The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 46 - August 5, 2009


Bids sought despite public appeals
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY The county declined to extend
the consessions contract at Cafe on the Beach despite
a petition signed by more than 1,000 Cafe patrons. Here,
concessionaire Dee Percifield-Shaefer watches as Roger
Simmons, of Ruskin, adds his name to the list.

BRADENTON – Manatee County commissioners last week refused to reconsider their decision to seek requests for proposals (RFP) for an operator for the concessions at the Coquina and Manatee public beaches.

Commissioner John Chappie asked for a commissioner from the prevailing side to make a motion to reconsider, but none offered. According to Roberts Rule of Order, a motion to reconsider must be made by someone who voted on the prevailing side. Chappie and Commissioner Carol Whitmore voted against the original motion to seek RFPs.

Dee Percifield-Schaefer and her husband, Gene Schaefer, as P.S. Beach Associates, have had the concessions since 1992 and had a five-year extension that could have been approved by the county.

"Think about renewing our last five-year contract," Dee Percifield-Schaefer told the board. “We feel with the economy like it is, you’d be better to keep us because you know you’re going to get your check on the table the day it’s due and we will continue to do a good job."

"We’ve worked as team to keep everything under control from the menus to the service to the cleanliness and the facility in general," Schaefer added. "One of the key issues is to keep it safe for families and we’ve done that.

"We ask you to reconsider and give us the opportunity to fulfill our contract so that we can keep doing what we believe is an outstanding job at that beach."

More than 1,000 patrons of the concessions have signed petitions asking that the couple’s contract be renewed.

Commission response

Vice Chair Donna Hayes said the contract is expiring and the commission must follow the rules by seeking bids. Commissioner Ron Getman said he has received a large number of e-mails in support of the current operators.

Commissioner Carol Whitmore cited the recent New York Times article about the Island, it’s eateries and laid back atmosphere and pointed out, "These (Gene and Dee) are the people that attract visitors to the Island. The things they’ve done there keep us known all over the world."

Commissioner Joe McClash said the decision does not reflect on the job the couple has done, but he wants to "exercise the option to see what the market is like. It’s a business decision on the county’s part.

"The county administrator gave us assurance that the first priority will be given to the existing vendor. It puts everybody on notice that they have a high standard to meet."

Chappie asked that officials in the cities of Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach, where the concessions are located, be consulted throughout the process.

"We fully intend to vet the RFP before this board and any other interested parties before we put it out on the street," County Administrator Ed Hunzeker stressed. "We’ll be taking to the mayors and interested parties and make sure that it’s fair, open and well publicized before we go forward with the offer."

McClash suggested that representatives of the two Island cities be on the RFP review committee.

Scallop search to track population
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTO/RUSTY CHINNIS Bay scallops will be the target of the
Second Annual Sarasota Bay Great Scallop Search this Saturday.

The Second Annual Sarasota Bay Great Scallop Search will shed some light on predictions that Florida bay scallop numbers will be down this year compared to 2008.

During the Sarasota Bay Watch event on Saturday, Aug. 8, volunteers will search for the blue-eyed bivalves from 9 a.m. to noon at the Sarasota Outboard Club, 1763 Ken Thompson Parkway on City Island in Sarasota.

Volunteers for the free event must bring their own boat, crew and snorkel gear and will receive a T-shirt and lunch. The public is welcome to attend the post-search event from noon to 1 p.m. to learn about scallops and see the results.

While it is illegal to harvest scallops in Sarasota Bay, where populations have dwindled since the 1960s, volunteers with Sarasota Bay Watch are permitted to count them. Snorkelers found about 900 scallops during last year’s event, the group’s first annual scallop search.

Other searches have been conducted by biologists since 1994 in several areas of the state known to have scallop populations. Pre-season surveys indicate that most areas will have lower populations than in 2008, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Scallops indicate the health of bay waters, as they are one of the first species to be affected by pollution.

