The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 8 - December 5, 2012


Home invasion jolts city

HOLMES BEACH – Police are looking for three suspects in a home invasion that took place on Tuesday, Nov. 20, around 11 p.m. at 3602 Sixth Ave. There were no life-threatening injuries, but one of the occupants was hit in the head with a gun butt and another was thrown to the ground.

Officer Stephen Wolfe was driving through the shopping center near that address when he was flagged down by Christine Stumpf, 43, who lives at the home with four other victims. She told him about the invasion, according to a police report.

Stumpf said she was awake, looking at her new cell phone when she heard a knock at the door. She opened the door, and three suspects forced their way into the home. One of the suspects pushed her to the ground and began rifling through the residence, asking where the money and drugs were.

Stumpf said the suspects were two white males and one black male and one of them had a shotgun. They awakened the other four people in the home and forced all of them into the bathroom, where one of the residents, Scott Sobek, 42, was struck in the head by the shotgun when he tried to resist. He suffered a small laceration.

The other residents were Miranda Cunningham, 22; Amber Cunningham, 26; and Dale Marler, 69.

The suspects took two purses, two cell phones and a wallet and left on foot. The people in the home reported not hearing a car after they left.

According to the officer, all of the victims said they would not be able to identify the suspects. Two of the suspects reportedly wore hoodies and masks, but the victims could not give a description of the third suspect at all. They all wore gloves, so there were no fingerprints available. In addition to the shotgun, another suspect had a pistol which one of the victims described as “rounded.”

A Bradenton Beach officer and Manatee County deputies responded and set up a perimeter. The Sheriff’s Office sent a K-9 unit, but they did not deploy it because the victims said they would not be able to identify the suspects. The Sheriff’s Office helicopter flew over the area, but found nothing suspicious.

Holmes Beach Detective, Sgt. Brian Hall was called and responded and is investigating.

Anybody with information on this case is urged to call Hall at 708-5804.


Aubry is fifth commissioner
Carol Whitmore

City Clerk Alice Baird swears in Gene Aubry after
commissioners reached a compromise.

ANNA MARIA – The spirit of compromise reigned last week as commissioners unanimously approved former Commissioner Gene Aubry as the city’s fifth commissioner.

Last month, after approving SueLynn as mayor, commissioners deadlocked 2-2 on a vote for the new commissioner to fill SueLynn’s seat. Commissioners Chuck Webb and Nancy Yetter favored Aubry, while Commissioners John Quam and Dale Woodland favored Carl Pearman.

They asked City Attorney Jim Dye to research holding a special election to fill the seat. Dye said he talked to Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat and a special election is possible and could cost the city about $5,000.

“Some lead time is necessary,” Dye explained. “The city’s code requires a 60-day notice posted by the clerk’s office that a special election will be held. Mr. Sweat looked at his calendar and thinks March 26 is a doable date.”

Chair John Quam asked the two candidates if the city held a special election would they qualify and campaign for the seat.

“I’d be delighted,” Aubry responded.

“I’m undecided,” Pearman said.

Commissioner Nancy Yetter asked Pearman when he would decide, and he said after commissioners decide whether to hold a special election.

“It’s not responsible to leave the seat vacant,” Commissioner Chuck Webb said, “and if we can’t agree among ourselves, that’s the only option.”

Yetter agreed.

Commissioner Dale Woodland asked if the special election would be limited to the two candidates and Quam said no.

“I’m not in favor of a special election,” Quam added. “It’s too far out, and in three months, they would have to qualify again.”

“I want to hear what the community has to say,” Woodland said. “I don’t have a problem with having four commissioners. There are few things that we have a 3-2 vote on, so I don’t see the commission being stalemated.”

Mayor Sue Lynn asked about a charter provision that states the commission “shall” have five commissioners and whether having four would violate that provision.

“It says there should be five, but it also recognizes that there could be vacancies, and there is a process in place to fill those vacancies,” Dye responded.

“I don’t think it’s a violation of the charter because there is no one to say there is a violation. There’s no court suit or anything like that.”

“In the best interest of the city, somebody has to compromise,” Quam emphasized. “We need a commissioner tonight.”

Webb made a motion to appoint Aubry and Yetter seconded it. Quam said he would break the stalemate and vote for Aubry. Woodland also voted for Aubry, who was sworn in immediately..

Noise ordinance revisions in the works

ANNA MARIA – Commissioners plan to hold a first reading on an amended noise ordinance on Dec. 13

Building Official Bob Welch said he made some minor changes to the city’s current noise ordinance. The first is regarding commercial construction.

“Over the years I’ve heard a number of complaints about construction on Sundays and holidays and hours of operation,” he said.

“The first change I’ve made is for commercial construction and operation of construction equipment. I’ve rolled it back to 6 p.m. as the latest they can work Monday through Friday.”

He said Saturday would remain the same – 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but there would be no work allowed on Sundays and holidays, the same as in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach.

Chair John Quam asked if the noise ordinance is just in effect after 10 p.m., and Welch said it is a 24-hour noise ordinance.

