The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 51 - September 9, 2009


Busy beaches at summer's end
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO Despite the crowds, above,
visitors still could find some pockets of privacy on the beaches..

Labor Day is traditionally known as the end of summer up north as people turn their attention to school, changing leaves, cooler temperatures, Halloween and the year’s end holidays.

On Anna Maria, it means one more time at the beach for people who live close enough to drive, but too far to call it home.

The Island is a popular destination for day travelers during three-day weekends.

Julie Perkins and Melissa Porter made an easy drive to Holmes Beach from Lakeland. Riverview residents Arty and Sharlene Mazza planned to drive to the Island every day during Labor Day weekend. “It’s only about 40 minutes,” Sharlene Mazza said. “Not that far.”

Tampa residents Laura and Matthew Cooper come to Anna Maria Island twice a year, for Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend. Why Anna Maria?

“The beach!” they said simultaneously.

Restaurants, listed in many visitor surveys as a major attraction and recently praised by the New York Times, aren’t on their list.

“We’re not here for the restaurants,” they said. “We can eat at home. But we don’t have this.”

This year, Mother Nature made sure the beaches were at their best.

“The Gulf has been good,” said Captain Joe Westerman, a lifeguard at Coquina Beach, Monday. “No surf; no waves, the water is flat and it’s gorgeous.

“We’ve had a great family presence this year,” he added. “I think it’s because we’ve had mounted sheriff’s deputies and a lot of police to make sure the families know we’ve got things under patrol.

The Labor Day weekend marks the start of a slow month for tourism, with Anna Maria Island accommodations only a third full on average during the last three Septembers. Most of them are “staycationers,” or tourists from Florida, according to the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.

“We had a good Labor Day weekend,” said David Teitelbaum, manager of Tortuga Inn and Trade Winds Resort, both in Bradenton Beach. “We had a lot of rain the past three weeks, but it stayed away over the Labor Day weekend and we were full in Tortuga Inn and 75 percent full at Trade Winds.”

Mark Davis, who manages the Harrington House in Holmes Beach, said things are normal.

“We were full all three days of the holiday weekend,” he said. “We’re normally full for the Labor Day weekend.”

Those Labor Day beach-goers who don’t rent rooms will catch a snack, especially if it’s near the beach and cold.

“It’s been very busy,” said Joanne Spallino, co-owner of Joe’s Eats and Sweets in Bradenton Beach. “This has been may one of our best Labor Days.”

Joe’s Eats and Sweets offers meals as well as a variety of ice cream and other cold confections.

One factor that plays a part in the Labor Weekend traffic is school. This week marked the opening of school in some northern districts and families make the weekend a last chance to enjoy a beach situation. It also affects the mainlanders in Manatee County who come out.

“On Sunday, everyone stayed to watch the sunset,” Westerman said. “On Monday, everyone packed up and left around mid-afternoon so they could get their kids ready for school.”

Trolley ads, donation boxes approved
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT This donation box on a trolley is there
for anybody who feels like giving money to help defer the
cost of operating the system without charging a fare.

Several Manatee County department heads met with Island trolley supporter David Teitelbaum on Monday, Aug. 31, to work out details on a plan to keep rides on the trolleys free.

As a result, the trolleys now have donation boxes for people to donate money toward keeping the rides free and the county is working on the mechanics of selling ads both outside and inside the decorative public transit vehicles. The small boxes are not to be confused with fare boxes, which the county also installed on the trolleys. If the donation boxes work, along with plans by Teitelbaum to raise funds, the fare boxes won’t be necessary.

When the county announced several months ago that it could no longer commit money to keep trolley rise free, Teitelbaum, a developer, resort owner and member of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council, came up with a plan to raise the money through the private sector and donations from riders and citizens.

The first step was to install donation boxes in the trolleys. The next step was to sell advertising inside and outside the trolleys. Teitelbaum also wants to sell the rights to name the trolleys to private and commercial entities. Finally, he wants to raise money through a Real Florida Festival similar to the way the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival raises money for the Florida Institute of Saltwater Heritage.

Manatee County Commissioners voted to contribute extra money for the fare-less trolleys for the upcoming fiscal year while Teitelbaum’s plan takes effect.

“I am simply delighted to have the cooperation and support from the county,” Teitelbaum said last week. “The hard part is ahead of us. We’ve got the blueprint, now we have to build it.”

Those attending the meeting included Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker, Deputy County Administrator Karen Windon, Manatee County Department of Community Affairs Director Fred Loveland, Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) Administrator Ralf Heseler and Island business leader David Teitelbaum, who came up with the plan.

According to meeting notes taken by Windon, MCAT is researching the frames needed for the ads inside and on the outside of the vehicles.

