Monthly Archives: December 2016

Animal advocates plan budget demonstration

Animal-rights advocates are organizing a demonstration outside at the old Manatee County Courthouse at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, June 16.

The demonstration was scheduled to take place just prior to a 6 p.m. Manatee County hearing on the proposed new budget, when commissioners will take public comment at the administration center.

Animal rights advocates, including those representing MoonRacer No-Kill Rescue of Holmes Beach, plan to attend the hearing — wearing green — to show their opposition to a proposal to drastically cut animal services funding.

“County commissioners discussed significant budget cuts last week for animal adoption programs,” said a statement from the Humane Society of Manatee County. “Just weeks ago, animal services division leadership expressed their goal for a ‘no-kill’ community and now commissioners are entertaining budget cuts that will result in more killing.”

For more information about the demonstration, e-mail info@humanesocietymanatee.org.

Summer solstice on June 21

The summer solstice, ushering in a new season and bringing the longest day of the year, is Tuesday, June 21. While Anna Maria Island’s beaches likely will be crowded with sunset watchers on that evening, the traditional observance involves a bonfire the night before and watching the solstice sunrise. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Walk, don’t run, to the boardwalk

With good weather for construction of the Anna Maria city pier boardwalk, contractor Woodruff & Sons Inc. is on schedule to finish the first phase by early July.

The project, supervised by the Florida Department of Transportation, began in mid-May with crews laying the boardwalk foundation. Work started in the north parking lot near the humpback bridge and is proceeding south, said DOT spokesperson Trudy Gerena.

Phase 1 is construction of the north side of the boardwalk from the humpback bridge to the pier entrance, building the trolley stop and shelter at the entrance, rearranging the parking configuration, and paving the parking lot with crushed shell to aid stormwater runoff. The shell mix also will provide an old Florida look to the parking lot, engineers said.

Electricity will be installed to provide lighting along the boardwalk and in the trolley shelter, according to Gerena. The lights are turtle-friendly and have been approved by Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring.

Landscaping will be installed in phases, as construction proceeds.

Posts for the new pier entryway sign will be installed this week, but the sign won’t be put up until the entire project is near completion.

Phase 2 extends the boardwalk from the pier entrance southward.

“The north side of the project is anticipated to be completed for public use the week of July 11,” Gerena said.

If weather doesn’t seriously slow construction, Gerena said the DOT anticipates completion in fall 2011, possibly in late October or early November.

Funding for the boardwalk came from an $857,000 federal transportation enhancement grant awarded the city in 2006, but with the caveat that the DOT oversee construction and require the boardwalk and accompanying gazebos, landscaping and signs be built to federal standards.

Additionally, the federal government said the grant only could be used for new city projects, not to enhance existing structures, parks or infrastructure. The grant did not require city funding, and the DOT has agreed to cover cost over-runs, if any occur.

When completed, the 800-foot-long boardwalk will be about 8 inches above the ground, and 5 feet wide in most locations. Some wider areas are planned for wheelchair users to observe pier activities. Access points to the boardwalk will be located about every 50-80 feet, and the boardwalk and the parking areas will comply with the U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act.

Woodruff & Sons is using a specially treated wood that will withstand the elements of salt, sun and sea spray longer than ordinary wood, according to project engineers.

The life expectancy of the wood is about 20-25 years, engineers said.

Anna Maria can’t afford vacant properties

Anna Maria Mayor Mike Selby presented the bad news to city commissioners at their June 9 work session.

Tax increment financing is “a wonderful thing for the city,” but it won’t generate enough income to “help us acquire the six lots” across from the city pier’s north parking lot, he said.

The asking price for the lots is $3 million, and calculations by Selby and others of the amount of money a TIF district on Pine Avenue would produce annually “didn’t show enough revenue with TIF to buy the property,” the mayor said. “TIF would work great for other city projects, but not this one.”