Scallop life

Florida bay scallops typically spawn only once, during the fall. Larvae float with the currents for 10-14 days until they settle onto seagrass blades. Several months later, the scallops detach from the blades and lie on the bay bottom on their lower shells, which are cream-colored to blend in with the sandy bottom. Upper shells are darker, helping conceal scallops in the grass. At rest, a scallop slightly opens its shell and peeks out from the curved, scalloped rim with dozens of blue eyes. If disturbed, it contracts and squirts itself away from predators.

Bay scallops are found in the Gulf of Mexico from Florida to Texas. The most stable populations in Florida – where state regulations allow recreational harvesting – are found in St. Joe Bay in the Panhandle and along the Nature Coast, particularly near the mouth of the Steinhatchee River.

Scallops may be harvested only in state waters north of the Pasco-Hernando County border and east of the western bank of the Mexico Beach Canal in Bay County. Open harvest season for bay scallops along Florida’s Gulf coast begins July 1 and runs through Sept. 10.

Bay scallops may be harvested only recreationally, not commercially; the sale of bay scallops harvested from Florida waters is illegal.

For more information on Sarasota Bay Watch or to register for the scallop search, call 953-5333 or visit

Island law enforcement to benefit from stimulus funds

All three Island law enforcement agencies will benefit from federal and state grants funded by federal stimulus dollars. The federal government as well as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will distribute the funds.

The city of Anna Maria will get $5,000 to purchase an ATV for manatee Sheriff’s Office deputies to use in patrolling the beach.

Bradenton Beach will receive $40,000 to replace a patrol vehicle and $36,000 to purchase laptop computers for six patrol vehicles.

"Because of budget constraints, we could not have bought a vehicle this year," Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale explained. "This comes at a very good time. The laptop computers will help us connect with the Sheriff’s Office dispatch center."

Holmes Beach will get $20,000 for computers for its vehicles.

"We hoped to get enough to put computers in every vehicle, but we got about half." Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine said. "Depending on the cost, we would like to put them in three or four vehicles."

Romine said the money will be available Oct. 1 and must be spent before the following Sept. 30.

Island teen faces cancer challenge with family, many friends nearby
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CHRIS GRUMLEY From left, Matt’s stepmother
and father, Susan and Hank Bauer, Matt, sister
Whitney Bauer and mother Julie Pecor.

Matt Bauer had strep throat leading up to the 4th of July and also complained to his mom, Julie Pecor, that he felt sick at work. Despite that, he went ahead with plans to celebrate the holiday with his friends. When he didn’t get any better, his mom, who is also a nurse at Manatee Memorial, ordered Matt to the family doctor.

Blood was drawn, the call came in and Julie was advised that her son had cancer.

Matt, 16, is suffering from acute myeloid leukemia, a rare but aggressive disease that works in the bone marrow interfering with the production of normal blood cells. AML is the most common form of acute leukemia and is treated mainly with chemotherapy. Treatment will be ongoing through April 2010 and sister Whitney will have her bone marrow tested to see if she is a match as a donor.

Mouth sores, hair loss and risk of infection are just some of the side effects of the chemo, but the family remains optimistic about the long term prognosis. Matt may be able to go home to more familiar surroundings in Holmes Beach, but treatment at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg will continue. Julie has been by her son’s side throughout this ordeal and co-workers have donated vacation hours to allow her extended time off.

The option to start his junior year a year late has been offered, but Matt may want to study as he goes through these months of treatment. He is surrounded by his immediate family while friends visit, bringing magazines, XBox 360 video games and offer encouragement to this popular teen, whose one concern beyond dealing with his illness missing basketball practice. Because the risk of infection is so high visitors must wash their hands before entering the room and stay away if they suspect they may have even the slightest common cold.

Fundraising is under way and there are collection jars around the Island. There is already talk of a three-on-three basketball tournament at the Community Center and a benefit is being planned in Bradenton. More details will follow.

Matt can be reached at All Children's Hospital, Two South, 880 Sixth St. S., St Petersburg, FL 33701. Telephone: 727-767 8989. Donations to the Matt Bauer Fund can be made at Wachovia Bank, 5327 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. Follow Matt's progress through

Storms, cats cause poor bird nesting season
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE These least tern eggs blend in with
the sand, making it necessary to stake out nesting areas
to protect them from beachgoers. Few were laid on
Anna Maria Island this nesting season.