MCAT will notify Sarasota County Area Transit, which connects with MCAT on the Island and runs a trolley route south on Longboat Key to Sarasota, of the impending ads as a courtesy and to avoid future problems.

Sixteen years ago, a private trolley system operated on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key with outside advertising on the vehicles. Residents of Longboat Key opposed the presence of the trolleys because of the ads and they forced the Longboat Key government to pull out of a coalition with the Anna Maria Island cities to get Manatee County to fund a public trolley system. The idea of a trolley system lay dormant until about six years ago when County Commissioner Joe McClash ordered MCAT to find a way to put an Island trolley system in place and pay for it with available grants and from the savings made by not running a bus circulator system on the Island.

That paved the way for the trolley system, which some say has become one of the biggest mass transit success stories ever in the state of Florida.

County endorses sand deal

The Manatee County Commission has unanimously endorsed a plan to remove beach renourishment sand from Port Dolphin’s preferred underwater pipeline route before the project is constructed.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) proposed the plan, which would salvage sand for Coquina Beach renourishment projects that the 42-mile-long pipeline would make inaccessible.

The DEP has agreed to reduce the two- to three-year sand permitting process to about one year, Manatee County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker told commissioners, with sand extraction beginning along the pipeline route by 2011, accelerating Anna Maria Island beach renourishment projects. The route, which originally crossed the Terra Ceia Aquatic Preserve, has been relocated to about two miles north of the Island.

Port Dolphin is awaiting the approval of permits to build the pipeline and a submersible liquefied natural gas port 28 miles off the Island in the Gulf of Mexico. The underwater pipeline would connect to land-based distribution points at Port Manatee.

Port Manatee officials have been among the project’s most vocal supporters, citing a new source of clean energy and new, high-paying jobs at the port. The Manatee County Commission also sits as the Manatee Port Authority.

Gov. Charlie Crist is scheduled to weigh in on the project by Sept. 11, the last day for the public to file comments on the project’s final Environmental Impact Statement published by the U.S. Coast Guard, one of the permitting authorities. The U.S. Maritime Administration is scheduled to make a decision on the port’s permit application by Oct. 26.

Environmental concerns

Critics of Port Dolphin have expressed concern about the project’s potential environmental impacts on wetlands, sand resources, navigation, fisheries, marine mammals and sea turtles.

Holmes Beach resident Barbara Hines, a director of environmental protection group ManaSota-88, told commissioners that requiring Port Dolphin to connect to the existing offshore Gulfstream Natural Gas pipeline instead of building a new pipeline would greatly reduce environmental impacts. Commissioners did not respond. Port Dolphin officials have said that connecting to the competitor’s pipeline would be physically unfeasible.

Longboat Key officials, who met recently in a closed attorney/client session to discuss litigation strategies in case Port Dolphin’s permit is approved, have vigorously objected to the pipeline, saying it would make off limits sand that is necessary for the town’s beach renourishment program.

“We are pleased that there is a potential resolution to move sand out of the way in advance, but none of us have seen a document yet, and the governor’s decision is less than a week away,” Town Manager Bruce St. Denis said.

While Port Dolphin officials have agreed to the sand shifting concept, including cost sharing for surveying and relocating the sand, details of the deal between the shipping company and the state agency have not been finalized, Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said, warning, “The devil’s in the details.” Still, he said, “This proposal appears to be a win-win for the parties involved.”

Cortez welcomes grouper program

CORTEZ – A new program will give commercial fishermen the flexibility to fish when weather and market conditions are favorable, instead of having to race to catch fish before the overall quota for the fishery is met.

The Individual Fishing Quota (IFQ) program will divide grouper and tilefish quotas among eligible commercial fishermen, creating a year-round season and eliminating closures, according to the Gulf Fishermen’s Association.

“This IFQ program can’t come quick enough,” said Glen Brooks, Cortez grouper fisherman and president of the Gulf Fishermen’s Association, which represents more than 200 members throughout the Gulf region, including fishermen, restaurants and the public. “Fulltime grouper fishermen have been watching the red snapper IFQ program do so much good for fishing businesses and the stocks and are itching to get off the sidelines and fish for grouper the same way.”

The program was recommended by more than 80 percent of commercial grouper and tilefish fishermen who responded to inquiries from fisheries regulators.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service announced last week that the IFQ program will begin on Jan. 1, when permit holders on record as of Oct. 1 will be eligible to receive shares based on their landings from 1999-2004.

Commercial fishermen find themselves aligned with environmentalists on the IFQ program, a departure from an ongoing dispute between the groups over how many loggerhead sea turtles are accidentally snagged and drowned on commercial grouper fishermen’s longlines.

Cortez fishermen continue to oppose a temporary ban on longline gear, passed in an effort to reduce turtle deaths, which expires in late October. Meanwhile, the National Marine Fisheries Service is considering passing regulations recommended at a Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council public hearing last month that would further restrict longline grouper fishing.

The longline regulations should not be implemented until the IFQ program has a chance to work, Karen Bell of A.P. Bell Fish Co. in Cortez suggested at the Gulf Council hearing. The business is in danger of closing if the new regulations are passed, she said.

Local broker accused again

BRADENTON BEACH – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is accusing a Holmes Beach man of selling unregistered securities.

Doyle Scott Elliott, who owns Elliott & Associates, of Bradenton Beach, is one of three people and three companies named in a lawsuit by the SEC charging they sold unregistered securities.

The complaint alleges that on Feb. 2004 and June 2007, they engaged in an unregistered distribution and sale of more than 21 million shares of Universal Express, Inc., formerly located in New York. It says that the defendants raised approximately $34 million from their sales to public investors.

The complaint says the defendants did not file registration statements containing accurate information about the company and their transactions, which are required by federal securities laws.

Elliott and his company are named separately in the complaint along with Robert Weidenbaum, of Coral Gables; CLX Associates, Inc., of Miami; Michael Xirinachs, of Melville, Fla.; and Dix Emerald Asset Advisors, LLC, of Dix Hills, N.J.

The SEC seeks “permanent injunctions against the defendants, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains and civil penalties, according to the complaint.” It also seeks to bar the defendants from trading penny stocks.

Elliott was last in the news when FBI agents searched his business and home on Feb. 25 of this year. He was being sued for alleged stock fraud when his properties were raided, but was later acquitted of those charges.

Elliott told The Sun that he was not guilty of anything wrong following the raid. He said that there were nine counts in the raid and, “I am somewhere between a defendant and a witness.”

Elliott said that he invests his own money, mainly on startup businesses, and he formed his company to investigate referrals he gets. He said he sometimes served as a consultant to develop a business plan for a startup company.

Charges were never announced regarding the raid and it is unknown if these charges stem from it.

A call to Elliott’s home Saturday was not returned.

Biker OK after spectacular accident

HOLMES BEACH – Many people who witnessed an accident between a car and a motorcycle last Friday between 5 and 6 p.m. thought the cyclist would be another statistic, but that wasn’t the case.

That cyclist was Bob Hills, husband of Realtor Betsy Hills, and while he’s not up and about, he still with us and his injuries could be worse.

“It’s a miracle,” said Betsy Hills. “He had a fractured pelvis and some abrasions on his head, but he’ll recover.”

Official details of the accident were not available because the Holmes Beach Police Department was closed for the Labor Day holiday, but Victor Mattay, owner of Dips Ice Cream in Anna Maria, said it looked bad forBob. He said it appeared that Bob tried to enter traffic on East Bay Drive but a trolley picking up passengers at the stop near Publix was blocking his vision.

“When I arrived, the car looked totaled,” Betsy said. “The motorcycle was damaged but still intact.”

Betsy said that the thing that saved Bob from worse injury was the fact that when the motorcycle went over and slid down the road, he stayed with it. She feels he would have been injured worse if he had let go and rolled down the street on his own.

The cycle was a 2003 Anniversary Edition Harley Davidson and it took first place in the Rat’s Hole Custom Motorcycle Show in Leesburg, Fla. in 2007.

Betsy said that she first got a phone call from the police who told her Bob would be airlifted to Bayfront Hospital in St. Petersburg. She raced to the scene, but they had already taken him to the hospital.

Doctors operated on his hip Saturday and replaced the joint, according to Betsy. On Monday, she said he had a new hip and his fractured pelvis was set. Since word got out about the accident, she said she has been deluged with phone calls.

“My phone has not stopped ringing and friends have been calling with best wishes and offers of help,” she said. “It’s amazing how thoughtful and generous people on this Island are.”

Betsy has visited her husband every day and she’s not sure how long he’ll be there, but she said she wants to thank everybody for their kindness.

“I feel doubly blessed because number one, I still have my husband and number two, I have so many good friends,” she said, “That’s why living in a small town means so much to me, and you wouldn’t get that in a big city.”

Island Riders a new Island institution
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Original Island Riders Johnny “Electric” Calobreves, left,
Bennie Dunn, front right and Steve Kring on some of the
custom choppers at headquarters on Pine Avenue in Anna Maria

ANNA MARIA — There are no rules. There are no meetings. Members live all over the world. The one requirement for membership is to have fun and to accept one of the club’s T-shirts. Then you’re in.

