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Date of Issue: January 07, 2009

2008 year in review

Renovating bridges, placing bollards, holding down taxes, boosting property sales, welcoming tourists and saying goodbye to old friends: The Islander takes a look back at the first half of 2008 from the perspective of Anna Maria Island.

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Crossing the bridge
Bridgetender Bob Nappi, right, shows Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos and Florida state Rep. Bill Galvano his station on the Anna Maria Island Bridge. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

January

Island Bridge renovation delayed: The planned January start of the $10.2 million renovation of the Anna Maria Island Bridge was delayed until Feb. 4. The change was needed as the Florida Department of Transportation and Quinn Construction Co. negotiated a new contract that called for the bridge on Manatee Avenue/State Road 64 linking Anna Maria Island to the mainland to be closed to regular vehicle traffic for 45 days beginning Sept. 29.

Island writer Bob Ardren dies: Bob Ardren died early on New Year’s Day. Robert Lyman “Bob” Ardren, 67, of Sarasota, wrote for five years for The Islander newspaper, covering the “waters” beat: fishing, boating, sailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, mangroves, seagrasses, birds, bait and tackle and Cortez.

Big work going on in northern Cortez: A new business, new buildings and a new bridge on 127th Street were part of a $17 million project getting under way with the new year on the north side of Cortez Road in the historic fishing village of Cortez. A three-building complex was under construction to accommodate 272 boats in dry storage and 10 at slips.

Charge amended in Normand shooting: A charge in the shooting of Sue Normand at her Island Mail & More store in Holmes Beach in December was amended to aggravated battery with a firearm. The initial charge against defendant Mark W. Koenigs had been attempted first-degree murder.

Bridge opening times modified: The U.S. Coast Guard instituted its winter schedule for timed openings for the Cortez and Anna Maria Island bridges. The bridges were raised on the half-hour on demand during daylight hours from Jan. 15 to May 15, rather than at 20-minute intervals

School begins for resource officer: Brian Copeman returned to the classroom to train for many more days of school to come. Copeman became the new community policing officer for the Holmes Beach Police Department, tapped for the job in early December after the mayor lifted a hiring freeze to fill the vacancy created by the death last year of HBPD officer Pete Lannon.

Holmes Beach sued over code fine: A civil suit was filed against the city of Holmes Beach recently over the city’s demand that William and Dianne Sorg pay a $28,000 fine associated with code violations at their property. City commissioners learned of the suit during a Jan. 8 meeting at city hall. The suit challenges a lien placed on the Sorgs’ duplex at 3707 Gulf Drive, as well as the city’s fine.

Islanders observe Florida Arbor Day: Dozens of Islanders gave green thumbs up to Florida Arbor Day, planting trees in Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach. At the Anna Maria City Pier parking lot, two sabal palms provided by Keep Manatee Beautiful and Modern Woodmen of America were planted. At Flotilla Drive and 59th Street in Holmes Beach, a gumbo limbo donated by Turner Tree and Landscape was planted. At the Bradenton Beach gateway near Gulf Drive and Cortez Road, a gumbo limbo donated by Keep Manatee Beautiful and Turner Tree and Landscape was planted.

West Manatee Fire accepts Twin Towers steel: Retired Jersey City, N.J., firefighter Dennis Doran donated a piece of steel, a salvage piece from the World Trade Center, to the West Manatee Fire Rescue District. Doran offered the memorial piece to WMFR Chief Andy Price during a commission meeting Jan. 17 at Station No. 1 in Holmes Beach.

Top DOT official surveys AMI bridge: Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos toured the northernmost Anna Maria Island drawbridge Jan. 25 with Florida state Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, and a number of transportation officials. During the brief walk, she said the DOT has not predetermined what type of new bridge to build to the Island, nor the location.

Holmes Beach man dies after motorcycle crash: Mike Cagnina of Holmes Beach suffered fatal injuries in a motorcycle crash Jan. 24 in Holmes Beach. He died two days later. Cagnina, 23, was riding a motorcycle when he apparently lost control of the vehicle in the 5300 block of Gulf Drive late Thursday evening. He was thrown from the bike.

Anna Maria tangles Center in permit process: It only took two complaints in January by Anna Maria residents living near the Anna Maria Island Community Center to spark a city commission controversy over whether or not the Center needed to submit special event permits for most events at the facility. While the citizen complaints were the usual litany of parking, noise and too many people, one concerned a “BYOB” event at the Center in mid-January.

Chappie announces bid for county board: John R. Chappie, a resident of Bradenton Beach since 1974, announced his candidacy for the Manatee County Commission District 3 seat held by Jane von Hahmann.

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Helen Romeike-Wisniewski's one-woman show, "Into and Out of the Maze," opened at Anna Maria Island Art League on Feb. 8. The show featured this painting. Islander Photo: Joyce Karp
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West Manatee Fire Rescue District Commissioner Larry Tyler looks around the department's administrative building in northwest Manatee during a tour of district facililities. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

February

Driver in bridge crash gets nine years: The driver of a vehicle that crashed on the Anna Maria Island Bridge, killing one person, was sentenced to nine years and seven months in prison. Gregorio Lopez-Chavarria, 22, was scheduled to go to trial this month on charges of DUI manslaughter in connection with the accident on the bridge on May 13, 2007. If convicted at trial, he could have been sentenced to 15 years in prison. Instead, on Feb. 1, Lopez-Chavarria, who has been jailed since the incident, pleaded no contest to the manslaughter charge, as well as DUI with property damage and driving without a license, causing death or serious bodily injury.

Romeike-Wisniewski ventures into the maze: “I have the brush in my hand — that’s the beginning of it all,” says Helen Romeike-Wisniewski. Romeike-Wisniewski’s work was featured at the Anna Maria Island Art League in February in an exhibit titled “Into and Out of the Maze.”

Fire officials tour facilities: West Manatee Fire Rescue Chief Andy Price led district fire commissioners on a tour of the district’s three stations and administration building Feb. 6. The chief, along with Deputy Chief Brett Pollock and Battalion Chief Dennis Dotson, didn’t conduct the tour to point out the decor, the view or the landscaping, but rather to show the cramped personnel quarters. “We need more space at each station, physical space,” Price said.

Cortez festival grand from all angles: The Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival in February made Cortez $62,000 richer — or that much less in hock for mortgages owed for preservation of its part of Old Florida. It was the 26th celebration of the way of life of the 120-year-old fishing village across the Cortez Bridge from Anna Maria Island. Islanders, Floridians, visitors from north, east and west, some 24,000 strong, flocked to the historic settlement over the weekend to help celebrate, with food, entertainment and crafts.

