The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 12 No. 35 - June 13, 2012


Up in smoke
Carol Whitmore

Above, Holmes Beach resident Bob Lang watches
as his boat, boathouse and wife’s art studio burn behind his home 5600 Flotilla Drive.

HOLMES BEACH – A fire broke out in the boathouse of a large home at 5600 Flotilla, across the street from the Island Branch Library Monday. Nobody was injured, but the boathouse, a boat and an art studio were destroyed.

West Manatee Fire Rescue answered the call, which came in at 10:42 a.m., and firefighters had the fire under control shortly after. The home belongs to Bob and Liz Lang, who have lived there for about four years, she said.

The boathouse and boat are totals losses, according to West Manatee Fire Chief Andy Price.

“We were able to keep the fire limited to the boathouse,” he said. “We had 28 men respond and they used water and foam to put out the fire.” There were no injuries to firefighters and the Langs got out after they found out there was a fire.

“Somebody rang our doorbell and told us to call 911 because there was a fire in the house behind us,” Liz Lang said. “We checked, and we found out it was our boathouse that was burning.”

By the afternoon, most of the firefighters were gone and West Manatee Fire inspectors were trying to figure out the cause. The state fire martial was due to send an inspector as well.

The fire comes on the heals of a heart attack that sent Bob Lang to the hospital Friday. According to his wife, the medical team saved his life. He just got out of the hospital Monday morning.

Then came the fire, but Liz Lang was upbeat.

“It was only stuff,” she said. “We only lost stuff, but we’ve got each other and that’s most important.

“By the grace of God, we’re still here,” she added. “We send out our most humble, thankful gratitude to the fire department and the emergency medical teams.”

No candidates, no election
Carol Whitmore

Mayor Mike Selby is retiring at the end of his term.

ANNA MARIA – In a first for the city that has seen welcome calm in the past two years under the term of Mayor Mike Selby, no one filed to run for the office of mayor.

In addition, no one filed to run against incumbent Commissioner Chuck Webb and newcomer Nancy Yetter, who takes office in November.

“I’m disappointed,” Selby said. “The city is headed in the right direction, and I wish somebody would have stepped up.”

“It’s a sad state to think we can’t find someone interested in running for mayor,” Yetter said. “I’m totally surprised.”

Longtime Commissioner John Quam said he also was surprised based on the number of packets picked up.

“It’s a sign of the times,” Webb noted. “I’d love to be mayor, but I can’t afford it. It’s a full time job. The amount the mayor is being paid is not consistent with the responsibilities of the job.”

The mayor receives $9,600 per year and commissioners receive $4,800 per year.

“It’s all covered in the city charter to provide for an orderly progression of things.” Commissioner SueLynn pointed out.

On Friday, Finance Director Diane Percycoe consulted the charter, which read, “In the event there is no mayoral candidate, that office shall be filled until the next general election by the deputy mayor. The commission vacancy thus created shall be filled by appointment and the appointee shall serve until the next regular city election.”

Questions arise

However, the question already has arisen about whether that means the mayor shall serve for one year or two years.

Webb said he believes it means the next election for the office of mayor, which would be two years and pointed out, “Otherwise it would throw everything off. It makes sense that it’s two years.”

What Webb is referring to is that in even years, voters elect two commissioners and a mayor. In odd years, they elect three commissioners. If the mayor served for one year, the mayor and three commissioners would be up for election next year, throwing off the three-three balance.

SueLynn said if it means one year, “It makes sense that it’s one of the three of us that has one year left on their term because we’d have to run anyway.

“Nothing can be done until November, so we need to get out on the table what the process is and the public needs to know. We need to start at the next work session.”

Regarding whether he/she would consider being mayor, Yetter said no because she has too many family obligations. Quam and Webb said they would not consider it, but SueLynn said she “definitely would consider it.” Commissioner Dale Woodland declined to comment.

Selby said he has consulted City Attorney Jim Dye, and Dye is researching questions raised by the language in the charter.

Five seek Holmes Beach seats

HOLMES BEACH - Four candidates will vie for two City Commission seats in the November election, and two will run for the mayor’s seat.

Incumbent commissioners Sandra Haas-Martens and John Monetti and newcomers Marvin Grossman and Judy Titsworth filed as candidates for two open commission seats by the noon deadline on Friday, June 8. Incumbent Mayor Rich Bohnenberger will run against newcomer Carmel Monti.


Grossman taught in the art departments at the University of South Florida and the University of Georgia and has a doctorate in Educational Research from the University of Georgia.

A real estate broker, he also has worked as a research associate for the National Educational Research Institute in Athens, Ga. He currently serves on the Holmes Beach Code Enforcement Board.

