The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 39 - June 17, 2009


Campaign to keep trolleys free unveiled

HOLMES BEACH – Members of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council who favor keeping the trolley system free on Anna Maria Island announced a new campaign on Monday.

"Save Our Trolley" is a cooperative effort among Island residents, city and county governments, visitors and the business community to raise money for the trolley system, TDC member and Island hotelier David Teitelbaum said.

A two-day Island-themed festival in March similar to the successful Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival could raise funds for the trolley, he suggested, with multiple land and water-based parades, music events, art shows, food stands, carnival rides, boat races, bike races on closed streets, skimboard contests, fishing contests, home tours and fireworks.

Other fundraising options include county subsidies for 40 percent of the trolley costs ($40,000) based on usage, subsidies from the three Island cities ($10,000 each), donation boxes on the trolleys and sponsorship opportunities to name the trolleys for a year. Forty percent of trolley riders are tourists, while 60 percent are residents, according to the group.

TDC member and Island restaurateur Ed Chiles suggested raising money from donors and recognizing their contributions on signs in the trolley.

"We’re just trying to keep the trolley free for another year," he said.

"It would be imprudent to take this one year at a time," County Administrator Ed Hunzeker told the council.

"It’s an item we haven’t reduced" in recent budget cuts, he said, but attempts to generate revenue from selling advertising on electronic signs in the trolleys failed, he said.

Each of the three Island cities has contirbuted $8,000 each year for the past two years, but that has not solved the shortfall, he said, adding that as property tax revenue decreased with property values, the situation has worsened.

Charging $1 a day to ride the trolley would generate $100,000 a year, he estimated, reducing the contribution of each city to $6,000 a year, and reducing the amount needed from county tourist tax revenues.

"There’s no reason we can’t charge tourists," said TDC member and Bradenton hotel manager Tom Jung. "It can be free for residents and a charge for tourists."

The Manatee County Commission is scheduled to discuss the trolley in its upcoming budget public hearing on Thursday, June 18, at 6 p.m. in the Manatee County Commission chambers in Bradenton.

Scouts skip trip, give $$ to Humane Society
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTO COURTESY OF SANDRA VICTOR From left to right, Sarah Quattromani,
Amanda Bosch-Nyberg, Julia Ware and Rebecca Victor-Hinds hold the money
they donated to the Humane Society.

Local Girl Scout Troop 590 could have gone to Sea World, had a pizza party and attended the latest summer blockbuster movie with all the money they raised selling cookies this year.

Instead, the girls are donating that spending cash to help save homeless dogs.

According to Scout leader Sandra Victor, the Humane Society of Manatee County is $410 wealthier because of the generosity of the eight-member troop, and specifically, the four Anna Maria Elementary School grads who came up with the idea It all started when Scouts Sarah Quattromani, Amanda Bosch-Nyberg, Julia Ware and Rebecca Victor Hind heard about the increasing number of animals being turned over to shelters because of the bad economy.

Sarah learned of the situation first-hand, when her brother showed up with a dog he had adopted from the Humane Society. She approached Rebecca, who loved Sarah’s idea of donating their cookie-sale money to help the animals.

Amanda and Julia did too, and so the troop decided that saving homeless dogs was more important than going to a theme park or even the movies.

"Sea World will always be there, the animals might not be," Rebecca said.

So, it was off to the shelter, where the girls presented the Humane Society with their checks for $410.

While there, the girls played with adoptable kittens, toured the dog kennel and visited the hospital wing of the shelter, where they were introduced to Isabella, a young Chihuahua found wandering the streets after what appeared to be a hit and run accident, according to the scout leader.

"The girls were told their money donation to the no kill shelter would go towards the surgery needed to repair her (Isabella’s) cracked hips that more than likely were caused by the accident," Victor said.

The donation will offset the cost of the surgery and recovery, allowing Isabella to become adoptable and to hopefully live a happy, pain-free life.

Victor said she thinks it’s wonderful to see such selflessness in these youngsters from Anna Maria Elementary.

The four girls, all 11, will attend King Middle School as sixth-graders when school resumes in the fall.

Blood drive smashes record

HOLMES BEACH – The Annual Island Blood Drive broke all records for units of blood donated last weekend, according to Florida Blood Services Community Representative Wanda Read Burke.

This year donors gave 368 units of blood compared to 242 units last year, she said, and the Sunday donations amounted to almost as many as the ones on Saturday.

Read-Burke said 87 people donated blood under the Alyx System, which collects more red blood cells, which counts as twice the benefit as the regular donation. The breakdown of donations is: 141 regular plus 44 Alyx for a Saturday total of 185 units; and 40 regular donations plus 43 Alyx donations for a total of 183 units on Sunday.

"We couldn’t have done that well with 10 bloodmobiles on the Island," Read Burke said. "I want to thank everybody who gave blood and all the agencies involved, especially St. Bernard Catholic Church who let us use their facilities.”

In addition to the life-giving benefits of the blood collected, an unidentified benefactor gives $100 for each unit donated to one or a combination of five local non-profit organizations. Donors were able to direct the benefactor as to which agency, or a combination of agencies, gets the money. Alyx blood donors trigger a $200 monetary donation.

Wildlife Education got the largest amount of donations, $17,248, compared with $11,036 last year. Other amounts were $7,548 for the Anna Maria Island Community Center, compared with $3,586 last year; $6,548 for the Anna Maria Island Privateers, compared with $2,170 last year; $3,540 for the Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island, compared with $1,320 last year; and $2,915 for the West Manatee Fire Auxiliary, compared with $2,170 last year.

Island woman earns her star
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube poses with Grace Rivers
and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. John Kenney after she
received her star. SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT

Her customers knew her for a long time as a smiling face and a friendly voice as they bought their snacks and refreshments at Time Saver Food and Wine Store in Holmes Beach. Now the only "customers" she will be serving will be on a not-so-friendly basis.

Grace Rivers and 14 other students graduated from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Academy on Wednesday, June 10 with proud family members and friends watching. She now joins the staff at the county jail at Port of Manatee as a guard.

She received an award at the ceremony for her improvement in physical fitness, the difference between her testing when she began the 552 hours of training and her final test. She has something else to brag about, at 48 years old, she is the oldest trainee to ever graduate from one of the 35 annual classes.

It all began when Rivers decided she wanted something better than working as a store clerk for the rest of her life, even though she enjoyed working for owner Mondher Kobrosly.

She talked with Manatee County Sheriff’s Sgt. John Kenney, the ranking member of the substation that serves the city of Anna Maria and the man who she had been dating, and he recommended she try out for the academy.

"I told her it’s a good place to work with good benefits," Kenney said.

She filled out the paperwork, was accepted into the academy and left her full-time job to concentrate on her studies in December. She worked at Time Saver on Saturdays, where her customers were happy to see her.

Kenney, who will retire at the end of the month, attended the graduation and he was proud of her. At the ceremony, Sheriff Brad Steube had words for the graduates.

"You’ve got to have some goals, have a plan," he told them. "For the first two years of your career, get experience and try for deputy second class. For the next two, take classes so you can try for deputy first class. The next year, work toward getting promoted to sergeant."

Steube said that while they should take their careers seriously, they should set priorities.

"I worked shift work all my career until I made major," he said. "My partner and I would track drug money to Miami and then follow the drugs back to Manatee County and make the arrests. That’s all I knew.

"You need to prioritize starting with worshiping to your God, dedicating yourself to your family, to yourself and then to your career," he said. "I cannot tell you what my son did the first year of his life because I was too consumed with my job."

Steube had some closing words for the graduates.

"The content of your character is your choice," he said. "Your integrity is your destiny."

SAM says ‘No thanks’ to applicants

Save Anna Maria (SAM) has rejected the applications of several people who asked to join its ranks at a meeting on April 18.

The certified letters of rejection, dated June 12, state, "After lengthy deliberations and a telephone poll of our sustaining members, the executive board of SAM respectfully declines to accept your application for membership. We came to our unanimous decision because it reflected the consensus of SAM’s members and by virtue of the following power granted to us by our bylaws per Article III, Section (2) of SAM’s bylaws, the officers of SAM have the power to "...create such other standards and qualifications from time to time, as they may deem necessary for the orderly function of the organization."

The bylaws were dated January 1994.

One of those who applied for membership was Manatee County Commission Carol Whitmore, who said that she was shocked.

SAM President Ursula Stemm was out of town when the letters arrived and would not return until later this week. SAM Secretary Nancy Deal said that the group would rather not make an official comment at this point since it was a private matter.

Others who asked to join at the April 18 meeting included restaurateur Ed Chiles, Holmes Beach City Commissioner Sandy Haas-Martens Anna Maria businesswoman Sandy Mattick, Anna Maria City Pine Avenue Restoration developer Michael Coleman and Whitmore’s husband, Dr. Andre Reynard.

The rejections might have something to do with SAM’s anti-high-bridge stand on replacement of the Anna Maria Island Bridge. SAM was formed in 1994, when a group of people living and working on the Island opposed the state’s imposition of a high, fixed span structure to replace the aging drawbridge.

The group took donations and hired an attorney and after two years of arguing, the state gave up and did a minor rehabilitation on the drawbridge when a hearing judge ruled that Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) did not propery notify residents and businesses near the structure regarding the planned replacement.

In 2007, DOT informed Island officials that it was going to perform a major overhaul of the bridge and many people asked why the agency didn’t tear it down and replace it.

After exerting pressure on state and federal elected officials, the group was told that DOT would conduct a development and environment study on replacing the bridge with three public information meetings. It also polled the public through the Internet and flyers as to which configuration they preferred and the high bridge was the most popular.

SAM meanwhile has continued to support either refurbishing the drawbridge again or replacing it with another low-level drawbridge. The group contends that a high-level bridge would be less safe during high winds, especially when tropical storms are approaching and people need to evacuate. It also contends that a high-level bridge would be out of step with the Island’s laid-back, old Florida lifestyle.

Many of those who received, letters last week are supporters of something besides the low-level drawbridge. Whitmore said she thinks she is getting a bum rap.

"I was not a supporter of the high, fixed-span bridge when I was a (Holmes Beach) city commissioner in the 1990s," she said. "I wanted a safer bridge, but I preferred a mid-level drawbridge, so I don’t know why they are rejecting my application."

Waveless surfing a link to the past
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE | Matt Kostyal demonstrates the proper
stance during a stand up paddle surfing lesson in Palma Sola Bay.

An ancient Hawaiian pastime is making a comeback locally among surfers without waves and kayakers who don’t surf.

Stand up paddle surfing requires standing on a longer, wider, more stable version of a surfboard, and paddling, not with your arms, but with an oar.

Waves are optional.

"It’s really come back to life in the past three or four years," said Jim Brady of the West Coast Surf Shop in Holmes Beach, who provides rental paddleboards for the Silver Surf resort in Bradenton Beach.

"There is a learning curve" and a few tips to master, Brady said. For example, stand straight up instead of bending over, balance with your core instead of trying to balance by moving your head, and take small strokes instead of digging deep.

"It just takes a little practice," Brady said.

"It’s pretty easy to learn," said kayaker Cody Stapleton, of Bradenton, who paddle surfs on Palma Sola Bay, where Native Sports/Native Rentals of Holmes Beach sets up shop for lessons and guided tours of Robinson Preserve, which is accessible from the bay.

It’s a natural transition from kayaking to stand up paddling, especially for those accustomed to standing up in their kayaks to better see fish, owner Shawn Duytschaver said. Boards also are easier to transport than kayaks, he added.

Beginners can try land paddling first to perfecttheir technique,he suggested. Using a kahuna board – a large, narrow skateboard with wheels – and a stick the length of an oar, beginners can "paddle" on sidewalks, in the preserve or anywhere there’s a flat, hard surface.

Once in the water, where it’s safer to fall down, they can practice 360-degree pivot turns and paddling against the wind and currents.

The bigger the board, the easier it is to learn, Brady said. Board lengths range from seven to 14 feet, a monster size used mostly for long distance racing. Oars are six to nine inches taller than the user, and have only one paddle, which is angled. Outfits range from $1,250 to $2,000.

Recreational users usually opt for 10- to 12-foot boards, which can support more than one person, or possibly a cooler and a fishing pole, Brady said, adding, "You can cruise into schools of tarpon or manatees."

Boards under 11 feet are meant for dual duty in or out of waves.

Surfer Laird Hamilton has stirred up interest in stand up paddling in the waves off Hawaii, and markets his own brand of paddleboard with a handle in the center for easy carrying, which Native Sports rents and sells.

Like windsurfing, stand up paddle surfing in waves has some advantages over surfing; a surfer can catch more than one wave in a set by paddling back out before the set passes him by, a feat most surfers who are paddling without oars or sails can’t pull off. And standing up offers a better view of incoming sets, Brady said.

Locally, few paddle surfers ride waves. But even on the perpetually flat bay or the frequently flat Gulf, the sport is creating ripples of excitement about surfing waveless.

Everybody’s gone surfing, surfing P.S. Bay
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE | Dakota Schramer and Bandit the dog ride
on Acky, a retired polo pony in Palma Sola Bay. The Causeway
is the only beach where horseback riding is allowed.

PALMA SOLA – What do you do with retired polo ponies too spry to go out to pasture?

Saddle up for a surfing safari, of course.

Batman, Beverly and Acky are used to battling it out on polo fields, says their owner, former polo player Tim Mattox, so taking people for rides up and down Palma Sola Causeway seemed a bit too tame for their golden years.

After a nice, docile beach ride, the horses head into the bay to cool off and wade around. That’s when things get interesting.

Deeper and deeper they wade, until the water nearly covers their backs, their hooves can’t touch the bottom, and they start to swim.

Let the surfing lessons begin.

It should be easy. After all, you don’t have to fight your way out to where the waves are breaking and you don’t have to paddle into a wave that suddenly looks twice as big as you thought it was.

All you have to do is stand up on the back of a swimming horse like a trick pony rider in a rodeo, without falling off.

Is it as much fun as it looks?

"Yeah!" beamed Sara Wolfe, a recent Anna Maria Elementary School graduate, as she struggled to keep her balance.

"It’s different," said Dakota Schramer, who is used to jumping horses over fences as a member of the Illinois Hunter/Jumper Association. She took to horse surfing like a duck – er, a horse – takes to water.

The girls can thank Jennifer Brown for finding Great World Nature Tours in Lakewood Ranch, where Mattox offers the rides at $70 an hour. While visiting her vacation home on Anna Maria Island this month, the Chicago area resident researched places in Florida where horseback rides on the beach are available. There’s a place near Jacksonville, and there’s the Palma Sola Causeway, right down the street.

"We thought we had to go to some exotic island," she said.

The horses enjoy swimming in the hot summer, and are very buoyant because of their big lungs, said Mattox, adding that, as far as he knows, he invented horse surfing.

What’s next for the former polo ponies, who are becoming better swimmers every day?

Water polo, anyone?

Slow but sure progress on drainage

BRADENTON BEACH --– The engineer hired to oversee the city’s stormwater drainage improvements told city commissioners last week that money is the key to progress.

Lynn Townsend, of Lynn Townsend & Associates, said the city got a partial grant to help defray the expenses of the top five problem areas, estimated to be up to $3 million, and that she and the city would find ways to add to that.

Public Works Director Tom Woodard named the five troublesome areas that are prone to flooding from either heavy rainfall or a high tide. They are:

• Avenue A, where he said it seems like the roadway is sinking and there’s flooding when the tide is high;

• Avenue B from Runaway Bay, where he said something is blocking the water from draining and they are trying to find out why;

• Bay Drive South, which he said the city has addressed;

• First Street North at the Bridge Street outfall;

• And Bay Drive North between 10th and12th Streets.

Townsend told the commissioners that the city applied to the Southwest Florida Water Management District (Swfwmd) for five grants, one for each trouble spot, which Swfwmd turned into one grant. They received $100,000 for this coming fiscal year and $100,000 for each of the two following years. The city has $72,000, which it saved from its stormwater utility tax paid by landowners, so it will be able to spend up to $172,000 next year. Townsend said that since not all five areas are critical, the city needs to think out of the box to get the job done.

"We need to find ways to leverage the stormwater utility money to use as matching money for grants," she said. "Projects/programs manager Lisa Marie Phillips and I are looking for other sources of grant money."

Townsend said that the state took money from grants and put it into a revolving loan program, which the city should avoid since taking out a loan puts the onus on the city to repay the lender. She said would continue to make plans for spending the first portion of the grant and the stormwater utility money and keep the city commission informed of her progress.

"If you start work on, say, Avenue A, would you finish it before moving on to another project?" City Commissioner John Shaughnessy asked.

"That’s up to you," Townsend said. "We might have timing delays where we could spend money on other projects."

Woodard said the city would have its hands full getting easements from landowners where the underground drainage pipes are.

"One drain pipe has several Australian pines and reclinata palms growing over the pipes inside a fenced area," he said.

Townsend said that they would schedule an informational meeting for landowners there to tell what will happen and what they might have to do.

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