The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 44 - August 4, 2010


First lionfish found off Anna Maria

AMISUN News Robbery Banker

ANNA MARIA – Divers discovered the first lionfish in area waters seven miles off Bean Point on Thursday, startling scientists who were unaware that the venomous, non-native fish had arrived here.

“The genie is out of the bottle. We were thinking that our local limestone ledges would not be suitable for this species,” said John Stevely, local extension agent for the Florida Sea Grant program, adding that the Pacific Ocean fish was introduced into the Atlantic Ocean, possibly by a pet owner, and has rapidly spread to the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.

Also known as the scorpionfish or firefish, the lionfish has poisonous barbs containing a venom that can cause nausea, breathing difficulties and even death in sensitive people.

Pterois volitans has a very, very painful sting, and the barbs go through everything,” Stevely said.

Kevin Lausman, a member of the Manatee County Sea Grant Extension Advisory Committee, was diving with two buddies, Larry Borden, also a committee member, and Tim Adams, on Thursday when he noticed something protruding from a rock that looked like it didn’t belong there.

“I saw something under a ledge, and thought, ‘I don’t believe I’m looking at that,’ ” said Lausman, who grew up on Anna Maria Island, where his uncle operated a bait shop.

The divers, all aquarium enthusiasts, had a capture net on board and carefully scooped up the lionfish, which now lives in Lausman’s home aquarium.

It’s the first sighting of a lionfish in local waters, but not the first in Florida.

In January 2009, the first lionfish was reported in the Florida Keys, and researchers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recently collected two juvenile lionfish from the Gulf of Mexico, 99 and 160 miles off the southwest coast of Florida, north of the Dry Tortugas and west of Cape Romano.

The fish have few known predators, and compete with native fish species, which concerns scientists.

Research indicates that local populations are descendents of a few individuals, supporting the theory that lionfish were introduced to the Atlantic by a home aquarium owner.

In the Caribbean, people are encouraged to spear and eat the fish to reduce the population, Stevely said, adding that only the barbs are poisonous.

If you see a lionfish, note the location, depth, number and size of the fish and call 252-728-8714 or email

Stoltzfus qualifies for recall election

AMISUN News Robbery Banker Harry Stoltzfus
Aubrey                              Stoltzfus

ANNA MARIA — City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus has qualified to run in an election that could recall him from office.

The rare election will be held Sept. 7 if a judge decides later this month that the recall process has been followed properly.

If that happens, Stoltzfus will be running against local architect Gene Aubry, with the winner serving out the remainder of the commissioner’s term, which runs through the first Tuesday of November, 2011.

The unusual situation of a candidate running in an election to recall him is not without precedent. A commissioner in Naples was recalled a few years ago, and then was elected again by the voters to fill his own seat.

Aubry said he wants to use his experience “to help bring some common sense to the commission.”

“We need to follow our codes,” he said. “If a development is in compliance with the rules, then we have to pass it. If we don’t like the rules, then we need to write new ones. It’s that simple.”

Stoltzfus said he’s ready to fulfill his term of office.

“Regarding policy issues, I intend to keep on doing what I’ve been doing: ask the commission to closely examine our land development regulations and where ambiguity exists, change the language to align it with the obvious intent of the comprehensive plan."

Mayoral race

Mayor Fran Barford announced earlier that she was not going to run for a third term.

Sandt MattickMike Selby
Mattick                              Selby

Two candidates have stepped up to run for her position. Sandy Mattick, the former owner of Pine Avenue General Store, has qualified to run for the position. She currently serves on the planning and zoning board.

“I have a long history of government service,” Mattick said. “I have always been involved in the process. I believe I can make a difference in Anna Maria.”

Mattick, whose mother, JoAnn Mattick, has just been reelected to the commission, said she and her mother are independent thinkers and both make up their own minds.

Mike Selby also qualified as a candidate for mayor just before the deadline last Friday, July 30.