“So if you hear someone say they’re a member, and they ask you when the next meeting is, you know they aren’t really a member,” said Steve Kring, an Anna Maria resident who founded Island Riders with "Chopper" Bob Pollard. “You know that because there are no meetings for this club.”

Kring spoke enthusiastically last week about the organization in his characteristic dry, rapid-fire delivery as day-to-day operations manager Johnny “Electric” Calobreves, looked calmly on.

“We started the club, because we wanted our own cool T-shirts,” Kring said. “Originally, we didn’t make or sell anything.”

The two began attending major and minor bike events under the "Riders" banner — on their T-shirts, of course.

“Then we became minor sponsors of fundraiser events including Bay Flight, Save the Greyhounds, Moffitt Cancer Research and various local charities,” Kring said.

The sponsorships and events got the club more T-shirts and up front parking.

As more and more people coveted the cool shirts, membership in the club grew. Island Riders members started entering bike shows.

“This led to more T-shirts and VIP free parking!” Kring said.

Then came advertising trucks, which made it necessary to have an official logo. Part-time Anna Maria resident Mike Thrasher volunteered to design the logo, so the T-shirts got even cooler, and Island Riders was up and running in the custom bike business.

“We gave out a thousand T-shirts to people wanting to belong to the club,” Kring said as Chopper Bob smiled gently. “Don’t ask for a membership list, because we don’t have one.”

Kring and Chopper Bob got bitten with the custom bike bug. They built bikes, sold them and before they realized what was happening, they were in business selling bikes, custom parts, accessories and apparel.

“We represent two bike builders, Hill Top Custom and Diablo Chop Shop” Kring said.

Then with all the interest, they started a “build your own bike” school. Bennie Dunn was their first student.

“Bennie graduated at the top of his class,” Kring quipped.

And as the economy took a free fall, the bike business dropped off dramatically, according to Kring.

“So we’re moving the manufacturing closer to Anna Maria from Sarasota, and we’ve expanded into making custom bike parts, custom automobile parts and, of course, cool T-shirts,” he said.

The company also makes structural construction components, stair systems, retractable pool covers and ornamental gates and fences.

Jade Starr Welch, who was born and raised in the Island, is designing a new limited clothing line from her Orlando and California locations, Kring said, and Bradenton beach Artist Missy Wojciechowski is doing the design for event T-shirts (all way cool) and motorcycle posters.

Island Riders have displayed their bikes at Daytona Biketoberfest, Daytona Bike Week, Blues Fest Vinoy Park, St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg Bike Week and Thunder by the Bay in Sarasota.

Some upcoming events to which the Island Riders has committed are the Key West Poker Run, Bikes blues and Barbecue in Fayetteville, Arkansas and this year’s Daytona Biketoberfest. The group has also committed to organizing a fundraiser with a local sorority for cancer research.

In the interests of this full disclosure required by the ethics of the journalism profession, this reporter confesses her membership in Island Riders.

I’m having fun. I have a very cool T-shirt. Don’t even think of asking me when the next meeting is.

Mote asks, 'Where’s Waldo?'
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTO PROVIDED BY MOTE MARINE Mote Marine officials are
searching for their submersible robot called Waldo, pictured here.

Waldo the robot is missing, and Mote Marine Laboratory is offering a $500 reward for its recovery.

The red tide detection device has been missing since July 31. Mote tried using side-scan sonar to find the bright yellow autonomous underwater vehicle, but so far, it’s gone without a trace.

Waldo was patrolling the waters off Southwest Florida looking for red tide with its attached BreveBusterTM, a red tide detection device designed and built by Mote scientist Dr. Gary Kirkpatrick.

The robot sends signals to satellites each time it surfaces, and Waldo sent reports offshore from Venice every two hours between Aug. 26 and 31.

"Then, bam, it just stopped sending a signal," Kirkpatrick said. "There are a few possibilities that we think are likely: It could have had a major leak or malfunction and sank to the bottom and is just sitting there. Or, it could have had a malfunction with its computer or its communication system and is floating on the surface but unable to tell us that it's there."

An unsuspecting boater who didn't realize the device was a scientific instrument may have also taken the BreveBuster.TM

"We're hoping that if anyone has seen Waldo, they will call and let us know so we can pick it up," Kirkpatrick said.

Mote is offering a $500 "no questions asked" reward for the return of Waldo. Anyone with information is asked to call 388-4441, ext. 271.

The robot, along with its colleagues, Carmen and Nemo, patrol for red tide 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which would be cost prohibitive for researchers on boats.

The devices cost about $130,000 each, paid for by grants from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Last week, one water sample collected alongshore of Sarasota County contained very low concentrations of red tide, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

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