The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 52 - October 23, 2013


Bayfest was hot, hot, hot
Carol Whitmore


Bill Mergens, who organizes the auto show, put all the
early Ford Thunderbirds together in what seemed like a
dream parking lot for some old car lovers.


ANNA MARIA – It has been an unusual summer weatherwise and Bayfest fell victim to the climate this year, although not enough to put a damper on things.

Friday night was perfect as the crowd gathered for the food and music. The field where the stage was located was busy with diners and dancers.

Vendors sold jewelry, décor and other items in one area and the food servers drew long lines near the street. There was a huge tent with tables and chairs where people could enjoy a meal with the music that was onstage. Dean Johanson entertained early, followed by Mike Sales and “Stone Crab” Steve Arvey. The area in front of the stage filled with dancers – kids at first and then couples – and KoKoRay finished the evening with his jazz, blues and rock sounds.

“Friday night was as busy as I’ve ever seen it,” said Chamber Vice President Deb Wing.

Saturday started off with a good crowd, according to Wing, then it slacked off. She indicated the heat and humidity got to a few people. The number of kids at the Kid’s Zone dwindled and it appeared a lot of people left to escape the heat.

Wing said it picked up after the sun started to go down, and then it rained.

“It was a light rain,” Wing said, “not enough to form puddles, but some of the vendors on the street had to bring their artwork out of the rain.”

No matter what the weather brought, this Bayfest clearly was a winner. The car show was packed and this year, organizer Bill Mergens put all of the two-seater Thunderbirds in one location and it brought out a lot of the dreamers who would love to own one. The show also had a sleeper entry, a 1929 Bentley owned by Brian Johnson, the lead singer of the Australian rock group AC/DC.

Wing said they’ll be back next year with the first bash of the season, regardless of the weather.


Landmark business forced to move
Carol Whitmore


Island Auto Repair owner Aaron Rickerson, center,
stands in front of Bill Slope’s 1946 Lincoln Zephyr
with former technicians Ryan Clark, left, and
Gentry Millican, right.


HOLMES BEACH – The owners of Island Auto Repair have been asked by the property owner to vacate the Marina Drive location the local business has occupied for the past 25 years.

According to Aaron Rickerson, who co-owns the business with his parents Rick and Judi, the family received notice via a handwritten letter delivered approximately two weeks ago, asking them to leave the premises by Sunday, Dec. 1.

According an e-mail distributed by longtime customer Jack Cole, who is drumming up support for the relocation efforts, the property owner has plans for a new condominium to be built on the lot located at 5608 Marina Drive.

The Rickersons are turning to the community as they assess their options. Aaron said the goal is to remain on the Island, where the business has been located at various locations since 1973, but there is a back-up plan in place that would take the business off-Island and into Bradenton.

Looking to raise $30,000 for the impending move, plans are in the works for a benefit that will take place at D Coy Duck’s once a suitable date has been determined.

A fundraising website has been created at

A statement there says, “We are a small family-owned business and we do not have the funds necessary to move from our current location within the amount of time that has been given to us. We need your help to make this move happen and to keep offering you great service. Any size donation would be greatly appreciated!”

Aaron said collateral loans from customers and supporters may also come into play.

“They just don’t want to see us go, so they’re doing everything they can,” he said, of the repair shop’s loyal and longtime clients.

“I want to say thank you to all of our customers who have supported us and kept food on our table all these years. Wherever we are, we will find a way take care of you,” he added.

Those looking to assist in the cause can contact Island Auto Repair at 941-778-8277.

Tourist funds slated for pier repair
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


In better days, the Bridge Street Pier has always been
a popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
City officials are hoping the infusion of TDC money
can help bring the pier back to its former status.


BRADENTON BEACH – Up to $1 million in resort tax funds will be used to renovate the historic Bridge Street Pier in a dollar-for-dollar match with the city of Bradenton Beach.

The Manatee County Tourist Development Council (TDC) voted unanimously on Monday to recommend that the Manatee County Commission approve the partnership between the county and the city. The commission is expected to vote on the issue in December.

The county will reimburse the city of Bradenton Beach for up to $1 million in city expenditures for the renovation of the partially closed pier, including new pilings, new composite planks, solar lighting and other improvements, according to Mayor John Shaughnessy, adding that the city may only need $650,000 for the repairs.

The majority of resort tax funds are spent on marketing the area as a tourist destination, with a smaller portion used for beach renourishment. The state law governing how the funds are spent specifically allows expenditures for piers.