But that doesn’t mean the city shouldn’t pursue alternative financing methods to buy the lots, he added.

Selby said he’s spoken to the bank that owns the property, and it offered to sell the city the lots for $3 million at 3.75 percent interest for 10 years with no payments in the first two years.

“That would give us time to find private funding, alternative funding or grants. That’s the option on the table,” he said.

While commissioners were disappointed that a TIF program wouldn’t generate enough revenue, all were in favor to varying degrees of pursuing a purchase of the lots.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb said he believed the city should not pay more than fair market value, as done in an eminent domain case, and believed the value of the property is less than the amount owed.

He suggested the city get a new appraisal and offer the bank that amount, but other commissioners and the mayor said it’s a foregone conclusion that the appraisal would be less than the sale price.

Selby said the bank was “up front,” about the value, which dropped below appraised value from several years ago when the bank loaned investors $3.2 million to buy the properties. The bank would lose about $200,000 on this deal, he said. The loan appraisal for the mortgage was likely $4 million, as the bank loaned 80 percent of the value to the investors.

Forget the fair market value, said Selby. This is an opportunity that “should not be wasted just because the value might be low right now.”

“The city has missed too many opportunities in the past” to buy property for the public good, Selby said. He reminded commissioners of the lost opportunity on Pine Avenue, which eventually saw three “mega-mansions” built on what had been a marina, and the Villa Rosa property on South Bay Boulevard, which remains vacant.

In both instances, the city commission declined to pursue a purchase, citing lack of funds, even with the Trust for Public Lands in St. Petersburg offering nearly $2 million in 2004 to help the city buy the marina. That deal was lost when city commissioners declined to pay for the property appraisal.

“I think we ought to have a vision for our citizens of what we want the city to look like in 10 to 15 years. I support the city controlling this property,” the mayor said.

Commissioner Dale Woodland agreed with Selby. He’s not heard anyone say not to buy the property, but it’s not going to be easy. He wants the commission to be positive and “take this bull by the horns.”

Commissioner Gene Aubry said if the city doesn’t buy the property, then “what happened on Pine will happen again right before our eyes.”

Planning and zoning board member Margaret Jenkins suggested the city could take the deal currently offered, sell one of the lots and look for grants or other funding to complete the purchase in two years.

And it was suggested the private sector might be able to help with a purchase plan.

Mike Coleman of Pine Avenue Restoration LLC said he and partner Ed Chiles made a $2.5 million offer on the property that was rejected.

If the city sticks to current fair market value, it could never buy the property, he contended.

“If that’s the price you want to pay, just walk away from the project now,” because the lender is not going to sell at the appraised value, he said.

But the lender’s terms are “very favorable,” he said, and the business community supports purchasing the property for the public.

“I believe we could raise a half-million dollars in the business community toward purchase of this property. Once it’s gone to someone else, someone not familiar with our town, they will come in and, overnight, build six houses there,” Coleman predicted.

Woodland suggested the purchase become a community project, not just a city hall effort.

Selby said he would get a new appraisal, but the city should not turn its back on the deal if the appraisal is lower than the sale price.

Commissioners were in general agreement with the mayor, but wanted to begin by determining the value.

In other business, city auditor Ed Leonard gave the city a clean audit report, noting that reserves might drop to 20 percent for the first quarter in the upcoming 2011-12 budget, but grow after that period. In two years, the reserve account should be more than 40 percent, he said.

Commissioners also agreed to a professional review of the city’s cellular communications ordinance after Selby said the estimate from wireless expert Rusty Monroe for a review of the ordinance and master wireless-services plan would be between $500 and $1,000.

Webb said the mayor is authorized to approve contracts below $2,500 without commission approval.

Business developer Lizzie Vann Thrasher asked commissioners what they would like to see develop at the Historic Green Village, now that the Angler’s Lodge has been added to the complex.

She’s had a suggestion for a bed-and-breakfast inn for the lodge. The structure presently has eight bedrooms upstairs, and these could be converted to three bedroom suites and office-retail businesses could occupy the downstairs.

However, city planner Alan Garrett said city code prohibits a bed-and-breakfast inn and it would have to be amended for such an operation.

Webb thought a special exception with restrictions on the inn might work, but city attorney Jim Dye said Vann Thrasher should start with a site-plan and work with Garrett to locate any problems.

Woodland brought on a round of laughter when he said Vann Thrasher should seek guidance from somewhere other than the commission, although “other than a whorehouse, a bed-and-breakfast is a perfect use” for the lodge.

Dye observed dryly Woodland’s suggested use would require an ordinance amendment.

Commissioners agreed there was nothing to discuss or vote on until Vann Thrasher presents a plan. She said she would return to the June 23 meeting with the appropriate information.

Vann Thrasher also inquired about a beer and wine license for the Village Cafe at Rosedale, and holding a flea market on the cafe patio.

Webb, however, said Vann Thrasher was “putting the cart before the horse. Just make an application and go through the procedures and process and see what happens,” he said.

Vann Thrasher also suggested the city could become a “green city,” possibly the smallest city in the United States to obtain such status.

Commissioners suggested she first bring the idea to the environmental education and enhancement committee to generate input and a game plan, and then return to the commission with that information.

FWC considering shark-fishing changes

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission had already planned to address state regulations for chumming and shark fishing when Anna Maria resident Joan Dickinson and two of her neighbors wrote Mayor Mike Selby two weeks ago expressing concerns that chumming and shark fishing at the Rod & Reel Pier would eventually lead to a shark attack.

FWC press secretary Susan Smith’s office said the FWC has a series of public workshops scheduled statewide in late June to discuss possible changes to shark fishing regulations.

An FWC workshop will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. June 23 at the Terrace Building, 101 S. Washington Blvd., Sarasota.

News of the FWC forums comes on the heels of concerns by Dickinson and others that chumming for sharks is an “accident waiting to happen.”

The FWC said it has received letters from citizens suggesting that chumming activities associated with fishing might cause feeding or hungry sharks to bite or attack swimmers, and that the FWC should ban such activities.

But those concerns have been investigated by the Florida Division of Marine Fisheries Management. The division reported to the FWC that it was “unable to find any research which suggests that chumming when fishing from shore increases the likelihood of negative interactions between swimmers and sharks,” according to the FWC statement.

Enough concerns were raised, however, that the FWC decided to hold public discussions about changes to shark fishing rules. The FWC also wants to examine scientific data on shark feeding and habits.

Because the FWC does not have extensive shark research facilities, expert advice on sharks comes from Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, which has a shark research facility.

Dr. Bob Hueter, director of the Mote Marine Center for Shark Research, agreed with the MFM findings on chumming and shark attacks.

His department’s research indicates there is “no evidence that chumming leads to shark attacks on people,” he said. “It just attracts them to a particular area, but sharks are already everywhere in Florida waters.”

But sharks are strange fish, he said, and there is still much to be learned about shark behavior and feeding habits. Some general rules about sharks, however, should be noted.

Hueter said he annually recommends that Florida beach communities warn swimmers not to get in the water when large numbers of anglers are nearby, usually within 300 feet.

“Sharks are attracted to bait, even if it’s not chum,” he said. Put many fishermen and a lot of bait near a public bathing beach and sharks will likely be attracted to the area, Hueter indicated.

Several Florida communities have expressed interest in regulating shark fishing within their jurisdictions, but the Florida Constitution gives the FWC authority to regulate fishing.

Enforcing a “no shark fishing” law might prove difficult. Sharks will bite just about anything, Hueter said, and many sharks are caught accidentally while fishing for something else.

Florida waters abound with sharks, and on rare occasion, they have been known to attack without foreseeable reason, he observed. The ocean is the shark’s domain and anyone entering Florida waters is probably within a mile or two of some type of shark, Hueter noted.