In his platform, he writes that he is running for the Holmes Beach Commission “because I love and want to maintain the beauty and charm of our old Florida lifestyle.

His agenda includes “strong enforcement of city codes related to short term rental houses; improving the dog park to provide a home for dog owners to socialize and exercise their dogs; continuing the work of our mayor and commission balancing our city budget and not raising taxes; meeting and listening to our residents; working with officials and residents of all of Anna Maria Island to deal with our seasonal traffic problem; improving the Holmes Beach business area to mesh with our vision of an Island community; and supporting Island-friendly flora and Holmes Beach beautification.”

Monti decided to run for mayor after discussions with Holmes Beach Commissioner Pat Morton, with whom he attends a Bible study class.

“I don’t have any ax to grind,” said Monti, who operates a gardening products company at the Sarasota Farmer’s Market, where he sells garden boxes, rain barrels, compost bins, hanging gardens and other niche products.

A former CEO of optical businesses in Minneapolis and Boston, Monti said he will develop a platform after taking the pulse of residents.

“I am going to talk to as many people as I can by initiating the conversation and asking them what their gripes and compliments are,” said Monti, who lives with his wife in Key Royale. The couple has two children and two grandchildren.

Titsworth is a third generation member of the Holmes family, for which the city is named. A realtor, she majored in business at MCC and the University of Fairbanks. She works as office manager, bookkeeper and designer for Shoreline Builders of Southwest Florida, is married to Steve Titsworth and has three children.

In her platform, she writes, “The city has gone through many changes and although some of them are good, many, in my opinion and to the opinion of others, are not. I feel that it is my civic duty, as a lifelong resident, that I give back to the community and see if I can make a difference.

“If I were to be elected, it would not be a position taken lightly. This would require my undivided attention and I would serve the community in representing all groups, including our seniors, our children and each and every resident. This will be a commitment to all and to the city of which is deeply rooted in my heart.


Bohnenberger was first elected to the commission in 1993 and was elected mayor in 1994, serving until 1996. He was elected again as commissioner from 1999-2006.

He is a Florida Certified Public Manager, a retired Philadelphia fire officer and a retired general contractor, as well as past president of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis of Anna Maria Island.

A real estate broker, Bohnenberger is married with four children and 10 grandchildren.

Haas-Martens was first elected as city commissioner in 1998. She served as chair and deputy mayor from 2003-05 and from 2006-11 and serves as vice chair.

A Holmes Beach resident since 1990, she has worked as assistant vice president and branch manager of two Holmes Beach banks and has served as an Anna Maria Fire District commissioner, Tourist Development Council member and president of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce.

Monetti was elected to the city commission in 2006 and served as vice chair from 2006-11.

A University of Notre Dame graduate in Management Human Resources, he has been employed as general manager of the Columbia Restaurant on St. Armands Circle since 1994.

Monetti and his wife, Rejane, have five children.

Center board says operations most important

ANNA MARIA – The Island Community Center board of directors last week discussed what qualities they want in a replacement for Executive Director Pierrette Kelly, who is stepping down from her position in July.

“Andy (Transition Committee Chairman Andy Price) and his committee are looking at resumes, and we haven’t given them any direction as to what type of candidate we’re looking for,” board chair Greg Ross pointed out. “I think they need to know.

“I think the Center really needs someone that’s strong operationally because we’re losing Pierrette and 22 years of experience and all her knowledge.”

Blair Schlossberg agreed and said the focus for the past few years has been on fundraising and now the focus should be on operations in order “to make the Center the best it can be.”

Kelly said strong business management and fundraising or development skills are important and added, “We have to be cultivating donor relationships with every breath we take. Operations are very important, but operations are what we all do.”

Board member David Teitelbaum said, “Fundraising is important, and we have financially done well with Pierrette, but operations is number one.

“The person should be a good strong manager. A strong manager always has an eye on the money. We need to have the focus on operations.”

Treasurer Randy Langley said the executive director’s focus should be on operations, and the board also should hire a full time fundraiser or find one internally because one person can’t do it all. He said last year revenue went down $48,000when Kelly was out sick for a few months.

Board attorney Scott Rudacille agreed with Langley.

Ross summed up their thoughts, “I’m hearing a strong leader, who can deal with the press, has strong operational skills and business development skills for donors – a COO rather than just fundraising.”

In other business the board:

• Voted to name the boardroom after Kelly;

• Approved a motion that each year the board can vote on whether to release up to 20 percent of the cash reserves to reduce the principal on the mortgage;

• Voted to ban pets, except for service animals, from the premises due to liability concerns.

Sign of the Mermaid building, lots up for sale
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Sign of the Mermaid owner Ed Spring says the
new location for his family’s restaurant will
remain in Anna Maria, but the menu will be presented
with a different style.

ANNA MARIA – An Island institution is about to change, but diners will still be able to get the gourmet food they love from the Sign of the Mermaid and not have to leave the city.

“The building and property are on the market, but not the business,” owner Ed Spring confirmed. “I have something else in the works, and it will be happening very soon. I can’t really say anything until I sign the contract but I hope to finalize it in the next few weeks.”

Alan Galletto, a Broker with Island Real Estate, said the asking price for the building and two lots is $899,000 and added, “He is moving the business to a new location.”

Spring said the new location is in the city of Anna Maria, and he plans to make the move, whether the Mermaid property is sold or not. He said the whole family – wife Andrea and daughters Kellie and Serena – is involved in the new venture.

“We are doing some of the same things with a different style,” he said. “It will be a whole new experience. We hope to make a smooth transition.

“I have already talked to my employees. It will be a good thing for everybody and the Island. We’re all very excited about it.”

Essay contest for sailing scholarships

The Cortez Yacht Club has 10 youth sailing summer scholarships to award to local students ages seven to 15 who would like to learn to sail.

An essay contest will determine the winners of $1,250 in scholarships for a beginner’s two-week, half-day summer camp with the Manatee River Pram Fleet.

The non-profit educational organization, established in the early 1950s, is dedicated to supporting and promoting the sport of sailing for fun and competition for the youth of Manatee County.

Summer camp teaches kids the fundamentals of sailing in half-day sessions from 9 a.m. to noon for two weeks at the Bradenton Yacht Club, 4307 Snead Island Road, Palmetto.

The scholarships will fund beginner’s classes in the camp for the sessions of July 9 through 20, July 23 through Aug. 3 and Aug. 6 through 17.

Students will learn sportsmanship, responsibility, self-reliance and respect for authority, equipment and the marine environment in an atmosphere of good fellowship.

Summer camp teaches basic seamanship and sailing skills while having fun and being safe on the water. On the first day, participants are given a swim test and required to do a capsize drill. When they complete these tasks, they will learn parts of the boat and what each is called. Next, they are introduced to points of sail and what the sail position should be. After that, they get to go out on the water to sail in International Optimist Dinghies.

Send a written essay on "Why I would like to learn how to sail" to the Cortez Yacht Club, P.O. Box 252, Cortez FL 34215. Please include your name, age and contact information of student and parent/guardian and preferred dates for summer camp sessions.

Entries must be received by Friday, June 22. Winners will be contacted directly and announced in the Island Sun.

For more information on the Manatee River Pram Fleet, visit

Former commissioner gets answers

BRADENTON BEACH –¬ Before the City Commission met on Thursday night, the clerk read a letter from one of the three citizens who filed a complaint to overturn the parking and dune project south of the BeachHouse restaurant.

Bill Shearon, who could not be present, asked Nora Idso to read a letter he sent as part of public comment at budget meetings, Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) meetings and city commission meetings. The questions are not verbatim as there were some grammatical errors that are corrected in this story.

The first two items addressed the pocket park that will be altered or taken out during the project.

1. I request you obtain written opinions from federal (stimulus funds used) and state (Florida Department of Transportation funds used). Will the city be charged back for funds used because the use is changing?

2. Obtain a written opinion from the city auditor. Does the auditor think this is in the city’s best financial interest to destroy a two-year-old park? Can, or should, the CRA, which used $4,000 in funds, now change the use? Can, or should, the CRA now fund a partner agreement that benefits one commercial use?

The letter further asks, Is staff time, city attorney time, fees included in the not-to-exceed budget of $45,000? Is the budget supported by written tasks to be performed that have to be completed at an estimated cost per task to complete the project?

Shearon asked that Idso’s answers be provided to the mayor and city commission. Shearon further addressed the parking lot and dunes project: I hope your due diligence will encourage commission to reconsider the use of CRA funds for this project.

I personally believe terminating this agreement and using the funds at the city pier would be a better use, limited funds benefiting citizens and visitors, not just a few.

Idso’s first answer was:

1. Items 1 and 2 require creating a public record, which does not exist.

2. No person other than the mayor can direct department heads.

3. The $45,000 was based on a grant that the program manager was seeking and was all inclusive of staff, materials and in-kind services.

She finished her response with a warning.

“The city has been advised that since there is a lawsuit pending regarding this matter, any and all communication from this point forward is to be directed to legal counsel.”

FISH working to restore programs

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 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.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper