CORTEZ – The not-for-profit Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage (FISH) is working to preserve the commercial fishing heritage of Cortez by retooling flagship programs focused on youth seamanship and boatbuilding.
The FISH board voted unanimously on Monday, June 4 to begin a search for a new director for the stalled Turner Maritime Challenge at Cortez, using the www.Monster.com website.
Board member and Bradenton attorney Turner Matthews, who secured the funding for the youth program with a bequest from his client, sailor and folk musician Jay Turner, suggested a salary of up to $36,000 a year, which was approved.
The program offered classes in 2010-11, but after disagreements about its curriculum, operations were suspended in September 2011 to allow a committee to revise the curriculum to more closely reflect Turner’s intentions and the commercial fishing history of Cortez.
Who’s on deck?
Another program without a captain, the FISH boatbuilding program, is operating with volunteers only.
Until recently, the program was operated by master boatbuilder and Manatee County employee Bob Pitt, who resigned in April as the county clerk’s office, which oversees historic preservation in the county, began to separate its operations from FISH programs.
Boatshop volunteers hoped that Pitt would once again run the boatshop for FISH, which is still a possibility, Pitt said.
Meanwhile, he accepted a position on the FISH board last week to fill the remaining term of board member Jeff Moates, who has resigned, citing as one reason the separation of the county from the Turner Maritime Challenge program.
Another board member, Dick Estabrook, also has resigned.
Debra Ibasfalean, who had previously announced her intent to resign, is considering remaining on the board, she said.
Rocking the boat
The numerous changes are, in part, a response to Manatee County and FISH separating the financial and administrative operations of the county-owned Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez from FISH, which owns the FISH Preserve and the boatshop.
The boatshop’s volunteer boatbuilders have won awards at shows around the country and have built and sold commissioned boats, with proceeds benefiting FISH.
The county owns a historic boatworks that is a static historical exhibit next to the museum.
The county and FISH are negotiating over who gets to keep a $3,000 table saw in the boatshop, among other things, Matthews said.
Questions also remain unresolved about whether certain boats were donated to the museum or to FISH, which owns the rights to the name, “Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez.” Other questions concern when FISH must remove its property from the museum and which entity is entitled to what part of $12,000 in donations found in the museum, some of which may have been intended for FISH and some for the museum.
FISH board members also are researching who authorized changes to the FISH donation form that appear to transfer ownership to the museum, according to FISH board minutes.
Manatee County’s Clerk of Court, Chips Shore, who administers the museum, had proposed an 18-page memorandum of understanding detailing the nuts and bolts of separating the operations of the county, FISH and the Cortez Village Historical Society (CVHS), which has been instrumental in establishing the museum.
Since then, the clerk’s office has sent a memo to FISH and CVHS saying it has been advised that the memorandum of understanding is not necessary, and instead provided a 13-page document, Rules/Procedures for the Florida Maritime Museum at Cortez, to govern its relations with FISH, CVHS and other entities.
Shore advised FISH in the memo that county employees Karen Riley-Love, site manager of the museum, and Cathy Slusser, of the historic resources department, would not attend FISH meetings until they receive a formal public apology for what he termed “vicious and malicious” treatment by some FISH members.
The FISH board has not yet responded.