Monthly Archives: December 2016

Parasailor evacuated, dies

The U.S. Coast Guard evacuated a parasailer at 5:48 p.m. June 27 about 1.5 miles west of Longboat Key.

The parasailer, David Sierazki, 31, of South Carolina, was subsequently pronounced deceased by Manatee County Emergency Medical Services, according to a news release from the Coast Guard.

Watchguards at Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg were notified via VHF radio at about 5:30 p.m. by a crewmember aboard the Almost Heaven, a 28-foot commercial parasailing vessel based in Bradenton Beach, of CPR being performed on Sierazki, who was unresponsive.

A 25-foot response boat and crew from Coast Guard Station Cortez was launched and arrived at the boat at 5:48 p.m. Sierazki, along with his wife, was transferred to the response boat, where CPR was continuously performed on the man while being transported to the Coquina boat ramp on Anna Maria Island.

Upon arriving at the boat ramp, Coast Guard crewmembers continued to perform CPR on Sierazki until the arrival of the EMS crew, who pronounced Sierazki deceased.

​“Our thoughts and deepest condolences are with the friends and families of the deceased,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Peter Martin, deputy commander of Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg.

The incident is being investigated by marine casualty investigators from U.S. Coast Guard Sector St. Petersburg and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Islanders play Marauder ball

Anna Maria Island Community Center baseball players score game balls from players at the Marauders game June 25. The tickets for the game were provided by the center to all kids who played spring ball. Pictured are Tyler Brewer, Julius Petereit, Jack Love and Tuna McCracken. Islander Photo: Courtesy Karen Riley-Love

Anna Maria speculates on uses for yet-purchased lots

It may not have been No. 1 on the agenda, but it topped the conversation for Anna Maria commissioners at their June 23 meeting.

The discussion was on how or whether to buy six vacant lots at Pine Avenue and Bay Boulevard that often are used by civic groups and the city to facilitate everything from festivals to parking to a trolley stop.

Commissioner John Quam suggested the city should decide how it would use the lots before asking its taxpayers to consider funding the purchase — which is estimated to cost $3 million.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick said she wants the city to buy the lots “before they’re gone forever,” and houses or other developments are built.

The board seemed in agreement over the purchase, but some commissioners were unhappy that the bank’s asking price may be over fair-market value.

Pine Avenue Restoration developer Mike Coleman, however, differed with that opinion. He announced prices paid in the $300,000-$400,000 price range for various PAR lots on Pine Avenue.

But for lots with unobstructed views of the water, Coleman said the price should be higher.

Coleman said PAR would contribute $100,000 toward the city purchase.

Mayor Mike Selby had done some research on the values, as well as limits on the amount the city could borrow before exceeding the limit on its debt service. He also noted the city’s reserve fund is down to 20 percent.

City attorney Jim Dye suggested that rather than financing a traditional mortgage, the city consider a land contract.

If the city purchases the land for $3 million, the bank holding the property has offered financing and to withhold payments for two years to allow the city to obtain alternative funding, such as grants from state and federal agencies.

The commission agreed to fast-track the matter, to come up with suggested uses, and to meet in a workshop on the subject of the six lots at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 30.

In other business, commissioners gave unanimous approval to the Anna Maria Historic Green Village to construct stairs that will encroach on the front setback, but will resemble the original entry and steps for the Village Cafe at Rosedale.

The commission also authorized a change to the village site plan to allow more seats at the cafe, 16 parking spaces for the complex across the street at Roser Memorial Community Church and the addition of solar panels over approximately seven parking spaces onsite.

Commissioners also agreed to a schedule of budget hearings proposed by Selby. The first workshop on the 2011-12 budget will be held at 6 p.m. July 7, followed by another workshop at 6 p.m. July 21. At the commission meeting July 28, commissioners will set the tentative millage and roll-back rate.

Center child-protection policies near completion

Anna Maria Island Community Center board member Scott Rudacille told board members at their June 27 meeting that new policies on child protection being drafted by his committee are almost ready for the board’s review.

