The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 17 - January 26, 2011


Replacement study scheduled for aging Cortez Bridge

Harry Stoltzfus
A fisherman digs for sand fleas last week along the shore
next to the Cortez Bridge. Dense fog slowed traffic on the
bridge during two morning rush hours, but no serious
problems were reported. Island residents should begin
considering what kind of replacement they want for the
54-year-old drawbridge, planning officials say.

BRADENTON BEACH – As the seagulls swoop down over the roadway, traffic arms come down, a siren sounds and the center span slowly lifts as it has day after day since 1957, when the Cortez Bridge was completed. Time is now running out for the drawbridge and the latest five-year plan for roadwork in Sarasota and Manatee Counties includes money in fiscal year 2012-13 for a study of a replacement.

"There is $1.5 million budgeted for a project development and environmental (PD&E) study for a new bridge there," Metropolitan Planning Organization Director Mike Howe said. "We will hold public meetings to get input on alternatives for the bridge including what type of study, whether it is a 45-foot tall drawbridge or a 70-foot high fixed span, the alignment of the roadway and other decisions that will be on the table."

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger points out that the replacement would have to be a low-rise drawbridge.

"I think the size of the bridge is pretty much dictated by space," he said, referring to the fact that the Cortez Bridge is much shorter, partly because the Island is much narrower than at the Anna Maria Island Bridge, which is already slated to be replaced by a high, fixed-span in 15 to 20 years.

"Obviously, I don't disagree," Howe said. "The Cortez Bridge has a much different footprint from the Anna Maria Bridge."

Howe said Island residents might want to start considering what type of bridge they would like to see there.

"FDOT wants to build the type of bridge that would go well with the characteristics of Bradenton Beach and the southern part of the Island," he said. At this point there are no construction cost estimates for the different types of bridges that will be included in the study.

Meanwhile, repair and rehabilitation work on the Cortez Bridge is scheduled for 2012-2013 at a cost of $5.91 million. The exact starting date for this interim project was not available.

Howe did say it takes about 10 years from the time the study is done until replacement construction can begin. The repairs slated for next year would extend the life of the bridge by about 10 years, he said. That could put the start of the project sometime around 2022-2023.

The last time FDOT considered replacing the bridge was in the late 1980s, but there was public sentiment against building a tall bridge because the space for a bridge is short and the grade to get up to a 65 feet crown would be too steep. FDOT abandoned those plans and instead concentrated on plans for a high, fixed-span for Anna Maria Island Bridge, the other access to the Island from the mainland.

Public sentiment and mistakes by FDOT put an end to those plans in 1994, and the state settled for rebuilding the current structure. However, they performed a PD&E study on a replacement for the Anna Maria Bridge in 2008 at the request of elected officials, who were appalled that the state was going to do a $10.3 million refurbishment that would have required the bridge to be closed for several weeks. They felt the money would be better spent on a replacement for the bridge, but the state could not come up with the $50 to $75 million for the replacement.

Eventually, the repairs were made and the work closed the bridge from Sept. 29 to Nov. 6, 2008.

Local roadwork

Other projects on the five-year plan include:

• $315,357 in the 2012-13 budget year for a parking lot off State Road 64 and a walkway from the parking lot and under the bridge to connect with the boardwalk to Robinson Preserve;

• $1.97 million in 2013/14 for resurfacing SR 64 from Perico Bay to Palma Sola Blvd.;

• $840,054 in 2011-12 for resurfacing SR 64 from east of Perico Harbor to east of Bristol Bay;

• $1.584 million in 2011-12 for repair and rehabilitation of the Longboat Pass Bridge;

• $289,486 in 2012-13 for miscellaneous construction at Coquina Beach;

• $678,214 in 2012-2014 for landscaping on East Bay Drive from 31st Street to SR 64.

New trolleys due here by September

Carol Whitmore

This is what the new trolleys will look like. County offficials want
to continue with paid advertising inside and out on the
vehicles to help offset costs and to keep the rides free.

HOLMES BEACH – The new, hopefully more reliable, trolleys are in the works and should be in by this fall, according to David Teitelbaum, who pioneered efforts to keep the trolley free for riders.

Speaking at the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Board meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 19, the developer and resort owner said they expect the trolleys to be available in September.