Quam said there are renters in his neighborhood that create loud noise in the swimming pool. Welch said Planner Alan Garrett is exploring noise-baffling options.

City Attorney Jim Dye said the ordinance could be enforced against the owner, the manager or person in charge or the person generating the disturbance.

Welch said the second change he made is the penalties to bring them in line with the city’s new citation system. The first offense will be changed from $35 to $100, the second offense from $75 to $250 and the third offense from $200 to $500. Each additional offense within 12 months of the first offense will be $500.

Crosswalk plan raises questions

ANNA MARIA – Commissioners asked Public Works Director George McKay for more information regarding a plan to increase the number of crosswalks in the city.

McKay submitted a memo proposing 20 crosswalk markings on Pine Avenue and Gulf Drive. He said the cost would be $5,500 to $6,000.

A draft map presented to the board in October showed crosswalks at Gulf Drive and Archer Way, Periwinkle Plaza, Oak Avenue and Chilson, Willow, Palmetto, Palm, Magnolia, Spring and Pine avenues. Along Pine Avenue, it showed crosswalks at North Shore, Los Cedros and Crescent drives.

“Looking at it from a bird’s eye view, it’s going to look like an aircraft carrier.” McKay said regarding the number of proposed crosswalks.

“It looks like an awful lot,” Commissioner Nancy Yetter said. “It’ probably overkill.”

Chair John Quam asked if they must install the yellow signs at each one, and McKay said they could use their discretion.

Commissioner Dale Woodland asked for a firm cost for the 20 crosswalks and where the city would get the money to pay for them.

“I couldn’t get a firm figure from anybody,” McKay said an added that his estimate only includes road markings not signage.

City Clerk Alice Baird said the city could use some of the reimbursement it received from its property insurance company. She said it also could qualify for a safety grant through the Florida League of Cities, which would pay 50 percent up to $10,000, but the city would have to do the work first then apply for reimbursement.

Mayor SueLynn said she and McKay would return to the board with a presentation.

Active storm season ends

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) says this hurricane season, which ended officially last Friday, continues a decades-long era of high storm activity in the Atlantic Ocean.

In a news release, the agency that includes the National Weather Service said the 19 named storms this year was above the average of 12, the 10 hurricanes that developed was above the average of six but the one major hurricane that occurred was well below the average of three. Based on the combined number of storms, intensity and duration of all tropical storms and hurricanes, NOAA rated 2012 as an above average season. However, they said of the last 30 years, 10 were busier than this year.

For the second consecutive year, the mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S. suffered from a major storm. Sandy this year and Irene last year caused injuries, fatalities and tremendous damage from winds, flooding and storm surges.

Storms struck many parts of the county this year including tropical storms Beryl, causing one death and little damage in the United States, and Debby, causing one death and $7.5 million in damage to structures plus more along the beaches in Florida; Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana, causing $3 billion in damage and 41 deaths; and post-tropical Cyclone Sandy, killing 125 and causing $62 billion in damage in New York and New Jersey.

“This year proved that it’s wrong to think that only major hurricanes can ruin lives and impact local economies,” said Laura Furgione, acting director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “We are hopeful that after the 2012 hurricane season, more families and businesses all along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts become more ‘weather ready’ by understanding the risks associated with living near the coastline.”

This year’s activity got an early start with tropical storms Alberto and Beryl developing in May before the season officially began, the news release said. But on the positive side, this is the seventh year in a row that the United States was spared a major hurricane, which is rated at Category 3 to Category 5. The only major hurricane was Michael, a Category 3 storm that stayed harmlessly over the open Atlantic.

Several storms this year were short in duration, weak in intensity, and went largely unnoticed by the general public because they stayed out over the Atlantic. A persistent jet stream pattern over the eastern portion of the nation helped steer many of this season’s storms away from the United States. The number of named storms and hurricanes was higher than predicted in NOAA’s pre-season outlook, in large part because El Niño – which likely would have suppressed overall storm activity – never materialized as predicted by many climate models.

NOAA says a well-established climate pattern puts us in an ongoing pattern of high storm activity in the Atlantic that began in 1995. Since then, more than 70 percent of the seasons have been above normal, including this year. Historically, Atlantic high-activity eras have lasted 25 to 40 years with the previous one occurring in the mid 1930s to 1970.

NOAA will release its pre-season outlook for the 2013 season in May.

Viens sentencing delayed

The former owner of a Bradenton Beach restaurant who admitted killing his wife and cooking her body in his Lomita, Calif. restaurant fired his attorney at his scheduled sentencing on Tuesday, Nov. 27, delaying his sentencing until Feb. 1.

David Viens, 49, who was convicted of second-degree murder in September for killing 39-year-old Dawn Viens, would have received a 15-year sentence last week. Superior Court Judge Rand Rubio, granted Viens’ request during a brief hearing, according to reports.

Viens smiled at his attorney, Fred McCurry, after the request was approved and thanked him before McCurry left the courtroom. No reason was given for the firing. He will likely get the same sentence in February unless he represents himself and argues for the sentence to be dismissed, which is rarely done, according to reports.