The bird nesting season on Anna Maria Island ended on July 31 without the pitter patter of little bird feet on the sand.

"Not a single nest hatched on the Island," said Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox, who works with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to monitor and protect nesting areas on the Island.

Snowy plovers and least terns, both threatened species (one notch under endangered), and black skimmers, a species of special concern, typically nest on the Island.

Summer storms washed nests away or forced parents to abandon them, Fox said.

Cats also destroyed some nests, said Joe Sage, an assistant regional biologist at the FWC, adding that cats often are allowed to roam in violation of the law, and ordinances against roaming pets are seldom enforced by local law enforcement.

"Quite a few cat tracks were found along the dune lines," he said, adding that cats are hard to spot, especially at night. "A cat can wipe out a nest overnight."

A year of no hatchlings is not too unusual, Sage said. While conditions on the Island for bird nesting were similar to last year, a relatively productive year, he added, birds don’t necessarily nest in the same area from year to year.

This year, the birds got a slow start, prompting Fox to stake out nesting areas used in previous years before any nests were laid. Normally the areas are staked off after nests are laid. She installed black skimmer and least tern decoys to attract birds, and they came, made nests and laid eggs, but to no avail.

One of the few eggs found during the nesting season, which began in spring, was discovered floating in the surf due to summer storms, she said.

The nesting areas, which were staked to protect them from beachgoers who could unknowingly damage nests and eggs, have been cleared of stakes so beachgoers can enjoy them again, Sage said.

Port Dolphin supporters, critics come forth

PALMETTO – A panel of decision makers heard from supporters and critics of the proposed Port Dolphin natural gas port and pipeline last week at the Manatee Convention Center.

The hearing was part of Port Dolphin’s application process for a license to build a liquid natural gas port 28 miles off Anna Maria Island that would connect to Port Manatee with a 42-mile-long underwater pipeline.

Supporters of the project cited benefits including a positive economic impact on the area, including high-paying jobs, and meeting a rising demand for a clean, alternative energy source. They included spokespeople from Port Dolphin, Port Manatee, Associated Industries of Florida, Seminole Electric, the Tampa Bay Pilots Association and other energy and maritime representatives.

Critics expressed concern about the pipeline making underwater sand resources unavailable for beach renourishment on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key and the port’s potential environmental impacts, including its effect on fisheries.

Port Dolphin rerouted its proposed pipeline to lessen the impact on underwater sand resources, said Harry Costello, spokesman for the Houston-based company, a subsidiary of a Norwegian shipping firm.

Impact on renourishment

The rerouted pipeline would still prevent significant recovery of sand needed to replenish beaches, said Jennifer Fitzwater, Deputy Secretary for Policy and Planning for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, one of the agencies that will weigh in on the port’s approval.

In addition, she said, the fisheries data used in the U.S. Coast Guard’s Final Environmental Impact Statement on Port Dolphin is inadequate. She also noted calculation errors in the document, a key part of Port Dolphin’s lengthy application process.

Longboat Key Town Manager Bruce St. Denis said the errors result in the document overstating the amount of sand that would be available for beach renourishment if the pipeline is built along Port Dolphin’s proposed route. The document concludes that the pipeline will have a minor impact on sand resources, while town officials believe the impact will be a serious threat to renourishment programs and the tourism-based economy in both the town and Manatee County, he said.

"We only have enough (sand) for half of the next project," he said.

A Coast Guard panelist said the report is being analyzed for errors.

Risk to fisheries

Barbara Hines of Holmes Beach, a board member of environmental group ManaSota-88, said the port would heavily impact fisheries according to the environmental impact statement. She cited a passage saying that some hardbed areas of the Gulf bottom are not expected to rebound after construction.

She urged the panel to seriously consider denying the port application, or at least requiring the port to tie into the existing Gulfstream Natural Gas Systems pipeline that already supplies natural gas to Florida. Port Dolphin officials have previously rejected the suggestion, saying the systems are incompatible.

Port Dolphin’s planned pipeline route is "dangerously close" to the Gulfstream system where it comes ashore at Port Manatee, according to Gulfstream attorney Brian O’Neill, who called the placement an "unacceptable risk."

Port Dolphin would not impact the safe passage of vessels in Tampa Bay, said Allen Thompson, executive director of the Tampa Bay Pilots Association.

Port Manatee Director David McDonald said Port Dolphin is economically viable and will provide a competitive source of clean energy and high-paying jobs at the port.

"The public will be the winners," he said.

Gov. Charlie Crist is scheduled to make a decision on whether to allow the port to be built by Sept. 11, followed by an Oct. 26 deadline for the U.S. Maritime Administration’s decision.

Public input

Public comments on the project must be received by Aug. 24 at either (click on Search Dockets; enter 2007-28532; click on Send a Comment), or by regular mail to the Docket Management Facility, U.S. Dept. of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. S.E., West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, D.C. 20590-0001. Include your name, address and docket number USCG-2007-28532.

Chamber focus changed as time passed
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Betty Kissick and Sandy Haas-Martens, who both served
as president of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce.

HOLMES BEACH – The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce has led a dual life.

It is 60 years old but it has only been incorporated for 30 years, and since that incorporation, it has widened its goals and objectives to serve not only the business community, but also tourists.

That’s because it changed its focus as Island business leaders felt left out by the Manatee County Board of Commissioners and the Manatee County Chamber, according to Mary Ann Brockman, current president of the Island Chamber and a veteran of the early years.

The Chamber celebrates its 60th anniversary with a luau on Saturday, Aug. 8, from 5:30 to 10 p.m. at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach. There will be live music and dancing, food and refreshments for sale and lots of fun. Admission is $5 in advance and $10 at the door.

According to chamber records, businessman Jerry Cigarran founded the first Chamber in 1949. He was the first president, followed by George Morris, Paul Carlisle, Ted Tripp and Dick Wagner. No records were kept from 1961 through 1978, when a group of business owners gathered together in Bradenton Beach to form a business association.

"They reformed the Chamber to work on problems not being addressed by Manatee County," Brockman said. "Problems like the need to renourish the beaches and the need for windstorm insurance."

Those business owners included Herman Borstelman who became the first president of the new group, Jack Cedar, of Cedar Cove, future Bradenton Beach Mayor Katie Pierola, John Sharp, Jim Mitchell, Dolores Baker, Scott Hatfield, Mary Mond, Ted Pennington, Marion Smith, Florence Tully, Richard Carter, Bradenton Beach Mayor Dick Connick, Anna Maria Mayor John Cagnina and Brockman. On Feb. 14, 1979, they filed their incorporation documents with the state of Florida.

"We usually met at whoever was the president’s house and later at First City Federal Bank (where Whitney Bank is now)," said Sandy Haas Martens, who became an officer during that time. "We had no office."

Haas-Martens said that the Chamber finally got an office in a shopping mall next to Headquarters and moved to other locations over the years before landing at its present address.

Pierola tackled the problem of renourishment and cleared the way for the Island’s first project in 1992. Other members got the state to allow windstorm insurance coverage on the Island.

"Once we got those two goals accomplished, we kept meeting but became a more or less social group," Brockman said. "In 1992, incoming president Frank Davis made it more pro-active."

That did not sit well with Jan Martin, the part-time executive director. She was replaced after Davis took office by the first full-time executive director, Darcy Lee Marquis.

Brockman became Chamber president after Davis, followed by Don Howard, who was a Holmes Beach city councilman. After Marquis, Brockman became executive director and serves in that capacity to this day, although her title has changed to president and the president is now called the chairman of the board.

Over the years, Chamber membership grew from 199 to 552.

"I remember when we had to work hard to keep it at 199," Brockman said. "We’ve come a long way since then."

Indeed, the Island Chamber was named Small Chamber of the Year in 2007 by the Florida Chamber of Commerce and the Island was named the number one destination by Trip Advisor, a Web-based travel group.

Brockman said that the Island is unique and the Chamber is a product of and an aid to that uniqueness.

"We like what we are and who we are," Brockman said. "We like that we have zoning laws that regulate development that other areas have let run wild. We like that the county jumped on board and realized that this is the golden egg and they need to promote and protect it."

Brockman said that since Frank Davis, the Chamber has moved forward, dealing with the future.

"Each new board gets more forward thinking," she added. "We have a five-year plan now and we update it each year."

Brockman said that members want to continue to offer an incentive to the young people who live here.

"We want to continue to offer scholarships for high school seniors, so they will get an education and feel good about coming back here to live," she said. "We also want to continue to put money away to help businesses when there is an emergency such as a storm.

Most of all, she said, they want to promote the businesses.

"We want to provide Chamber members with the venue to advertise their businesses," she said. "In the past few years, our visitors and contacts have more than doubled, thanks to advertising."

All in all, she said, they’ve come a long way.

For tickets to the luau, call the Chamber at 778-1541 or visit them at 5313 Gulf Drive Holmes Beach. Credit cards are accepted.

She walked the hills to fight cancer
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTO PROVIDED Amanda Escobio, with her arms raised,
walks past the finish line. A blister kept her from walking
four of the 39 miles in the walk.

BRADENTON BEACH – Island Wellness massage therapist Amanda Escobio, a veteran of the Relay For Life cancer walk at Coquina Beach, recently returned from another walk in San Francisco over that city’s famous hilly terrain.

The Avon Walk for Breast Cancer (, sponsored by the well-known cosmetics company, attracted 2,800 participants to walk the 39-mile route that began and ended at the same location. They raised more than $6 million to support a national network of research, medical, social service and community-based organizations.

"It’s amazing what a well-run organization it is," she said. "I didn’t know it, but they have been giving almost since their inception. They have walks in other large cities like Houston, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, the Denver area, Los Angeles, New York and Charlotte."

Escobio, who was born in Florida, lived for 12 years in northern California and still owns a business there along with her business at 109 First St. N. in Bradenton Beach. She travels to California several times each year.

Escobio said she attended a training session in May, about a month before the walk, and was inspired by the speakers more than a movie star who also participated.

“Reese Witherspoon has been a spokesperson for the Avon walk and she was scheduled to make an appearance and maybe walk with us, but first some doctors spoke," she said. "They were so interesting that by the time she spoke, it was kind of anti-climatic."

Escobio said that one of the speakers, Dr. Susan Love, spoke on the Oprah Winfrey show about the Love/Avon Army of Women ( about one of the needs the medical community has.

"They need more information about women from all walks of life," she said. "They plan on getting at least a million women into their data base who would be willing to participate in tests and give specimens."

Escobio said that that Dr. Love’s appearance on Oprah brought in a huge response.

Escobio decided to walk with friends from the Napa Valley area and her good friend, Denise Cook, with whom she decided to walk while the two were celebrating their birthdays.

On the first day, Escobio walked 26.5 miles to and from the Golden Gate Bridge. The second day, she walked 8.5 miles and on the third day, she sat out four miles in the middle of her walk because she injured her knee while walking up and down the hills. That caused her to walk unnaturally and she got a blister. After visiting a blister station, she was able to complete her walk, covering 35 of the 39 miles.

"I enjoyed the whole experience, from the walking to the finish line," she said. "It wasn’t easy to ask my friends and business contacts for money, but they were glad to donate."

Escobio said that she appreciates the fact that Friday Festival organizer Cindy Thompson let her set up her chair and offer massages for donations to the walk. Her friend Nancy Ambrose, a cancer survivor, walked among the crowd trying to get customers.

"Nancy Ambrose inspires me," she said. "She brings so much energy to whatever she does and she worked so hard for the Relay For Life."

While Escobio has never been diagnosed with cancer, she has had customers who have lost family members and friends to the disease. She said she did it for them.

"It seemed like a very small thing for me to do," she said.

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