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Vol. 17 No. 13 - January 11, 2017


New Year's bird count finds fine feathered friends

Carol Whitmore


A Yellow House Finch was spotted in the Anna Maria Island
Christmas Bird Count on New Year's Day.

An unusual bird was spotted during the 117th National Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count on New Year's Day by volunteers in the Fort De Soto Circle, which covers the northern half of Anna Maria Island, Egmont Key, Passage Key and part of southern Pinellas County.

A yellow common House Finch on a wire near Bayfront Park in Anna Maria briefly befuddled birders Janet Paisley, Karen Jensen and John van Zandt, according to the latter, but team members Dick Comeau and John Ginaven identified the bird, noting that sometimes the rosy breast of a common House Finch can be yellow, or even orange.

In unseasonably high temperatures, the team, including Stu Wilson and Cathy Paris, found 1,547 birds representing 55 species, including 46 Nanday Parakeets, which can be identified by their high-volume screeches, 10 Red-bellied Woodpeckers, equally noisy as they hammer into trees, 21 American White Pelicans, which winter here as true snowbirds from the north, 86 of the much smaller local Brown Pelicans, and eight Snowy Egrets, and five Little Blue Herons, both once hunted for their feathers for hats.

The Christmas Bird Count began in 1900, when scientist Frank Chapman led a small group on an alternative to a bird hunt, identifying, counting and recording birds instead.

Water ferry service coming soon
Carol Whitmore

Tevatan LLC | submitted

The 65-foot ferry, The Independent Sea, will soon transport
passengers to and from Bradenton Beach and downtown Sarasota.

BRADENTON BEACH – Daily ferry service between Bradenton Beach and downtown Sarasota is expected to begin on or around Feb. 15.
The yet-to-be named water ferry service will be provided by Tevatan LLC General Manager Sherman Baldwin, who currently operates Paradise Boat Tours in Bradenton Beach.

Baldwin has arranged to lease The Independent Sea, a 149-passenger, 65-foot Gulfport mono-hull passenger ferry recently used in St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands.

Baldwin will lease the The Independent Sea until late 2017 or early 2018, at which time he will put into service the faster, catamaran-hulled ferry he and his daughter Sarah, the company owner, are having built.

Baldwin announced his plans during last week's Community Redevelopment Agency meeting, where he said he plans to operate the ferry 14-hours a day, seven days a week, with a round trip fare costing $12.50.

In Bradenton Beach, the ferry will arrive and depart every two hours from the public day dock at the Historic Bridge Street Pier. Arriving passengers will be within walking distance of the Bridge Street business district and can use the free trolley or the local shuttle services to travel elsewhere in the city and throughout the Island.

Baldwin said The Independent Sea will travel across Sarasota Bay at 19 knots (almost 22 mph) and each leg of the journey will take 54 minutes from dock to dock.

"We think the Sarasota to Anna Maria leg has the best potential to be quickly successful, and then we will add additional legs as soon as possible," Baldwin said.

He said the additional legs would include a stop at the Riverwalk in downtown Bradenton and might one day extend to St. Petersburg as well.
The Riverwalk stop was part of the original high-speed Aqua Link ferry concept Baldwin presented to city officials in 2015. Last week, he said the Bradenton leg becomes more feasible when using the newly-built ferry that will travel at 36 knots (41 mph).

In regard to the Bradenton Beach/Sarasota leg, Baldwin said, "Locals, day-trippers and employees would be a foundation of our ridership and tourists, snowbirds and seasonal visitors will be the icing on the cake. That's what we really want to target."

He is targeting 100 passengers a day, with hopes of eventually reaching 250 or more.

Baldwin holds a master's license that allows him to pilot vessels up to 100 tons and he formerly served as a first officer for Highline Cruises, transporting 300,000 passengers a year in the Martha's Vineyard/Nantucket area.

Anna Maria Oyster Bar owner John Horne is among the local business owners who plans to offer $5 restaurant coupons to ferry passengers. Baldwin said he'd love passengers to receive $25 in coupons when purchasing a $12.50 round trip ticket.

Sherman also hopes to implement Uber-like water taxi services in both cities using smaller boats that would provide secondary water transport to waterfront restaurants and other attractions.

