The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 29 - April 20, 2011


Lighthouse treasure to be restored

Harry Stoltzfus

The 1858 Egmont Key lighthouse is
still in operation as an aid to navigation.
In the foreground are rotating beacons
installed in the lighthouse in 1944, which were
replaced by the current beacon in 1989.
The Egmont Key Alliance is seeking
funding to restore the lighthouse and keep
the ruins of Fort Dade from eroding
into the Gulf of Mexico.


EGMONT KEY – On a clear night on Anna Maria Island, you can see the beacon from the lighthouse on Egmont Key, just as anyone in three counties could have done in 1858.

The light has burned for 153 years as an aid to navigation, still doing the original job it was built for, according to Jim Spangler, past president of the Egmont Key Alliance, which intends to see that the lighthouse keeps right on burning.

On Florida Lighthouse Day last Saturday, Spangler gave tours of the lighthouse, which replaced one built in 1848 that was destroyed by storms.

The light, which used to run on whale oil and lard, is electric now, thanks to underwater power cables, but it has no backup generator. The original metal stairsteps inside are still intact, despite the salty environment, but need work. The rope handrails are worn.

The lighthouse interior is red brick, like those used in 1905 to build the roads that lead to the U.S. Army Fort Dade Military Reservation's ruins on the key. The interior bricks were once painted white like the outside, but one or more of the lighthouse tenders scraped the paint off, revealing the original red brick, Spangler said.

More restoration is planned, including repairing the metal railing along the top, which is called a "lantern room," not a "cupola," as most people think, Spangler said.

The Alliance hopes to restore the lighthouse to its original 1858 appearance, which had a different-shaped lantern room than the current structure, he said.

History worth saving

As an aid to navigation, the 87-foot-tall lighthouse may be on its way to becoming obsolete, as GPS becomes commonplace, Spangler said.

But as a piece of history, the lighthouse - and Egmont Key - shines.

The island, accessible only by boat, has had many incarnations; a prison for Seminole Indians and Confederate soldiers, a refuge for runaway slaves, the mosquito-infested Fort Dade, built for the Spanish-American War, a prohibition-era hideout from revenuers, a landing field, a harbor pilots' base, a recreational boating destination, a bird and sea turtle nesting area, a refuge for 1,500 gopher tortoises and a place where rehabilitated birds injured in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill were released.

The key, which is 1.5 miles long and 1 mile wide, sits in three counties - Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas - and has state and federal designations as Egmont Key State Park and the Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge. The U.S. Coast Guard operates the lighthouse.

Along with the lighthouse restoration, the Alliance, with other groups, also is seeking Congressional support for a 50-year beach renourishment project proposed in 2008 by the Army Corps of Engineers to prevent erosion from claiming the remains of Fort Dade, parts of which already have crumbled into the Gulf of Mexico.

At the same time, the Florida Legislature is considering cutting $80,000 in state funding this month for the resident park ranger and part-time rangers, said Alliance President Richard Sanchez, adding that if the funds are cut, the key will likely be posted as closed during weekdays.

Alliance volunteers contributed nearly 10,000 hours to the key in fiscal year 2009-10, the equivalent of $72,000, or 3.5 full-time employees, according to the Alliance.

For more information on the Alliance, visit

Drilling resolution stalled

One year after the April 20 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, a call by state lawmakers for a Constitutional amendment prohibiting oil drilling in Florida waters has stalled.

A joint resolution in the Florida House and Senate proposes an amendment to the state Constitution to "prohibit exploration, drilling, extraction and production of oil beneath Florida waters between the mean high-water line and the seaward limit of Florida's boundaries."

The resolution has not been heard since its first reading on the first day of the 2011 Legislative session, March 8. The session ends on May 6.

While offshore drilling already is banned in state waters, a constitutional ban - which requires voter approval - would reinforce the statutory ban, which members of the Legislature have tried to lift, so far unsuccessfully.

In 2010, Rep. Dean Cannon (R – Winter Park), now Speaker of the House, withdrew his proposal to allow oil rigs as close as three miles from Florida's coast. His bill was similar to one passed in the House, but not the Senate, in 2009, which would have allowed drilling in state waters from three to 10 miles offshore.

The Manatee County Commission unanimously passed a resolution opposing oil drilling and exploration in state and federal waters last year, expressing concern about endangering Anna Maria Island's tourism, recreation and wildlife.

Days after the well was capped, the Legislature convened a special session - at the request of then-Gov. Charlie Crist - to vote on placing a Constitutional amendment on the November 2010 ballot to ban drilling in state waters, but quickly closed the session without considering the amendment.

This year's resolution, co-sponsored in the House by Rep. Rick Kriseman (D – St. Petersburg) may never be heard, said his aide, Kevin King, adding, "As we expected, it fell off the Legislature's radar."

The Deepwater Horizon disaster killed 11 people and leaked oil into the Gulf of Mexico from April 20 to July 15, killing fish, dolphins, sea turtles and birds, putting commercial fishermen out of business in five states and keeping tourists from visiting Gulf coast beaches.

AMICC inquiry continues


ANNA MARIA — Allegations of misconduct by a 30-year-old Anna Maria Island Community Center employee remain under investigation this week in the wake of reports that the male employee had sex with a 17-year-old and sent inappropriate text messages to a 14-year-old.

The employee, who has not been formally charged, has resigned.

Manatee County Sheriff's Office spokesman Dave Bristow confirmed that his office had received both complaints and both are being reviewed.

"The allegations are still under investigation," he said. "All I can tell you is that at this time, it doesn't appear to be criminal."

Center is informed

"I'm shocked at the allegations," said Pierrette Kelly, the executive director of the Center. "As soon as I knew about it, I followed procedure to the letter and reported it to the abuse hotline."

Anna Maria resident Sandy Mattick, who has a daughter who is a member of the teen program at the center, first reported the allegations to Anna Maria Mayor Mike Selby on Monday, April 4 after her daughter heard the allegations from the alleged victim and confided in her mother.

The mayor immediately informed Manatee County Sheriff's Sgt. Dave Turner, who heads up law enforcement in the city. He called Kelly and asked her to come to city hall.

Mattick was asked by Sgt. Turner to write a letter outlining her complaints.

"I hand wrote the letter right there," Mattick said. "The kids were saying that the employee had sex with a 17-year-old. I also wrote about the instant Facebook messages and text messages that this employee sent to several of the kids."

Mattick was the first person to formally report the first incidents to law enforcement.

First warning

However, Kelly said a member of the Center's board of directors heard allegations about the employee at least two weeks before Mattick made her report to the authorities.

"The board member's son, who is a member of the teen group, told her about the reports," Kelly said. "I don't know why this (failure to report) happened. We have policies and procedures in place to deal with just this sort of thing. We have training. The board gets the same training as the staff."

Kelly said the board chairman was going to deal with the board member in question — a move that may be problematic under the state's Sunshine Laws.

Former City Commissioner Chris Tollette, who served as commission liaison to the Center while she was in office, said she doesn't recall any board training, though she attended every board meeting during the four years she was the liaison.

"There was never any training on mandatory reporting while I served as liaison," Tollette said. "I worked for 10 years on the board of a treatment facility for children. We had policies and procedures in place, and everyone was trained, including board members and staff members. I don't know of any training that took place at the Center here. I have worked with children and with risk management."

Second red flag

Participants in the teen program told the program's coordinator of the allegations on that Friday, April 1, just before Mattick made her report, Kelly said.

The coordinator told the teens that with the Affaire to Remember fundraiser the following evening, there was no time to discuss the matter, Kelly said. The coordinator reportedly told the kids that they could all discuss the situation over dinner after the Affaire was over.

Kelly said the coordinator has been "severely reprimanded and written up."

She said the staff receives training in handling allegations of child abuse several times a year, and then is required to sign paperwork acknowledging that they've had the training.

"I reminded this employee (the coordinator) that he'd had the training, he knew he had to report it," Kelly said. "He said he didn't remember any training, but I showed him that he signed a statement and he still didn't remember. I had to read it to him before he remembered."

Kelly said the coordinator told her he just signed the paper without reading it.

"He told me that the staff is always being asked to sign something, so they just sign," Kelly said.

Mandatory reporting

Whenever a caregiver or person in a custodial relationship with a child hears allegations of abuse of any kind, they are required to make a report to law enforcement and to call the Abuse Hotline, according to Manatee County Sheriff's spokesman Dave Bristow. individual to make decisions as to whether or not the allegations are true. They have to file a report for the safety of the children," Bristow said.

According to Bristow, Detective Patricia Hetrick has been assigned to investigate the case.

She reportedly interviewed the 17-year-old, who denied that there had been any sexual activity with the staff member.

At that point, it appeared that the case would be closed.

"When you have a 17-year-old, who is just a few months shy of her 18th birthday denying the accusation, there's not much you can do," Bristow said.

Then on April 11, the father of a 14-year-old reported that his daughter told him the employee had sent several inappropriate text messages to her, Kelly said.

Employee resigns

The staff member under investigation was placed on administrative leave as soon as Kelly learned of the allegations.

Kelly said that she and Center Director Scott Dell later asked the employee to take a polygraph test to prove his innocence. The staff member didn't say yes or no, according to Kelly, but resigned as of Monday, April 11.

Investigation continues

The Sheriff's Office investigation into all the allegations is continuing, Kelly said she's extremely concerned that a board member and a staff member didn't follow the policies, procedures and training that are in place on how to handle allegations such as the ones in question.

"This is serious, very serious," Kelly said. "We're obviously going to have to go over it again."

One shark mystery persists, one solved
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

These are just a few of the small sharks that have been
washing up on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key
beaches lately.

Dead sharks that have been washing up on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key in recent weeks probably are not victims of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory.

Mote researchers recovered more than a dozen sharks, mostly adult bonnetheads, one blacknose and one sharpnose from both islands earlier this month, according to Communications Coordinator Hayley Rutger.

Bonnetheads don't travel far enough to have been affected by the oil spill or chemical dispersants, they concluded. None showed signs of trauma from hooks or fishing nets. Red tide, which has been found only in background concentrations in local waters in the past month, also was ruled out as a culprit.

"It's still pretty mysterious," Rutger said.

Tourists strolling the beach think so too, warning children to stay away from the teeth of the animals, just in case they have one bite left, or teasing them, like one dad who yelled "Gotcha!" as he grabbed his daughter from behind as she peered closely at a bonnethead.

Kennedy-era mystery solved

Seventeen dead blacktip sharks that washed up on Bean Point in the early 1960s had people talking then, too.

But now, thanks to Cortez resident Wayne Fulford, who said he has waited a half century to come clean, the mystery has been solved.

"It was fall. It was a bright, moonlit night and me and Daddy (Tink Fulford) was at Bean Point hauling a seine offshore," Fulford recalled.

"I was pulling it in, and he was putting a lead line down. I could see the sharks and he couldn't. I said, 'Daddy, look behind you!' and he got out of the water and got somebody to get a shotgun."

The fish story continues: "The sharks come after me when I went out in the water. When they were shot, I would grab them by the tail and run them up on the beach. We killed 15 like that, then there was two more sharks in the mullet (net) and we shot them too. We put the sharks in a big scow and took them offshore and dumped them overboard, and they drifted back onto the beach," he said.

"We thought we was going to get away with it, until the 10-year anniversary, when there was an article in the Bradenton Herald saying 'On this day… 17 sharks were found on Bean Point believed to have been killed by commercial fisherman,' " he said.

"They blame everything on commercial fishermen," Fulford said. "This one time, they got it right."

City celebrates Founders Day
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

The Holmes family was on hand for Founders Day in
Holmes Beach on Friday, and the unveiling of a
plaque honoring John "Jack" Holmes Sr. Pictured
from left are Betty Holmes, Hugh Holmes Sr., Jean Holmes,
Judy Holmes Titsworth, Jeannie Bystrom, Cheri Rigney,
Alisha Rigney, Johnny Rigney, Shauna Nance,
Carter Nance and Jeremy Nance.


HOLMES BEACH – It was a day for stories beginning with "Back in the day…" as Holmes Beach celebrated its 61st anniversary on Founders Day last Friday.

More than 20 years ago, Holmes Beach was ahead of its time with a 24-hour convenience store and gas station, Mayor Rich Bohnenberger told the crowd. When you pumped your gas and went inside to pay, the clerk would pick up a pair of binoculars to look at the pump and see how much gas you used, he laughed.

The streets were once shell roads, until they were paved after Manatee County closed the shell pit. Back in the day, it only cost $500 to pave a street.

Bradenton City Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey, whose great aunt and uncle ran a grocery store in Bradenton Beach "back in the day," sang the National Anthem as the American Legion Color Guard Post 24 posted the colors.

She remarked on the importance of history: "If you don't remember the past, you're condemned to repeat it."

The celebration drew several members of the city's founding Holmes family, who were honored with the dedication of a plaque naming the city hall after John "Jack" Holmes Sr., who founded Holmes Construction Co. and built a private airstrip where the city hall and ball fields are now.

"I don't think he'd believe it today," his son, Hugh Holmes Sr., said.

The city commission chambers are named in memory of former mayor and commissioner Pat Geyer, and the police station is named for former police chief W. H. "Snooks" Adams.

Holmes Beach Commission Chair Sandra Haas-Martens also unveiled the newest addition to the Holmes Beach Community Partner plaque, the Citizens Emergency Response Team (CERT), with Pat Gentry, Pete Gross, Pierrette Kelly, Gary Otto and Bill Shuman accepting.

The opening event was followed with tours of the city hall and police station, and a two-day arts and music festival in the city hall field.

Tourism, arts groups exchange ideas

ANNA MARIA – Arts and tourism leaders exchanged ideas last week at a Cultural Connections meeting at The Studio, raising hopes that the arts will enjoy a higher profile in future tourism promotions.

An arts page is included on the county's tourism website (, Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Elliott Falcione told the group, and links to more art organizations and events can be added, he said.

"We have not been supported in the past," said Anna Maria Island artist Joan Voyles of Cultural Connections, a group of local arts organizations working together to raise the profile of the arts in the community. "There's a different attitude and it's very encouraging."

A liaison from the arts community to the CVB, such as someone from the Arts Council of Manatee County, could increase communication between the arts and tourism communities, suggested Dorothy Blum of the council.

Working together could help arts organizations avoid planning their events on the same day as another major event, lessening attendance at both, Falcione suggested.

The CVB will be asking local arts organizations to take the reins of Festival sARTee, Falcione said. The festival was created by Manatee tourism promoters as a way to draw visitors to Manatee County in between events at the Ringling International Arts Festival in Sarasota in October.

Tourist agency too successful?

The group also discussed a timely question about tourism, as one of the busiest tourist seasons in memory winds down – when is enough, enough?

This season, Anna Maria Island has felt more like a resort than a residential community, Marsha Bard said, adding, "Where do you draw the line?"

Other members agreed, chiming in that parking at Manatee public beach, where some artists meet as a "plein air" group to paint, has been impossible, with cars parking blocks away on residential streets and along Manatee Avenue.

"We're paid to clog up the arteries of Manatee County," Falcione said, explaining that CVB marketers will not "let our foot off the gas pedal" even during a busy tourist season, because market share could be lost, leaving businesses in a slump that could take years to repair.

"We're a long way away from being full," he said, especially in the off season.

Countywide tourism was up .7 percent in February and up 1.8 percent in March from 2010, according to the CVB.

"This is the first time I've heard from tourists that they're not coming back because it's too crowded," said Blum. "We don't want to tip the scale and keep them from coming back."

With a 92 percent visitor satisfaction rate, there is little to be concerned about, Falcione said, adding that the tourism agency would like to see some visitors shift to the mainland, but nearly all tourists surveyed say they come to Manatee County for the beach.

"We don't want to be like Fort Lauderdale," attracting a young beach crowd, Carol Heckman said.

The average age of the Manatee County tourist is 52, Falcione said, adding that the county commission, which directs the CVB's marketing efforts, does not want to attract a younger crowd.

"You don't want to turn into Daytona Beach," agreed Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, advising anyone concerned to attend local government meetings to express their views.

Local churches celebrate Easter

The Easter season is one of the most important times of the year for Christians to celebrate and worship.

On Anna Maria Island, churches will come together to celebrate a Sunrise Easter Service at Manatee County Beach on Sunday, April 24, just before dawn. Representatives from all six churches will conduct the service with help from the Kiwanis Club of Anna Maria Island, which has sponsored all of the past Sunrise Services. Everyone is welcome. There is no charge, although Kiwanis takes collections of money that will be split among the churches. People attending are asked to bring beach chairs or blankets.

The churches have also scheduled services of their own.

• CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria, invites everyone to their Good Friday Service at 7 p.m. Call the church office at 778-0719 for more information.

• The Episcopal Church of the Annunciation, 4408 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, will celebrate Easter Day with an 7:30 a.m. Eucharist Rite I and a 9 and 11 a.m. Eucharist Rite II with music. The story of the Resurrection Eggs will be told at 10 a.m. followed by an Easter egg hunt. Call 778-1638 for more information.

• Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 6608 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, begins its celebration with a 7 p.m. worship with Holy Communion and stripping of the altar on Thursday, April 21. There will be Tenebrae Worship Services at noon and 7 p.m. on Friday, April 22. There will be a service on Saturday, April 23, at 5 p.m. and traditional services on Easter at 8 and 10:30 a.m. Call 778-1813 for more information.

• Harvey Memorial Community Church, 300 Church St., Bradenton Beach, will hold a service at 9:30 a.m. on Easter morning. Call them at 779-1912.

• Roser Memorial Community Church, 312 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, will celebrate with services on Holy Thursday on April 21 at 7 p.m.; a service on Good Friday, April 22, at noon in the Sanctuary; and Easter Sunday services at 9 and 11 a.m. in the Sanctuary. Call 778-0414 for more information.

• St. Bernard Catholic Church will hold Holy Thursday services on April 21 with a morning prayer at 8:30 a.m., Mass of the Lord's Supper at 7 p.m., an Altar of Reposition until 10 p.m. and a night prayer at 9:45 p.m.; a morning prayer at 8:30 a.m. on Good Friday, April 22, plus a Passion of Our Lord service at 3 p.m. and Stations of the Cross at 6 p.m.; an 8:30 a.m. morning prayer, an 11 a.m. Blessing of the Easter Baskets and an Easter Vigil Mass at 8:30 p.m. on Holy Saturday, April 23; and Masses at 8 and 10 a.m. and noon and a 1 p.m. Easter Egg Hunt on the grounds of the church on Easter Sunday. Call 778-4769 for more information.

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