“We can have something to the board in the next few weeks,” Rudacille, a local attorney, told the board.

Rudacille chairs a committee of volunteers that has been meeting since early April to review and rewrite policies after a police report was filed March 31 against staff member Andy Jonatzke for inappropriate contact with a teenage girl at the center. The allegations included text messages of a sexual nature from Jonatkze to the girl and a claim that Jonatzke had sexual contact with the girl.

Center executive director Pierrette Kelly immediately suspended Jonatzke, and the center launched its own internal investigation, but Jonatzke resigned April 8. The center then halted its investigation. At the same time, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office closed its investigation saying the alleged victim denied having sex with Jonatzke.

But the fallout surrounding the allegations and alleged inappropriate text messaging between staff and teens prompted the board to institute short-term measures relating to child-safety and staff interaction with youth at the center. At the same time, Rudacille and his volunteer committee of child-care professionals, teenagers and other volunteers began meeting to draft permanent changes.

The short-term measures included no texting or social messaging between staff and center youth except for official center activities, no after-hours interaction between staff and youth, a review of the staff code of conduct and an outside counseling program for youths involved in the April incident.

Staff are now required to sign a document that they have read and understand the center’s behavior requirements for staff-youth interaction, submit to a background check and agree to abide by all center policies.

The committee planned to have a draft of its policy recommendations ready by the June 27 board meeting, but Rudacille said the committee’s work got “pushed back” because Cindy Thompson, a child-care and protection professional, took a new job and was unable to attend several meetings.

“She was our child-care professional,” he said.

Board member David Teitelbaum wanted a community meeting as soon as possible to update people on the committee’s work, but chair Greg Ross said it would be better if the board looked at the draft first, made changes and then held a community meeting.

Board members agreed with Ross and a community meeting will be held in September after all board members have met and reviewed the committee’s proposals.

Rudacille said the committee is composed entirely of volunteers who have been spending three to four hours at each meeting discussing risk management policies.

“It’s important that we get this right,” he said.

Ross suggested Rudacille e-mail board members when the committee has completed its draft, let board members review the recommendations, hold a special board meeting to discuss the policy recommendations, then hold a community meeting. Board members agreed.

In other business, the board approved a 2011-12 operating budget of $1.04 million for the center with expenses projected at $973,000.

Kelly told board members the staff was being reorganized to “do more with less.” One position would be eliminated, essentially returning the staffing level to its 2009 level, saving the center an estimated $60,000 annually.

“We’ve restructured. We can manage the center with less managers and less expenses,” she said.

Kelly also informed the board that about $25,000 in pledges from the Affaire to Remember have not been honored, she’ll be contacting those people.

“This is the first year this has ever happened,” she said.

Teitelbaum said the party started too early, many people became inebriated and left without paying, and a lot of people somehow got in without a ticket to hear Lee Greenwood perform.

Kelly agreed and measures will be in place at next year’s event so pledges are honored, and everyone pays to get in. The board suggested asking Greenwood to perform again at the 2012 event, or possibly hold a separate concert.

Accountant Robert Lane said the 2009-10 audit of the center’s books was “clean,” who presented the audit at the meeting, but noted the center is currently renegotiating its mortgage with Northern Trust and BBT. The center did not make the balloon payment to Northern Trust, but has made every monthly principal and interest payment, he noted.

Money is definitely tight, but the center will continue to offer its full complement of programs and scholarships, Kelly pledged.

“The real goal of everything is to pay off the mortgage,” she said.

BB commission mulls budget options

Faced with several crumbling seawalls holding back Sarasota Bay, Bradenton Beach commissioners June 23 began scouring the city’s preliminary 2011-12 budget for possible cuts.

The commission and Mayor Bob Bartelt met with city clerk Nora Idso and other staff at city hall last week, where the discussion focused on how to pay for seawall replacements and still balance the next fiscal budget, which begins Oct. 1.

Another meeting is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday, June 30, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

Idso drafted a preliminary budget for the new year based on estimated revenues derived from various government reports and estimated expenditures based on the current spending plan, forecasts and trends.

The basic forecast, without any seawall improvements, showed revenues falling about $18,000 short of expenditures, in large part due to another predicted decline in ad valorem taxes based on this year’s tax rate — from $873,808 to $858,339.

“Property values,” Bartelt said, “have gone down again.

That complicates matters for the city, which needs to replace seawalls at Sixth Street South, Seventh Street South and 13th Street South.

“We have two or three seawalls that are in distress,” Bartelt said. “We have to plug the holes in the dike.”

Public works director Tom Woodard said at least two of the three locations of top concern are “health, safety and welfare” hazards and the third seawall “wouldn’t hold in a Cat 3” hurricane.

He estimated seawall repair and replacement at about $600 a linear foot.

The needed seawall improvements and the $18,000 projected shortfall in the basic budget means commissioners must figure out how to come up with about $109,000.

“We have to make up that $109,000,” Bartelt said, and then he outlined three options:

• A. Increase the millage rate.

• B. Cut the budget.

• C. A combination of A and B.

“It’s going to be up to us now,” he said. “It is up to us to dig through this.”

Bartelt, Idso and commissioners spent about an hour reviewing expenditure and revenue estimates, and noted several matters for future discussion.

• Commissioner Gay Breuler suggested, to save money, the city hire a building official rather than continue contracting for building department services.

However, Idso, Bartelt and Commissioner Janie Robertson expressed concerns that hiring a new employee may not be cheaper and that the city’s experience with past building official hires was not positive.

“In the past, before we contracted this job out, we had lawsuits coming in, coming in, coming in,” Robertson said. “Since we’ve contracted that out, we’ve had no lawsuits coming against the city.”

• Robertson suggested reviewing code enforcement expenses to enforce the turtle-protection ordinance and exploring whether the city might employ more volunteers to monitor beach lighting.

Robertson said the city spends $40,000 a year to enforce the ordinance protecting endangered sea turtles that nest and hatch on the beach.

“To me that is way too much money to spend on one ordinance every year,” she said, adding that code enforcement salaries are “going to this unfunded state mandate.”

She suggested that if code enforcement officers spent less time on the turtle ordinance, they might focus on other enforcement matters that could generate additional income for the city.

• Commissioner Jan Vosburgh said she wanted to investigate seawall replacement costs because $600 a linear foot seemed high. Perhaps, she said, the capital improvement costs could be much less.

• Vosburgh suggested a discussion of personnel benefits, and possibly changing the benefit plan for any new employees.

“We all have to cut corners and we have to sacrifice,” she said, adding, “It’s going to start with our budget here.”

Skimmer breeding ground vandalized

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring members early June 22 celebrated the arrival of hatchlings — fluffy little black skimmer chicks seen nestled under the breasts of parents.

Early June 23, AMITW executive director Suzi Fox stood outside the skimmer nesting area on the beach in Anna Maria talking on a mobile phone with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

At some point overnight, the stakes and rope cordoning off the protected nesting ground for the skimmers were knocked down. Tracks — prints of the bare feet of a human and the paws of a dog — could be seen in the sand, going about 25 feet into the nesting area.

Not far from the footprints was a discarded ice pack. And several yards from the ice pack were the broken remains of a hatched skimmer egg.

Along the back of the nesting grounds, inside the protected area, were wheel tracks, probably made by a beach cart.

Fox first filed a report with the MCSO. Then she rang the hotline for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The vandalism to the zone was the third incident in a week, Fox said. Stakes and rope were knocked down overnight June 23, overnight June 20 and overnight June 19.

Skimmers nest on open sand above the high-tide line; their nests no more than scrapes on the beach.

To protect their nests and the chicks, skimmers rely on two techniques — they mob a potential threat or they may use camouflage.

Florida had listed the black skimmer as a species of concern, but a recent review of the population conducted by the FWC recommended the state elevate the status to threatened, covered by the state endangered species act. The skimmer is not on the federal endangered species list, but the species is protected under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Some 70 years ago, a single breeding colony in the state consisted of 2,000 birds. These days, a large colony, such as the one in Anna Maria, consists of about 600 birds.

Statewide, the sizes of breeding colonies are decreasing, as is the success rate, due to development, beach recreation, pollution, climate change, invasive species and predatory animals. “Recreational activity, shoreline hardening, mechanical raking, oiling of adults or breeding areas following spills, beach driving and increased presence of domestic animals are all examples of human-induced negative impacts to coastal habitats critical to roosting and breeding skimmers,” the FWC biological assessment stated.

During the breeding season, flushing birds off eggs or away from chicks can result in thermal stress and the destruction of both.

Such flushing is the primary concern for AMITW in Anna Maria, where the nesting area was staked off about a month ago. The “keep out” signs generally are respected by beachgoers and nearby residents, but AMITW emphasized that it only takes one vandal to disrupt the breeding ground for 600 birds.

As of Islander press time, the vandalism remained under investigation.

Intentional harassment under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act is punishable by a maximum fine of $5,000 and a six-month jail sentence.

Violations under the state endangered species act can be prosecuted as felonies.

Woman found in Coquina waters

A woman was found unresponsive in the water off Coquina Beach at about 11:30 a.m. June 22.

An Island vacationer walking on the beach saw something floating in the water and ventured out. She found a woman on a floatation noodle, face down, and unresponsive.

The county’s marine-rescue lifeguards, who monitor Coquina, were the first on the scene. Chief Jay Moyles said the lifeguards removed the patient from the water and began life-saving procedures until a county emergency medical services team arrived.

Ron Koper, the county emergency medical services chief, said the EMS performed CPR and other advanced procedures and briefly resuscitated the woman.

Koper said the woman died, and the initial report indicated that a natural cause, not drowning, was suspected.

However, he said the cause of death would be determined by the medical examiner.

Prosecution proceeds with neglect case

State prosecutors will proceed with a child neglect case against a Bradenton Beach mom arrested by police in November 2010.

The prosecution previously dropped a felony child-neglect charge against the woman’s former boyfriend.

Both Phaedra Christina Brace and Lance Aaron Blaylock were arrested Nov. 6, 2010, in Bradenton Beach after a neighbor complained to police about a crying child.

A Bradenton Beach Police Department report said that when officers arrived Blaylock was lying in a puddle of vomit in the back yard and a pan of food was burning on the stovetop. A neighbor had found the child crying and naked.

Brace, according to the report, arrived home shortly after an ambulance took Blaylock to the hospital for alcohol poisoning. She told police she went for a walk after an argument with Blaylock.

A probable cause report filed with Manatee County Circuit Court quoted her as saying she thought Blaylock “was OK to watch the child and not that drunk.”

Brace, who has pleaded not guilty, has requested a jury trial.

A disposition report from the state attorney’s office explained the prosecution’s decision to proceed with the case against Brace but not with the case against Blaylock.

Blaylock, the state indicated, was heavily intoxicated after drinking all day. Therefore, it would be difficult for the prosecution to prove he “willfully” neglected the child.

Brace, however, was not intoxicated. Brace, the state alleged, “made the conscious decision to leave the child in care of a person whose impairment was such that she should have reasonably expected his inability to care” for the child.

AMIndependence weekend

Scheduled celebrations for the long July 4 weekend include:

• July 1, 4:30 p.m., the Anna Maria Island Privateers seize Bradenton Beach City Hall, 107 Gulf Drive N., and hold Mayor Bob Bartelt for ransom.

• July 2, dusk, the Chiles Restaurant Group sponsors the Boom Boom by the Bay fireworks display near the Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant, 760 Broadway St., Longboat Key.

• July 3, dusk, the Chiles Restaurant Group sponsors the Fireworks Extravaganza near the BeachHouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach.

• July 4, 10 a.m., AMIP presents the annual July 4 Parade, which begins at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach and continues to Bayfront Park in Anna Maria.

• July 4, noon, AMIP hosts a scholarship awards barbecue at Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe/Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

• July 4, dusk, the Chiles Restaurant Group sponsors the Grand Finale Fireworks near the Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria.