The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 41 - July 27, 2011


Sabine search takes new path

Anna Maria Island Sun News

Deputies from the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office (above)
use ground penetrating radar to check what might be buried
beneath the sand. Manatee County Sheriff's Office Homicide
Detective John Kenney (below right) and crew check out a tire
they found buried. Framed by sea oats that were later
taken out, a red front end loader smooths the sand.

ANNA MARIA – After a week of digging up the white sandy beach, Manatee County Sheriff's Office Detective John Kenney decided to look somewhere more likely to yield a body, rather than someplace where they would do less damage.

Shortly before shutting down for the day on Wednesday, July 20, Kenney directed front-end loader operator David Livingston to bring his machine off the beach and up Willow Avenue to the other side of the sand dunes and start digging out the underbrush around where items belonging to missing motel owner Sabine Musil Buehler were found a week earlier. Kenney figured the ground cover there would make a great place to hide a body, and the job had already been permitted for the Moss family, which owns the home directly east of that portion of the beach.

They dug around for a little while finding nothing and gave up for the day, but the next morning, they were back in force with a new plan.

After consulting with Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox and Florida Department of Environmental Protection Field Officer Steve West, they were ready to dig from the sandy beach east into the underbrush to see if Musil Buehler's body might be there.

In order to do that, they needed permission to take down sea oats and possibly sea grapes growing there and to move the heavy equipment into an area where gopher tortoises live.

They brought in local native plant expert Mike Miller to survey the area. He surmised that the mother-in-law tongues growing there were not protected and he was hired to help the county replant areas that are damaged and replace the sea oats and grapes. Later, Deputy Jason Smith gathered the seeds from the sea oats to take back to the sheriff's office prison farm, in hopes that inmates could germinate replacement plants.

For the last two days of the week, they dug deep holes with the front end loaders, letting the sand sift from the buckets overhead so that a spotter could search for anything out of the ordinary. So far, the only things found were unrelated to the disappearance of Musil Buehler, who was last seen October 2008. They found a tire, a turtle skull that probably belonged to a dead animal that city crews buried, a small toy soldier and a plastic sand shovel.

The sheriff's office reassessed the search Monday morning and resumed looking in the afternoon. One benefit for Turtle Watch is that the loader drivers were going to knock down the escarpments, or small cliffs, that formed after the renourishment earlier this year. That makes it easier for the female turtles to come onto the beach to lay their eggs. Under the renourishment agreement with the state, Manatee County is responsible for making sure the turtles can reach land to nest.

Meanwhile, Kenney is not ready to give up. He appreciates the support from the city, Turtle Watch and the DEP.

"They have been very accommodating," he said. "The cooperation has been fantastic."

Kenney said they will be interviewing Musil Buehler's boyfriend, William Cumber, a main suspect in the case who is in prison for violating his parole. He said he's not too optimistic about getting anything out of Cumber.

"He's denied it from day one," Kenney said. "He's shown no remorse."

City considers tax increase

ANNA MARIA – Finance Director Diane Percycoe presented a proposed $2.1 million budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year to commissioners at a work session last week.

She said she based the budget on a 2.0 millage rate because the city has taken money from its reserve for the past five years to maintain a 1.7882 millage rate. She said if the city keeps the 1.7882 millage rate for 2011-12, it would receive $59,000 less in ad valorem revenue.

On the revenue side, the ad valorem would bring in $1,125,736, or $61,975 more than the current rate. Other income would bring the total to $2,198,061.

On the expense side, the budget shows $492,953 for personnel, $1,183,500.99 for operating, $10,000 for capital outlay, $421,993 in project/maintenance, $17,000 in capital equipment/projects, and $72,613 in stormwater maintenance (from the stormwater utility fee) for a total of $2,198,061.

Percycoe explained that the line item for contracted services includes the Sheriff's Office and a building official. The professional line item includes the city planner, minutes clerk and engineer.


Commissioner Dale Woodland asked why retirement contributions are down, and Percycoe said as of July 1, employees must contribute 3 percent and because the state lowered the rate of contribution.

Woodland asked about the increase in health insurance, and Percycoe said she increased it 3 percent as opposed to 5 percent last year.

Commissioner John Quam asked about donations, and Percycoe said $350 goes to Keep Manatee Beautiful, $250 goes to Solutions To Avoid Red Tide and $16,000 goes to the Community Center. He asked if commissioners want to continue giving $16,000 to the Community Center.

Percycoe said that's a decision for the board.

Quam asked if money could be earmarked for repairing street corners that are damaged by Waste Management trucks. Mayor Mike Selby said he is working on it with Public Works Supervisor George McKay.

Jo Ann Mattick asked about the potholes in the Rod and Reel Pier parking lot, which is city right of way. Selby said he is planning a work session on the problem.

Resident John Chambers asked about the increase in building permits, the contingency fund and the line item named loan payment.

Percycoe said officials anticipate an increase in building permits, the contingency fund is for unforeseen circumstances and the line item named loan payment is money being used build up the reserve.

She said if commissioners decide to purchase the six lots at Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard, the money would come from that line item, and it would take longer to build up the reserve.

Millage rate

Woodland said the 2.0 millage rate was a shock to him and added, "To me it's irresponsible for us to raise our tax rate 10 percent and not even discuss it."

Chair Chuck Webb reminded Woodland that there are several more budget work sessions planned.

"I disagree with starting at 2.0," Woodland continued. "What we've done in the past is start with 1.7882, and if we have some real problems, there are things we can look at to increase revenue.

'But when we start out with the end result already planned for, it's hard to focus too much on reducing anything."

"I wanted to present a workable and honest budget," Percycoe responded. "You can cut and cut and cut, but it comes to a point where you can't cut anymore without getting into services.

"The staff operates on bare bones," Selby stressed. "These people are working hard. I think this is a very justified budget."

"We're down to 2004 in taxable value," Quam added. "It may be the right thing to do to go up to 2.0."

What property owners pay

Resident William George pointed out that according to the tax assessor, his property value declined more than $50,000, but his assessed value increased $5,746. He said in 2011-2012, the assessed value of homesteaded properties would increase 1.5 percent.

"What people don't realize is that when the Homestead Exemption Act was passed, the legislature also said if the value of property declines, they can raise your assessment to recapture the benefits that you get from the cap when the property value is going up."

Percycoe said with a 2.0 millage rate, a property owner with a home valued at $500,000 and claiming a $50,000 super homestead exemption, would pay $900 in city taxes. With a 1.7882 millage rate, a property owner with the same value and exemption would pay $805 in city taxes.

A property owner with a home valued at $250,000 with a super homestead exemption of $50,000 would pay $400 in city taxes. With a 1.7882 millage rate, a property owner with the same value and exemption would pay $358 in city taxes.

Percycoe provided a pie chart that showed property owners pay 9 percent to the city, 12 percent to the fire district, 13 percent to the county, 19 percent to the Sheriff's Office and 42 percent to the School Board.

Commissioners plan to set the tentative millage rate at the board meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, July 28.

Food and Wine on Pine plans for 2012

ANNA MARIA – Caryn Hodge, marketing director of the Chiles Restaurant Group, unveiled plans for Food and Wine on Pine in 2012 to members of Cultural Connections recently.

The event debuted this year during the city pier centennial celebration in May and included the area's top restaurants featuring their specialties with wine and boutique beer pairings, musical performances, art booths and local actors dressed in period costumes.

"It was Ed Chiles' vision to have an upscale event for Anna Maria showcasing the best in food, wine, art and music," Hodge explained. "We used the umbrella of the pier centennial to get that off the ground.

"In this next year and for years to come, we will be having the annual food and wine event. The new date is May 5, 2012, and from now on it can be on the first Saturday in May."

She said two other events Cinco de Mayo and the Kentucky Derby are scheduled for that day, and organizers may incorporate those themes into the event, such as Mexican food or a Derby hat contest.

More artists

Hodge said this year, there were 25 artists on the street and 25 represented at The Studio at Gulf and Pine. Next year, they hope to have 80 artists on the street and 25 to 40 in The Studio. A special tent for emerging artists or children's art has been discussed, as has art along the pier boardwalk.

She said the fee for artists would be $75, but those returning from last year would get complimentary tickets for persevering through the torrential downpour that occurred in the afternoon. Artists will be able to apply online.

"We hope to have the basics by September, and artists can apply online," she said. "Eventually we hope to expand with other aspects such as giving awards for the artists on the street and doing a silent auction."

The costumed characters representing historical figures from the city's past would continue again next year, she said and added, "It was such a fun thing and speaks to Anna Maria and its history."

She said this year's event generated enough to donate $100 each to the AMI Community Center, AMI Community Orchestra and Chorus and Cultural Connections, and donations to local non-profit and arts groups would continue in the future.

"We have somebody who is going to help us," Joan Voyles pointed out, "and nobody in the county has ever done that – to help arts organizations. This is significant in the fact that is focused on the Island."

In other business

• Dolores Harrell, president of the Island Players, announced that the Players are planning an open house for Sunday, Aug. 21.

• Jim Johnston, director of music at Roser Memorial Community Church, said the church is planning three free concerts – classical, jazz and folk – from January to March.

• Members discussed opening a bank account for small expenses, but continuing to keep their account at the Manatee County Council for the Arts for those who want to make donations and claim it on their taxes.

• Members discussed making changes to their rack card before printing more, and charging annual dues.

• Members voted to join the Manatee and Longboat Key chambers of commerce.

• Members named an executive committee.

• Members discussed the roles of core members and associate members.

• Members discussed becoming more involved with the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors' Bureau and the Tourist Development Council.

Public input sought on aging docks
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

The city will close this dock to the public dur to deterioration,
but it won't be quick to fix it until commissioners decide if the
city or the adjoining homeowners should pay for the fix.

BRADENTON BEACH – One of the city's bayside docks is in dangerous shape and the city wants to protect the public from it without setting a precedent.

The problem is there is no agreement on who owns the docks because when they were built, the residents nearest the bay usually paid to erect them, even though they are located on public land. Most of those owners are long-gone and there is a question as to whether the city or the property owners should be liable for the upkeep. Either way, the city would be named in a lawsuit stemming from a dock in disrepair, like the one in question at Eighth Street South.

When a homeowner showed Public Works Director Tom Woodard the condition of the dock, he called Duncan Seawall and got two estimates to improve it. A basic repair would cost $430 while a replacement would cost $1,442. Both costs include surveys and engineering fees.

The problem first came to light at the city's Capital Improvement Projects meeting on Wednesday, July 20, and members decided to place it on the city commission meeting agenda for the next day as an emergency issue.

At the commission meeting, Commissioner Jan Vosburgh said the city needs to contact the neightbors.

"If we fix it now, we will have to fix again, that's the nature of docks," she said. "If we pay for it now, we'll have to pay for it again."

Building Official Steve Gilbert said they needed to act fast. "It is an immediate health and safety issue," he said.

"Why not keep it barricaded until we figure out who pays for it," Commissioner Gat Breuler asked. "I don't think we should put two cents into it until we figure out what to do."

"There are some long-term effects how ever you decide," Gilbert warned. "Homeowners should have some input into this."

Police Chief Sam Speciale asked Gilbert for a declaration that it is unsafe, so his men could keep people off the dock.

"Sure," Gilbert said, "but they'll ask how long it will be closed."

The commission agreed to schedule a public meeting to discuss not only the Eighth Street dock, but docks at Seventh and 12th Streets.

In other action, the city commission approved the first reading of a five-percent raise in the business tax. Vosburgh voted against it, saying she is against any tax hikes. The second and final public hearing is set for Aug. 4, at 7 p.m.

Turtle volunteers celebrate the past, present and future
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Turtle Watch Director Suzi Fox presented kneeling pads to
the organization's section coordinators at the annual Anna
Maria Island Turtle banquet, which was held at the fire station
in Bradenton Beach. Shown here standing are, from left
to right, Glenn and Claudia Wiseman, Maureen McGovern,
Pete and Emily Gross, Ed Sterba, Betsy Smith, Lee and
Marvin Zerkle, John DiFazio and Debbie Basilius.

Volunteers from Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch gathered at the Bradenton Beach fire station to celebrate sea turtle nesting on the Island. This year, the theme was the past, present and future.

It's always one of the most important events in the year and it's also one of the most fun.