Outdoor dining back on menu in Holmes Beach: Holmes Beach city commissioners agreed to return to the issue of outdoor dining for another taste. The decision to go for another helping, reached during a meeting Feb. 12 at city hall, was prompted by a request for additional outdoor seating from the owners of Skinny’s Place, 3901 Gulf Drive.

Palma Sola gets big-ticket trees: The landscaping of the Palma Sola Scenic Highway corridor began with the planting of sabal palm trees along the highway known by various names — Manatee Avenue, State Road 64 and, from 75th Street westward as the Palma Sola Causeway. Gumbo limbo trees and oaks were next on the list of more than 700 native Florida trees to be planted.

Miller won't seek fourth term in Anna Maria: Anna Maria City Commissioner Duke Miller announced Feb. 23 that he would not seek another term on the city council. Miller said he felt confident he was leaving the commission "at a time when our city is in terrific shape."

Witness list long in shooting case: The list of potential witnesses in the case against the man accused of shooting Island businesswoman Sue Normand contained dozens of names, including many members of local public safety agencies, including the Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach police departments, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the West Manatee Fire Rescue District.

Commissioners vocal on potential Anna Maria charter changes: Ten members of the public showed up at the Anna Maria Charter Review Committee’s town hall forum Feb. 25 to provide the committee with public input for possible changes to the city’s charter. And of those 10, half were city elected officials. Mayor Fran Barford, along with City Commissioners Dale Woodland, Jo Ann Mattick, Duke Miller and John Quam, provided input to the committee, primarily focusing on potential changes to the city’s election cycle and that all comp-plan amendments must be approved by a super majority (4/5) vote of the commission.

Planning commission reviews housing policies: The Holmes Beach Planning Commission tackled the subject of affordable housing Feb. 28 as it resumed its review of proposed amendments to the city’s comprehensive plan. The state requires that the city deal with affordable housing in the plan, though on a barrier island there is little opportunity to provide workforce housing, said city planning consultant Bill Brisson.

Boat ramp, mural approved for causeway: The Bradenton City Council cleared the way for the construction of a new boat ramp along the Palma Sola Causeway. The day before the city vote, the Manatee County Board of Commissioners authorized the installation of two painted murals on the rest rooms along the causeway.

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Trumpeting St. Pat's An elephant marches up the street in Holmes Beach in the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade March 16. The event took place late on a Sunday afternoon, drawing hundreds of participants and hundreds of observers. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

March

Press IDs requested in Bradenton Beach: City officials in Bradenton Beach issued an edict that members of the media wear name badges to meetings so they can readily be identified. The March 6 missive from city government stated, “Effective immediately, the city of Bradenton Beach will require all press to wear identification to any city meeting to identify who they are,” although the order was quickly amended to a courtesy request.

Island Democratic Club turns 15: The Anna Maria Island Democratic Club marked its 15th year with a party March 17 at the BeachHouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach. The location of the celebration is also the meeting place for club members, who gather on the third Monday of the month for lunch, debate and a speaker.

Hold remains on Holmes Beach building permits: Holmes Beach continued to turn away applications for building permits in the floodplain while the city’s ordinance governing such construction was being updated. “It’s everything in the floodplain,” said building official Bill Saunders, assistant superintendent of the city’s public works department. “We’ve had several contractors who would like to continue with their projects but until this is resolved — no.”

DCA gives initial OK to Anna Maria comp plan: Anna Maria officials learned from the Florida Department of Community Affairs that their comp plan "appears to be complete" and the adopted plan review is "under way." Anna Maria began the process of revising its comp plan in early 2003 and was originally slated to have the plan completed by 2006, but received an extension due to mitigating factors.

Legislator seeks honor for Olson: Florida state Rep. Bill Galvano was asking his colleagues in the state Capitol to adopt a resolution honoring Rod & Reel Pier employee Christine Olson. Olson, a Bradenton resident, has launched a national campaign to help law enforcement notify family when a relative has been injured in an accident. Olson’s campaign is known in Florida as the To Inform Families First. TIFF’s Initiative is named for Olson’s daughter, Tiffiany Olson, 22, who died Dec. 7, 2005, in a traffic accident.

Anna Maria bayside beach renourishment derailed: Anna Maria residents living on the northern bayfront between the Rod & Reel Pier and Bean Point learned that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection reversed its position on renourishment for the beach in that area. In a March 13 letter to Manatee County Conservation Lands Management director Charlie Hunsicker, Catherine Florko of the DEP said she had failed to research the issue adequately when she e-mailed him in February that the DEP could cost-share in this area. She said that Florida law “limits our ability to cost share on beach erosion projects by requiring that they front on the Gulf of Mexico.”

City wants paws allowed on path: Bradenton Beach commissioners voted to draft a letter to the Manatee County Board of Commissioners asking the county to ease the restriction against dogs for the trail that takes pedestrians along the beach from Cortez Beach through Coquina Beach. Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce was the lone dissent, saying that while he loves dogs, he’s concerned about dog droppings, as well as the potential for skirmishes between pets and people.

Fire damages duplex: An accidental fire March 30 damaged a Holmes Beach duplex, but the occupants escaped safely. West Manatee Fire Rescue District officials estimated damages at about $40,000 at the duplex in the 200 block of Haverkos Court, said Capt. Tom Sousa, the public information officer for WMFR.

Bennett seeks united front against drilling: Anna Maria Island’s state senator called for a “unified resistance” to proposals weakening protections against drilling off Florida’s coast. State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, introduced Senate Bill 426, which would send a message that Florida’s lawmakers want federal lawmakers to stand against any attempt to allow oil or gas drilling along the state’s coast.

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Super-hero honor
Debra Lannon helps Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine unveil the sign honoring her late husband, Officer Pete Lannon, at the city's skate park rededication. The park was named for Lannon to recognize his contribution to the Island youngsters he helped mentor for seven years before his death in 2007. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy
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Ready to race
Children aboard the Lucky Duck entry in the DeSoto Bottle Boat Regatta ready for the start of their race on the Palma Sola Causeway in April. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff
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Testing the green
Deborah Sniadach, owner of The Fish Hole miniature golf course in Bradenton Breach, tests hole No. 1, the Hammerhead, on April 12. The 18-hole, par-43 course on Bridge Street opened April 11. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

April

DOT: Four-lane bridge not an option: The Florida Department of Transportation said any new bridge connecting Anna Maria Island to Perico Island would not be four-lanes because Manatee Avenue/State Road 64 cannot be widened.

