Payton Murphy prepares to leave for kindergarten
while her mother, Cindy, comforts her.
Ayden Pahle took the first step Monday morning as school started at Anna Maria Elementary. The fifth-grader was the first to step off the bus and onto the sidewalk for his last year at the little school by the bay.
He and other bus riders were asked how they were getting home and then given an armband showing whether by bus, walking or parent pickup. Even the newest students got the tags, which were color-coded. One young lady, dressed in pink, looked at the armbands and said, "I want a pink one," eliciting chuckles from all inside the auditorium, where the kindergartners were staged before being marched to class.
Outside, West Manatee Fire Rescue parked a pumper truck and left its lights flashing in front of the school to remind drivers that this was the first day of school. School Resource Officer Brian Copeman directed traffic; his son was starting kindergarten at AME as well.
After their children marched away with their teachers, the parents were invited to watch the first morning show of the school year. Principal David Marshall hosted beginning with the pledge of allegiance and the school rules. Guidance counselor Cindi Harrison, just back from a one-year leave to work at Tidewell Hospice as a child grief counselor, joined him and they went over the lunch menu. They invited students to come out behind the school after they finished their lunches to participate in something that was resurrected from earlier years, Clubhouse. Clubhouse features fun activities for kids to do from drawing pictures to exercising.
After the morning show, the new parents were invited to the lunchroom for a continental breakfast and to hear from the staff. Art teacher Gary Wooten asked the parents to come to the front desk soon to have their driver's licenses scanned into the security system so they would have ID badges to wear when they come to the school, and he expressed hope they would.
"You are welcome to come and have lunch with your children at any time," Wooten said.
PTO Secretary Maggie Cucci welcomed everyone and invited them to volunteer, noting that AME is recognized for its level of volunteerism every year.
"We're a school of about 300 students and we log in around 3,000 volunteer hours each year," she said.
PTO President Monica Simpson talked about fun raisers, noting the PTO raises about half as much money as the school has in its budget.
She invited everyone to a volunteer reception on Tuesday, Aug. 30, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Sandbar restaurant, 200 Spring Avenue, Anna Maria. There will be snacks and a cash bar and School for Productive Play will offer babysitting.
Media specialist Lynne McDonough went over the Rotary Readers program, the Birthday Book Club, the Accelerated Reading program and the Book Club Fair held each year in conjunction with Science Night.
Coach Eric Boso (Coach B) spoke about the need for kids to wear comfortable clothing they can play in on P.E. days. He went over the annual Jump Rope for Heart fund-raiser and the Slime a Teacher event they held last year. He also asked for volunteers to supervise the runners club every Wednesday morning. That event helps kids train for the Dolphin Dash every year.
The opportunities abound for parents to help make their children's school year,and that of all kids at the school better.
SUN PHOTO/MAGGIE FIELD
Callie Forest, left, holds up a sign thanking Bradenton for not
banning horses from the Causeway, while Alex McGaven holds
the lead line on Tonka.
BRADENTON - The Bradenton City Council has unanimously voted to reverse direction on banning horses from Palma Sola Causeway and Palma Sola Bay.
The council had directed City Attorney Bill Lisch to draft an ordinance prohibiting horses at the popular recreational area in June, but last week, he advised council members that the Causeway and bay are under the Florida Department of Transportation's jurisdiction, not the city's.
Manatee County's top tourism official and Tim Mattox of Great World Adventures are glad the controversy is over.
"I was pleased," said Carol Whitmore, chair of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council, who had asked the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau marketing department to rein in advertising the beach as horse-friendly before the city council's decision last week.
Marketing materials on Manatee County's tourism website publicize "beach horses" on the Causeway, which is bordered by a narrow strip of sand on each side of Manatee Avenue that is also open to dogs.
Mattox showed his appreciation by having his employees don bikinis and wave signs at causeway traffic saying, "Thanks, Bradenton."
Great World Adventures is the only business that regularly rents horses at the Causeway, but other businesses also use the right of way, including ice cream trucks, kayak rentals and hot dog stands, Whitmore said.
Private horse owners also ride horses on the Causeway and let them swim in the bay.
"I've seen horses out there for years and haven't gotten one complaint," she said.
But the city council received complaints about horse manure on the beach and in the water, as well as safety, earlier this summer, prompting its effort to ban horses.
Last month, the city's public works director reported that tests showed only trace amounts of fecal coliform bacteria in the water where the horses swim.
Horse droppings do not significantly impact water quality because they are mostly grass, according to Mattox, who has been renting horses on the Causeway for three years for beach riding and horse surfing – standing on a horse's back while it swims.
His employees clean up horse droppings on the beach, but can't do so in the water, he said.
Water tests for fecal coliform and enterococcus bacteria on both the north and south sides of the Palma Sola Causeway last week showed good water quality, the highest rating possible.
BRADENTON – West Manatee Fire Chief Andy Price told fire commissioners he has been approached by the chairman of the Cedar Hammock Fire Commission to investigate the feasibility of merging the two districts.
"He told his board that the public has been asking the question, 'Why are there so many fire districts?' He said they have a responsibility to the people they serve to answer that."
Price said he and Cedar Hammock Chief Randy Stulce would work on the issues involved, including how to combine the tax base and what staffing would be needed. Commissioners agreed to move forward with the study.
"Once we get the information, we can bring it back to both boards," Price said. "They'll need enough information to make a reasonable decision so they can go to the voters and explain what it means and how it will affect them"
The Anna Maria Fire District is the product of a merger of the Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Cortez fire districts. The West Manatee District is the product of a merger of the Anna Maria and West Side fire districts.
"In 2005, we went to Cedar Hammock asking if they were interested in studying a merger, but they were not interested at the time," Price recalled.
Other county fire district mergers include North River (Palmetto and Ellenton), Cedar Hammock and Whitfield, and Southern Manatee (Oneco, Tellevast and Samoset).
Commissioners approved the $5.4 million 2011-12 budget on first reading. The budget includes a 1.7 COLA increase for employees plus a salary adjustment for firefighters.
Price told commissioners about a recent court ruling in which the judge fined a former Bonita Springs fire commission candidate $1,000 for false statements issued during a 2010 campaign.
The candidate sent e-mails to about 200 people making false claims of spending abuse by an incumbent as well as by the fire district. The judge ruled that he violated Florida election law.
Commissioners elected Jesse Davis as secretary/treasurer to replace John Rigney, who left the district.
To reserve a lane, bowlers must prepay by Thursday, Aug. 25, for the 21st annual O'Connor Bowling Challenge set for Saturday, Aug. 27.
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. For the first time, teams can choose their lane, but must register early.
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. There will be a photo booth 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 O'Connor at 545-3121. The event has raised over a quarter of a million dollars for youth sports at the Community Center.
CORTEZ – The FISH Preserve is ready and waiting for hikers and kayakers to
The new tidal creek at the FISH Preserve in
Cortez is accessible to kayakers
explore it, with the first phase of its restoration complete.
Hiking and kayak trails have been developed for recreation and to increase tidal flow at the 95-acre preserve on Sarasota Bay on the east end of the historic Cortez fishing village.
The preserve was purchased in 1999 by FISH, the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, with funds from the annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival. The non-profit organization is restoring the estuarine ecosystem on Sarasota Bay with funds from the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The first phase of the restoration also included restoring mangroves, removing exotic plants, developing a design plan and building foot bridges to connect hiking trails.
Future restoration efforts will focus on additional removal of exotic plants, the development of more kayak trails and the development of two stormwater retention ponds.
Other organizations supporting the FISH Preserve include the Audubon Society, Ocean Trust, West Coast Inland Navigation District, the William and Marie Selby Foundation, the Manatee County Commission, the Organized Fishermen of Florida and First America Foundation.
The preserve is open to the public Monday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to sunset. The entrance is at the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez Road and 119th Street West, which visitors are also invited to explore. Parking and admission to both attractions are free.
ANNA MARIA – Commissioners had a few questions, but didn't change anything in the proposed 2010-2011 budget, which totals $2,219,756 and has a 2.05 millage rate.
Finance Director Diane Percycoe said the increase in millage would bring in $1,153,879 in ad valorem taxes. She said the only other changes she made were to add a line item of $113,000 to replenish the reserve fund and a line item of $112,000 for the loan repayment on the six lots the city plans to purchase.
Commissioners then went page by page and asked questions. The first was from Commissioner John Quam who asked about money for road improvements.
Percycoe said the capital improvement advisory committee and Public Works Director George McKay have developed a five-year plan and noted, "We are accumulating money to be able to do roads according to the plan."
Commissioner Dale Woodland asked why there is money in the budget for dredging Lake LaVista when it was done this year.
Percycoe explained that the city has to pay up front for the dredging and then get reimbursed with grant funds. She said she is putting in $65,000 each year for the next two years for future dredging because the grant is for $112,000.
McKay said it takes a year to get the money reimbursed.
Quam asked about $10,000 for the seawall at the humpback bridge on North Bay Boulevard. Percycoe said she is building up the fund to do the work according to the five-year plan.
Seeking revenue sources
"I think we should look at something like an additional $100 to $150 fee for replenishing the reserve fund or reducing the city's liability in the six lots," Woodland.
"I don't want to burden everybody. People would have a choice. We could send out a notice to taxpayers to tell them what we're doing and how it would work, and they could opt out."
Chair Chuck Webb pointed out that "the constitution says everybody must be taxed the same."
Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick said the city should recoup some money from tourists and suggested a city sales tax. Webb said they would have to investigate the legality of it.
'The big one would be parking fees, but no one wants that, Webb observed. "We need Jim (City Attorney Jim Dye) to tell us what our parameters are. It's not what we can dream up to do; it's what we're allowed to do."
He asked if the city gets any money from the bed tax, and Percycoe said it gets money for beach renourishment. Webb suggested that the city investigate getting more return from that tax.
Mayor Mike Selby said the city used to get money from an occupational license tax and that he is exploring the possibility of reviving it. He said the issue would be on the October work session.
Woodland suggested revising the employee benefit package for next year's budget, and Webb said he would put the issue on the October work session agenda.
What you would pay
Quam pointed out that the new millage rate would increase taxes by 14.5 percent.
"It sounds gargantuan, but I got my TRIM notice and mine is $32 a year more," Selby responded. "Maybe we shouldn't deal with percentages; maybe we should deal with dollars."
According to Percycoe's figures:
• For a home valued at $500,000 with a $50,000 super homestead exemption and a 2.05 millage rate, the owner would pay $922.50 in city taxes. The same home at a millage rate of 2.0 would pay $900, and the same home at a millage rate of 1.7882 (the current millage rate) would pay $804.69.
• For a home valued at $250,000 with a $50,000 super homestead exemption and a 2.05 millage rate, the owner would pay $410 in city taxes. The same home at a millage rate of 2.0 would pay $400, and the same home at a millage rate of 1.7882 (the current millage rate) would pay $358.
BRADENTON BEACH – The engineer the city hired to design and oversee the construction of parking facilities on an empty lot next to the public works building and around Lou Barola Park near the police station has come up with a contractor eager to help the city save money.
The Bradenton Beach City Commission, acting as the city's Community Redevelopment Agency last Wednesday approved a plan to hire Woodruff and Sons to do the work with a contract that sets a cap of $55,000 on the work.
According to engineer Lynn Townsend Burnett, owner of Lynn Townsend and Associates, that would allow the city's public works department to do some of the work, saving the city from paying Woodruff to do the work.
"This contract allows us maximum flexibility for the city's public works department to perform as much of the work as they are capable without incurring change orders from the contractor as the work progresses," Townsend wrote in a memo to the city's Capital Improvement Projects committee.
"It also provides us and the city with the ability to control the costs, scope and timeline of the project to the utmost degree."
Burnett said other contractors wanted to put in mobilization costs, which would have pushed the project over the amount of money the city wanted to spend, which is $55,000.
"If we have enough sand on that lot, we could truck in shell for the right mix instead of hauling the sand out and bringing in the sand-shell mixture," she told commissioners. "We will do everything in our power to come in under budget."
The commission approved the bid and Burnett said Woodruff would begin work as soon as possible because they want to be done by the end of September.
HOLMES BEACH – Candidates for three seats on the Holmes Beach City Commission must qualify between Monday, Aug. 29, at noon and Friday, Sept. 2, at noon with the Holmes Beach city clerk's office or the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office.
Seats held by Commissioners Al Robinson, Pat Morton and David Zaccagnino, all two-year terms, will be up for election on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
All candidates, before opening their campaign bank account or accepting or spending any funds, must file an appointment of campaign treasurer and designation of campaign depository form and a statement of candidate form with the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections office.
By the Friday, Sept. 2, deadline, they also must file proof of U.S. citizenship, Manatee County voter registration, Holmes Beach residency for two years prior to qualifying, a loyalty oath and oath of candidate for non-partisan office and a statement of financial interests.
Candidates must either pay an election assessment fee equal to 1 percent of the annual salary of the office sought ($120 for mayor, $60 for commissioner) and collect 15 petition signatures of voters residing in the city and turn in a candidate's residency affidavit. Those who cannot afford to the fee may file an undue burden oath that eliminates having to pay the fee.
For more information on how to become a candidate, visit www.votemanatee.com or call the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections office at 741-3823.