"We're looking at the new trolleys and assessing what space we have inside and out for advertising," he said. "(Manatee County Administrator) Ed Hunzeker agrees that advertisers won't have to pay for removing their ads from the old trolleys."

Hunzeker had the county order five new trolleys after finding out the first and second generation vehicles are plagued with mechanical and structural problems that costs the county a lot of money to fix. The problems stem from the fact that the trolley route operates 365 days per year, and the vehicles are exposed to salt and sand on their route.

The ads on the vehicles were the result of Teitelbaum's efforts to keep the county from charging money for trolley rides. The revenue from the ads supplement the budget to cover operating expenses, and when Hunzeker ordered the new trolleys, he also ordered the money from those ads be returned to the businesses because he felt the frequent breakdowns kept their trolleys with their ads off the route too often. The ads remain on the vehicles, however, as they finish their mission as Island trolleys through the summer.

Parking decisions expected this week

ANNA MARIA — City commissioners are poised to make some decisions this week about the long-contested parking regulations for Pine Avenue.

After a year or more of passionate and emotional argument over the parking along the short street between Gulf Drive and the city pier, commissioners appear to have made peace with selecting between two ideas.

Both potential plans will include a sidewalk, which will be moved closer to buildings so that no cars will be crossing sidewalks to enter or exit parking places.

Moving the sidewalks eliminates a huge sticking point. Concerns about pedestrians and bicyclists being put in danger by cars backing over the sidewalks would be minimized.

The owners of all the Pine Avenue Restoration buildings have agreed to move or install sidewalks at their own expense. Moving the sidewalk means that it goes onto private property.

The owners of the properties will provide an easement to the city so that the sidewalks are under city ontrol.

That is a main point in both parking plans under consideration.

Under the public parking plan, the city would swap or trade an equivalent strip of land next to the pavement in exchange for the land used for the sidewalks next to the buildings.

Under the private parking plan, there would be no ceding of public land. All parking would be on the subject property.

"We've got to discuss whether we want the private or public parking plan," said Mayor Mike Selby. "I'm opposed to giving away or swapping our right of way because we need the flexibility going forward."

Selby said he could envision a day when the city could possibly create bike paths using the right of way.

Meanwhile, many of the most vociferous opponents to any parking plan at all on Pine Avenue have moderated their positions.

At a meeting on Jan. 13, Larry Albert said he realized there would have to be some give and take.

Albert said he thinks the parking impasse needs to be met with compromise.

"I can see that we won't get everything we want," he said. "We need to compromise. I can see that this should work and even be good for the city, but I'm absolutely against giving away our right of way."

It was ceding that right of way that was the driving force behind a citizen's petition initiative last year that attempted to force the city commission to put the whole problem in front of the voters in a referendum.

The petition was deemed legally insufficient to force the referendum, but the belief that it's wrong to cede right of way remains strong among many residents.

The agenda for the Jan. 27 commission meeting reads "Pine Avenue parking and pedestrian plan discussion."

The meeting is set for 6 p.m. in the commission chambers at city hall.

Cortez festival offers food, fun and education

Bayfest band Bootleg

CORTEZ – There's more to the 29th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival than food, fun, art and music.

The festival, which will be held at the east end of the historic fishing village the weekend of Feb. 19 and 20, is also a place to learn about the sea.

Take scallops, for example.

Last summer, three bay scallop searches in Sarasota Bay, Tampa Bay and Charlotte Harbor resulted in good news, said John M. Stevely, one of the festival's original organizers, a speaker at the festival and Florida Sea Grant's local marine extension agent.

Sarasota Bay Watch searchers found 131 scallops, Tampa Bay Watchers counted a record 674 scallops and Charlotte County's search uncovered 94 scallops.

The Sarasota Bay Buddies and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Manatee County first uncovered the fact that scallops had returned to Sarasota Bay during a cleanup in July, 2007 near Emerson Point at the mouth of the Manatee River. Scientists called it the largest population of scallops found in the region in the previous 25 years.

Efforts to clean up the bay, including restoring the 95-acre FISH (Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage) Preserve in Cortez, which was acquired and improved with funds from the fishing festival, have resulted in the scallops' return, according to Stevely.

Stevely will offer more information about scallops at the festival at the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program booth in the community center.