Open for business: pier signs going up: Bradenton Beach’s city pier team celebrated the arrival of one new sign at the renovated Historic Bridge Street Pier. City public works employee Pat O’Neill created the sign, which depicts two pelicans and will eventually contain cedar lettering that reads, “Historic Bridge Street Pier.” The team announced that two additional signs would soon go up on the pier.

Buchanan gets renourishment money: U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will reimburse Manatee County $1.736 million for costs associated with the 2002 Anna Maria Island beach renourishment project. Buchanan said he and other members of the house worked in a bipartisan effort to get the money from the Corps, which had entered into a cooperative agreement with the county, but failed to meet its end of the bargain.

Palma Sola hosts bottle boat regatta: Everyone have fun. Everyone be safe. No one drink the water. Such were the rules for the annual DeSoto Bottle Boat Regatta held April 12 on the south side of the Palma Sola Causeway. The races, a tradition of the springtime DeSoto Festival celebrations in Manatee County, drew hundreds of spectators and dozens of sailors to the causeway. The weather seemed perfect — breezy, sunny and not too warm.

Fire destroys Holmes Beach home: A fire that began shortly after 2 a.m. April 17 consumed the Holmes Beach residence of Pa and Kent Davis, former owners of the Siam Garden Resort in Anna Maria. Four fire trucks responded to the 911-emergency call from Pa Davis for the residence in the 500 block of 58th Street, including apparatus from West Manatee Fire Rescue District stations and one truck from the Longboat Key Fire Department. The fire apparently was accidental, started by a rag soaked with linseed oil in a garbage can in the garage.

Case closed on Pier Cafe suit: A settlement between the city of Bradenton Beach and the operators of the defunct Bradenton Beach Pier Cafe closed the book on the case.  Bradenton Beach city commissioners voted on March 20 to approve the settlement and pay $38,500, arrived at during a daylong negotiation in Tampa between the former restaurant’s owners, Mayor Michael Pierce, attorneys and mediator Rob Daisley.

Newspaper seeks sanctions against city: A judge began reviewing The Islander newspaper’s quest for sanctions and fees in a case involving the city of Bradenton Beach. Attorneys for the newspaper and the city appeared before Manatee County Circuit Court Judge Edward Nicholas on April 7 to discuss the paper’s request. The motion was filed over a city effort to collect legal fees from The Islander in the paper’s lawsuit alleging the city violated the public records and Sunshine Law statutes.

Ex-city commissioner beaten, robbed: Former Anna Maria City Commissioner Linda Cramer was beaten and robbed shortly after 4 p.m. April 17 by two unidentified men at the home where she resides in on Crescent Drive, across from the Anna Maria Island Community Center. According to the Manatee County’s Sheriff’s Office report, Cramer got a call around 4 p.m. from someone asking for her boyfriend, Joe Pandolph, the home’s owner. Cramer told the caller Pandolph wasn’t home. About 15 minutes later, two men posing as deliverymen rang the doorbell. The men forcibly entered the home and attacked Cramer.

Coquina Beach shooter to serve nine more years: For more than a year, Rene Vasquez-Mendoza remained in the Manatee County jail awaiting trial on felony charges for a shooting on Coquina Beach last Easter. On April 18, with a trial date set for the end of the month, Vasquez-Mendoza, 23, pleaded no contest in the shooting of three men. His plea was made at the Manatee County Courthouse in Bradenton before Circuit Court Judge Debra Johnes Riva, who accepted the negotiated plea agreement that will result in Vasquez-Mendoza serving another nine years in prison.

City clerk recovering after surgery: Bradenton Beach city clerk Nora Idso remained on medical leave at city hall recovering from surgery she underwent earlier in the month. Earlier in the year, Idso had suffered what appeared to be a seizure at city hall. She learned as a result of that emergency that she needed to undergo surgery.

Committee taking new look at parking meters: “Parking meters,” Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said, repeating his two-word partial solution for parking problems in the city. On April 14, members of the city’s ScenicWAVES parking subcommittee gathered at city hall to discuss meters. Speciale said that without meters, enforcement could be costly and a two-hour limit on parking would probably not achieve the city’s goals.

Officials prepare for nesting season: Holmes Beach code enforcement officer Nancy Hall saw bright lights in the summer of 2007. So did Anna Maria code enforcement officer Gerry Rathvon and Bradenton Beach code enforcement officer Gail Garneau. For 2008, they said they wanted darker skies over their beaches. On April 16, the code enforcement officers joined in a meeting at Bradenton Beach City Hall with representatives from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida Power & Light, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch, and a number of Bradenton Beach city officials. The goal was to review state and local rules for nesting season, which began May 1.

Fiskes seek land-use judgment: Evelyn and Jack Fiske of South Bay Boulevard in Anna Maria filed a legal action against Anna Maria, asking for a “declaratory judgment” that their property can be used for commercial marine purposes. Attorney Chuck Webb, representing the Fiskes, filed the action in the Manatee County Circuit Court, noting that since 1911 the property has been used for commercial marine purposes. The property is south of Galati Marine next to Rotten Ralph’s Restaurant at 850 S. Bay Blvd., and presently has a residential home and a number of rented docks and boat slips.

Bradenton Beach insurance discount begins: Bradenton Beach property owners began receiving a deeper discount on their flood insurance premiums to help offset expected rate hikes. The city’s ranking in the federal flood insurance program improved, meaning property owners should see some reduction in their rates. The national program has a rating system in which points are awarded on steps communities take to reduce flood risks.

Cortez trailer park sale done deal: After tense day-and-night negotiations, the residents of the Cortez Trailer Park had all but closed their purchase of the 50-year-old village landmark. Park owner Harry “Butch” Howey and Doug Morgan, chairman of the residents’ purchasing committee, said they had “a firm handshake” deal. “The check is not there yet, granted, but we’ve all agreed on it,” said Howey.

Landmark restaurant to close: Ham Jones, owner of the landmark Seafood Shack in Cortez made an apologetic announcement: “I’m closing for good after Mother’s Day.” “We’re fighting a stacked deck that included a poor season.” His regrets centered on two bridges closing, gas prices, employment woes and all that goes with operating a large restaurant in today’s economy. “With the terrible economy, along with the planned closing of the humpback bridge after Mother’s Day, financial disaster is inevitable if we attempt to continue,” he wrote to his employees on April 30.

