The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 9 - December 1, 2010


HB police chief fires back

Harry Stoltzfus

HOLMES BEACH – The gloves are off, said Police Chief Jay Romine, after the latest salvo from Commissioner Al Robinson.

“I’m tired of theses gross inaccuracies, this garbage with no basis in fact getting shotgunned out there and hoping it sticks and getting people all riled up, ” Romine said. “It’s not fair to the employees; it’s damaging to morale. I’m tired of it and my people are tired of it.”

At the Nov. 23 city commission meeting, Robinson passed out a paper claiming that it costs the city $171,000 per police officer. Romine said Robinson got this figure by dividing the entire operating budget of the police department by 12.

“The total operating budget includes not only personnel costs, but capital expenditures and daily costs of doing our job, which is public safety,” Romine explained.

“I’m not sure where the number 12 came in this ‘formula’, since the police department employs 21 people, including the communications center, which happens to be the only one on Anna Maria Island that is staffed 24 hours a day, 365 day a year.”

Romine said if you divide the operating budget by the correct number of employees, it gives you a figure of $97,851, which also is misleading because it would mean “that each employee partially bears the costs of the maintenance of the equipment, the building, the utilities and every other cost that is associated with the police department budget.

“I would dare say that if our employees were averaging almost $98,000 per year in compensation, recruitment would be at an all time high and would never be an issue.”

He said using Robinson’s “formula” to calculate the cost of putting a public works employee on the street would give you a figure of $173,697 per employee. That includes using the correct number of employees, he noted.

Romine also took issue with information that Robinson is distributing that says the job of a garbage collector is more dangerous than a police officer or firefighter.

“Police work and firefighting are dangerous, demanding professions,” he stressed. “And garbage men were off on Thanksgiving, while my men were out here protecting you and your property, as they do 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.”

He said Robinson has never come into the police department to talk with him about the budget or learn how it operates and noted, “The only thing he knows about the police department comes from the inside of a bar.”

Romine invites anyone with questions to contact him at 708-5404.

Island property values decline

The good news is that most property taxes on Anna Maria Island are lower this year than last, and there’s still time until Dec. 8 to get the maximum discount.

The bad news is that most property values are lower, too, for the third year in a row, affecting refinancing, home equity loan amounts and sales prices.

Property values in all three Island cities soared in 2006, with the momentum slowing in 2007 and reversing in 2008, and they have continued to decline ever since, according to statistics at the Manatee County Property Appraiser’s office.

From 2005-06, Anna Maria values increased 15 percent while Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach values each increased 17 percent.

By 2007, the increases had slowed noticeably, with Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach values up only 3 percent each and Holmes Beach values up only 5 percent from the previous year.

The following year, values in all three cities began going backwards, with Bradenton Beach taking the brunt of the loss. In 2008, Anna Maria values decreased 13 percent, Holmes Beach values decreased 12 percent and Bradenton Beach values decreased 16 percent.

The decline slowed some in 2009, with Anna Maria values down 9 percent and Holmes Beach values down 8 percent, but Bradenton Beach values plummeted another 16 percent.

This year, the decline in Anna Maria values slowed to a loss of 4 percent, with Holmes Beach down 9 percent and Bradenton Beach values slowing to a loss of 14 percent.

From 2005-2010, property appraiser’s office statistics show losses in value of 10 percent in Anna Maria, 11 percent in Holmes Beach and 27 percent in Bradenton Beach.

Real estate typically is assessed at less than market value, partly because the assessments are based on sales from the previous year, according to the property appraiser’s office.

Total taxable property values this year are: Anna Maria, $609,147,976; Holmes Beach, $1,237,767,765; and Bradenton Beach, $403,596,403.

Music, house tour benefit two groups

Soloist Chalyce Sullivan will perform
at the AMICCO Holiday Gala.

Kick off the holidays with the sights, smells, tastes and sounds of Christmas at a beautifully decorated Holmes Beach home while benefitting two great organizations.

It begins on Saturday, Dec. 4, from 6 to 9 p.m. with a Taste of Holiday Gala to benefit the Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra (AMICCO).

Enjoy music, food and champagne under the stars at Villa Alexia, 518 58th St., Holmes Beach. Villa Alexia is a stunning waterfront residence overlooking Tampa Bay and Perico Island owned by Debbie and Michael Hynds, who also recently opened Martiniville.

The home will be decorated for the holiday season by White Egret Interior Design Services and will also be shown from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. over the weekend as the Island Holiday Showhouse, an inaugural event of the Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island.

The White Egret, which has three stores on the Island, is decorating and accessorizing the house to a holiday theme. The media room at the house will have a boutique, where visitors can buy items from the Egret stores at 10 percent off their regular retail prices.

Egret designer Sue Ann Schurturle said the house will be alive for the holidays. There will be a price list of items available for sale at the door of the Showhouse, with even the new bedding available for sale after the Showhouse is over.

Showhouse parking is available in a lot across the street through the kindness of Kent and Pa Davis. Additional parking will be available at Holmes Beach City Hall, which is just a block from the Showhouse.

In addition, the Rotary Club has purchased a seven-day Holland America cruise for two in an outside cabin that will be raffled by the club. Tickets are $50 each and there are only 150 of them, which means players will have better odds. The drawing will be held at 3 p.m. at the Showhouse on Sunday, Dec. 5.

The winner will receive a certificate that does not expire and may be applied to other cabin categories or cruise trades at an additional cost. Space is subject to availability and does not include taxes, fuel supplements or applicable surcharges which is the responsibility of the guests. Some restrictions apply.

For more on the raffle, visit the Rotary Club website, at, which offers an option to purchase raffle tickets with a major credit card or PayPal account. You can also call Barry Gould at 941-448-5500.

Your $50 ticket to the Holiday Gala will include a private tour of the home, and you will be treated to an evening of dancing to music performed by AMICCO musicians and soloist, Chalyce Sullivan. Delicious gourmet hors d’oeuvres, elegant pastries and exceptional wines, beer and sparkling champagnes will be served. Attendance will be limited to the first 100 reservations in order to maintain an intimate setting.

Tickets for the tour only are $10 and can be purchased in advance at all three White Egret shops or by calling 778-8585. They also will be available at the door on the two days of the Decorator Showhouse Tour.

For information on the Showhouse, contact Dantia Gould online at or 778-1880.

Bridge Street Christmas celebrates giving

Enjoy an old-fashioned Christmas with a touch of Florida on Saturday, Dec. 18, from 3 to 7 p.m. at Bridge Street and get a good viewing spot for the Cortez Yacht Club Lighted Boat Parade starting around 7 p.m., weather permitting.

The Bridge Street Merchants Association is hosting the Christmas on Bridge Street event and the Anna Maria Island Sun is the sponsor for both that and the boat parade.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be present to visit with the kids; there will be raffles for gift baskets with merchandise and gift certificates and holiday wreaths. Kids will get to sell their wares at the children’s gift bazaar. Visit the stores for specials on unique items for gifts during the Christmas celebration.

The merchants will be collecting canned goods for area food banks. For every five food items people bring, they will receive one Bridge Street Wooden Nickel, which is valid at participating Bridge Street shops. There will also be a collection for Toys for Tots. Any new unwrapped toy will be collected by the Marines to distribute to local families.

Musically, there is a lot to enjoy. Rowlett Magnet Elementary School students will host “Christmas Around the World” and DJ Tom Barrons will present seasonal sounds. The Island Rockers and area school singing groups will also perform.

There is still time to be a part of this celebration. If you would like to donate a wreath, gifts or money, contact Caryn Hodge at the Chiles Group, 778-8705.

Share the Chanukah spirit with congregation Ner Tamid

On Friday, Dec. 3, at 6 p.m., Ner Tamid, a Bradenton Jewish congregation, invites the community to a special celebration. The congregation will light hundreds of Chanukah candles on dozens of menorahs brought by the congregation’s members and friends.

Each menorah tells a story, from traditional ones in stately brass to the hand crafted clay models made by chubby Hebrew school hands, to a rescued menorah, found in Germany in a second hand store.

Chanukah Games Night is a Ner Tamid tradition. Like progressive dinner parties, the game playing is also progressive in that during a 10-minute time period, groups of adults and children move from game to game, to different groups of partners, so that everyone has the opportunity to meet and talk to new friends.

Sandra Williams’ daughter Rose Semonick, 8, can’t wait to teach the Jewish edition of “Apples to Apples’ to her adult partners, while these same adults teach Rose how to play the age-old dreidel game. Sandra’s son, Peter Semonick, 12, loves to decorate the sugar cookies with blue and white icing and sprinkles at the cookie decorating table set up for children of all ages.

As in past years Ner Tamid’s focus is also on the community. The concept is Tikkun Olam, the repair of the world.

“There is no charge for Chanukah Game night or the Pot Luck Dinner,” said board chair, Elaine Mittler.

Price of admission is the donation of one food item that will go to a local food pantry.

Lighted boat parade coming soon
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE The winning nautical sculpture at
SandBlast 2010 on Saturday was none other than
an octopus made of sand.

CORTEZ – Enjoy a real Florida Christmas along the Intracoastal Waterway at the Cortez Yacht Club’s Seventh Annual Holiday Lighted Boat Parade on Saturday, Dec. 18.

All boats are welcome to join the free event, which offers a $500 grand prize for the best-decorated boat and cash prizes for the best decorated boat in each division.

The parade will begin at dusk at the Mar Vista restaurant in Longboat Key and end at the Seafood Shack in Cortez.