FWC talks sharks

Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission press secretary Susan Smith said in a press statement that the FWC would hold a series of workshops statewide in late June to get public input on possible changes to shark fishing laws.

In the Manatee area, the workshop is from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 23, at the Terrace Building, 101 S. Washington Blvd., Sarasota.

The FWC said discussion items include limiting chumming activities when fishing from shore, a ban on chumming when fishing for any species within 100 yards of a public bathing beach or a ban on chumming during daylight hours.

Other discussion topics are adding more shark species to the list of protected fish and requiring the use of circle hooks when using natural bait to shark fish.

Anyone wishing to provide written comments outside the public workshop can e-mail them to marine@myfwc.com.

For a complete list of all workshop dates and locations, interested parties can go to the FWC website at myfwc.com and look under public workshops. The FWC encouraged people interested in fishing and sharks to attend a workshop.

“Attend these workshops and provide comment to the FWC on these proposed changes.

The input of all affected parties is critical to the FWC when developing regulatory measures, the FWC statement said.

Public hearing set for garbage contract

Bradenton Beach commissioners will hold a public hearing Thursday, June 16, on a proposed ordinance to allow WastePro of Florida to collect garbage and yard waste.

The hearing will be held during the commission’s 1 p.m. regular meeting at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

WastePro already holds a contract to collect recycling in Bradenton Beach. Earlier this spring, the commission selected the company as the top bidder for solid waste removal, a task currently handled by the city public works department.

Other agenda items include consideration of:

• A resolution repealing a registration requirement for boats anchored in city waters.

The commission had approved a registration requirement in October 2010, but has since received complaints about the rule, as well as questions about whether the registration conflicts with state law and concerns about whether the code enforcement department has the time to monitor registration.

The proposed resolution states, “After considering public comment and having considered supporting documentation and testimony from the staff, the city commission … has determined it to be in the best interest of the city to repeal” the registration rule.

The proposal states that the local registration rule would be eliminated, and the police department would “immediately begin enforcement of state registration on any vessel in city waters.”

• A proposal for LTA Engineers to survey the gateway area near Gulf Drive and Cortez Road for sidewalk construction on the west side of Gulf Drive.

• A request for a temporary-use permit for the Bridge Street Bistro, 111 Gulf Drive S., to place 45 seats for open-air seating for 60 days beginning June 30.

• The renewal of an agreement for Ricinda Perry to serve as the city attorney through December 2012.

$3.2 million reef contract approved

County commissioners June 7 awarded a $3.2 million contract for the construction of an artificial reef in the Gulf of Mexico off the Coquina Beach shore.

The work, mitigation for beach renourishment earlier this year that covered some nearshore, hardbottom habitat at Coquina, is expected to begin this summer and take about six months.

While the commission awarded the contract to Luhr Bros. Inc. of Illinois during a vote on its consent agenda June 7, some details remain under negotiation.

The contract proposes the construction of a 4.87-acre artificial limestone reef off the southern end of Anna Maria Island. Luhr Bros. will be responsible for overseeing the transportation and placement of the limestone boulders.

The company will be hauling a minimum of 13,500 boulders, each weighing about 2.5 tons, to the site.

Moving the boulders will cost about $175,000 and placing the boulders will cost about $2.9 million.

County and state officials still are discussing whether an additional 3.5 acres consisting of 23,700 tons of limestone boulders, is necessary, according to a memo from county natural resources director Charlie Hunsicker.

The hope at the county level is that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will not require the added acreage, which would add $2.1 million to the project’s pricetag.

Luhr Bros. submitted the lowest bid of eight.

The reef construction is phase two of the 2011 renourishment work.

The first phase, which involved adding sand to the beach in Anna Maria near the Sandbar Restaurant and to Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach, was completed earlier this spring.

A third phase involves the placement of a geotextile tube at the jetty on the north side of Longboat Pass to keep sand from flowing from Coquina into the channel.

