasota, was to be arraigned before judge Gilbert Smith, Jr., but his attorney, Varinia Van Ness, of Sarasota, filed to waive the arraignment when she asked for the jury trial. No date has yet been set.

The other suspect, John J. O’Keefe, 18, also of Sarasota, apparently does not have a private attorney of record, and he will be arraigned before judge Diana Moreland.

Authorities say Banker was the one who cooperated with them after the two were caught early Tuesday morning while allegedly trying to burglarize The Waterfront Restaurant for the second time in two weeks. O’Keefe continues to deny having anything to do with the burglaries.

So far, Banker has been charged with 16 offenses ranging from petit theft to burglary. O’Keefe has been charged with nine offenses.

Here’s a chronological look at the crime spree to which Banker allegedly confessed, according to probable cause affidavits on file with the district court:

• March 29, 4:30 a.m., the Anna Maria City Pier, 100 South Bay Blvd.
• April 13, 2:30 a.m., the Beach Bistro, 100 66th St., Holmes Beach (with O’Keefe).
• April 13, 1:05 a.m., Touch of Class Car Wash, 6310 14th St. W., Bradenton.
• May 7, Pelican Pete’s, 12012 Cortez Road W., Cortez.
• May 8, Two Sides of Nature, Two Scoops,101 Bay Blvd., Anna Maria.
• May 8, Tyler’s Homemade Ice Cream, 11904 Cortez Road, Cortez.
• May 11, Centre Shops stores, Ciao’s restaurant, Don Frank Salon, Exit Art, Blue Dolphin Café, and Longboat Resort Wear, Longboat Key (with O’Keefe).
• May 17, Rotten Ralph’s at the Bridge Street Pier, 200 Bridge Street, Bradenton Beach.
• May 19, The Waterfront Restaurant, 111 South Bay Blvd., Anna Maria.

In addition, O’Keefe was charged with burglarizing a business at 6412 Manatee Ave. W., in Bradenton on May 19. According to the affidavit, he entered the business and then left when he heard a noise. The security recording showed the burglar was wearing the same clothing as O’Keefe when he was caught following the Waterfront burglary later that night.

Bond was set at $45,000 for each suspect.

Center finances continue to improve

ANNA MARIA – For the second month in a row, the Community Center got a brighter budget picture – revenues were up while expenses were down.

"As projected, thanks to a very successful Affair to Remember, we finally got over the top and made almost $79,000," Treasurer Bill Ford reported. "Now we’re over expenses $8,500 for the year, which is quite an accomplishment considering where we were a few months ago."

Ford said he compared April 2008 to April 2009 and the revenues are almost identical, However, expenses are down from $889,000 to $695,000.

"At this time in April 2008, we were $139,000 negative versus $8,500 positive for this year," he said.

"The Center is projecting a conservative 1.6 percent increase in revenue in 2009-10," Executive Director Pierrette Kelly added. "Manatee County government grants will be reduced by 3 or 10 percent, depending on availability of tax revenues, and foundation grants remain difficult to obtain due to the current economic conditions."

She said the Center is focusing on providing quality programs and services, increasing memberships and developing new programs to meet the needs of the community.

Ford said he is working on a three-year budget plan that will be finalized in June. He said the plan includes a 5 percent profit for reserves in the third year.

The board welcomed a new member, Greg Ross, who grew up on the Island and at the Community Center and attended Florida State. He then worked at American Express, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson.

"I quit Johnson and Johnson seven years ago, so my wife, Lee, and I could move back to the Island to raise our children. We have nine-year-old twin boys, Jake and Andrew."

The family is active in the Center and owns Ross Built, a construction company.

Board members also met Pat Gentry, the Center’s VISTA volunteer, who is focusing on programs and activities for seniors.

"We’re all getting older and have needs," Gentry explained. "I want to know my community can support that."

In addition, Gentry said she is recruiting seniors to volunteer at the Center and pointed out, "They all have a lifetime of experience and knowledge, and I’d like to team them up with our teens and children and use this.

Historical Society introduces director to community
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/PAT COPELAND From left, Island graduating seniors
Nathan Hickerson, Severin Walstad and Jessica Pate were awarded
$1,000 scholarships at the Historical Society’s party May 14.

ANNA MARIA – AMI Historical Society members welcomed about 75 residents and elected officials to the native garden behind Belle Haven Cottage to meet their new director and congratulate their scholarship winners.

The Historical Society awarded $1,000 scholarships to three Island graduating seniors. Recipients were Jessica Pate, Nathan Hickerson and Severin Walstad.

Pate is the daughter of David and Deborah Pate, of Holmes Beach. She plans to study liberal arts at Furman University in South Carolina.

Nathan Hickerson is the son of Joyce Karp and Gary Hickerson, of Holmes Beach. He plans to attend MCC and then New College.

Severin Walstad is the son of Dana and Jamie Walstad, of Anna Maria. He plans to attend the University of Florida and major in political science.

The group presented a framed photograph of people with parasols walking down Pine Avenue lined with palm trees to Micheal Coleman and Ed Chiles of the Pine Avenue Restoration Project. Coleman has said that photograph was the inspiration for restoring Pine Avenue as a walking district.

"Let’s start a conversation among neighbors about what Pine Avenue and Anna Maria should be," Coleman said inviting residents to come talk to him. "We’re building this for our village community, not the tourists."

"We are pleased that you have recognized us," Chiles added. "We are proud of what we’ve done on Pine Avenue."

Members of the Society also elected the following officers: Thea Kelley, president; Betty Yanger, vice president; George McKay, treasurer; Pat Copeland, recording secretary; Susan Anderson, corresponding secretary; and board members: Melissa Williams, Ellen, Lyn Sprinkle, Sandy Young, Judy Hildeman and Evelyn Hoskins.

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