TDC members Ed Chiles, Jean Peelen, Barbara Rodocker, David Teitelbaum and Chair Carol Whitmore, who all live or own businesses on the Island, joined the other members in congratulating the mayor for his persistence in pursuing the funds.

The partnership agreement requires water taxi access at the pier, and the addition of parking, which the city has already met by adding 54 spaces at its public works facility on Church Avenue, according to Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Director Elliott Falcione. The CVB also will work with the city to “integrate the city’s brand” into the county’s tourism marketing plan, he added.

Under the agreement, the city will oversee the work on the pier and pay for maintenance after the project is completed. A county ordinance must be amended to allow for the expenditure, Falcione said.

“I haven’t slept in three weeks hoping it would come to fruition,” said a visibly moved Shaughnessy, adding that with city elections coming up on Nov. 5, “I wanted to get this off the ground in case something happens.”

“Your city should be proud of you because you didn’t give up,” Whitmore said.

Teitelbaum, a Bradenton Beach resident and hotelier, promised to vote for Shaughnessy, while Rodocker, also a hotelier in the city, said, “I am proud that you’re our mayor.”

Chiles clarified that the money will be spent on the pier itself, not the restaurant at the head of the pier, which the city is the process of leasing to prospective restaurateurs Roland Pena and Tami Kemper-Pena.

“What you’re doing enhances not only Bradenton Beach but the entire Island,” Chiles said. “I think this will be your crowning achievement.”

“This is exactly the kind of thing that needed to happen,” TDC member and Holmes Beach Commissioner JeanPeelen said.

Renovations are expected to take about three months after the project begins, Shaughnessy said.

The city/county partnership model could be used for the Anna Maria Pier, Teitelbaum suggested.

“Instead of the TDC being the enemy, we can be your partner.”


'Dolphin Tale' opens Movies in the Park

The city of Holmes Beach will host its inaugural Movies in the Park movie screening at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 25.

“Dolphin Tale” will be the first film screened at this free, family-friendly event. Starring Morgan Freeman, Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd and Kris Kristofferson, “Dolphin Tale” tells the true story of a bottlenose dolphin rescued off the Florida coast in 2005 and fitted with a prosthetic tail.

Taking place outside, at City Field, next to Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive, Movies in the Park will become a monthly event for all to enjoy. Enjoy free popcorn, with soft drinks, beer and wine available for purchase. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the Anna Maria Island Community Center.

Twelve-year old guitar wizard Jacob Castro will provide the pre-movie entertainment, beginning at 6:30 p.m.

Movies in the Park was initiated by Mayor Carmel Monti, working with Jeff Seeger from the city of Palmetto and sponsored by Bright House, Waste Management, the Rex Hagen Foundation and the Chiles Group.

For more information, call Mary Buonagura at 941-708-5800, ext. 222.

20/20 spotlights Morris case

BRADENTON BEACH – ABC’s 20/20 program featured the Sheena Morris case on Friday, Oct. 18, spotlighting Morris’ mother, Kelly Osborn, who rejects the city police department’s conclusion that Morris committed suicide.

Morris’ body was found hanging from her dog’s leash in a Bradenton Beach hotel room shower on New Year’s Day 2009, after hotel guests called 911 during an argument they overheard between Morris and her fiance, Joe Genoese. Morris also had called 911 to report domestic abuse.

Bradenton Beach police Det. Lenard Diaz determined that her death was a suicide, but Osborn disagreed, and requested that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) review the case, implicating Genoese.

Reporter David Muir interviewed Osborn and a Sarasota reporter identified as a former police officer, focusing on evidence that Osborn says points to a conclusion of murder. She said several things are suspicious, including that sand was found on Morris’ feet, but not on the shower floor or in the room, her bracelet was on the wrong arm, her hair was tucked behind her ear, her mascara was not smudged by tears, her pants did not ride up, as might have been expected given that she was found with her legs touching the floor of the shower, and the bathroom and shower doors were left open, which Osborn said Morris would not have done, to protect her two dogs from seeing her.

Muir reported that he “reached out” to Det. Diaz for the report, but 20/20 did not contact the Bradenton Beach police department, said Chief Sam Speciale, who defends Diaz’ conclusion that Morris committed suicide.