Spectators can enjoy the parade from the Seafood Shack, the Cortez Bridge, the Bridge Street pier, street ends in Bradenton Beach along the Intracoastal Waterway, Coquina Bayside Park, the Longboat Pass bridge and the Pub at Mar Vista.

The parade is sponsored by the Bridge Street Merchants Association and the Anna Maria Island Sun.

On the three weekends leading up to the parade, the yacht club also is organizing a canal canvassing campaign to benefit the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots organization. Small boats are needed to travel the canals of Anna Maria Island, Cortez and north Longboat Key on Friday and Saturday evenings the first three weeks of December with club members who will sing carols and collect new, unwrapped toys and donations.

For more information on both events, call 780-3547.

Coyotes prompt Cortez workshop

CORTEZ – Cortez residents are invited to learn about coyotes at a workshop on Dec. 9 at 7 p.m. at the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez.

Dozens of pets have been killed by coyotes in recent weeks, residents say.

Lisa Hickey, a naturalist instructor with the Manatee County Department of Agriculture and Resource Conservation, will discuss coyote behavior, habitat, prey, attack statistics and interactions with humans. Representatives from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the Manatee County Department of Public Safety also will answer questions.

People who have seen coyotes in the area are asked to bring information to the meeting about how many coyotes they have seen and when and where, said Cortez resident Linda Molto, who is on the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) board of directors. Those who have lost pets are encouraged to wear photos of their pets or name tags with their pet’s name, she said.

Coyotes in the area also may be preying on small wild animals, which seem unusually scarce in Cortez, Molto said.

“I haven’t seen a raccoon or a possum here in a long time,” she said.

Pet cats that are left outside also kill birds, squirrels, rabbits and other small animals, according to Gail Straight of Wildlife Inc. Education and Rehabilitation in Bradenton Beach.

To deter coyotes, the FWC recommends keeping cats and dogs indoors, feeding them indoors and putting trash out in the morning instead of at night.

When walking a dog on a leash, carry a stick, noisemaker, golf club or pepper spray, particularly around sunrise or sunset and near water, and if a coyote approaches, don’t run – pick up the dog, stand as tall as possible and yell.

The Humane Society suggests raking around bird feeders, removing fruit from the ground and using trash cans with tight-fitting lids, as well as hazing techniques, including yelling and waving your arms, using whistles, air horns or soda cans filled with pennies, banging pots and pans, throwing sticks, small rocks and balls, spraying water hoses or using water guns or spray bottles filled with vinegar water.

Never feed coyotes, experts say.

Neither the state nor the county will trap and remove coyotes, but some wildlife trappers will remove coyotes, which then must be euthanized by law.

As a last resort, legal methods of taking coyote are by gun or bow or snare, according to the FWC. There is no closed season on coyotes in Florida, but steel traps and hunting at night with a light requires a permit from the FWC. The use of poison to kill coyotes is illegal.

For more information, call 722-4524. To report coyote problems, call the Wildlife Alert hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).

City agrees to hear R-1 rental request

HOLMES BEACH – A group of property owners on the Gulf between Manatee County Public Beach and 52nd Street have petitioned city commissioners to allow seven-day rentals in the R-1 district.

The R-1 zoning district is primarily properties from 66th Street to the city limits east of Marina Drive. However, there are other pockets of R-1 in the north, central and south parts of the city.

In January 2007, commissioners changed the rental period in the district from seven to 30 days. In addition, owners with a valid rental license who were renting for seven days could continue to do so for 10 years to give them time to recoup their investment.

Last year, commissioners considered a similar request, and at that time, the city’s planning consultant offered a compromise – to allow seven-day rentals in those areas of R-1 that are on the Gulf. However, commissioners rejected that request.

In their petition, the 10 property owners asked commissioners to reconsider due to a recent court ruling and for the following reasons:

  • Loss of a property right that owners previously had;
  • Loss of revenue to the community, state and county;
  • Loss of income needed to maintain and pay expenses to keep the property for future generations;
  • Future legal costs to the city if property owners band together to challenge the 30-day limit.

Commission discussion

City Attorney Patricia Petruff said the court case does not apply to this situation because it “turned on some very, very specific factual information” and it involved one particular piece of property.

“With respect to these properties, you need to have some additional facts about what was in place when they bought the property,” she advised.

“It’s always stated in the code that people can’t have commercial activity on residential property. The insinuation is that we are taking away a right they had, and I’m not sure that’s a correct statement.”

Commissioner David Zaccagnino said he doesn’t think the reasons in the petition are enough to reconsider.

“You have to look at the areas in R-1 that lend themselves to short term rentals,” Commissioner John Monetti pointed out. “We have the opportunity to have an overlay for people who want it.”

Commissioner Pat Morton said if they change the rental period for one area of R-1, other property owners in R-1 would want the same.

Chair Sandy Haas-Martens suggested that commissioners consider a change for that area at a future work session, and the others agreed.

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