Baldwin is working with Sarasota city staff and elected officials to finalize the details of Sarasota's untested water taxi/ferry permitting process that dates back to 2003, but was never implemented until Baldwin initiated his efforts last fall.

Still to be determined is the location of the Sarasota ferry stop. Baldwin plans to dock the boat at Marina Jack's and he hopes the marina, dining and entertainment complex along Sarasota's downtown waterfront will also be his ferry stop. His alternate choice is the 10th Avenue boat basin, near the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

"Marina Jack's has so much foot traffic and visibility, so that would be an ideal spot, but if we have to run out of the 10th Street boat basin we'd be happy about that," Baldwin said.

Wet slip offer accepted

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Joe Hendricks | Sun

The Bradenton Beach City Commission has tentatively accepted an offer that would provide Police Chief Sam Speciale the ability to place the city's trailered police boat in a wet slip at the Bradenton Beach Marina until a permanent boat lift can be installed along the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Marina president Mike Bazzy offered the city the use of a slip for $1 for the remainder of the year. City Attorney Ricinda Perry will review the contract Bazzy provided, and it will be discussed again on Jan. 19. When making his motion for approval, Vice-Mayor John Chappie stated the use or non-use of the slip would be entirely at the discretion of Speciale.

Commissioners Ralph Cole and Jake Spooner are boat owners, and they said there would be additional maintenance costs if the boat is left in the water. Commissioner Marilyn Maro said she hopes the department uses the slip for greater enforcement of the unmanaged anchorage and for quicker response time during an emergency. Speciale was not present when the offer was discussed at the Jan. 5 meeting. He said later that he appreciated Bazzy's offer, and he would take it into consideration while determining the potential maintenance costs.

Speciale is continuing his pursuit of state permitting and grant funding for a boat lift at the pier that would provide for both quick access and out of water storage.

Fences present safety concerns


joe hendricks | SUN

A new fence legally erected on private property now extends
into the Spring Lane alleyway has narrowed the travel lane
folks have become accustomed to using. The corner
where the Spring Lane alley makes a 90-degree turn
has been narrowed by the new fencing.

ANNA MARIA – Privacy fences installed along the unpaved alley known as Spring Lane have drawn the attention of West Manatee Fire Recue Fire Chief Tom Sousa and Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy.

The new vinyl fence that borders two sides of a vacant lot at 103 Spring Lane and another at the rear property line of 108 Magnolia Ave. were installed in compliance with city-issued permits, but their placement has narrowed the alley to the point where a firetruck or EMS coach could have trouble getting through.

Spring Lane is an L-shaped, one-lane alley between Spring and Magnolia avenues. Part of it runs east and west and connects to Gulf Drive near Rudy's Subs. At the west end, the single lane makes a 90-degree turn and runs north and south parallel to the beachfront and connects with Spring Avenue near the Sandbar restaurant.

Erected on private property, the 103 Spring Ave. fence narrows the turning radius and a portion of the north-south alley travel lane. The property is owned by the Caltagirone family and is leased to the Sandbar restaurant as a parking lot. Sandbar owner Ed Chiles said the fence was not his doing.

There are two beachfront homes at the 90-degree turn that can only be accessed by that section of the alley. A third home to the north still has unimpeded alley access via Spring Ave.

On Wednesday, Jan. 4, Sousa sent Murphy a letter addressing his safety concerns.

"The construction of these fences on property lines will impede our ability to provide effective and timely fire suppression to the properties along the beachfront side of Spring Lane. Code requires that fire department access roads shall have an unobstructed width of not less than 20 feet. Spring Lane was platted (at 10 feet) prior to the establishment of the fire code in regards to acceptable road width. It would be in the best interest of all property owners that Spring Lane, adjacent to the beach front homes, be maintained at a minimum of 16 feet to allow fire apparatus in the event of a fire emergency. The District is prepared to work with the city and the effected property owners to resolve this issue," Sousa's letter said.

The new fence at the rear of the 108 Magnolia Ave. property owned by Richard and Christine Mason narrows the east-west alleyway, but Sousa said homes in that area can still be accessed by Magnolia or Spring avenues.

"For us, the only thing we have is the two houses on the beachfront in the corner there, where the fence runs north and south. We can reach them; it's just going to be more difficult and it may delay us. If there's something impeding our access to a structure, we can remove it, like when a car is parked in front of a fire hydrant. If our guys had to, they'd take the fence down, but it has to be an imminent threat to life for us to do something like that," he said.

Sousa said the north-south alley where the Caltagirones' fence is now measures 10 ½ feet. A fire truck is eight feet wide and an EMS coach is similar.

On Friday, Murphy acknowledged the new fencing is not on city property and he is still accessing if there is anything the city can do to help alleviate Sousa's concerns.

Louis Caltagirone said, "All permits were acquired in a legal, appropriate manner. The fence is on my property without question. There's been no violation. This fence is simply to designate where my property is because some people are a little confused. It was time consuming and incredibly expensive, and there's no infringement whatsoever. By no means is this fence intended to infringe upon anyone's safety. We'll work this out."

Caltagirone said he does not plan to extend the fence northward.

Howie Banfield lives in one of the beachfront homes Sousa mentioned. He recently watched a garbage truck struggle to make the narrowed turn. He said he almost hit the fence with his car, and it looks like someone else has already hit one of the fence poles.

"It's legal, but it's not logical," Banfield said.

Island waste collection set

The annual Hazardous Household Waste and E-Scrap Collection for Island Residents will be held on Saturday, Jan. 28, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Coquina Beachside parking lot.

Island residents can bring in those items that fall under the definition to that location for collection.

A substance is hazardous if it's:

• Toxic: Directly or indirectly poisons living things;

• Ignitable: Capable of catching fire;

• Corrosive: Capable of chemically eroding another substance such as cloth, metal, or skin;

• Reactive: Capable of participating in a chemical interaction or transformation;

• Carcinogenic: Capable of causing cancer;

Common E-Scrap items include:

• Battery chargers;

• CD Players/Recorders;

• Irons;

• Radios;

• Cell phones and cords;

• Central processing units (CPUs);

• Copiers;

• Circuit boards;

• DVD players/recorders;

• Hair dryers;

• TVs;

• Fax machines;

• Keyboards;

• Microwaves;

• Terminals;

• Monitors;

• Personal audio systems;

• Printers;

• Scanners;

• Small computer peripherals (mouse, cable, game hardware, cords, etc.).

Businesses wanting to participate in the collection are urged to call 941-798-6761 for specific instructions.

Day dock contractor selected

joe hendricks | SUN

At left, Technomarine's Ben Talbert discusses the dock replacement
with the CRA members.

BRADENTON BEACH – Meeting for the first time, the newly configured and expanded Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) selected Technomarine to design and install the new floating day dock system next to the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Technomarine submitted the lowest bid at $119,980, which was lower than the other two bids received for $128,965 and $139,500.

Technomarine was also the only firm that correctly based its bid on the city's desire to restore the public day dock to the original 220 feet first permitted by the state when the existing dock was installed 10 years ago. Due to damages incurred over the years, the dock was gradually reduced to its current length of 147 feet, which is what the two other firms based their bids on.

Technomarine representative Ben Talbert told the CRA members the dock would have a 15-year warranty directly with Technomarine, as long as proper maintenance was followed.

Once the contract is signed and the order is placed, off-site construction of the dock will take a couple months, followed by the on-site installation adjacent to the pier.

Mayoral dissent

Before the Pier Team advisory board's recommended contractor was approved by the CRA members,

Mayor Bill Shearon again objected to the idea that the dock replacement would be managed by the CRA as a whole, with assistance from city staff, but not by the mayor or the city commission. If the project was considered a city project, the mayor would have some degree of administrative oversight, which is not the case with CRA projects.

"CRA approves all expenditures, the city manages the project" Shearon said, noting that this is how it has been done in the past.

"Is the CRA going to manage the project or is the City Commission going to manage the project?" he asked, echoing similar objections he expressed at previous meetings.

"We're supposed to act as a totally separate agency, so we're supposed to manage the entire project," Commissioner Jake Spooner responded.

Spooner noted there are certain instances that require city commission approval, such as imminent domain property acquisitions or the destruction of city property, but the day dock replacement does not require commission approval.

Commissioner John Chappie said he felt state statutes were pretty clear on this, and he was of the opinion that Police Chief and Pier Team facilitator Sam Speciale would serve as the city's project manager, as he has done in the past with pier-related projects, and Building Official Steve Gilbert would conduct the needed inspections.

City Attorney Ricinda Perry was recently contracted to serve as the city's CRA consultant while the CRA plan is being updated and modified to allow for the expansion of the CRA boundaries. As she has done at previous meetings, she reminded Shearon that that her review of Florida Statues indicated that a CRA acts as a completely independent entity, even though its work is done on behalf of the city and five of its seven members are sitting city commissioners.

Perry also noted that approximately $93,000 in CRA funds were budgeted for the current fiscal year to be paid to the city's general fund in order cover the cost of staff time, city resources and additional police enforcement associated with CRA projects or the CRA district that currently extends from the Cortez Bridge to Fifth Street South.

After Shearon voiced his objections, the members – including new members Marilyn Maro, John Horne and Ed Chiles – voted 6-1 that the dock project would be the responsibility of the CRA as a whole, to be managed Speciale, with assistance from Gilbert and other members of the city staff.

The members then voted in favor of Technomarine being awarded the contract, and as a courtesy, Speciale presented those decisions to the City Commission the following night.

Food and Wine on Pine discontinued

It's official. Last year's Food and Wine on Pine on May 7 was the last one. The event began six years ago, an idea from Ed Chiles, owner of the Sandbar, Beach House and Mar Vista waterfront restaurants, who wanted to include a Taste of Anna Maria as part of the 2011 Anna Maria City Pier Centennial. Chiles wanted to showcase the best of the community's food, art, wine, and music. It gained popularity and continued each year with, 2014 being rained out.

Food and Wine on Pine developed into what many called one of the best events on the Island and one that successfully showed the unique aspects of the Island and all it has to offer. Drawing, on average, approximately 5,000 people each year to Pine Avenue, it attracted people from all over the world.

"People from Europe and across the U.S. would contact me throughout the year wanting to know the date, so they can plan their visit accordingly," event chair Caryn Hodge said.

She said the reason for pulling the plug on the event was simply too much work, especially for people who also have full time jobs and other responsibilities.

"Anyone who has ever planned an event, no matter how big or how small, knows they require a lot of time, work, effort, coordinating and support," Hodge said.

"Food and Wine on Pine was fortunate to have amazing volunteers step up to be the main committee chairs for securing and managing the music, art, food and wine vendors, actors, and coordinating almost 350 volunteers, as well as running the event that day. An event of this magnitude takes almost a full year to plan and manage.

"Therefore, with last year being so successful, the core team has agreed to go out on a high note and let last year be the last year," Hodge said. "On behalf of everyone who helped make each year better than the last, we are grateful."

Collectively the event was able to donate a total of $111,300 to several nonprofits in our community. "It has been an honor and pleasure working with the team of professionals and every single volunteer who worked tirelessly to be part of something so amazing." Hodge said.

"I was very lucky to have such a wonderful group of caring individuals who really did all the heavy lifting."

Hodge added the Chiles Group hopes that everyone will have fond memories of Food and Wine on Pine and hold it in high regard as an event that showcased Anna Maria Island and our area for how special it is.

Manatee deaths up in Manatee County, state

About 9 percent of the state's 6,250 manatees counted last February in an annual survey died last year, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Statewide, 509 manatees died, up from 405 manatees in 2015, including 102 from watercraft collisions, up from 87 in 2015.

In their namesake Manatee County, four manatees were killed in watercraft collisions in 2016. The four are among the 15 manatees that died in the county last year, one more than in the previous year, according to the mortality report covering Jan.1 to Dec. 31, 2016.

Six manatee deaths in the county were listed as natural, including two red tide deaths in Palma Sola Bay in October and November, two undetermined, two perinatal and one cold stress death, according to the report.

The FWC advises boaters and personal watercraft operators to slow down near shore; speed reductions are mandatory in manatee zones.

If you see an injured, dead, tagged or orphaned manatee, or a manatee being harassed, call the FWC at 1-888-404-FWCC (3922) or #FWC or *FWC on your mobile phone, use VHF Channel 16 on your marine radio, or send a text message to

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