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Fighting back
The Walters family Jack, 10, piggybacking Anni, 7, and Seth, 8, piggybacking Tori, 7 take the track during the Anna Maria Island Relay for Life May 31 at Coquina Beach. The event raises money for the American Cancer Society. Islander Photos: Lisa Neff
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Shared sand
Beachgoers share the sand with black skimmers in Bradenton Beach one morning in May. Walkers with Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch reported nesting skimmers and least terns on the beach by 26th Street North in the southern-most Island city. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff
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Field honors
West Coast Surf Shop players attend the rededication of the baseball field at the Anna Maria Island Community Center. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

May

Center stadium rededicated in ceremony: Marie Franklin stretched her hand to touch the bronze-colored plaque in honor of her brother who died so young. “A rainbow has come out of the rain,” she said, looking to the young players gathered May 3 to rededicate the Anna Maria Island Community Center baseball field named for her brother, Benji Scanio, and her family’s friend, the late Major Leaguer Fred “Hutch” Hutchinson. Island youth, baseball legends and community spirit were celebrated May 3, when the baseball field was rededicated as Scanio-Hutchinson Memorial Field.

Two suspects arrested in home invasion:

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office arrested two men May 3 suspected of beating a former Anna Maria commissioner and robbing the home she shares with its owner. Linda Cramer was attacked at about 4 p.m. April 17 at the door of her Anna Maria residence by two men who pretended to have a delivery, then ransacked kitchen cabinets and bedrooms in search of gold, jewelry and guns. Michael Gambuzza, 38, and Christopher Drescher, 29, were arrested at the Days Inn, 3506 First St., Bradenton.

Real estate booms at end of winter season: Island real estate agents were all smiles following what many consider an extremely successful winter season for sales after two years of a down market. “The corner has been turned,” said Jessie Brisson of Gulf-Bay Realty. Sales figures from February, March and April compared with sales from the same three months last year justified Brisson’s enthusiasm.

Man acquitted in shooting of off-duty officer: A man who spent 13 months in jail awaiting trial in connection with the off-duty shooting of a Holmes Beach police officer walked tall — and free — from the Manatee County Courthouse May 1. A jury acquitted James Perkins, 20, of Bradenton. He had been arrested and charged last April with felony attempted-murder with a firearm for allegedly shooting at off-duty Holmes Beach Police Officer James Cumston.

Pine Avenue preservation gets first-step approval: The first step in the future of what Anna Maria resident Mike Coleman and businessman Ed Chiles believe will preserve the historic "Old Florida" ambiance of Pine Avenue took place May 6 when the Anna Maria planning and zoning board unanimously approved a site plan for their project at 315 and 317 Pine Ave.

Anna Maria moves on drainage permit: Anna Maria city officials along with city engineer Tom Wilcox met May 6 with Southwest Florida Water Management District staff and, following the meeting, the city agreed to submit a new design for Phase I of its stormwater drainage project.

Planning board OKs sign ordinance: The Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board sandwiched in a last-minute change in a revised sign ordinance before sending the proposed measure to city commissioners. The change made by the board, which met May 8 at city hall, was to allow the previously prohibited — but sometimes seen — sandwich-board signs.

Commissioners post objections to causeway posts: Manatee County commissioners voted unanimously to work with Bradenton, the Florida Department of Transportation and a scenic highway group to remove some newly planted bollards along the Palma Sola Causeway. The commission, meeting May 6 at the county administration building in Bradenton, did not have unity regarding the bollards, planted this spring as part of an extensive improvement plan for the Palma Sola Scenic Highway, the stretch of Manatee Avenue linking the mainland and Anna Maria Island. But the commission did reach a consensus on the need to discuss with other parties some concerns about the volume of bollards on the south side of the causeway.

Island reports first turtle nest: Under a full moon May 18 on the beach near Park Avenue, a loggerhead sea turtle made the first documented nest of the 2008 season. First nests also were found in the same beach zone last year and the year before, according to Debbie Basilius of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch. From a distance, in the moonlight, she watched the turtle make the nest. “After all this time, that was the very first time I saw a mother nest,” she said.

Record home sale eclipsed: A beachfront house in Anna Maria sold May 12 for $3.725 million, topping by $225,000 a record set just weeks earlier. The Anna Maria Island record sale for a single-family Gulffront home set in April in Holmes Beach when Barbara Sato and Mike Norman combined for a $3.5 million sale, lasted only about a month before it was eclipsed. The Sato agency was involved in both sales. The buyer of both homes was a couple from England.

City, DOT put rush on intersection work: The Bradenton Beach City Commission and the Florida Department of Transportation rushed to file for a permit needed to improve the Cortez Road-Gulf Drive intersection. The city previously endorsed the DOT project, which involves lengthening the southbound turn lane by about 750 feet to accommodate additional traffic expected when the Anna Maria Island Bridge closes this fall.

Palma Sola group seeks to complete project: The Palma Sola Scenic Highway group unanimously agreed to see its causeway improvements project to completion before considering additional modifications. Members of the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Corridor Management Entity met May 14 at the county administration building to discuss the causeway project, where hundreds of trees and dozens of bollards have been planted. A new boat ramp also has been built on the southwest end of the shore along the causeway to replace an unpermitted ramp under power lines at the northeast end of the waterfront.    

Advisory board pitched for commercial district: Bradenton Beach was reviewing the structure of the community redevelopment agency created to guide improvements in the city’s central district. The city, at the advice of several businesspeople attending a May 19 panel discussion on the CRA, will consider appointing a citizens advisory committee. The city may also consider restructuring the CRA, currently governed by the city commission.

County concerned over planned gas pipeline: Manatee County officials shared concerns May 20 that a proposed natural gas pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico leading into Tampa Bay threatens efforts to pipe sand used for renourishing local beaches. Other parties continued to raise concerns that the pipeline, proposed by Port Dolphin Energy, would have negative impacts on the environment — in the water and on nearby shores. Port Dolphin Energy, seeking to start its commercial operation in Tampa Bay by 2011, has proposed building a 36-inch gas line that would run from about 28 miles west of Anna Maria Island in 100 feet of water into Tampa Bay, past Egmont Key and submerged Passage Key.

Bradenton Beach board recommends cafe plan: Bradenton Beach planning board members predicted as they approved a major expansion of the Gulf Drive Cafe that the chickee hut might become the must-have accessory on the beach. The restaurant’s proposed chickee hut sounded so attractive to at least one member of the Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board, Art Dehardt, he half-joked that he wanted one.

Six issued trespass warnings for underage drinking: Six women under the age of 21 were issued trespass warnings from D.Coy Ducks, 5410 Marina Drive, May 21 for drinking at the establishment. Officers responded to the establishment after a complaint of underage drinking. The women were issued trespass warnings to stay out of the establishment, and the matter was forwarded to the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm Bureau.

Two drown off Longboat Key: Two men from New York drowned in the Gulf of Mexico off Longboat Key May 19, apparently caught in a riptide. John Larry, 48, of Grand Island, N.Y., and Christopher Gugliuzza, 51, of Tonawanda, N.Y., were visiting the key with their wives when they ventured from their resort off the beach into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico near the 3400 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive, just south of the Manatee-Sarasota county line.

Anna Maria approves controversial zero lot-line ordinance: Anna Maria city commissioners at their May 29 meeting narrowly approved an ordinance that would allow for a zero lot line for construction of a single structure on adjacent lots in the city’s retail-office-residential land-use areas. In effect, the ordinance allows for two ROR units under a single roof, as long as the units are on separate parcels.

NOAA predicts near normal/above normal hurricane season: Climate conditions point to a near-normal or above-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this year, according to a forecast from the Climate Prediction Center operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NOAA announced the forecast in late May in advance of the Atlantic hurricane season, which began June 1. The Climate Prediction Center outlook called for considerable activity this season, with a 65 percent probability of an above-normal season and a 25 percent probability of a near-normal season.

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Anna Maria Island Privateer Tim "Hammer" Thompson shows off his blood donor badges. The annual Island Blood Drive took place June 7-8 at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

June

Budget cuts head to Island cities: Faced with a previously announced 10 to 12 percent decline in property values, treasurers and administrators of the three municipal budgets on Anna Maria Island — Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach — were preparing for a corresponding drop in their respective city spending plans.

Reduced hours planned for libraries: Patron after patron walked up the steps to find a locked door at the Island Branch Library on Wednesday mornings. Hours were shortened throughout Manatee County’s library system earlier this year in a cost-cutting campaign. More patrons would find the Holmes Beach library’s door locked for longer periods under budget cuts at the county level. “We’re going to lose a lot here on the Island,” said Jolie Bell, president of the Friends of the Island Branch Library.

State arrests two for illegal fishing: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers arrested two men for illegally fishing in the waters near Coquina Beach at about 11:30 p.m. June 9. Christopher Ron Baker, 27, of Apollo Beach, and Daniel P. Gilliland, 28, of Bradenton, face multiple charges in connection with the incident: use of a gill net in state water, failure to transit gill net, possession of an unmarked gill net and no saltwater products license. Use of a gill net in state waters is classified as a third-degree felony.

New trolley route starts: Sarasota County Area Transit began a trolley service connecting with the Anna Maria Island trolley at Coquina Beach. Manatee County Area Transit riders on the free Island trolley can hop off at the turnaround and then ride the SCAT’s new fare-based (75 cents one way) trolley to Longboat and St. Armands keys and downtown Sarasota.

ScenicWAVES to advise on redevelopment district: Commissioners explored the creation of a citizens group to help direct the revitalization of Bradenton Beach’s commercial district — and then decided the appropriate group already exists. The existing ScenicWAVES group will serve as an advisory committee to the community development agency, which presently is the city commission, on changes in the CRA district, mapped as the area between Sarasota Bay, Cortez Road, the Gulf of Mexico and Fifth Street South.

Port Dolphin to reroute pipeline: Port Dolphin Energy officials pledged to alter their plan for a natural gas pipeline to avoid a rich deposit of sand used for local beach renourishment projects. Company officials made the announcement June 19 during a special meeting of the Manatee County Board of Commissioners at Port Manatee. “We’ve heard the community loud and clear and Port Dolphin will relocate the pipeline route away from the sand source,” company spokesman Harold Costello said.

July

Holiday pops for some, sizzles for others: The crowd oohed and ahhed as the fireworks lit the sky on Independence Eve in Bradenton Beach. Occasionally there were ughs and grrs in the midst of the celebration, as law enforcement officers asked holiday revelers to turn over bottle rockets and suggested people simply enjoy the public extravaganza presented by the BeachHouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach. Public fireworks displays in municipalities across the country were canceled for various reasons, including one in Anna Maria.

Privateers name class of 2008: The Anna Maria Island Privateers presented $27,000 in scholarships to local students at the Cafe on the Beach July 4. The students joined the Privateers in a holiday parade, then dined on barbecue at the beachfront restaurant before receiving their scholarships. Awards were presented to Austin Eason, Kimberly Kuizon, Elise Mundy, Claire Ingram, Ashley Bishop, Chris Chawi, Nicholas Gotts, Angela Jackson, Dion Shorey, Eric Whitley, Ashley Stinton, Elizabeth Aguilar, Josie Cockerham, Charlie Green, Lupita Perales, Ashley Petersen, Kelsey Taylor, April White and Sean Price.

Commission approves application for cafe expansion: With a platter of stipulations, the Bradenton Beach City Commission July 2 approved an application for a major expansion of a beachfront restaurant. The city’s planning board had recommended commission approval of the restaurant’s application, which calls for a $500,000 expansion with a new parking lot, chickee hut, a tiki bar and lobby, as well as a new kitchen and rest rooms. The plan calls for a total of 90 parking spaces and 252 seats for patrons.

Bertha reaches hurricane status: Bertha became the first hurricane of the 2008 Atlantic season July 7. The storm remained well out in the Atlantic, with sustained winds of 75 mph, triggering the upgrade from tropical storm to hurricane.

Anna Maria, Holmes Beach see drop in population: The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 population estimates showed slight drops in Anna Maria and Holmes Beach — ever so slight drops. Bradenton Beach saw a slight increase in population — ever so slight. The percentage increase in Bradenton Beach from July 1, 2006, to July 1, 2007, was .2 percent, representing an increase from 1,543 people in 2006 to 1,546 people in 2007. The percentage decline in Anna Maria from July 1, 2006, to July 1, 2007 was .8 percent, representing a decline from 1,847 people to 1,833. The percentage decline in Holmes Beach was .5 percent, from 5,053 in 2006 to 5,028 in 2007.

Robinson Preserve opens to public: Manatee County officials and citizens celebrated an environmental renaissance July 19 with the official opening of Robinson Preserve. The hour of speeches leading up to a ribbon cutting at the entrance of the northwest Bradenton preserve featured many superlatives. “Incredible,” said then-Manatee County Commission Chairperson Jane von Hahmann, referring to the preserve. “Wonderful,” said Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash. “It’s a dream come true.” “Spectacular,” said Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore. “It’s absolutely spectacular.”

Island business owners fear bridge closure: More than 30 Island business owners gathered in Holmes Beach July 17 to plead with the Florida Department of Transportation to move its planned 45-day closure of the Anna Maria Island Bridge forward to include most of September. However, DOT officials were noticeably absent from the meeting.

Dining measure doesn’t completely satisfy: Estella Freeman left a July 22 Holmes Beach City Commission meeting like a diner not quite satisfied with her meal. At the request of Freeman via City Commissioner David Zaccagnino, the commission embarked on an update of the city’s outdoor dining ordinance in February. On July 22, the commission held the first reading of a revised outdoor dining ordinance. Zaccagnino voted no and Freeman, co-owner of Skinny’s Place on Gulf Drive, left city hall unsatisfied because the new ordinance may not help Skinny’s expand its outdoor seating because the restaurant must either seek a zoning change to commercial or take its expanded outdoor dining plans to the Holmes Beach Board of Adjustment.

Suit alleges negligence in shooting: Holmes Beach businessperson Sue Normand filed a negligence suit against the man scheduled to soon stand trial for shooting her. Mark W. Koenigs, 55, of Bradenton Beach faced multiple charges in the Dec. 5, 2007, shooting at the Island Mail & More store that Normand owns. The suit had not been heard by year’s end.

First hatchlings head for Gulf: Sometime on July 22, 80 sea turtle hatchlings emerged from a nest on the north end of Anna Maria Island. Three days later, one more hatchling left the nest for the Gulf of Mexico. The hatchling was found, caught in a partially open shell, during an excavation of the nest early July 25.

Fireworks task force to lobby for state reform: Members of a local fireworks task force turned their focus from the beaches to the state capitol in an effort to reduce illegal fireworks use. “The problem is a huge loophole,” Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford said July 29 in reference to a state law that allows for the public sale of an array of fireworks but some only for limited uses.

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Mark Koenigs listens to testimony at his trial for the shooting of Holmes Beach businesswoman Sue Normand at her Island store. Islander Photos: Courtesy Bradenton Herald/Brian Blanco

August

DOT says no lights for bridge: The Florida Department of Transportation said it would stick with its plan to exclude lighting from the rehab plans for the Anna Maria Island Bridge, a state official informed Save Anna Maria Inc. recently. SAM had inquired about the installation of lights on the bridge as part of the major $9.2 rehab project under way on the Manatee Avenue structure. The DOT eliminated the lights in an effort to reduce costs.

State presents county millions for Neal Preserve: The state of Florida presented Manatee County’s board of commissioners with $2.2 million to put toward the past purchase of Neal Preserve. The county acquired the preserve — located on Perico Island on the south side of Manatee Avenue near the east end of the Anna Maria Island Bridge — in 2005, anticipating receipt of a grant from the state to help fund the discounted $9 million purchase from developer Pat Neal. The $2.2 million check came from the Florida Communities Trust.

Koenigs convicted of Normand shooting: A six-member jury on Aug. 8 convicted Mark Koenigs, 55, of the Dec. 5, 2007, shooting of Island resident Sue Normand, owner of the Island Mail and More on East Bay Drive in Holmes Beach and the chair of the city’s planning commission. Normand said after the verdict from her store where she worked Saturday, she was “much relieved.” The jury deliberated less than four hours.

Sandbar gets site-plan approval: It may have taken a bit more time and money than Sandbar Restaurant owner Ed Chiles expected, but a renovation project begun by the restaurant four years ago received final site-plan approval Aug. 5 from the Anna Maria Planning and Zoning Board. The approval, however, came with stipulations. The restaurant was told to enclose its trash compactor and relocate it within 60 days, remove existing concrete pads for the Dumpster, install a new concrete pad under the relocated Dumpster to ensure no liquid drains from the container into the right of way and erect beach-access signs along Spring Avenue.

AME principal looks forward to new year: Anna Maria School principal Tom Levengood said he was looking forward to a great school year as his staff returned to work refreshed from summer break. Teachers returned to campus Aug. 12. Students returned to school Aug. 18.

County acts to protect swimmers: Bean Point swimmers expected to find waters safer after an ordinance approved Aug. 12 by the Manatee County commission passes a state review. The commission approved a boating safety measure, which included changes on waters throughout the county. At the north end of Anna Maria Island, the ordinance eliminates the swash channel for boaters between Bean Point and a nearby sandbar.

Commission to revisit rental rule: Multiple proposed amendments to the city’s comprehensive plan prompted no debate, but a previous land-use issue sent the Holmes Beach commission’s Aug. 12 meeting into overtime. An unscheduled discussion on a minimum 30-day rental restriction in the city’s low-density, single-family residential zone known as R-1 concluded with a commission consensus to revisit the issue.

Homicide victim’s personal possessions found: Holmes Beach police recovered personal property belonging to Carla Beard, found slain in the city Dec. 1, 2007. Beard’s body was found in a bed of seagrape leaves at a beach house at 50th Street and Fifth Avenue. Authorities believe Beard, 29, was killed sometime after she left a First Step substance-abuse treatment center in Sarasota on Nov. 26, 2007. Someone on the beach near the Martinique Condominiums found the items that supposedly belonged to Beard.

Last-ditch pitch to halt stormwater fee fails: After more than three years of discussions and 10 public hearings dating back to May 2007, Anna Maria city commissioners were more than ready at Aug. 28 to adopt a stormwater utility fee. A group of city residents led by Alice Newlon and former City Commissioner Tom Skoloda protested, but the commission went ahead with the yes vote.

Gustav makes waves for Island: The outer bands of Hurricane Gustav brought heavy rain, strong winds, big waves, dense clouds and some damage to Anna Maria Island Aug. 31. Strong waves knocked down at least one seawall on the bayside of Anna Maria City. Bay water spilled over other seawalls, smacked against waterfront homes and flooded sections of North Shore Drive and other streets. On the Gulf shore, the waves provided thrills for surfers, skimboarders and swimmers off the beaches. But the waves also threatened a number of sea turtle nests as high tide and big waves washed over dozens of nests.

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With the sunrise Sept. 10 signs went up near North Shore Drive in Anna Maria, where high tide, heavy rain and waves associated with Hurricane Ike left streets under water. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

September

Shells closure signals perilous economy: Shells seafood restaurant in the Anna Maria Island Centre, Holmes Beach, abruptly closed its doors Sept. 3. At the same time, the restaurant chain’s corporate office in Tampa announced it had filed for bankruptcy and was closing eight locations, all in Florida. Staff members reported for work that evening without knowledge that the restaurant was closing or facing difficulty, but Shells chief executive officer Marc Bernstein said the entire restaurant industry “has been negatively affected by the economic downturn.”

Bataan survivor passes away: Bataan Death March survivor Steve Raymond, who grew up in Anna Maria, died at his home in Lecanto, Fla., on Sept. 7. He was 92 years-old.

Ike inundates Island with water: On Sept. 10, the outer bands of Hurricane Ike, passing about 300 miles to the west in the Gulf of Mexico, drenched Anna Maria Island with 2.5-4 inches of rain, and over-filled the Tampa Bay-area basin. The National Weather Service reported that winds in the area were as high as 30-40 mph during the day on Sept. 10 and then diminished considerably Sept. 11, with Ike farther west in the Gulf. Both days, Ike-related tides on the Island were 2-3 feet above normal, causing beach erosion in areas that already suffered losses with Hurricane Gustav a week earlier. With the high tide and heavy rain, numerous streets were flooded in all three Island cities.

Pine Avenue vision becomes reality: The dream of Islanders Ed Chiles and Mike Coleman to keep Anna Maria’s Pine Avenue looking like old Florida continued to mature on Sept. 12 with the start of construction at 315 Pine Ave. The two men joined forces during the summer of 2007 after watching construction of what they found to be undesirable “mega-mansions” on the site of the former Island Marine on Pine Avenue.

Charges dismissed in blown-kiss case: A judge on Sept. 16 dismissed a felony charge against a teenager arrested in connection with an alleged scuffle with a police officer on Coquina Beach. Days later a juvenile judge dismissed the case against the teenager’s brother, also arrested in the incident.

Commission agrees to expand CRA: Bradenton Beach commissioners approved a request to expand the board that governs the community redevelopment agency, the catalyst for erasing blight in the city’s historic district. The commission unanimously supported the request to expand the CRA board by two citizens during a meeting Sept. 18 at city hall. The request came from the city’s ScenicWAVES Committee, which the commission made an advisory committee on CRA matters.

Holmes Beach approves new budget: Holmes Beach city commissioners unanimously approved a 2008-09 budget of $4.325 million at their Sept. 23 public hearing on the budget, a decline of 12.7 percent from the prior budget, city treasurer Rick Ashley said. The city’s ad valorem millage rate for the coming tax year will be 1.5989, down from 1.8315. Including reserves and carryovers, the total city budget is $8.127 million. Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said he had “many compliments to the staff” for their hard work and preparation of the budget.

Credit crisis could affect Anna Maria budget: Anna Maria city commissioners learned the hard facts of being at the low end of the municipal credit market at their Sept. 23 public hearing, when they unanimously approved a $2.2 million operating budget for 2008-09 budget and a property tax drop from 2.0415 to 1.7882 mills. The city has a line of credit in its new budget to fund stormwater-improvement projects and some money has already been drawn from the account. But the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties, where the city obtained its credit line, reported problems “causing a delay in the city receiving the funds.”

New fiscal year arrives in Bradenton Beach: Bradenton Beach city commissioners adopted a new budget Sept. 24, as well as set the city’s tax rate at 2.1539 mills.

Holmes Beach and Anna Maria city commissions also adopted new budgets last week. The Bradenton Beach votes took place in less than 15 minutes at city hall. The  new budget is $3.56 million, down from $3.68 million in 2007-08. To balance the budget and meet citizens’ mandates for tax reform, the city shifted money from two capital projects and dipped into reserves to meet an anticipated $171,224 drop in revenue over the next year.

Humpback bridge closed: Anna Maria city commissioners at the Sept. 23 budget hearing learned from public works director George McKay that during repairs to the humpback bridge on North Bay Boulevard, a safety issue came to light. Slabs on the north approach need repairs

AMI bridge closed: Crews for contractor Quinn Construction Co. of Palmetto closed the Anna Maria Island Bridge to normal vehicle traffic at 11:59 p.m. Sept. 28 to allow Quinn and its sub-contractors unrestricted access to repair the bridge.

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Sissy Quinn, executive administrator of the Anna Maria Island Historical Society, offers T-shirts for sale at Bayfest in Anna Maria.

October

Volunteers clean up shores, preserves: Hundreds of people spent Oct. 4 on Anna Maria Island beaches — not sunning themselves but scouring the sandy shore for trash. “It’s a labor of love,” said Joe Vona of Bradenton and formerly Anna Maria. Vona was paired with Caroline Pepka, also a former Islander, and helped collect trash on the Gulf of Mexico beach in Anna Maria.

Attorney seeks $200,000 in blown-kiss case: An attorney representing two teenagers arrested at Coquina Beach earlier this year asked for $200,000 in damages from the city of Bradenton Beach. Charges against siblings Veronica and Lance Lewis of Tampa were dismissed in September and their attorney, Alex Hajaistron, began seeking damages and alleging a violation of his clients’ civil.

Chamber surveys on rental rule: The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce surveyed Holmes Beach homeowners on a rental restriction in the city that passed more than a year ago. At the request of some local businesspeople and residents, the city commission agreed to revisit the issue. Through a mailing, the chamber asked homeowners whether they do or do not support the one-month rental restriction for R-1 areas. According to the mailer, “The elected officials normally take opinions from the public and, in the past, absentee owner opinions have not been heard.

Fishers bring stone crabs to market: A $9.5 million market opened in October. Stone crab season began Oct. 15, and will continue until May 15. For Cortez, crabbers went to work hauling, baiting and collecting traps, and retailers are at work marketing the stone crab claws.

BB explores dune restoration plan: Bradenton Beach city commissioners gave city staff the go-ahead to prepare a grant application for a dune restoration project across from city hall. The project’s future, however, depends on the amount of in-kind support city staff can drum up. A condition of the grant is a $1 to $1 match in funds.

Bayfest celebrates Island spirit: Thousands of festivalgoers turned out Oct. 18 to Bayfest for servings of Island food and politics, art and crafts, music and machines.

Pine Avenue in Anna Maria was like a parade route during the annual Bayfest, presented by the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and organized by a crew of volunteers. Organizers estimated about 8,000 people attended the 12-hour event.

Survey says Island beaches No. 1: Visitors to the Bradenton area overwhelmingly say the best thing to do while vacationing in the area is head for the beaches of Anna Maria Island. In a study by Research Data Services Inc. conducted for the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau between March and August, 96.4 percent of visitors interviewed said their chief activity during their stay was enjoying the Island beach, while their second favorite activity was dining out.

City to fix ‘functionally obsolete’ bridge: Anna Maria motorists who drive north on Bay Boulevard got some good news at a special city commission meeting Oct. 31. Commissioners agreed to spend up to $38,100 with Uretek ICR of Lakeland to repair the north approach to the humpback bridge on Bay Boulevard. The bridge had been closed since late September after public works director George McKay and engineers determined there was an issue with safety at the approach.

City holds first mooring field meeting: Sailors, Bradenton Beach officials and planning consultants began a journey Oct. 27 — an 18-month course to creating a city mooring field. The city, with a grant from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, hired Scheda Ecological Associates Inc. of Sarasota as the consultant on developing a recreational boating master plan. The foundation of the plan will be establishing a mooring field in Sarasota Bay near the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

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Motorists arrive and depart on the Anna Maria Island Bridge Nov. 6 after the structure re-opened following a 38-day closure for renovations. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff
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A palm tree is scorched as the roof of a duplex at Haley's Motel burns Nov. 16. Islander Photo: Courtesy Dustin Busiere

November

Haley’s Motel owner missing: Sabine Musil-Buehler, the co-owner of Haley’s Motel in Holmes Beach, was officially reported missing early Nov. 6. Friends and family on Anna Maria Island say they last saw the 49-year-old woman on Nov. 4, election day. Musil-Buehler’s car was found early Nov. 6. MCSO spokesperson Dave Bristow confirmed that forensics tests revealed blood was found in several locations. The investigation was being treated as a possible homicide.

AMI Bridge opens early: With the reopening of the Anna Maria Island Bridge, Islanders and Island business owners are celebrating, while contractor Quinn Construction Co. of Palmetto had 725,000 reasons to celebrate. The company reopened the Anna Maria Island Bridge at 5 p.m., Nov. 6, one week earlier than planned. According to the $10.2 million contract between Quinn and the Florida Department of Transportation to renovate the bridge, Quinn earned a $725,000 bonus.

Voters head to the polls: They waited at sun up. And they waited as the moon rose. In between, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Nov. 4, Anna Maria Island voters headed to the polls in high numbers, but most did not encounter long lines or hold-ups. Voters turned out to elect Robert Bartelt in Bradenton Beach’s Ward 4 city commission race. Bartelt faced William Shearon in the low-key contest to take the seat held by John Chappie, who was elected to the Manatee County Board of Commissioners from District 3. Bradenton Beach incumbent Commissioner Bob Connors returned to office without opposition in Ward 2. In Anna Maria, which has 1,434 registered voters, citizens elected incumbent Jo Ann Mattick and attorney Chuck Webb, who ran in a four-person race for two city commission seats.

Watershed collaborative proposed for Island: Lisa Marie Phillips, the project and program manager for the city of Bradenton Beach, brought together representatives from Island governments and local agencies to discuss the creation of a watershed collaborative to pursue best practices for cleaner waters. An informational meeting took place Nov. 7 at Bradenton Beach City Hall. The Island area collaborative would bring Anna Maria, Holmes Beach, Bradenton Beach to the table on watershed issues, as well as Manatee County, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Lynn Townsend & Associates engineering firm, the Sarasota and Tampa Bay Estuary Programs, and possibly the Manasota Basin Board, the town of Longboat Key, the Florida Department of Transportation and other interested parties.

Commission approves revised beach rules: Bradenton Beach city commissioners on Nov. 6 unanimously approved an ordinance revising beach regulations to firmly set open hours from 6 a.m. to midnight. The new measure was drafted by the city in an attempt to match city and county hours for Cortez and Coquina beaches, according to Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale.

Fire at Haley’s Motel suspicious: Orange flames punched the sky from the ripped-open roof of the duplex that is part of Haley’s Motel Nov. 16. No one was reported seriously injured in the nighttime blaze, which brought personnel from West Manatee Fire Rescue and Longboat Key Fire, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach police, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the Manatee County Emergency Medical Services. Officials deemed the fire suspicious.

Koenigs sentenced to 40 years in Island shooting: A judge sentenced Mark Koenigs to 40 years in prison for shooting Islander Sue Normand and threatening to shoot two law enforcement officers on the beach. Judge Diana Moreland sentenced Koenigs, 55, Nov. 13, nearly a year after the shooting. Koenigs, convicted in August, entered Normand’s Island Mail & More store on East Bay Drive in Holmes Beach with a package on Dec. 5, 2007.

Additional penny bed tax endorsed: Meeting in an afternoon charette Nov. 13, representatives from the resort, restaurant and other tourism industries agreed that the current 4 percent tax on lodgings of less than six months should be increased to 5 percent. The charette was hosted by the Bradenton Area Convention & Visitor’s Bureau. CVB director Larry White painted a dark picture of future finances for the tourist-seeking agency without cutting programs such as marketing and advertising without the added tax, estimated to provide $1.2 annually.

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High winds damaged the homes in the Sandpiper mobile home park in Bradenton Beach early Dec. 2. Residents reported hearing what sounded like a freight train and seeing traces of fire in the sky. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

December

Island books Santa Claus visits: Santa Claus became a frequent flier to Anna Maria Island in December, with a number of visits to the Island during the month, including attendance at business open houses in Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach, a ride in the Anna Maria Island Privateers Christmas Parade and serving as the featured guest at the Lawton Chiles Christmas Party at the Sandbar Restaurant and the Lester-Islander Family Fun Day at the Anna Maria Island Community Center.

Mullet make their run: For recreational fishers, the fall mullet run can be a smoking good time. For commercial fishers, the mullet run can be do or die. Mullet began swimming in late November and continued in December, leading Cortez fishers to report an abundance of the fish at their docks.

Port Dolphin conducts survey: Port Dolphin engineers returned to the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay to conduct a survey of the area as the company makes plans for a revised natural gas pipeline that would begin northwest of Anna Maria Island and run along the bottom of Tampa Bay, making landfall at Port Manatee.

County, Anna Maria reach some agreement on renourishment: “It’s a new day,” Anna Mari Mayor Fran Barford said after Manatee County commissioners gave their consensus approval to include some Anna Maria beaches in an application for beach renourishment. For much of 2008 there had been disagreement between the city and the county over Anna Maria’s beaches and whether the public had enough access to them to qualify for renourishment.

Sandpiper gets deed, assigns easements: The Bradenton Beach City Commission voted in early December to execute a quitclaim deed for some unused rights of way to the Sandpiper Resort Co-op. Securing the deeds provided some security to Sandpiper property owners, especially those whose homes were located in the rights of way.

SAM takes up renourishment: Save Anna Maria Inc. held its first meeting of the winter season in early December, focusing on the subject of beach erosion and efforts to prevent such erosion — or renourish after erosion has taken place.

Governor honors local officers: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist presented awards to Holmes Beach Police Department Officer Mike Pilato and former Bradenton Beach Police Department Sgt. Charles Sloan. The two officers dove into Sarasota Bay in April 2006 to rescue two young men whose SUV had plunged from the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

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