20/20 also interviewed Genoese, who appeared with Osborn on two episodes of ABC’s Dr. Phil show, and failed a lie detector test on the program. He told 20/20 that a professional later told him that some of the questions asked during the test were “set up” questions, pointing out that he took the test to prove he has nothing to hide.

He told 20/20 that he and Morris were arguing over him calling his children to wish them “Happy New Year,” and that Morris had been depressed about him spending time with his family over the holidays.

Genoese became emotional and asked for the interview to stop when describing how he felt upon learning of her death.

He denied any involvement in Morris’ death, and said he does not believe he will be charged with any crime, adding that he has considered bringing civil charges against Osborn and her family for harassing him.

The 12th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office in Manatee County has been reviewing the evidence compiled by the FDLE for the past two months. A spokesman said that no comments will be made until a decision is made on whether to file criminal charges.

A.M. candidates share common views and differences

ANNA MARIA – The four candidates for three city commission seats answered questions and discussed their differences at the Anna Maria Island Sun Candidates Forum at city hall last week. There was civility during the hour-long meeting as the voters present listened to the answers.

Carol Carter began the opening statements with a brief bio and some of her goals. Carter, who lives on Willow Avenue, said she wants to re-establish a balance between the needs of the permanent residents, the businesses and the tourists. Carter, who became a full-time resident in 2006, said she wants the city to enforce the beach laws, traffic laws and regulations that protect the ecosystem and get citizens to help monitor the city during the busy seasons. She believes the county should return more of the tax dollars it collects from the Island to projects here and she would like to see the Tourist Development Council back off the advertising that has drawn massive numbers of tourists to the once-sleepy small Island.

Doug Copeland first came to Anna Maria Island in 1961 with his parents.

“When I hit Anna Maria, I knew I’d found my paradise,” he said. He married his wife, Anna Maria Island Sun reporter Pat Copeland, in 1973 and they bought a house the next year. He said he first got involved in the city government, “When former mayor Ray Simchez suckered me into city politics.” Over the years, he developed a plan for the park by the Anna Maria Historical Society. He and a friend who had a golf course in east Manatee County planted a walking area at Bean Point and last year he was voted Anna Maria Citizen of the Year. He became a commissioner this year when he was appointed to replace John Quam, who moved to the mainland and he is busy working on a newly completed plan for Gulf Front Park to remove exotic plants. He is also seeking a grant to pay half of the expense and said there are a lot of grants he would like to pursue.

Michael Jaworski has been married for 43 years and they honeymooned on the Island in 1971.

“We returned every year and now we live here,” he said. He belongs to Turtle Watch, Roser Church and served the county during elections.

“I believe balance must be achieved while supporting and protecting the past,” he said.

Dale Woodland has been a commissioner for 10 years.

“I’m pretty much running on my past record,” he said. “This is the best job I ever had. I grew up here and I get to serve the city.”

Woodland said former mayor Simchez also got him interested in city government and he loves working with people.

“I am blessed by the people talking to me and who feel they can,” he said. He said not a lot of people come to the meetings and he suggested they allow public comment at the start of meetings since one person at a meeting waited two hours to make a comment.

The questions, the answers

The first question was about the condition of the streets in the city.

Copeland said every year Holmes Beach budgets to repave streets regularly, which keeps them in good shape. He said Anna Maria is starting to budget for the worst roads.

Jaworski said now that the economy is rebounding and property values are soaring, the city should be able to budget more for roads. He said he is not in favor of paving everything since it would prevent stormwater from leaching into the ground properly.

Woodland said he spoke with former Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger about the city’s 10-year plan where they budget to pave one-tenth of the roads every year. He would like Anna Maria to do the same.

Carter said the city might work with the private sector and get some funding from developers who use the roads and maybe the county.

The next question was on paid parking.

Jaworski said he had a plan that included no parking in the rights of way and he said there isn’t room for more parking and they should have thought of that earlier and he offered this scenario.

“If you come early you can find a parking space,” he said. “If you come late you might be out of luck. Then you could use Manatee County Beach or Coquina Beach.”

Woodland is in favor of paid parking.

“We have a lot more impact on our infrastructure now and I think generating some revenue from visitors would be reasonable,” he said.

Carter said she favors no parking in the rights of way, although that might vary by the time of year it is. She would also like to consider parking in an auxiliary location and have people take carts to the beach.

Copeland is not in favor of banning parking from rights of way because it would be a burden on residents who have visitors and they would not be able to park at their homes. He wants to increase the fines for parking tickets.

“With the fines we have now, we bring in around $81,000 per year,” he said. “We talked about doing away with (loading and) unloading zones at the beach. Maybe that would encourage them to go to Coquina Beach, where they have facilities for that.”

The next question asked how the residents could benefit from increased tourism.

Woodland said he is in favor of taxing rentals, but a state statute prohibits that. He said the noise from rentals has abated because real estate and property management offices have adopted new rules to inform tenants about what they can and cannot do.

Carter wants the city commission to meet with the county commissioners and talk about them helping the city deal with the problems.

Copeland said the most the city might expect would be money for tourist attractions.

“We have the biggest tourist attraction in the county in the city pier but if we don’t do something with it, it might end up in the bottom of the bay,” he said.

Jaworski said the city commission needs to figure out where money from the TDC could be best spent and then approach the county commission. He said the TDC does its budgeting two years in advance, so they need get into the plan soon.

The candidates were asked which codes are lax in enforcement and which they would like to see enforced.

Carter said beach ordinances and building code enforcement may not be all it should be.

“I hear of developers being one step ahead of the codes,” she said. “I think that because we have so much building right now, I can’t see how the staff can keep up.”

Copeland defended Building Official Bob Welch and Code Enforcement Officer Gerry Rathvon, but the way they enforce codes might need tightening.

“Our code enforcement is on a reactive, instead of proactive basis - if there’s no complaint, there’s no investigation, no hearing, no consequence,” he said. “If citizens don’t file complaints, there’s nothing we can do.”

Jaworski suggested getting help on code enforcement from college students and he said the most abuse of the codes he sees is when builders park in the right of way at a job site.

The candidates were asked to assess the city’s efforts to get a handle on residential rentals.

Jaworski said residents in all three cities are fed up with abusive renters. He said, however, the rental agencies are doing a good job of informing renters of the law.

Woodland said the city has always had renters and he doesn’t want to restrict them.

Carter said the city needs to be savvy about how some rental agents are abusing the system.

Copeland said they can continue to enforce the laws.

“A lot of people like my parents rented for years before they moved down here,” he said. “It’s up to neighbors to report when things are not as they should be.”

During wrapup, Woodland said they are doing everything they could.

“No amount of money is going to impact the quality of life,” he said. “We’re going to have to play a more active role in taking care of more problems with enforcement.”

Carter said she is ready to serve.

“I believe now is the time for me to work for you in the city,” she said. “I have resigned my full time job as national fund raiser for Feeding America.” Carter said her signs say she CARES, which stands for

Carter – Anna Maria City – Refocus – Enforcement.

“My campaign promise is, I will listen with open heart to every citizen who has a complaint,” Jaworski said. “I want to be proud of our past and proud of our future.”

H.B. candidates weigh in on local matters

HOLMES BEACH – Taking place at city hall on Tuesday, Oct. 15, The Sun’s candidate forum provided incumbents Pat Morton, Jean Peelen and David Zaccagnino, and political newcomers Carol Soustek, C. Melissa Williams, an opportunity to share their views on city issues.

The top three vote getters in the Nov. 5 election will serve two-year terms and earn $500 per month.

Moderated by Tom Vaught, the forum began with opening statements, followed by questions submitted by audience members.

“My passion is our community. That’s why I’m seeking office and that’s why I’m seeking your vote,” Williams said.

Peelen said she ran two years ago because neighborhoods were being “destroyed” by large, residential rental homes, residents were being patronized and treated rudely by the previous commission, and the building department lacked oversight.

“My vision of stopping the big houses has happened,” she said.

After expressing her view that code enforcement, the building department and the city government now operate more professionally, Peelen said, “The job isn’t done.”

Soustek wants well-planned growth enforced by codes and ordinances, with no preferential treatment given. She seeks balance between residents, small businesses and visitors.

“I know the issues. I will work hard to give a fair decision on each vote,” she said.

Seeking a sixth term, Morton said, “I’ve been here for you and I never got in with any special interest group. My first three terms, it was terrible, but when we made the big change last year we finally got to where we can make decisions for the citizens like we should have been doing.”

Seeking a fifth term, Zaccagnino mentioned his efforts to build a dog park and said, “It seems like the pendulum was over here before and now it’s swung way over here,” in reference to the philosophical shift the commission has experienced in recent years.

“You can’t stop change and you can’t pull up the bridges and go back to 1950, but you can direct it in ways that are fair and equitable to everybody,” he said.

Resident loss

When asked about residents leaving, Peelen mentioned a 20 percent loss of permanent Island residents over 12 years, due in part, she feels, to large rental homes.

“If we don’t have a resident base we won’t have a school, churches, civic clubs…We won’t have any of those things,” she said.

Soustek agreed that “party houses” contributed to the exodus and thinks mainland job creation might lead to more Island residents.

Morton cited a need for noise regulations and a shortage of affordable housing for Island workers.

Zaccagnino said, “There’s been a lot of pushback on tourism and small business,” and urged that both be encouraged. He also feels enforcement rules passed by the current commission will make a positive impact.

Williams noted that some residents leave to purchase larger homes in which to raise their families, yet return to visit. “Just because they don’t live on the Island doesn’t mean they don’t contribute to our community,” she said.


Morton does not support paid parking at the public beach, fears it would push more cars into residential areas and reminded folks of the existing CrossPointe Fellowship Park & Ride arrangement with the free trolley system.

Zaccagnino expressed concerns about the unintended consequences of paid parking and suggested that Manatee County fund additional police officers during peak periods as compensation for the success of the Tourist Development Council advertising campaigns.

Williams believes paid parking would spread the problem and lead to neighborhood spillover. She suggested talking to county officials about creating additional mainland parking and shuttling people over the bridge.

Peelen supports the shuttle bus, praised the city’s congestion committee, and likes their idea of valet parking.

Expressing mixed feelings on paid parking and offsetting infrastructure costs associated with increased tourism, Peelen said, “We have to have a way to do it other than coming to our citizens and saying you pay for it.”

Soustek said the Island Congestion Committee she chairs is working on many possible solutions, including overflow parking at local churches.

“Nobody’s going to charge the residents or people of Bradenton to facilitate more tourist niceties, so that might promote paid parking at the beach,” she said.


When asked if the Mainsail development would be an asset or a detriment to the city, Williams said the project is important to an underutilized part of town.

Peelen said Mainsail was a difficult decision, expressed relief that negotiations prevented a lawsuit and said she does not think it will be detrimental.

Soustek said, “If it stays within what was agreed upon, I think it will be fine,” reserving final judgment until she sees the revised plans.

Morton favored revoking the Mainsail site plan, but appreciates the negotiation process and hopes the developers stick to the agreement.

Zaccagnino said he respects the rights of the property owner, is glad the project was scaled back and does not want to see the property sold to someone who might build a Motel 6.

Closing time

During closing remarks, Zaccagnino said, “I’ll continue to be the risk manager and the voice of the citizens, not just those that come to the meetings.”

Williams thinks being a local business owner would bring perspective to the commission and said, “I am most certainly not a politician, but I am a public servant.”

Peelen said she loves serving, vowed to stay alert to citizen concerns and restated her desire to serve another term.

Soustek mentioned insight gained from diligently attending city meetings and said, “I will do my homework. It’s easy to give a ‘yes’ verdict. It’s hard to give a fair verdict.”

Morton mentioned going door-to-door to talk with residents, even during non-election years, and referring to his campaign T-shirt, said, “My community, my responsibility.”

The forum ended with Vaught saying, “We hope you vote and we hope this made your decisions easier.”

Privateers invasion names musical lineup

While Entertainment Chair Bob "Stitch" Dominas continues to put the finishing touches on the Anna Maria Island Privateer's Pirate Invasion 2013 Entertainment Schedule, inquiries are pouring in about the band line-up for the weekend.

"We may have a few surprises to add in and I don't want anyone to miss a minute of fun by watching just this schedule,” he warned. “We arrrr pirates mate, you always have to watch what we have up our flouncy sleeves."

In addition to strolling piratical characters and entertainers playing from the Skullywag throughout the weekend, watch the main stage for the Who Daddies from 3-5 p.m. on Friday.

Saturday’s lineup includes Big Daddy from 12:30-2 p.m., Kettle of Fish from 2:45- 4:15 p.m., Lauren Mitchell Band from 5-6 p.m. and Steve Arvey from 7:15 p.m. to closing.

Sunday the music plays on with Patti B, from 10:30 a.m.- noon, Kimberly Betts & The Gamble Creek Band from 1-3 p.m. and Wild Root from 3:45-5:30 p.m.

"We arrrr gonna rock the Island...Privateer style," said an excited Dominas.

Further information and inquiries can be addressed to Bob"Stitch" Dominas at 941-527-6171 or

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