The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 42 - August 3, 2011


Millage hike eyed

ANNA MARIA – The spirit of cooperation reigned after commissioners initially disagreed on the tentative millage rate for the 2010-11 budget.

After four motions and four votes, they settled on 2.05, which can be reduced during the budget process, but not increased.

Discussion began when Chair Chuck Webb pointed out that the millage rate has dropped from 2.0 to 1.7882 since 2007, and that property values also have dropped.

"There's less income to the city, and how that's balanced out is we've been taking money from the reserves," he explained. "One of the goals of the commission was to make sure we collected enough tax funds to build the reserve back up."

He said another issue is financing the purchase of six lots at Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard.

Commissioner John Quam said he supports a 2.0 millage rate, but would not include the lot purchase in the budget.

Finance Director Diane Percycoe said she included $225,000 to build the reserve in a proposed budget that she presented at a recent work session, but if the city purchases the lots, the money could come out of that line item.

Millage debate

Webb suggested setting a rate higher than 2.0 in order to include the lot purchase.

Jo Ann Mattick asked how high they could set it, and Percycoe said 10 mils, but a millage of 2.4 or above would require a super majority vote. She said 2.1 would allow for a cushion.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said he would not favor going above 2.0 and added, "If I thought the city would end up paying for those six lots100 percent, I wouldn't support that.

"If it's not going to be a public/private partnership or some other mechanism to supplement the city's portion, I wouldn't pursue it."

"That's pie in the sky," Webb declared. "I haven't seen anyone coming in here to give us money. I'd pay $50 to $100 more a year to get the lots, and others who have approached me have all said the same thing."

Mayor Mike Selby stressed that with the August deadlines on the lot purchase, there's not enough time to raise private money.

"If we purchase the lots, the principal payment will be set," Percycoe pointed out. "If people donate, the payment won't go down; we'll just pay it off sooner."

Next came motions for millage rates of 2.2 (Mattick and Webb, yes, and Woodland and Quam, no), 2.0 (Mattick and Webb, no, and Woodland and Quam, yes) and 2.1 (Mattick and Webb, yes, and Woodland and Quam, no). The tie votes were due to the absence of Commissioner Gene Aubry.

They reached a compromise on a millage of 2.05 with Woodland dissenting. They also set the first public hearing on the budget for Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 6 p.m.

The next budget work sessioon is Thursday, Aug. 4, at 6 p.m.

Island search for Sabine expands
Carol Whitmore

This aerial shot shows the heavy equipment
digging for the body of missing motel owner
Sabine Musil-Buehler who was last seen shortly
after Halloween 2008.



ANNA MARIA –The large, yellow loader raises a shovelful of sand over the cab of the machine, and the operator gently nudges it forward until the sand starts to cascade slowly to the ground. Several pairs of eyes watch closely, hoping to spot something unusual in the sandy shower that might answer to the question law enforcement have been asking for almost three years – where is Sabine Musil-Buehler?

The search, which ignited again after items belonging to the missing motel owner were found in an area of heavy foliage just south of the Willow Avenue beach entrance, turned up nothing else. If anything, some were amazed at how clean the sand is in the area between Cedar Avenue and Palmetto.

Manatee County Sheriff's Office Homicide Detective John Kenney, who formerly ran the sheriff's office substation in the city of Anna Maria, said despite the lack of clues, he plans on keeping up the search.

"We'll most likely end the digging tomorrow," he said Monday morning. "We're trying to get another cadaver dog in to search some of the areas that the earlier dog searched."

Kenney said that the original dog, which was provided by the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, was also a search and rescue dog. He said they are trying to get the Osceola County Sheriff's Office dog, located in Kissimmee. He said they plan on looking at other areas.

"I sat down with a map and with my experience on the Island, I made a list," he said. "We might look at Park Avenue or up around Rotten Ralph's (in Anna Maria)."

Kenney said they still believe Musil-Buehler was murdered and that she was buried somewhere.

"The evidence we have indicates that and her boyfriend, William Cumber, is a person of interest in her disappearance," he said.