During his trial, Viens sometimes showed displeasure at his attorney, and when McCurry rested his defense arguments, Viens stood and objected.

Prosecuting attorneys argued early to charge Viens with first-degree murder with a sentence of 25 years to life, but it was McCurry who convinced them to charge him with second degree murder because they would be more likely be able to get a conviction.

Dawn Viens has not been seen since Oct. 18, 2009. At the time of the disappearance, David Viens told friends she had simply left him. But when she was still missing months later, detectives began investigating the case as a homicide.

On Feb. 23, 2011, after learning he was the main suspect in the case, Viens tried to elude police in his car and finally stopped at a cliff in Rancho Palos Verdes and jumped over the edge. He survived the fall, although he had some permanent injuries, He wore a back brace during last week’s court session.

Viens’ daughter, Jacqueline, told detectives that one night after they had been drinking, her father confessed to accidentally killing Dawn Viens during an argument by placing duct tape over her mouth when she would not be quiet and he wanted to sleep. He said he awoke to find she had vomited during the night and suffocated.

After the hearing last week, Dawn Viens’ sister, Dayna Papin, and father, Michael Papin, who had travelled to California for the sentencing, expressed disappointment that the sentence would be delayed and that they did not get to testify.

Concert in the Park draws crowd

John Dewey plays with Rick Quimby.


HOLMES BEACH – With a cool breeze blowing, a lot of people decided to start their weekend at the park south of Holmes Beach City Hall last Friday. They were greeted by a variety of music, aromatic food being served under tents, arts and crafts for holiday shopping and a couple of causes that need some Christmas cheer. In addition, there was a bounce house and a G-rated movie for the kids and family.

The main cause, to which a portion of the proceeds will go, is to be able to move Island daughter Georgia Gibbons to a special care facility to help her recuperate from an accident in April that left her with a brain injury. Georgia was in Tallahassee when she was hit by a car. She was flown to Bayfront Medical Center, but her family was told she would need to have specialized care at a private facility.

The other cause was a popular on the Island, Toys for Tots, sponsored by the US Marine Corps Reserves. Billy Annis and Ryan Mazik manned a tent taking collections of money and unwrapped toys.

With popular Island DJ Chris Grumley running the show, the music kicked off with Rick Quimby and friends, including Brian Spainhower and John Dewey, who played “Georgia” at 6:45 for Georgia Gibbons. Lipbone Redding, sharing music and tales of his travels, took over at 8 p.m.

Board debates hiring interim building official

HOLMES BEACH – At the first of their weekly work sessions, the city commission heard Mayor Carmel Monti say he had met with a couple of candidates for building official and announced he wanted to hire Bradenton architect J. Thomas (Tom) O’Brien on an interim basis.

O’Brien formerly teamed with Bradenton Beach designer Emily Ann Smith and he was also the architect on the refurbishment of the Bridge Street Pier several years ago.

City Commissioner David Zaccagnino said O’Brien is a licensed architect and would need to get a building code administrator’s license.

“As an architect, he could take that test,” Zaccagnino said, “but I did not see his name on the list for the test.”

Zaccagnino said he looked up O’Brien’s licensing and the license number O’Brien gave, number 292, belonged to a Thomas F. Bray, a building code administrator in Islamorada, Fla.

O’Brien said that he was able to perform the duties of building official because he is a licensed architect. He cited state statute 468 that says, “Persons currently licensed or certified to practice as an architect pursuant to chapter 481, an engineer pursuant to chapter 471, or a contractor pursuant to chapter 489, when performing any services authorized by such license or certificate” are exempt from needing a building code administrator’s license.

Zaccagnino said he felt O’Brien would have to take the test.

“When I tried to sign up for the test they wouldn’t let me,” O’Brien said. “Also, I spent time as a building official for the School Board.”

Zaccagnino pointed out they were not the School Board.

Monti said they could use O’Brien and have John Fernandez sign off on his work and at first, the commission agreed.

Then Zaccagnino said that O’Brien had worked for Commissioner Judy Titsworth’s election campaign as a fact checker.

There was a question as to whether the mayor could hire O’Brien, but acting City Attorney Steve Dye said the city is just contracting him for his services.

Titsworth suggested tabling the item until the next meeting, when it would be on the agenda and Zaccagnino said he wanted City Attorney Pat Petruff to check O’Brien’s credentials.

Other business

• Zaccagnino said he was concerned about reports that a Dollar Tree store was going into the storefront of the Anna Maria Island Center that was vacated when Walgreen’s moved to a free-standing building at the south end of the complex.

“We can’t tell Benderson (the company that owns the shopping center) what kind of business they have there,” Zaccagnino said. “We could have a talk with them about what it would look like.”

• Commissioner Pat Morton asked about dredging some of the city’s canals. Commissioner Marvin Grossman said they could raise the price of a dock lease to try and raise money for that, but Zaccagnino said they have a dredging schedule just like the city has a road-paving schedule.

• Dye said he feels that whatever group is put in charge of the dog park would be subject to Sunshine Law restrictions.

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