“It was literally an 11th-hour decision to run, because I was at a crossroad – either leave Anna Maria or become more involved because of my love for the city,” Selby said from North Carolina, where he was on Friday.

Elections Supervisor Bob Sweat said there is no problem with qualifying for election while out of town.

“As long as all the paperwork is complete and correct, a candidate can qualify for election,” Sweat said. “There’s no problem here.”

Both candidates say they have noticed changes in the city over the past year, and they are disturbed by the divisiveness in the community.

Both say they want to be part of the solution rather than a contributor to the problem concerning development on Pine Avenue.

Incumbents reelected

The only thing that’s certain on the city’s political scene is that incumbent Commissioners JoAnn Mattick and Chuck Webb have been reelected. The terms of both are up in November, and neither commissioner drew any opposition, so they are automatically returned to office for two more years.

Both Mattick and Webb said they’re interested in having a part in helping the city resolve some of the on-going issues such as the controversy over parking and development on Pine Avenue.

Recall history

That hard-fought issue of development and the parking that goes with it on Pine Avenue and in other parts of the city’s residential/office/retail district was intricately connected to the recall election.

When Pine Avenue Restoration made a public records request to Commissioner Stoltzfus, demanding copies of his electronic correspondence about city business, several e-mails became a problem for the sitting commissioner.

There are several communications in which he makes strongly negative remarks about city staff and consultants, and there are several instances in which he offered to help fund lawsuits against the city if his name could be kept from public view.

After the release of the electronic correspondence, a recall committee was formed. Bob Carter, a resident who had not previously been involved in politics, headed it.

That recall went through a first round during which the signatures of 10 percent of the registered voters was obtained and then certified by Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat.

Then a second round of the petition, including a defensive statement by Stoltzfus, was circulated and the signatures of 19 percent of the registered voters were collected. The requirement for this second round was 15 percent.

The Supervisor of Elections certified those signatures as well.

Court ruling remains

The recall election may be scheduled, but whether or not it will take place is in the hands of Circuit Judge Edward Nicholas.

Richard Harrison, Stoltzfus’ attorney, has appealed to the court to quash the recall election on the grounds that the language in the petition was so vague that his client couldn’t mount an effective defense.

Nicholas denied an earlier appeal for an expedited hearing. He said there would be ample opportunity to challenge the petition if the second round of signatures were to be certified.

Nicholas will hear arguments on Aug. 12 beginning at 1 p.m. He’s set aside three and a half hours for the hearing.


Fisherman drowns off boat ramp

Law enforcement officials gathered at the Kingfish boat ramp
in Holmes Beach on Thursday afternoon to investigate
the drowning death of Terry Cox.

HOLMES BEACH - A man drowned in a rip current on Thursday afternoon while fishing about 400 yards from the southern shoreline of the Intracoastal Waterway near the Manatee Avenue bridge.

Terry Cox, 50, was fishing with friend John Bell when Bell saw Cox move his arms in the water, as if fighting a fish, according to a police report.

Bell heard Cox call for help, and noticed that Cox was in a rip current that passes under the Manatee Avenue bridge. According to Bell, Cox appeared to be drowning and was panicking. Bell called out to Cox to swim away from the current and towards the mangroves to the west. He attempted to swim out to Cox, but realized that there was a high tide and the water was too deep for him to swim and fight the current.

While Bell was getting out of the water to seek help, Cox disappeared, he told police.

Cox’s body was found by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Terry Noll about an hour after his disappearance was reported about 120 yards south of the Kingfish Boat Ramp in four feet of water, according to a police report.

Bare bones budget in Holmes Beach

HOLMES BEACH – Calling it bare bones, Mayor Rich Bohnenberger and City Treasurer Rick Ashley presented the $8,413,450 budget for 2010-11 to commissioners last week.

Last year’s budget was $7,865,490 with a millage rate of 1.7549. Last week, commissioners approved a millage rate of 1.75 for 2010-11.

“The proposed budget meets the needs of the city and the charter,” Bohnenberger told commissioners. “There are no raises for employees. We are trying to be as prudent as possible.”

“I see every bill that comes in and every check that goes out of here, and I want to commend your department heads for watching your city checkbook,” Ashley added.

“They save money where they can, and it’s starting to show. We are one of a few local governments that haven’t had to access their cash reserves.”

Commissioner David Zaccagnino pointed out that the city will receive $50,000 less in gas taxes, and Chair Sandy Haas-Martens said the Manatee Sheriff’s Office will no longer pay the city $10,000 to patrol the public beach.

Pay and benefits

“The employees are probably underpaid for what they do,” Commissioner John Monetti commented. “They’ve had a two-year freeze, and I’d like to think that maybe the third year we could do something a little different.”

Commissioner Pat Morton agreed and pointed out, “The employees are doing a super job. What they make is embarrassing. They are loyal to this city. If we want to retain them, we need to think about raises. To try and train new people would be catastrophic for the city.”

Commissioner Al Robinson questioned workers’ compensation, insurance and police pension plan costs.

“The last person we had retire worked for us approximately 22 years,” Robinson said. “He retired two years ago and he gets a check for $39,000 every year.

“I think we’ve got to stop the bleeding and I think we need to cut some wages in the police department. I pledge my time to work on it.” Ashley noted that the police pension plan was adopted by ordinance and if Robinson wants to discuss changes, he should schedule it as a work session item.

Morton and Zaccagnino pointed out that the benefits are one of the reasons employees stay with the city.

Ashley said copies of the budget are available in the city hall lobby, and he is available to answer questions from residents. Commissioners set the first public hearing on the budget for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 14.

Anna Maria brothers cleaning up oil

AMISUN News Robbery Banker
Joe Webb, of Anna Maria, vacuums oil
from the Deepwater Horizon spill in Bay Jimmy
near Grand Isle, La. aboard Old Florida.

Working 12-hour shifts seven days a week in triple-digit heat, two Anna Maria brothers are slowly making a dent in cleaning up the oil off Louisiana.

Joe Webb and his brother, Ben Webb, have been in Louisiana for 50 days, nearly half the time that oil from the Deepwater Horizon rig has been spreading throughout the northern Gulf of Mexico.

They’re on the same task force, with Ben running a spotter boat in the marshlands off ground zero – Grand Isle, La. – looking for pockets of oil.

When he finds it, “He calls me and another boat in to vacuum it up,” said Joe, who is running a modified 30-foot Carolina skiff designed to build boat docks.

“We have a 450-gallon vacuum tank, and we go up in the sawgrass and vacuum it into a tank,” which gets offloaded onto barges, he said. “It’s been hard work.”

The brothers are working near an inactive well that was struck by a tugboat last Tuesday and has been spewing oil and natural gas into the oil-soaked water ever since.

“We can smell it. It’s stinking up the bay,” which already is dirty beyond description, he said. “It’s so terrible. It would blow your mind.”

Despite the devastation, there are signs of life.

Amazingly, fresh sawgrass is growing up through the oil in the marshes, he said. Blue crabs and dolphins are swimming around in the oily water, and people are catching trout, kingfish, mullet and mackerel, although they may not be eating them.

The brothers are dining on crayfish and shrimp caught further up in the bayous, where the oil has not penetrated, he said.

They’re seeing less dead wildlife than when the first slick came ashore, four inches deep in the water, and fewer boats are working the spill, too, he said, adding that about 20 percent of them left last week after BP administered drug tests.

The brothers had a break from the gloomy work when they watched Ben’s son, J.D. Webb, on a recent Fuel TV program, “Mission: Caribbean,” which paired three of the world’s best wakeboarders with four of the world’s best surfers on an eight-day surf/wake trip. The show will rerun sometime in September.