Musil-Buehler disappeared shortly after Halloween, 2008. Her estranged husband and business partner, Tom Buehler, reported her missing after her car was recovered in Bradenton and the man who was driving it was arrested for car theft. She was living with Cumber at the time. He said she left after they got into an argument over his smoking.

The man convicted of stealing her car, Robert Corona, originally said he had partied with her but he retracted that story when he heard of her disappearance and said that he was looking inside unlocked cars for change and items of value when he found the keys to her car in the ignition. He was stopped and arrested a few blocks away.

Kenney said he plans on keeping up the investigation until he finds out what happened. Cumber is in state prison for about 11 more years. He was arrested after her disappearance when he left town without telling his probation officer, and the judge gave him a 13-year sentence.

"We feel she is buried out here somewhere," Kenney said.

Suspect arrested in Key Royale case


HOLMES BEACH – The suspect arrested in the alleged embezzlement of more than $400,000 from the Key Royale Golf Club had a spotty record when it came to money.

Holley Elaine Connelly, 29, of Bradenton, surrendered to Holmes Beach police after the state attorney's office issued a warrant for her arrest on charges of scheming to defraud while she worked as a bookkeeper for the golf club. Her bond was set at $500,000.

Connelly's record in Manatee Circuit Court shows a string of money problems. She and her husband, Philip, had a house foreclosed in 2003, had a claim for credit card debt in 2005, were evicted from a residence in 2008 and were taken to small claims court in 2009 by a landlord collecting the last month's rent and damage deposit on their home.

Connelly was working as a bookkeeper for an investment firm in Palmetto at the time of her arrest. According to Holmes Beach Detective Mike Leonard, she began serving as bookkeeper for the golf club in 2008, and she left her position in March 2011 after club officials found out money had been disappearing from the club's accounts. According to Leonard, none of the missing money had been returned as of last Friday.

Connelly had ties to the Island when she served as co-chair of the Anna Maria Elementary School PTO's Spring Fling in 2007. The other co-chair was Joy Murphy, who said she was shocked and dismayed when she heard Connelly had been arrested.

"I always found her to be above-board in dealing with the PTO," Murphy said. "Our money was closely regulated, and the account balance closely monitored during the time she worked on the fund-raiser."

Murphy said Connelly also ran the Domino's Pizza fund-raiser in which the pizza outlet donated a percentage of the money they made during monthly "pizza nights," but she had nothing to do with the money.

Holmes Beach Police had been waiting for the warrant after extensive investigation of missing money at the private golf club. Club President Craig Humphreys said in a newsletter to club members that the loss of money is estimated to be around $485,000, although the arrest record estimates the amount taken at $387,181.77.

The alleged embezzlement was discovered by club treasurer Tim Friesen just after he took the position. He claimed somebody was misusing the club's deposit accounts, writing fraudulent checks and using the club's debit card without permission.

A club employee declined comment when contacted by telephone.

"I'm glad we were able to conclude this investigation," Leonard said. "I want to thank the people at Key Royale Club for being easy to work with on this case."

City gets GSR settlement offer

BRADENTON BEACH – If the city commission approves, a large tract of beachfront land may become a new development instead of a weed-infested field

The commission is scheduled to consider a $70,000 settlement of a code enforcement action that dates back to 2005 when the developers who owned the land, GRS LLC, filed for bankruptcy.

GSR had planned a condominium on the four lots at 2508, 2510, 2512 and 2516 Gulf Drive North, calling it Casa Del Mar. Before development began, they stripped the land with a front end loader and formed berms around the adjoining lots.

The city took exception and filed a code enforcement action against them, ordering them to clear out the berms, which was a concern to the building official at that time, Ed McAdam, because it would deflect water during a storm and case damaging to adjoining properties.

Shortly after that, GSR filed for bankruptcy.

Since then, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has taken ownership of the property and last year, there was interest voiced in the property from developers, but the city's code enforcement action included fines of $250 per day since June 30, 2006. The fine quit accruing when the FDIC brought the property into compliance. According to a letter to City Attorney Ricinda Perry from FDIC Senior Attorney, Manuel Cabeza, the total owed is around $456,000.

The FDIC became receiver of the property for Horizon Bank and Silverton Bank, which owned the property. When Horizon Bank filed a Lis Pendens (pending legal action regarding title), it released the property from the fines, according to Cabeza, so the city might not be eligible for all that money. He proposed the compromise that would give the city a $70,000 lump sum in return for the release of the lien over the property. The city had also claimed $1,839 in processing expenses for the code violation, and it will likely incur further legal expenses for this agreement.

In other action, the commission will consider a request for proposals for outside solid waste collection for commercial locations, the second public hearing for the waste disposal franchise agreement with Waste Pro, the second hearing for sign ordinance amendments and the second hearing for the five-percent hike in the business tax and the first public hearing on the newsrack ordinance.

The commission will take up the proposal at its regular meeting starting at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 4

Work begins on south boardwalk
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Work continues on the boardwalk and shelter project at the Anna Maria City Pier. This week, the contractor will cleanup after construction in the north parking area and dumpster enclosures. The north parking lot is currently open to the public. Both the north and south shelters have roofing and work has started on the south boardwalk.

Motorists can expect temporary intermittent lane closures along North and South bay boulevards. Flaggers will be present as needed. Pedestrians can expect to use alternate routes to access the pier during construction. Weather permitting, this project is anticipated for completion in October 2011.

Work continues on the shelters at the Anna Maria
City Pier, which now have roofs. According to Public Works
Director George McKay, they should be completed
in mid-September.



Neighbors get update on Banyan Tree Estates
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

The home being built by Whitehead
Construction is surrouded by banyan trees.

ANNA MARIA – Neighbors got their first look last week inside one of the first homes being built in Banyan Tree Estates subdivision along Park Avenue and Beach Street.

"This is the second annual neighbors' meeting to inform you and keep you up to date on what's being done," David Teitelbaum explained. "It also gives you the opportunity to ask questions."

Al Galletto and Larry Chatt joined Teitelbaum. All are with Island Real Estate, which has the listings on the nine lots. Brent Whitehead, the contractor on the nearly completed home, also joined them.

The lots once were owned by Steve and Virginia Walker and included a stately Mediterranean mansion, which was demolished in 2000. Steve Walker II and Mary Walker now own the development.

Teitelbaum read a letter from the Walkers to the neighbors, which said, "Many of you remember my uncle Steve and aunt Virginia. They often spoke fondly of their neighbors, and loved living in this neighborhood. What we are hoping to accomplish with Banyan Tree Estates has a lot to do with their influence on us and our memory of them and their priorities."

Protect the integrity

"Steve asked us what we thought about the value of the lots and what should be done here," Galletto explained. "There were 11 50- by 100-foot lots.

"We thought he should do a new subdivision with less lots of a larger size. It took three years, but we're at the final stage." Chatt said the subdivision includes nine lots. The two lots that are under construction and the two lots behind them that are listed for $699,000. There are three beachfront lots listed for $3 million each.

On the north side of Park Avenue are two lots being kept by the Walkers. They plan to build a home on one and garden on the other, Chatt said.

"We wanted to protect the integrity of the properties and control the environment," Teitelbaum told the neighbors. "To keep the uniqueness, we put in deed restrictions on the banyans and architecture."

"An arborist helped us write the restrictions for the banyan trees," Whitehead explained. "The architectural style is historical and common to the coast. The color and roof material have to be approved."

Some of the lots, as well as others along the Gulffront, are in the conservation zone, which has created a glitch now being addressed by the city.

According to Building Official Bob Welch, the zone was changed from preservation to conservation in a 2007 revision of the 1989 comprehensive plan. No development is allowed in the conservation zone.

The city has submitted a text and map change to the state in order to restore the zone to its former designation, which would allow construction.

First trolley arrives

The first of the new trolleys has arrived in Manatee County and is being prepped by Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) crews and decorated with the ads that will keep it fare-free.

According to Island businessman David Teitelbaum, who is in charge of selling the ads for the trolleys through the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, the second of the five trolleys the county ordered should be here on Wednesday, Aug. 3. That first trolley should be on the street by Monday, Aug. 8.

The advertising has been easy to sell, according to Teitelbaum who added all of the outside spots have been sold.

"I had to stop selling them last year because the old trolleys broke down too much to ensure people besides the mechanics at MCAT saw them," he said. "After the county ordered new ones, we saw a new influx of interest in advertising."

The remaining ad spaces are inside the vehicles, where Teitelbaum thinks visitors to the Island will be looking for a place to eat, purchase souvenirs and have fun. The spaces are 11-by-17 inches and you can expand your exposure.

"Advertisers have been ordering two spaces and putting them together for an 11-by-34 inch space," he said. "The Chiles Group has ordered four of them."

Teitelbaum said he was surprised Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker had MCAT continue to run the old trolleys after announcing last year that he was ordering new vehicles to replace them.

"Those old trolleys were very expensive to run because they kept breaking down," he said. "They cost twice as much as operating buses."

The county purchased its first five trolleys in 2002 with help from a federal grant after the county worked out the budgeting for the trolley line, which replaced a sparsely used bus route. The free trolley rides were an instant hit and ridership soared to the point that it got statewide recognition within the public transportation realm.

Those initial vehicles had their share of problems too including noisy engines and brake problems due to the sand. An exhaust modification quieted the noisy engines, but the vehicles, which run a 365 day per year schedule, still had more than their share of breakdowns.

The county ordered four more vehicles from another supplier in 2006, but these vehicles were even more prone to breakdown, according to Hunzeker. Last year, in order to raise money to keep the trolley rides free, the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce signed an agreement with the county to sell advertising space inside and outside of the vehicles.

When advertisers complained that the vehicles were in the shop too much and their ads were not being displayed when buses were used instead, Hunzeker decided to purchase heavier-duty vehicles. He deferred the ad program until the new vehicles arrive, allowing the ads to stay on the old vehicles but not charging the advertisers until their ads are on the new vehicles.

Those interested in taking the remaining advertising space can call the Chamber at 778-1541, or Teitelbaum at 941-812-4226.

A new generation takes over O'Connor Bowling challenge

From left to right at the 2010 Challenge, Sue and
George O'Connor pose with their son, Mike, George's
twin brother, Bill, and his wife, Sharon, who is hugging
Mike's wife, Katie.

The torch, or bowling ball, has been passed to a new generation in the annual O'Connor Bowling Challenge set for Saturday, Aug. 27.

"This is the 21st bowling tournament and my first," said Mike O'Connor, who has taken over the tournament from his father, George, and hisuncle, Billy.

"My wife Katie and I had to keep up the family tradition and incorporate our generation. It's an Island reunion, and you go to see people you haven't seen in a year."

Pre-registration is required, and bowlers can register at Duffy's Tavern, 5808 Marina Drive, Homes Beach, from now until the event is sold out. In order to reserve a lane, bowlers must prepay by Thursday, Aug. 25.

Mike has added a new feature this year, and he explained. "I diagramed all the lanes. Teams can choose their lane, but they have to register early to have a choice."

Tournament check in is at 5 p.m. and bowling begins at 6 at AMF Bradenton Lanes, 4208 Cortez Road, Bradenton. The donation is $25 and it includes shoes and three games.

This year there will be a photo booth by Lenna and Jeanne, of Enna/Anne, for teams to have their photos taken.

The after party will be held at the Anna Maria Oyster Bar, 6696 Cortez Road W., Bradenton. Owner John Horne will provide beer and margarita stations, a full bar and bowlers' specials.

Raffle tickets for a big screen television donated by the Island Sun and hundreds of prizes from local merchants and restaurants will be available at the bowling alley. Tickets are six for $5.

In addition to the raffle, trophies will be awarded at the after party. Trophies include high and low game, male and female; high series, male and female; and the Chuck Stearns Memorial High Game Trophy, The trophy is in honor of Holmes Beach Police Officer Charles "Chuck" Stearns, who passed away in 2005.

For information, call Mike at 545-3121. In addition to being a "ball," the event has raised over a quarter of a million dollars for youth sports at the Community Center.

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