The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 35 - June 1, 2011


Renourishment in the budget

Governor Rick Scott left an appropriation for beach renourishments in the budget while scratching several projects to save money.

That caps several weeks of uncertainty whether the new governor would support beach renourishments. Before the budget was finalized, word got out that he would likely veto the appropriation, which goes toward several projects around the state, saying the state could not afford it. Manatee County Commissioners Carol Whitmore, John Chappie and Robyn Sabatini met with the governor in April, and they impressed upon him how renourished beaches support the state's tourist industry, which means jobs for residents. Scott was voted into office after making job creation a goal during his campaign. During their meeting, Scott told them to keep an eye on the appropriation as it makes its way to his desk, but he would not make any promises of whether he would support it.

Whitmore told The Sun she was very happy with the result.

"It was hard work, and we had to stay with it after our one-on-one with the governor," she said.

Another visitor to the governor during that meeting was Manatee County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker.

"It was a long-awaited affirmation that sprang through the governor's office of the transitional value of the beaches to the state's economy as well as Manatee County's," Hunsicker said. "We realize we are very much a part of the Florida picture to the world, and the governor's office grabbed a hold of the big picture."

Hunsicker said it is a relief to know they can continue to plan for a huge renourishment of the Island's beach in 2015, one that would put the county on track to renourish the beaches on a regular basis. He said the money coming to Manatee County in this coming budget would be to take out permits and make plans for the 2015 renourishment. The state will eventually pay $6,219,400 of the $28.27 million renourishment, the same as the county, which will get its money from the tax on vacation room rentals.


Bradenton Beach talks tax hike

BRADENTON BEACH – Faced with impending capital improvement needs and no money to finance them, the city commission discussed ways to raise money at a budget work session last week and they explored raising the property tax rate slightly to come up with the cash.

According to preliminary figures released by the county, the property tax collections for the coming fiscal year will be about $15,000 less than the current year.

"Last year, we requested a lot for capital improvements knowing that what we could not get from the county would have to come from a higher millage rate," said Mayor Bob Bartelt. "The seawall in front of the Sixth Street (South) sewage lift station is something we will have to budget for."

Engineer Lynn Burnett estimated the seawall would cost around $25,000 because it is 75 feet long, four feet high and 10 to 12 inches thick.

Commissioner Gay Breuler said that if they have to raise the millage, they should be prepared to say why and the raise should be big enough to make it worthwhile. Commissioner Janie Robertson said that the three gateways to the city look shabby and they should replace them all at the same time.

Bartelt said there are three ways to raise extra money, as he sees it. They could agree to raise the tax rate, take money from reserves or make the beachfront property the city bought to settle a lawsuit threat pay for itself in some possible blend of public and private enterprise.

"The reserves are in good shape," said City Clerk Nora Idso. "We purchased that property for $355,000, which was worth $18,000, which is why the city needs to raise more funds.

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh said that if the commission has to ask taxpayers to make a sacrifice, they should make sure the commissioners tighten their belts as well.

"We should raise the millage to balance the budget," Bartelt said. "Our expenses are going up too. Look at the price of gasoline and we still have to power our police cars."

This year, we added parking spaces and next year, we need to address drainage," Robertson said. "We're putting money into things for the residents and the drainage improvements might result in lower insurance rates."

Bartelt reminded everybody that they have been working with what he considers to be a bare-bones budget.

"The last time we raised taxes, I came to the meeting," Vosburgh said. "I was the only one there."

Brueler said that for the last nine years, the city had kept the same tax rate or lowered it.

"Under the law, I am required to put in a big ad that costs about $2,000 when we raise taxes," Idso said. "The most people who I have seen at budget meetings have been five."

Idso reminded the commissioners that the city gets an official estimate of the taxable value of the land in Bradenton Beach on June 30, and she has until Aug. 4 to send in an estimate of the city's property tax rate. She said they can lower that estimate while finalizing the budget, but they cannot raise it so they should come in with a high estimate.

Brueler reminded the commissioners that with the property value estimates still dropping, taxpayers might be able to absorb a raise in the city's tax rate without paying more for their overall bill. She said that the city's tax bill is a small fraction of the bill the county sends, which includes county property taxes, fire control taxes and school taxes.

The commission agreed to meet again to set a goal for capital improvements and map out a plan to raise the money to pay for them.

Group wants to purchase lots on Pine


ANNA MARIA – TIF committee members agreed last week that their first priority is finding a way for the city to purchase the six lots at the corner of Pine Avenue and North Bay Boulevard for a park.

"Developers are ready to jump on the bandwagon," Ed Chiles warned. "We need to try to get a collaborative movement in the community to buy those lots.

"Or they will become something no one wants," Mike Coleman added. "That's my biggest concern. That's a long term, lifetime city asset and once it's gone, it's gone forever."

"People ask me what I want to see there," Mayor Mike Selby pointed out. "It's not what I want to see there. It's what I don't want to see there. We have a short fuse on those lots."

Selby said the price of the six lots is $3 million. Coleman said PAR (Pine Avenue Restoration) has had a contract on them for four years, but the property is in foreclosure, and he has been negotiating with the bank.

Chiles suggested pursuing grants with the Florida Department of Transportation, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Gulf Coast Land Trust and others and combining it with private and city funding.

Members said they would approach the city commission to see if there is any interest in helping finance the project. They asked Finance Director Diane Percycoe to develop some figures on borrowing money.

TIF area

Members will continue with their original plan to recommend an area of the city to be designated as a special taxing area and develop a plan and projects to improve that area. Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, is a method to pay for improvements to an area through increased ad valorem tax revenue resulting from redevelopment of the area.

It became their second priority after they learned that the TIF area they planned to designate – all ROR lots (residential/office/retail) on Pine Avenue from North Bay Boulevard to the Gulf of Mexico and the property between the humpbacked bridge and Spring Avenue as the TIF area – would not generate much money.

According to Coleman's research, the taxable value in the ROR district in 2011 was $19,466,176, which would generate $4,734 in TIF funds for the city.

"We still need to explore TIF," Selby said. "Now is the time because of the value you (Coleman and Chiles with the PAR) have created. If you think the number are bad now, wait until next year."

Coleman said isolating it to a small district doesn't generate enough money and added, "We need to broaden the district. We need more properties in the mix to make it pay."

The others agreed, but did not specify what additional area they would recommend adding.

Kinnan to miss the love
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Fifth-grade teacher Anne Kinnan unwraps her retirement gift
from the PTO – an Earth Box so she can start a garden.
The school honored her last Wednesday.

HOLMES BEACH – When school starts up again toward the end of summer, Anne Kinnan won't be there for the first time in 35 years. She has taught at Anna Maria Elementary School for 31 of those years and is retiring at the end of this school year.

She comes from a family of educators including her mother, for whom a school was named; her brother, Harry, who is on the Manatee County School Board; and another brother, Joe, who is a legendary coach at Manatee High School.

Both brothers were there when the school honored her last week. There were old students there, some who had kids that she taught, plus teachers both current and from the past. They gave her an Earth Box as a going away gift so she could get into gardening, something she wants to do. As for her transformation away from the work she loves, she said, "I came here pregnant and I'm leaving on Social Security."

However, she leaves with some trepidation.

"I'm going to miss them (teachers and students) terribly," she said. "They're like my family."

But, she is prepared for the change.

"I am closing a chapter in my life, not a book," she said. "I need to face retirement like I tried to prepare my (fifth-grade) students for middle school."

Kinnan was voted Manatee County's Teacher of the Year during her career, and she said after that, people asked why she didn't get a job in administration and make an effort to move up in the ranks.

"I told them, 'Why should I?'" she said. "This is the best place for me to be."

How will she spend her time after that first bell rings in the next school year?

"I plan to garden, travel, write a book," she said. "I have a lot of friends retiring and some of them showed me Latin dancing, and I love it. They say when one door shuts, another one opens, and I plan to taker advantage of that."

Kinnan said that while her retirement is "bittersweet," there are some things about being a teacher nowadays that she doesn't like.

"Teaching has changed and change can be good, but some creative endeavors are left," she said. "There is more emphasis on accountability and measuring progress than in the past."

As for her immediate future, she cannot work for the school board for a year under terms of her retirement so she might work somewhere else part-time.

"I'm going to do things I always wondered about," she said. "It's all about the journey, not the destination."

She also has an older house that will require her attention, and she might get into acting, something that she has always been interested in.

"I am a good storyteller, and I have been a favorite with the students and volunteers," she said. "I have wanted to write a book since college, and I might look at tutoring at IMG, but whatever it is I find, I think it will have something to do with teaching."

What will she miss the most about teaching at the little school on the bay?

"I will miss the love," she said. "Even when things went bad, the love in this profession made me say to myself, 'I got paid to do this.' "

Fertilizer use, not sale, banned in summer

The Manatee County Commission narrowly passed a fertilizer ordinance on Tuesday, May 24 that regulates fertilizer application in the summer but does not ban its sale, as originally proposed.

Commissioners voted 4-3 to prohibit Manatee County residents - other than farmers - from using fertilizer from June 1 to Sept. 30, when rainfall is greater than the rest of the year, washing more fertilizer into waterways.

Fertilizer sales and usage regulations are designed to improve water quality by decreasing nitrogen runoff into waterways.

On Anna Maria Island, many houses are empty in the off-season summer months, but each week, landscape companies continue to spray fertilizer "like crazy, when there is going to be rain in the afternoon," said Barbara Hines of Holmes Beach, vice chair of conservation group ManaSota-88, which supported the ordinance.

Other local groups favoring fertilizer regulation include Sarasota Bay Watch and Solutions to Avoid Red Tide (START).

Officials in Anna Maria Island's three cities, none of which has passed a fertilizer ordinance, have said they were waiting for Manatee County's lead before considering local ordinances.

Under a new state law, municipalities have until July 1 to pass ordinances banning the sale of fertilizer.

Resident William Wheeler suggested that the commissioners pass the ordinance, knowing it could be repealed later, saying, "If you don't pass it before July 1, you lose the right to pass it."

Proponents of the ordinance said that keeping fertilizer out of the watershed is more cost effective than removing it after the fact; for example, Pinellas County officials estimated that it will cost taxpayers $45 million to clean up Lake Seminole.

Opponents of the ordinance said that if fertilizer sales were restricted, they would buy fertilizer in neighboring counties.

They also cited proof that seagrass is increasing in area waters, proving that water quality is good.

While area waters are improving, fertilizer regulations are needed to sustain their health in the face of future growth and pollution, said Nanette O'Hara of the Tampa Bay National Estuary Program, whose model ordinance was used as a template for the county ordinance.

And some county waters, such as Rattlesnake Slough, still fall below minimum water quality standards, said Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee County's Natural Resources Department.

Thelma by the Sea has rich history
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Thelma by the Sea sits behind the deck at the Village Café
at Rosedale after being moved to the Historic Green Village
last week. Once the foundation is complete, it will be lowered and
moved back from the deck. At right, Thelma Wood Holly was the
poster girl for the Anna Maria Beach Development Company.

ANNA MARIA – Thelma by the Sea, the stately stone home that sat by the humpbacked bridge on North Bay Boulevard since 1913, has now been moved to its new location in the Historic Green Village on Pine Avenue.

The home was built for Pearl and James Wood, of Ellenton, by Capt. Mitch Davis, who also built Roser Cottage, the Old City jail and Lotus Cottage and the icehouse on the end of the city pier.

The Wood family named the house for their daughter, Thelma, a beautiful young woman who posed for the cover of the Anna Maria Beach Company brochure and other publications. She also was a cover girl for Woman's Home Companion.

"Every spring in the 30s, when I was a little girl, Nanny would say, 'We must go to Anna Maria and get the house ready,' Thelma's daughter, Donna Simpson, recalled. "A lot of families from Ellenton, Parrish and Bradenton came out to the beach for the summer.

"We would paint and clean, and she would reminisce about the wonderful house parties over the years when her children were young and they traveled by steamer to the Island."

Pier play

Simpson said the children learned to swim by jumping off the pier, and they loved scalloping in the bay and diving for clams.

"The men would fish at night on the old pier with gigs, catching snook, snapper and flounder," Simpson said. "When we awakened in the morning, we would run out to the end of the pier – sometimes there would be a great big jewfish or shark hanging there for everybody to see."

Simpson said she's been told that her grandfather was one of the biggest vegetable brokers of the time and built the first packing house in the county. He also purchased the Gamble Mansion in 1914, when it was put up for bid.

"J.R. Wood left a bid of $1,600 at the tax appraiser's office and went on a hunting trip," she explained. "When he came home, he owned it.

"My grandmother was upset, as she had a new Victorian house with electricity and running water and she did not want to take that 'thing' on. It was in terrible shape."

She said her grandfather signed it over to a fertilizer company in 1920 and in 1923, the United Daughters of the Confederacy bought it.

She said her grandfather sold Thelma by the Sea in the 1940s to Erin Service Williams, who made it into Angler's Lodge. It was sold to Mathilde Hashuer in 1956, to the Scott family of Tampa in 1972 and the Heberbrand family in 1992.

Little is known of its history after Wood sold it and owner Lizzie Vann Thrasher is asking anyone with information to call her at 941-896-6301 or e-mail her at

Board seeks contract from cell tower consultant

ANNA MARIA – Mayor Mike Selby asked commissioners for direction regarding a sample agreement with the Center for Municipal Solutions, a group that advises and assists local governments regulate cell towers and wireless facilities.

"I didn't know we'd be doing a new ordinance," Commissioner John Quam said, citing a provision in the agreement that CMS would prepare a new cell tower ordinance. "I'm skeptical on proceeding with an ordinance until we've checked out other avenues.

"Have individuals talked to Verizon and tried to solve their problem? Will a new facility improve the situation? I'm not certain we need an new ordinance."

Commissioner Dale Woodland agreed and said they should get a copy of Bradenton Beach's recent agreement with CMS. He also said he is unclear about the city's obligation under the agreement.

"It seems to me a good idea to start a discussion right away rather than put it off another month," Commissioner Gene Aubry said. "You could start a dialogue. You've heard the questions tonight. Bring those up. Is our ordinance good? Is it out of date? What are your suggestions?"

Selby said Rusty Monroe, of CMS, had looked at the city's ordinance but not in detail. Selby said he felt it could be massaged.

Chair Chuck Webb asked Selby to come back with a contract for commissioners to review.

Café opens its doors to community uses

Lizzie Vann Thrasher addresses a group of community
leaders at a luncheon at the Village Café at Rosedale in
the Historic Green Village asking how the Café can better
serve the community.

ANNA MARIA – Lizzie Vann and Mike Thrasher hosted a group of community leaders at a luncheon at the Village Café at Rosedale in the Historic Green Village on Pine Avenue to learn how they can better serve the community.

"The Green Village is beginning to come together, and it was always the plan for it to be at the center of Anna Maria city," Vann Thrasher explained. "This is very much a place for the community. We wanted to get everybody's thoughts on how we could best use it for you, for the things you do."

She said the Rosedale Room in the café is being offered to any group in the community for a meeting or gathering at no cost, and she is thinking of opening it in the evenings for other functions.

Rita Payne suggested a book club, but not "one where they read a certain book and discuss it, but where people come to talk about books."

She also suggested holding high teas or tea tastings, and café manager Lydia Beljan said she has considered offering a seminar on the various coffees served in the café.

Janae Rudacille suggested game nights and noted, "I like the idea of having events at night, but stuff that's more happening."

Bed and breakfast

Several people said the cafe should serve Sunday brunch and hot breakfasts, and Vann Thrasher said she is in the process of changing the menu and could offer more.

Janet Aubry said since the café doesn't have a kitchen, Vann Thrasher could put a kitchen in Thelma by the Sea and the profit from hot breakfasts could finance events.

Sissy Quinn, of the Anna Maria Preservation Trust, which spearheaded the effort to move Thelma by the Sea from North Bay Boulevard to the Village, said she has envisioned bed and breakfast in that building.

"It brings around the history when it was the Angler's Lodge, a boarding house," Quinn said. "That also would lend itself to serving hot breakfasts."

"We will investigate the bed and breakfast idea with the city," Vann Thrasher said.

Aubry said movie nights with popcorn would be fun, and Dorothy Blum said there is no place to go for dessert and coffee after attending plays at the Island Players.

Beljan said staff has discussed offering breakfast sandwiches and a bicycle delivery service. Rudacille said people could host dinner parties in the Rosedale Room and there could be a chalkboard to sign up for its use.

Night life

Darcie Duncan said the street shuts down in the evenings, and when tourists or mainlanders on the Island for a long weekend come off the beach, they have no place to go.

"I do a lot in Bradenton and this place is buzzing on the mainland," Duncan said. "By the time those people get off work everything's closed. Even if it's not every night, you could offer wine and music on weekends."

Duncan also suggested cooking seminars, food demonstrations and pointed out, "You have to think outside the box and not copy the Community Center and offer events that complement what they offer.

"From a business standpoint, I would love to come down here and have my staff meetings where we can get inspiration and you're not in the same environment. Or if I wanted to do a seminar for customers, it's lovely place."

Other suggestions included a farmer's market, a bakery, board meeting space for non-profit groups and a doggie social hour.

"They're putting their money where their mouth is," Mayor Mike Selby said of the Thrashers. "They're doing all the right things."

"They want to keep that sense of community, that small town feeling and make it even better," Joan Voyles added.

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