Other family-oriented activities will include marine life displays, live music, clogging, kids' games, nautical arts and crafts and the seafood that made Cortez famous.

Entertainers will include the Sunshine Express Cloggers, the Crackerbillys, Soul R Coaster, the Triad Folk Band, the Manatee River Bluegrass Band and the Wheedles.

The Florida Maritime Museum, a restored schoolhouse at Cortez Road and 119th Street West, is the new main entryway to the two-day event, which will extend down 119th Street all the way to Sarasota Bay, known to Cortezians as the kitchen for its abundance of seafood.

Festival goers can park free in the FISH Preserve parking area, accessible from Cortez Road. Remote parking with shuttle bus transportation will be available in the Cortez Commons parking lot at the corner of Cortez Road and 59th Street West in Bradenton and at Coquina Beach Bayside on Anna Maria Island. Shuttle buses cost $1 each way.

Admission is $2 for adults with kids under 12 free. For more information, visit

High winds cause problems

High winds blew over the outdoor bar at the Gulf Drive
Cafe chickee hut on Monday, Jan. 17.
The bar was righted and repaired last week.

BRADENTON BEACH – An Australian pine tree branch fell down in the high winds of the storm that passed through the Island on Martin Luther King Day, Monday, Jan.17, landing on a fire hydrant, which caused the feeder pipe to break and flood an area next to Avenue C at 22nd Street. The damage was initially reported as a sinkhole, but it was man-made, not something that happens occasionally in other parts of Florida.

Bradenton Beach Public Works Director Tom Woodard said he had to divert employees who normally pick up trash over to the site to help clean up and access the damage because regular public works employees were off for the holiday.

"The homeowner there said he thought the tree had been hit by lightning prior to the limb falling," Woodard said, "but there were no scorch marks and the tree looked like it had rotted out from the inside."

Woodard said water was gushing from where the fire hydrant attaches to the water pipe, and it undercut the tree to the extent that the city was afraid the tree would fall and hit a house.The tree was cut down on Thursday and hauled away.

J.T. Turner, a LaPensee plumbing employee, escaped harm when lightning hit his tall van as he was heading west, approaching the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

"It gave him quite a scare and the noise and flash affected his vision and hearing for a while," Karen LaPensee said. "He was better after a while."

The truck's electrical system shut down and it stalled on the bridge. She said that they towed the truck to a mechanic, and the electrical system came back on by itself, so there was no permanent damage.

Woodard said there was some hail reported Monday in the city, but no reports of damage.

The bar at the chickee hut at Gulf Drive Café blew over during the storm. The bar was laying on its side Tuesday morning. There was no other damage at the beachfront restaurant. Crews righted the base and reinstalled the thatch roof to the bar during the week and on Friday, it was ready for use during the weekend.

While the intense storm was short-lived, it produced a lot of rain. One rain gauge on the Island measured 2.2 inches of rain.

Hostile takeover at osprey nest

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

An eagle is perched on the cell tower in Holmes Beach
last week. Eagles chased way the ospreys that
have lived there for many years, but the
ospreys prevailed.

HOLMES BEACH – A pair of ospreys, that have lived and raised their young atop the cell tower in Holmes Beach for years, were harassed by a pair of eagles that showed up in the area.

Several people reported that early last week, the eagles were perched on the tower and when the ospreys returned there was a confrontation.

"The ospreys we flying around and the eagles wouldn't let them land," Joe Hutchinson said. "The ospreys were raising hell, and the eagles just perched up there looking like gargoyles."

Bruce Davenport, of Duffy's Tavern next door to the tower, reported that the eagles chased the ospreys away.

Greg Williford, who lives on 59th Street, said he heard the commotion while in his yard, and took photos.

"They came every day for three days and left at night," he said, "but I haven't seen them since then."

However, Tom Lenard, who also witnessed the earlier confrontation, said by mid-week, the ospreys were back on their nest.

Duffy's patrons are keeping an eagle eye on the battle of the birds to see which pair gets to feather the nest.

H. Terrell Griffin visits with The Sun Readers

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Sun Readers Louise Bolger, Bobbie Gordon, Joan Dickinson
and Charlene Doll flank Award Winning Author H. Terrell Griffin.
Griffin discussed his new book, "Bitter Legacy" with The
Sun Readers last week.

HOLMES BEACH — One of the region's most popular authors sat down with several of The Sun Readers last week to talk about his newest Matt Royal Book, "Bitter Legacy."

Griffin, who divides his time between the Orlando area and Longboat Key, told the readers he started writing after he retired from a successful career as a trial lawyer.

"I had always thought I'd write a book someday if I ever had time," Griffin said. "One day, after I was retired, my wife said, 'If you're ever going to write that book, you'd better put your butt in a chair and write it.'"

So Griffin did just that.

It started with "Longboat Blues, which Griffin self-published.

Why self-publishing, wondered Reader Joan Dickinson?

"The hardest thing is to get a publisher," Griffin told Dickinson. "To get a publisher, you need an agent. I sent out 25 letters to agents and got 25 form letters back rejecting me."

So Griffin decided if he wanted his book to see the light of day, he'd publish it himself.

"It was an interesting process," Griffin said. "And in the end, my goal was to cover my costs, which I did."

A second self-published book called "Murder Key" followed "Longboat Blues".

Both books center on Longboat Key and the surrounding area, including Anna Maria Island.

Next came "Blood Island" and a publisher.

Griffin said that he'd had tremendous help from Circle Books Co-Owner Debbie Stowall. "I gave her the manuscript, and she told the folks from Oceanview Publishing to read the book. They read it, liked it and gave me a two-book contract."

Growing up

Sun Reader Bobbie Gordon asked Griffin about his background.

"I grew up poor in an alcoholic family near Sanford, Florida," Griffin said. "I couldn't wait to be gone from there."

Griffin related his longing for something more, something different.

"I joined the army right out of high school," he said. "I graduated one day and went to the recruiting office the next."

That's what boys from poor families did in those days, Griffin recounted.

"It was not for the GI bill or anything like that," he said. "It was just to get away, to see something more."

And see more, he did.

"I was stationed all over Europe," the author recalled. "I remember seeing Rome. That was so exciting to me. I'd had a Latin teacher who always talked about that history, and there I was actually seeing it first hand. Me!"

Griffin was in Germany at the time the Berlin Wall went up.

"We didn't know that history was being made," Griffin said. "We were up in the mountains in case we needed to fight a defensive action."

Then what, the readers asked.

From the Army, where he was a medic, Griffin went to Macon, Georgia, where he got a job as a phlebotomist, met his wife, went through four years of college in two-and-a-half and then on to law school.

The author enjoyed a successful career as a well-respected trial lawyer in Orlando. He was also active politically at the state level.

Creating a character

And from there, after retirement, Griffin started creating his Matt Royal character, a Vietnam vet and retired lawyer who tools around this part of the world and solves mysteries.

"Are you Matt Royal?" Gordon wondered.

"Well, Matt Royal is six-foot three and 180 pounds," the decidedly shorter author commented.

And Terry Griffin has a family, which Matt Royal does not.

"My seven year old grandson came to a book signing not too long ago," the author said. "His mother brought him as a surprise. 'Papa, you were a lawyer and now you're a book signing guy,' Griffin said with obvious enjoyment.

The other difference, Griffin claims, is that he's not nearly as entertaining as he thinks he is, whereas Royal is.

Then Griffin turned the tables and asked each Sun Reader what she had liked about "Bitter Legacy" and what she would have changed if she could.

"The only thing that bothered me was the little section in the back in the Afterword," Reader Charlene Doll commented. "I wish that had been in the Forward."

The Afterword recounted the history of some Black Seminoles who left the United States and settled on the north coast of Andros Islands in the Bahamas.

Griffin said Doll had a good point and that she was the second person to make that comment to him.

A fast read

Doll continued by saying that one of the reasons she liked the book is that it's a fast read.

"You go along at a short clip," she said. "I really like the short chapters. I like lots of dead bodies. This is a great beach read."

Gordon called "Bitter Legacy" a "good read. Not so intellectual that you have to study every page."

And Reader Louise Bolger, who said she's not a mystery reader, said she thought the book was fun to read.

"I especially loved the local color, and it reminded me a little of "Land Remembered."

She added that "Bitter Legacy" is a good book to take along on a trip.

"I was going to read 'Atlas Shrugged' on my trip, but I just couldn't get into it," she said. "So I got out "Bitter Legacy," and I couldn't put it down."

Dickinson said that the book made her smile.

"I could tell this was written by a guy," she said. "I read a lot of books written by women. They are not as right to the point. This was definitely a guy book. Normally I wouldn't have liked it, but I did like it."

Griffin commented that he noticed women tended to write more about feelings.

And Dickinson said she liked that the book was fast with very good characters.

Local flavor

Most of Griffin's characters are based loosely on local people.

There is Sam the bartender at Pattigeorge's. There's Captain Kim.

There are local places, which is something that the Sun Readers absolutely loved.

"It's fun to read about the places we all go around here," Bolger said.

"If the place is on Longboat Key or Anna Maria Island, it exists or did exist at one time," Griffin said. "Off the Islands, I just made up most of the places."

Griffin seemed pleased with the reviews of the readers.

"I write these to be beach reads," he said. "I don't want to write something to send a message. I want to write a book where something happens.

"I want my books to be like Chinese food. You can read it again in just a little while because it's so insubstantial."

"Bitter Legacy" and Griffin's other books are available on the Island at Sand Dollar and at Holy Cow. They are also available at Circle Books on St. Armand's Circle as well as on Amazon.

You can check out Griffin's Facebook page under Terrell Griffin.

Center grapples with loan issues

ANNA MARIA – Community Center board members voted last week to rescind a resolution approved in December to restructure their loan with Northern Trust after the bank changed the agreement.

The agreement was to pay down the loan from $1.375 million to $1.15 million, and then enter into a two-year agreement for interest payments at 5 percent. However, Northern Trust changed the agreement so that the 5 percent is only applicable through October of this year.

Treasurer Bill Ford explained to board members that in order to construct the new building, the Center entered into a loan agreement with Northern Trust that included an agreement with a federal bank for an interest rate of 5 percent.

"The note we had with Northern Trust required us to make a monthly payment of principal and interest right around $10,000," Ford explained.

"We had to make a principal payment at the end of 2009 of a half million dollars and then another one in January 2010 of half a million dollars, then the loan would be completed in October of this year."

Economic crisis

He said due to the poor economy, it became difficult to meet the terms of the agreement, and Center officials have tried to work out a new agreement for the past two years. That is what the board approved in December.

The bank's written agreement was not what was agreed to verbally and would have put the Center in violation of it's lease with the city and left the interest rate open at the end of October, Ford said. He recommended that they make monthly interest payments and seek a proposal from another bank to take effect at the end of October.

"We'll end up with a new agreement for $1 to $1.1 million on a five-year basis." Ford concluded.

Assistant Director Scott Dell pointed out that when Center officials entered into the loan agreement, they had pledges to pay for the building, but due to several factors, such as having to build a new gym, which added $1.2 million to the cost, and the economic crisis, the situation changed.

"We did not build this building with money we didn't have," he said.

Board attorney Scott Rudacille abstained from voting on the resolution because his firm does business with Northern Trust.

"Once we have removed the burden of the capital campaign, we can concentrate on what's important – programs and services," Executive Director Pierrette Kelly stressed.

Anniversary events

Kelly said the Center's staff is over burdened and cannot take on the additional work of organizing the 50th anniversary events and asked for the board's help. The original idea was to have five events, each focusing on a different generation that used the Center.

Board member David Teitelbaum suggested combining the events into one large event and promoting it during the Affaire to Remember. The others liked the idea.

Ford reported that the second quarter finances have improved over the first quarter. Revenue is up $75,000 and expenses are down $14,000.

"We're moving in the right direction," he said. "From a cash standpoint, we're very healthy. We did not budget the Lester Challenge, from which we received $104,000, and we're moving into a good cycle."

Kelly said she has applied for a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation for a new bus, but noted that grants are becoming harder to obtain as agencies tighten their budgets due to the economy.

The board welcomed three new members:

• Randy Langley, a fifth generation Floridian who has been coming to the Island since 1966, and now operates a resort on north Longboat Key;

• Andy Gidus, who served in law enforcement for 30 years, moved to the Island after vacationing here for many years and is the property manger at Tiffany Place condominiums;

• Kelly Joseph, who has lived on the Island for 15 years and works for dentist Guy Yatros.

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