Volunteers don't spend a lot of time with each other. They mostly walk on a section of beach each morning just as dawn breaks. They look for signs that a female turtle has climbed ashore during the hours of darkness to dig a nest and deposit her eggs. At this time of the year, those volunteers are also careful to see if they detect signs that those eggs have hatched and the cluster of baby turtles has scrambled into the sea.

But on Sat., July 23, they gathered for their annual banquet and celebration.

"I'm proud of all our volunteers," said AMITW Director Suzi Fox. "You are a compassionate group that cares for the earth, your community and especially our sea turtles and shorebirds."

2011 Sadie award

One thing that always occurs at the banquet is the naming of the Sadie Award recipient.

This year, Fox made the award to Carol Soustek.

"She's been protecting turtles longer than I have," Fox said. "She always does her walk. She always reports in. She's quiet and unless there's something wrong on the beach. Carol is passionate about these turtles."

The award is named after Sadie, a turtle that was seriously injured at Coquina Beach some years ago.

"She had fallen in between some rocks there, and she couldn't get out," Fox said. "We tried to reach in and help her, but she kept trying to bite us."

Fox said volunteers, especially Lee and Marv Zerkle, finally got Sadie away from the rocks, but her plastron was badly cracked. The plastron is the almost flat portion of the shell on the underside of a turtle.

"She was a mess," Fox said. "And she was just full of eggs."

The volunteers managed to get Sadie into Fox's SUV. They drove her to Mote Marine Laboratory where more volunteers monitored Sadie round the clock.

"Every time she laid an egg, we had to drive down there, get it and race back here to bury it in the sand," she said.

With the care at Mote, Sadie gradually recovered and was released back into the wild.

"Sadie was a survivor, a miracle survivor, so we make a presentation in her name to a person who typifies that struggle to save life, to save turtles," Fox said.

Legacy honored

Almost 21 years ago, Ed Callen was one of three people on Anna Maria who started working with saving sea turtles.

"They had a program at Longboat, and they kept after us to start one of our own," Callen said at the banquet. "Finally, they gave us a bucket of hatchlings, and everyone came to see them released. That did it. We were hooked."

So Callen, Lois Finley and Chuck Shumard began the original Turtle Watch.

"That beginning is our legacy," Fox said. "Our theme tonight is past, present and future. The past isn't gone, it's now a legacy that Ed and Chuck and Lois passed down to me and I passed down to you."

Callen, obviously moved, accepted a plaque honoring his service to the task of saving threatened and endangered sea turtles.

Silent auction

The silent auction raised about $800 from people bidding on items donated by local businesses and individuals.

And Sunday morning, the volunteers were back out on the beaches, monitoring for signs of sea turtle nesting.

Design contest for college students

The Florida Public Transportation Association (FPTA) is searching for a talented graphic arts student to create a new logo for the association. The competition is open to all graphic arts students enrolled in a Florida University/College.

The winning student will receive $1,000, and the school's art/graphic department will receive a prize of $500. The new logo design will be used on the FPTA website, displayed at future events and in future transit publications.

The Florida Public Transportation Association is a nonprofit association whose members include every major public transit agency in Florida as well as interested citizens and businesses.

The deadline for artwork submission is Sept. 16. For a copy of contest rules and design criteria, contact Susan Haggard at 772-469-2052 or email To learn more about FPTA, go to

Chamber to gather in Anna Maria

The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce holds its monthly Business Card Exchange on Wednesday, July 27, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Sunrise Garden Resort, 512 Spring Ave., Anna Maria. The cost is $5 per person to network with fellow members and friends by the pool. The new owners recently joined the Chamber, and members are urged to come out and welcome them. For more information, call 778-1541.

New menu at Village Cafe

The Village Cafe at Rosedale in Anna Maria has announced new breakfast and lunch menus with lower prices. Items include breakfast sandwiches of egg, cheese and choice of meat on toasted English muffins, as well as a vegetarian sandwich of egg, tomatoes, bell peppers and cheese.

The lunch menu features a tuna salad sandwich as well as a new super foods salad. Cafe hours are 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. daily. For more information, stop in at the Cafe at 503 Pine Ave. or call 896-8890.

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