J.D. Webb, named for his grandfather, who ran Webb’s Island Pharmacy in Holmes Beach, was often seen wakeboarding around Anna Maria Island before Ben moved his family to Auburndale to further his son’s career.

Joe Webb, a fisherman and water sportsman, is about ready to head home to Anna Maria, he said, although he may hire someone to continue working his boat.

“I think Anna Maria is out of the danger zone now,” he said, “although you might see a few tar balls one day and feel lucky that’s all it was. Up here, it’s going to be 10 years.”

Garbage in, garbage out in Holmes Beach

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners said they are tired of rental agents allowing renters to put their garbage out days ahead of the pickup schedule and then leaving the cans for days after the pick up.

That was one of the new issues they asked City Attorney Patricia Petruff to address in an amended ordinance defining stop service and establishing a code enforcement procedure for violators.

“It sits out from Saturday morning to Tuesday,” Commissioner Pat Morton said. “The cans are overflowing; the bags just sit there. It’s an atrocity. I would like to put something in the ordinance.”

He said one resident reported that a renter put out seven cans and suggested that garbage cans could be out from sunset the day prior to pickup to sunset the following day.

Commission Chair Sandy Haas-Martens said she observed one resident put bags of trash in the city’s garbage cans and asked if that also could be addressed in the ordinance.

“You could put something in there that makes it illegal, but it’s a difficult enforcement issue unless you catch them in the act,” Petruff replied. “If you notice a big bag of household trash, the option would be to have the code enforcement officer cull through it to see if there’s an old bill or an address.”

She said the city could post signs on its trash cans.

Rental agents ignore problem

Commissioner John Monetti said they should seek input from rental agents.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino said he supports Morton and that Sarasota County’s ordinance allows garbage cans to be out from 5 p.m. the day prior to pickup to 10 a.m. the following day.

Regarding rental agents, Zaccagnino said, “Two weekends ago, I saw huge violations and called the real estate agent and she laughed at me and said, ‘We’re not going to do anything."

“They do whatever they want because they know we don’t have an ordinance. One said, ‘We don’t care about the residents, we’re just trying to turn over rentals."

He said rentals could be required to have back door service in which they pay extra for the garbage man to come to the house to get the cans.

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said rental agents collect a cleaning fee and a few dollars could be added to that for back door service. He said if the commissioners change the ordinance and it doesn’t alleviate the problem, they could mandate back door service.

Resident Andy Sheridan asked that commissioners also address putting out and bringing in recycling containers.

Haas-Martens asked Petruff to make the suggested revisions for discussion at a work session.

Board lightens up on parking requirements

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners agreed to reduce the number of parking spaces required for new restaurants, hotels/motels and places of assembly.

Restaurants will be required to provide one parking space for every five seats rather than every three seats, and no parking spaces will be required for employees.

Hotels/motels will require 1 1/10 rather than 1 1/5 parking spaces per unit, and no spaces will be required for employees. Parking spaces for places of assembly will be reduced from one for every three seats to one for every five seats.

The logic was that the increasing use of bicycles and the trolley reduces the number of cars on the Island, employment patterns have changed and the city is unable to accommodate current parking requirements on smaller commercial lots in the city.

Planner Bill Brisson had originally reduced the number of spaces required per seat for restaurants from three to four, but Commissioner John Monetti, general manager of the Columbia restaurant on St. Armands Circle, asked to change that to five.

“If you feel it’s appropriate for the community,” Brisson replied, “I couldn’t find any that low (in other communities).

The others agreed with Monetti.

Another change commissioners discussed was for off street parking for businesses that change owners. They agreed that a site plan could be approved by administrative review rather than a formal public hearing if the increase is less than three spaces, or less than the equivalent of one-third the number of spaces required for the use before the change.

In addition, commissioners plan to allow property owners to built docks and small sheds on vacant lots. They agreed that setback requirements for a shed would be the same as required for a principal use, such as a house, in that district.

The proposed changes will go to the planning commission for review.

County delays trolley action

The future of the trolley system south of Anna Maria Island is in the hands of the Sarasota County Commission following a no-vote by the Manatee County commissioners last week during a budget work meeting.

Budget cuts because of lower property tax income and the end of a grant that paid for the extension have forced the two counties to scramble for funds. The grant, which was to have run through the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 31, ran out early and Manatee County has agreed to pay the operating expenses for the extension until the end of September.

Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) Director Anthony Beckford said before the meeting that his county commission was waiting to see what came from the Manatee County Commission, but the ball is now in Sarasota’s court.

During the debate Thursday, commissioners discussed their concerns about the extension, which runs every half hour from Coquina Beach through Longboat to Lido Key and downtown Sarasota. Commissioner Joe McClash said he would rather spend Manatee County money bringing the trolley to Manatee County destinations.

“That trolley route that comes from WalMart on State Road 70 East to the Island doesn’t stop at tourist destinations like the Red Barn or Mixon Fruit Farm,” McClash said. “I would rather see us look for a grant to pay for those stops.”

“We have been looking for money and we have secured some for the trolley,” Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said. “But that’s outside what we’re talking about today. At this time, the extension to Sarasota County is not funded.”

“If Sarasota County would choose not to participate, then we would not go any further,” McClash said. “I have ridden the extension and most of the people get on and off in Sarasota County, so it isn’t doing much good for people in Manatee County.”

Commissioner Carol Whitmore, a long-time trolley supporter, said that connecting the two counties with the trolley is something the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transportation Agency (TBARTA) is looking for. That agency is looking at installing regional transit lines throughout the Tampa Bay area.

“This was closing the loop,” Whitmore said. “The trolley carries an average of 300 people a day, which is better than the 14 a day the bused carried.”

“That was 14 people a day at $60,000 a year,” McClash added.

“I would rather look at adding stops at the Red Barn and Mixon Fruit Farm than keeping the trolley extension on Longboat Key,” Commissioner Donna Hayes said. “I get calls all the time about it.”

Local waters tested for oil
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Marine biologist Dr. Erik Rifkin, of the
National Aquarium Conservation Center.

Local scientists are testing water, sediment and marine animals for petroleum contamination for later comparison and damage calculations in case Deepwater Horizon oil reaches area waters.

Samples of sediment have been collected from waters around Anna Maria Island and other Manatee County locations, and have been frozen for later analysis, said Rob Brown, division manager for the Manatee County Department of Natural Resources.

The costly analysis will be done only if tar balls reach the area, he said, adding that water samples were not taken because they must be analyzed almost immediately, while frozen sediments maintain contamination levels for some time.

Samples also are being collected from about 50 locations around Sarasota Bay by a partnership between Mote Marine Laboratory, the National Aquarium and Johns Hopkins University.

Researchers are taking blood and tissue samples of clams, spotted eagle rays and dolphins, as well as water and sediment samples, to document environmental conditions prior to oil’s arrival for later comparison, said Dr. Erik Rifkin, of the National Aquarium.

The $200,000 program began in June, and results will be available to BP, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other interested parties in a few weeks as a tool to quantify natural resource damage, he said.

The spill, which began with the explosion of a BP oil rig off Louisiana on April 20, stopped on July 15 when the well was temporarily capped.

On Monday, as BP crews attempted to make a relief well operational to permanently seal the main well, scientists buried sampling devices in Sarasota Bay and took biological samples from a spotted eagle ray.

Sophisticated contaminant sampling devices containing kidney dialysis tubing filled with lipids, or fats, are buried in metal boxes in the sediment and suspended in the water by buoys, said Dr. Dana Wetzel, manager of Mote Marine Laboratory’s Aquatic Toxicology Research Program.

The devices are left for one month to accumulate contaminants, mimicking the accumulation of contaminants in animal tissue.

“It’s a virtual fish,” Rifkin said, adding that the samples contain more information than one-time grab samples.

While theories about the distribution of the oil plume in the northern Gulf abound, “There’s no way of knowing what’s under the water right now,” said Rifkin, who recently testified to the Senate Subcommittee on Wildlife and Water on the oil spill’s effects. “It’s critical to gather robust, baseline information about the current state of any aquatic ecosystem that may ultimately be impacted by this oil disaster.”

NEMO looks at future involvement

ANNA MARIA – The North End Merchants Organization is preparing for the many events that occur during season on the Island.

Ideas range from purchasing banners for the city’s centennial celebration to organizing a neighborhood watch.

The group, composed of businesses located in and interested in the city of Anna Maria, is looking to connect the businesses with the community. Founder and real estate agency owner Barbara Sato is the president, Joan Carter of J&J Graphics is the vice president, Diane Havelka from Beach Bums is the treasurer and real estate agency owner Darcie Duncan is the secretary.

At its latest meeting on July 27, the group formed committees to handle involvement with the community. Sato is in charge of the Centennial Committee, which will be involved with the 100th anniversary celebration of the Anna Maria City Pier. Member Sissy of the Anna Maria Island Preservation Trust said that the city’s centennial organizing agency has asked NEMO to supply some or all of the banners that will fly from poles in the city.

The centennial banners will replace seasonal banners after the holidays and will hang for all of 2011. There is room for 45 banners, and NEMO members will donate money to pay for them. Quinn said that NEMO will have to decide how many banners it wants to purchase.

Anna Maria builder Dan Gagne is in charge of the membership committee and is looking for volunteers to recruit other businesses in the city. Sally Woodward and Julie Quinlivan, of Rudy’s Subs, are in charge of the events planning committee along with A.J. Latteri, of The Loft and AJ’s Island Network, and Lauren Sato, of Beach Bums.

The group is already planning to put up American flags along the sidewalks during Labor Day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The flags were used to line the route of the Anna Maria Island Privateers’ Fourth of July Parade route in the city.

They also want to get involved with the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Halloween Trail of Treats, which begins at the Chamber on Friday, Oct. 29, with a Halloween costume contest for the kids. The kids will then follow a map through the commercial district of Holmes Beach visiting businesses to receive treats.

NEMO wants to organize businesses in Anna Maria, so that parents could bring the kids to the city after making the rounds in Holmes Beach for more treats.

Mary Ann Brockman attended the meeting and she said they should make sure the businesses in Anna Maria stay open late enough to attend to the kids.

“The businesses need to make a commitment to do it,” Duncan added.

Brockman also said they should have a table at Bayfest, the season’s first outdoor festival scheduled for Oct. 15 and 16. It was suggested they print up flyers to pass out at their table. That brought the discussion toward the final committee – public relations. Carter is in charge.

The group meets next on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 5:30 p.m.

For more information on NEMO or to join, contact Dan Gagne at 778-3215 or Barb Sato at 778-7200. Visit NEMO’s website at

Price and Pollock designated Chief Fire Officers

Harry Stoltzfus AMISUN News Robbery Banker
Price                              Pollock

Fire Chief Kenneth A. Price, Jr. and Deputy Chief Brett Pollock, of the West Manatee Fire and Rescue District, have successfully completed the process that awards them the professional designation of Chief Fire Officer (CFO). The Commission on Professional Credentialing met recently to officially confer the designation upon them. There are only 693 CFOs worldwide.

The CFO designation program is a voluntary program designed to recognize individuals who demonstrate their excellence in seven measured components including experience, education, professional development, professional contributions, association membership, community involvement and technical competencies.

Price and Pollock received their original designations in 2007. To maintain the designation, individuals need to show they have continued to develop as a CFO in four areas: professional development, professional contributions, active association membership and community involvement.

Price and Pollock have been members of the West Manatee Fire Rescue District for 31 and 30 years respectively.

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