June 14 hails Flag Day

If you forgot that June 14 was Flag Day and you didn’t display your United States flag, you’re probably not alone.

However, you can play catchup — like me — and proudly display the flag June 15.

Few people know the real history of the American flag, or what the colors, stripes and stars mean.

It might seem strange to some, but I have a bachelor’s degree in U.S. history from the University of South Florida for which I’m very proud. It only took eight years to get it.

Contrary to popular legend, the first official U.S. flag was not sewn by Betsy Ross on instructions from Gen. George Washington, at the time the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army.

Ross actually made a flag for Washington in early 1776, but that was before there was a United States of America. Ross used a design by Washington to make that flag.

It contained 13 alternate red and white stripes, but had the British Union Jack in the upper left corner.

Washington flew the flag at the Battle of Prospect Hill in Boston that January and at his headquarters. It was called the Grand Union Flag. Washington discontinued its use after the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, because the Union Jack represented Great Britain.

To the end of her life, Ross claimed she made the first American flag.

The first official U.S. flag was ordered by the Marine Committee of the Second Continental Congress under a law passed June 14, 1777, which gave directions for making the U.S. flag and how it should appear.

Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, put in a claim to Congress in 1777 for designing the first official American flag as prescribed by that law. It had 13 stripes, alternating from red to white, and the upper left quadrant of the flag was blue with 13 five-pointed stars in a circle.

Hopkinson billed Congress for “A quarter cask of public wine,” but Congress rejected payment because he was already drawing a salary as a member of Congress.

At that time, no one, not even Ross, rejected Hopkinson’s claim.

Ross’ grandson, William Canby, claimed in 1877 that his grandmother made the first flag, but Mary Pickersgill, daughter of Rebecca Young of Boston, disputed that.

Pickersgill claimed her mother told her she had made the flag for Washington in 1776.

The dispute has never been settled, but popular history credits Betsy Ross as the first U.S. flag-maker.

In 1795, Congress authorized the addition of another stripe and star on the flag each time a new state entered the Union. It was a 15-star, 15-stripe flag that Francis Scott Key saw over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812 that inspired him to write “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

After the war ended, Congress saw the flag was becoming too big with the addition of stripes for new states in the Union.

At the suggestion of Capt. Capt. Samuel Reid, U.S. Navy, Congress decided in April 1818 to add a new star when a territory became a state, and set the number of stripes at 13. Congress quickly agreed and new law specified that new stars would only be added after July 4 following the admission of a new state.

At various periods in American history, the stars were arranged in a circular pattern, and in the early 1820s, the stars were arranged to show a five-pointed star. The last circular star pattern was in 1890, when Colorado became a state.

The most recent stars added to the flag were Alaska after July 4, 1959, and Hawaii in 1960 after it was admitted as a state in August 1959. For about a year, the country had a 49-star flag.

No states have been admitted for 51 years, the longest period in American history without the addition of a new state.

Surprisingly, Congress has never officially established what the colors, stripes or stars signify.

The U.S. Army Institute of Heraldry has said that, unofficially, the 13 stripes represent the 13 original colonies.

Each five-pointed star represents a different state in the Union. The white on the flag represents purity and innocence; the red signifies hardiness, courage and the blood shed by so many people to gain freedom. The blue traditionally has meant vigilance, perseverance and justice.

White stripes cutting through the red stripes represented a political statement in 1777, of America (in white stripes) cuttings its ties with Britain (represented by red stripes).

As there is no official meaning of the colors or stars, other interpretations have been offered, including one that says white represents heaven and red represents hell.

The heraldry institute has prepared designs for flags containing up to 56 stars, should additional territories become states.

The only possible candidates for statehood at present are Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., although Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Marshall Islands in the Pacific (Saipan and Tinian) are large enough to begin the long process for statehood.

And that’s all you need to know to remember to display the flag next year — on June 14.