The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 39 - July 13, 2011


Weekend washout

Harry Stoltzfus

Above and below right, Turtle Watch's Suzi Fox,
in yellow, Claudia Wiseman, in white hat, and Rhonda Bailey
work feverishly to dig up and relocate sea turtle
eggs as rising Gulf waters threaten to inundate the nest.

In the pre-dawn hours last Friday, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Protection volunteers began waking up all over the Island.

"I heard the storm, and I knew we would have problems," AMITW Director Suzi Fox. "With that wind and the pounding surf, I knew we'd have some nests washed out for sure, and I was also worried about the birds nesting on the north end of the Island.

Section Coordinator Glenn Wiseman came awake at his own house sensing the same thing.

"At about 4 a.m., we all began calling each other," Fox noted. "We weren't really expecting the strength of the storm, but it really hit everyone on the west coast of Florida.

Wiseman said the volunteers went out on the beach to monitor their sections as they do every morning at dawn, searching the beach for signs that a female loggerhead has crawled ashore during the hours of darkness to dig a hole and deposit her eggs. The volunteers also check to see if any of the nests have hatched leaving the telltale-scrambling trail from the nest to the sea.

"There was no thunder or lightening," Wiseman said. "So everyone headed to the beach as usual."

But when they got there, they found surf that was up to the grass line and winds that were whipping the sand around with great force.

"It felt like you were being hit in the face with gravel," Wiseman said. "It was really brutal. People just had to get off the beach."

Fox said that with the water so high, they couldn't run the ATV along the shore to monitor that way.


By dawn, residents and visitors all over the Island were calling the AMITW phone line reporting that nests were being washed out to sea.

State and federal guidelines prohibit moving nests during storm events unless the eggs are actually uncovered and rolling in the surf.

"We lost five nests altogether," Fox said. "They were washed completely away. We were able to relocate eight nests."

Each nest contains about 100 eggs, so with each washout, a potential of 100 potential hatchlings are gone. Scientists' best estimate is that only one of every 1,000 baby turtles will make it to reproductive age, a loss of five hundred eggs is a serious blow, according to Fox.Nest locations unknown

This is the height of turtle nesting season, with anywhere from five to 10 "emergences" each night.

An emergence is the term used to refer to any time a turtle leaves the water and climbs ashore, according to Fox.

"We could, potentially, have had 10 new nests during the night of the storm," she said. "We will never know where those nests are, because all signs of the tracks of the mother turtles were erased by the storm.

"We can just hope that those nests are safe until they hatch," she said.

The storm also created two steep berms along the beach that was just renourished.

"One is from about 70th Street to 77th Street. The other is a little bit to the south of that," Fox said.

Usually, Fox would call the county to come out and smooth the berm out.

"We can't do that this time," she said. "I don't know if there are turtle nests there or not, and we just can't take the chance."

Fox asked everyone to have patience with the berms for the next 50-to-55 days, which will give any unmarked nests a chance to hatch.

"One of those berms is straight up and down," Wiseman noted.

"Some people had to help pull Claudia (AMITW Volunteer Claudia Wiseman) right up the side of the berm, because it was too steep to climb," Fox said.

She added that that wasn't all people did to help.

"People called us as they noticed the nests that were in trouble," Fox said. "Our people here on the Island are wonderful. The response was terrific. It's just an example of the amazing teamwork we have going on here."

Wiseman agreed.

"People just stepped forward to help without even being asked," he said. "The Zoller, Prokuski and Duffie families have been coming here for years. They helped us relocations and anything else we needed."

Shorebird nesting update

The storm was hard on the skimmers nesting on the north end of Anna Maria Island. Twelve chicks died as a result of the wind and water.

But at the same time, the number of birds in the skimmer colony is growing.

"There are 15 more nesting pairs, so we've had to expand the boundaries of the colony a bit," Fox said.

As of Monday morning, there were 373 black skimmer adults and 33 chicks in the colony.

Some of the first chicks to hatch are beginning to explore their new world.

"They're running away from their mothers and exploring the water and the sand area," Fox said. "You can see them putting their heads down at the waterline getting their first drink or their first experience with the water."

Fox said over the next weeks, the chicks will learn to swim, to fish for their food and, finally to fly.

"Some of our wonderful people are trying to help by shooing the chicks back to their parents," she said. "They're trying to protect the babies, but the chicks need to go down to the water. They need to learn to do things on their own."

Fox asks everyone who happens upon the skimmer chicks wandering from their nests to just stand back and enjoy the sight of these little birds learning about their environment.

Facebook/Turtle blog

Be sure to check AMITW's Facebook page for up-to-date information. Go to Facebook and then type in Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch. Information is also available on Fox's blog, which can be accessed from The Sun's website at

Woman nearly drowns

A 55-year-old woman was found face down in the Gulf of Mexico near the Moose Lodge at 110 Gulf Drive N. in Bradenton Beach on Saturday, July 9, around 2 p.m. and may have been saved by beachgoers who started CPR.

According to police, Marsha Butler was breathing and had a pulse when she was taken to Blake Medical Center by ambulance. She remained at the hospital in the intensive care unit as of Monday.

Theft total estimated at $485K

HOLMES BEACH – The amount of money the Key Royale Club may have lost to embezzlement is estimated to be around $485,000, according to club president Craig Humphreys in the club's monthly newsletter, Tee Time Topics.

This is the only mention of the club's problems stemming from what is being called an embezzlement by an employee. The Holmes Beach Police Department has acknowledged conducting an investigation of a financial matter at the club, although it has not identified a suspect.

Humphreys first mentioned it in a letter to members and in last month's newsletter, he referred to difficulty in getting information from the bank involved.

Humphreys said in the July newsletter that it appeared police were making progress in the investigation and that there would be an arrest soon, perhaps by the time the newsletter was distributed. No arrest had been made as of Monday afternoon, however, according to Holmes Beach police.

Humphreys said the club had retained an attorney to represent it in court. He praised club treasurer Tim Friesen for uncovering the alleged embezzlement in March, which he said started around the middle of 2008.

Board sees options at budget work session

ANNA MARIA – Finance Director Diane Percycoe presented commissioners with several options regarding the millage rate and budget at their first work session last week.

According to Percycoe's figures:

• The current millage rate of 1.7882 generates $1,096,661;

• The same millage rate for 2011-12 would generate $1,037,650 or $59,011 less than the current budget;

• The rolled back rate of 1.881 would generate $1,091,500 or $5,161 less than the current budget;

• A millage rate of 2.0 would generate $1,160,553 or $63,892 more than the current budget.

Chair Chuck Webb said if the city uses the rollback rate, property owners would pay the same amount of taxes as they do now, but if it uses the current rate, owners would pay less.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick asked how long the city has had the same millage rate, and Percycoe said since 2006. She said prior to that it was 2.0.

Percycoe noted that in the current budget, the city used $139,000 from the reserves to keep the millage at 1.7882 and balance the budget.

Salaries and benefits

Commissioners also received a spreadsheet listing each employee's salary and benefits. Percycoe pointed out that beginning July 1, employees began contributing 3 percent to their pension funds and said some cities are giving employees raises to compensate for their pension contributions.

"This has become a big issue," Commissioner Dale Woodland said. "It has bankrupted some cities and states. I paid at least 90 percent of my pension my whole life. When citizens are paying for public employees, I don't see the justification in that."

"We're at the lowest pension classification when it comes to contributions by the city," Percycoe explained. "What's hurting other cities are the high-risk employees.

"Some cities pay dependent coverage, but we pay our own and our own short-term disability and accidental death and dismemberment. So you can't compare us to other cities."

Webb disagreed with Woodland and pointed out, "It's a compensation package. Someone in Diane's position would get paid more in the private sector. Instead of giving her a higher salary, part of the compensation is this pension."

Commissioners will continue the discussion at the next budget work session at 6 p.m. on July 21.

Sun sweeps 14 awards in FPA contest
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Sun publisher Maggie Field won
first place in the Feature
Photo category for this shot of
a high-flying skateboarder.

The Anna Maria Island Sun has earned 14 awards, including four first place awards, in the 2010 Florida Press Association Better Weekly Newspaper Contest.

Sun staff writer and photographer Cindy Lane won eight awards, and cartoonist Steve Borggren, Outdoors editor Rusty Chinnis, staff writer Pat Copeland, publisher and photographer Maggie Field, the editorial team of editor Mike Field and correspondent Laurie Krosney, and columnist Sean Murphy each won an award.

Awards were presented on July 1 at the FPA's annual conference, held at the Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg.

The honors for The Sun cut across the spectrum of categories in the contest, including news reporting, various types of photography, column writing, community history, local editorial and analysis, political cartoon creation, coverage of the environment and outdoors, and even one for obit-story writing.

The annual statewide competition involves newspapers from all over Florida and is divided into categories based on the circulation of the publication. The Sun falls into the medium-sized category of papers with a circulation of 7,000 to 15,000.

"I am so proud of our staff and the hard work they put in to be honored in this way," Publisher Mike Field said. "To be recognized to this extent by one's peers in a statewide competition is an accomplishment the staff also should be proud of. This truly was a team effort."

First place awards were:

• Maggie Field, Feature Picture, for "Flying High," a photo of a young Island skateboarder getting big air at a skate contest in Holmes Beach.

• Mike Field and Laurie Krosney, Editorial Award, for "A Sound Plan," about a walking and traffic plan for the city of Anna Maria and a call for calm and unity in the city.

• Cindy Lane, Serious Column (Sally Latham Memorial Award), for "Coast Lines: Oil Spill Draws Us - and Them - Close to Coast," about people visiting the beaches after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill with new appreciation, and animals fleeing the spill towards the coast.

• Sean Murphy, Humorous Column, for "Christmas With Uncle George," about Murphy's uncle and his obsession with adding rum to Christmas treats.

Second place awards were:

• Cindy Lane, News Story (Gwen Stevenson Memorial Award), for "Sabine Mystery Persists," a six-year retrospective about the events leading up to and following the disappearance of Holmes Beach hotelier Sabine Musil-Buehler.

• Cindy Lane, Community History, for "Roots in the Water," about volunteers at the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez building replicas of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto's longboat, used in Tampa Bay, and the boat used by Confederate Secretary of State Judah P. Benjamin to escape Union troops in east Manatee County.

• Cindy Lane, Portfolio Photography (Robert J. Ellison Memorial Award), for "Waterway Holiday," a nighttime reflection of sailboats decorated for Christmas, "Restored Valentine House a Historic Treasure," of a home being moved by barge down the Manatee River to the Robinson Preserve, "Oil Spill Impacts Local Tourism," capturing dolphins following a tour boat, "Mullet Magic as Seasonal Run Begins," a Cortez fishing boat bringing in a haul of mullet, and "Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival," a portrait of Cortez net maker Blue Fulford demonstrating his craft.

• Cindy Lane, Outdoor Writing, for "Locals Headed for Cocoa Surf Contest" and "AMI Takes Surf Fest by Storm," about the 25th anniversary of the National Kidney Foundation Pro-Am Surf Festival in Cocoa Beach founded by Anna Maria Island surfers and twins Rich and Phil Salick, featuring Island surfers and musicians competing and performing there.

• Cindy Lane, Environmental/Conservation, for "Pets Being Killed by Coyotes" and "Tempers Flare at Coyote Workshop," about coyotes preying on Cortez pets and the dispute between owners of pet victims and coyote advocates.

Third place awards were:

• Rusty Chinnis, Outdoor Writing, for "Take a Kid Fishing," about the benefits of teaching fishing to children, who may someday take their aging mentors fishing.

• Steve Borggren, Original Local Editorial Cartoon, for "Excuse Me Mr. Robinson" about the Holmes Beach commissioner's criticism of the local fire district.

• Pat Copeland, Best Obituary by a Newspaper, for "Memories of 'Snooks' Shared," about the life and death at age 91 of W.H. "Snooks" Adams, Holmes Beach's first police chief.

• Cindy Lane, Humorous Column, for "Coast Lines: Octopi and Golf Balls – a Perfect Match," about several local stone crab trappers who found that octopus were bringing golf balls into their traps.

• Cindy Lane, Editorial Award, for "Expand the Preserve," discouraging county officials from approving a golf course next to the environmentally sensitive Robinson Preserve.

City will seek purchase of six lots

ANNA MARIA – After a lengthy discussion, commissioners told Mayor Mike Selby to negotiate a contract to purchase six lots at the corner of Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard.

Selby said Blackhawk Bank and Trust, the majority lender on the property, has offered to sell the property for $2.8 million paid over 20 years at 4 percent interest. Option 1 offers level payments and Option 2 offers interest only for two years.

"The two options fit into our budget criteria and ability to pay," Selby said. "We have pledged three revenue sources – the electric franchise fee, the communications service tax and the half cent sales tax."

Commissioner Dale Woodland said he is concerned about replenishing the reserve fund, and Selby said with Option 2, they would be putting $225,000 back into the reserve.

Selby said commissioners should look at the timetable he passed out and asked if they planned to vote on it at the July 14 meeting.

"What's the urgency? Chair Chuck Webb asked. "With this kind of money I think we should have the property appraised. We're assuming X amount is the value of the property, and I'm not ready to accept that.

"The starting point for our negotiation is the fair market value. Then we look at the kind of financing we can get and the balance it out and see what the best deal is. We only have to pay fair market value.

Use of the property

"We appear to be paying a premium," Woodland said. "How can these six lots be used? Can you build six houses on them?"

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick said she thought variances would be needed in order to access some of the lots.

"The lots have challenges," City Attorney Jim Dye agreed. "The current code prohibits a driveway across the back of them. The bottom line from a legal perspective is we cannot deny them access to the roads."

Dye said there are many factors to consider when determining what can be built there.

Woodland, as he had in a previous meeting, brought up the idea of a referendum.

"This is obligating the city, our residents and taxpayers and future commissions for 20 years," he said. "That is unprecedented without something like a referendum."

And Webb, as he had in a previous meeting, raised the possibility of eminent domain, however, Woodland and Mattick discounted the idea.

Woodland said he thought eminent domain should be used when the government has a need and noted, "I see it as something we want, not need. There's no way I would support that."

"In good conscience, I really could not support using eminent domain to take property from the bank or anybody else," Mattick added. "I think it creates a negative environment."

Making a decision

"We have to make a commitment by Aug. 15," Commissioner John Quam stressed. "If we sit here and discuss all these things, it will be weeks and weeks, and this property will not be available."

"Do I want those lots? Hell yes," Woodland responded. "We have an opportunity that doesn't come along but very infrequently.

"Whether we pay $2.4 million or $2.8 million is important, but getting the lots is more important. Let's get it done now."

Mattick said the long-time residents she's talked to have told her they favor the purchase and noted, "I think it will haunt us down the road if we don't get these lots."

"I want them within reason," Webb said. "I think it's irresponsible for us to pay more than fair market value. That's an expensive passive park."

Micheal Coleman, of Pine Avenue Restoration, asked, "Are you going to regret more if you paid a little more than fair market value or if you lose it? It's a simple shovel-ready deal. Don't let it get away."

Coleman said the bank owner said he wouldn't take less than $2.8 million and if he foreclosed, he would just sit on the property. He thought others would make pledges to help with the purchase, as PAR did, which would reduce the cost to the city.

In a consensus with Webb dissenting, commissioners directed the mayor to work out the details with the bank and come back with a contract. Woodland said he hoped residents would attend the July 14 commission work session and voice their opinions.

City hammers out trash ordinance

BRADENTON BEACH – It looked more like a work session than a meeting last Thursday night as the city commission took an hour to amend a proposed trash collection ordinance allowing Waste Pro to take over the duties formerly done by the city's public works department.

After an initial meeting last month where some fundamental details were missing, City Attorney Ricinda Perry drew up the new ordinance with question marks where decisions still needed to be made. The first question was when Waste Pro would take over the duties and the city would cease its regular trash collection. The city collects the fee for trash service on an annual basis at the beginning of each year, and it would have to either pay Waste Pro for the service up through the end of the year or continue its own collection.

The city agreed to a Sept. 1 start date and it would pay Waste Pro for the service from the money the city collected at the beginning of the year. One alternative was to return the money to all of the paid accounts but according to a chart the city clerk's office put together, it would cost $120 for the checks and $220 for the postage to do that.

The same chart showed it would cost about $108,000 to pay Waste Pro to do it as opposed to having the city do it at about $59,000, but Andy Toller, area manager for Waste Pro, said they did not consider the franchise fee the city would earn, which brought that first figure down to $95,470. They decided that since the money was already in the current budget, it would be easier to pay Waste Pro than to hope the aging sanitation trucks the city owns don't break down and add to the city's expense.

Toller also had a problem because the new contract said the agreement with the city called for collection of resident and rental unit trash up to duplexes. Multi - family units of three or more would be counted as commercial accounts and Waste Pro would have to contract with them individually. Toller estimated there are about two dozen such multi-family residences in the city.

"These definitions concur with the land development code," Perry answered. "However, if they are in a residential district, they can be counted as residential customers, especially if they are in the R-3, multi-family district."

Toller said he was satisfied because those units would now be counted as part of the contract with his company.

Another change was to compensate for when collection days come on a holiday. The contract called for Waste Pro to skip collection, but Toller said they prefer to roll back all service one day when they skip a collection day due to it being a holiday. The commission agreed to that.

The commissioner went through the agreement page-by-page, making adjustments as needed, and the ordinance passed its first reading. The second reading will take place on Thursday, July 21, at 1 p.m. when the commissioners will be presented with a new ordinance incorporating all the changes they made last week.


Amended site plan approved

ANNA MARIA – The planning and zoning board recommended approval of an amended site plan for 315/317 Pine Avenue to include 313 Pine Avenue.

Vice Chair Tom Turner said 315 and 317 are existing buildings, and 313 will be a new building that is being added to the site. In addition, the sidewalk will be relocated and the parking has been revised to meet Chapter 91 requirements.

"The parking has been reconfigured from angle to 90 degrees," Planner Alan Garrett added.

Carl Pearman asked if the sidewalk and parking would be done at the same time.

Micheal Coleman, representing Pine Avenue Restoration, the site's developer, said the sidewalks for the existing buildings would be done before construction is completed on the new building. He said he expected to start construction on the building in September.

Lou Ellen Wilson asked about the drainage.

Coleman said PAR's engineers work with the Southwest Florida Water Management District and pointed out, "We are not only taking our water but we're taking the city's water too."

The board approved the plan with the following stipulations:

• The parking spaces for the residential units shall be signed for residential use only.

• The site shall be operated as a unified site. If it ceases to be operated as a unified site, each lot will be subject to additional review.

• A building permit will not be issued until the sidewalk easement is approved. The applicant shall be responsible for recording the easement and providing a copy to the city.

Pool problems

Building Official Bob Welch told the board about problems he is having with new swimming pool construction.

"Over the past number of years we've seen a lot of pools go in back yards in the neighborhood," he explained. "Some of these pools cause flooding, noise and visual problems."

He said some owners are putting pools on the same level as the floor of the house and building up the ground around them, creating a slope for water to drain into neighbors' yards and an echo chamber for sound.

"We're seeing that there's going to be a greater need for sound buffering in some of these areas, perhaps landscaping or different heights of fencing to shield neighbors."

"It raises the deck up so that a normal 6-foot high fence when placed six feet from the existing grade becomes a 4 ½- to 5-foot fence," he added. "What we're looking at is trying to be as reasonable as possible, but still trying to protect the rights of others."

He said he is working on a change in the city's ordinances.

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