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Flashback 2011: The year in review Part 1

Compiled by Lisa Neff, Islander Reporter

The year began with frigid temperatures — for Florida, fireworks over the Gulf of Mexico and frenzy at Anna Maria city hall, where a band of 40 pirates kidnapped the mayor.

The second half of the year, to be reviewed next week, began with steamy temperatures, but also fireworks over the Gulf of Mexico and frenzy at another city hall, where a band of Anna Maria Island Privateers kidnapped Bradenton Beach’s mayor.

 

January

Fair warning: The Anna Maria Island Privateers, energized to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the nonprofit, threatened to kidnap the Island mayors and lay siege to each city. The first city to come under attack was Anna Maria on Jan. 3. The Privateers held Mayor Mike Selby for ransom after finding him hiding under his desk at city hall.

Be it resolved: Island officials ushered in 2011 with a series of resolutions and wishes. Some wished for world peace, others for a cessation of leaf blowing and still others for common-sense judgment and clarity as they tackled municipal business.

Go-ahead for gateway: Then-Bradenton Beach Mayor Bob Bartelt announced he would drive forward the long-discussed plan to improve the city gateway at Cortez Road and Gulf Drive. “I can get the clout of this office behind this,” he said.

Partnership floated: Manatee County officials discussed with Island officials a proposal for the removal of derelict and abandoned vessels, especially those found offshore of Cortez and Bradenton Beach.

Listen up: Then-Anna Maria City Commissioner Gene Aubry raised concerns about poor mobile phone communication in the city and the possible need for a cell tower. “The world now is all about communication, and we don’t have a cell tower in Anna Maria,” Aubry said.

Parking on Pine: The first of many meetings about parking on Pine Avenue took place early in 2011. City commissioners focused on proposals to prohibit motorists from backing out of parking spaces over a sidewalk on Pine Avenue.

Panty theft arrest: A Holmes Beach man, Ernest Kendler, was arrested for allegedly stealing underwear from two female neighbors. By the end of the year, after much legal wrangling, the state attorney’s office had announced it would not proceed with prosecution.

Hail for holiday: Rain, wind and hail hit Anna Maria Island on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, damaging structures at the Gulf Drive Cafe and flooding some roads.

Trash collecting: Bradenton Beach commissioners agreed to seek bids for trash-hauling services. The city, at the time, had an in-house sanitation department, but officials were concerned about the costs associated with maintaining and replacing equipment.

Station remodel: West Manatee Fire Rescue commissioners voted to remodel Station No. 1 on Marina Drive in Holmes Beach. The projected cost was $150,000-$200,000.

 

February

Cottage to Cortez: An older cottage was relocated from Bradenton Beach, where it was owned by the city but in the way of a parking lot, to the FISH Preserve in Cortez, where it will be used by the historical society for a family-life museum.

Tower talks: The Anna Maria Island Community Center board resumed exploration of the possible placement of a telecommunications tower on the center field. The board agreed that such a facility would provide much-needed revenue but the talks would have to move slowly.

Beach budget: Manatee County officials learned at a state conference of insufficient state and federal funding for future beach renourishment, possibly threatening an Islandwide project.

Service cut: With funding concerns and low ridership, county officials reduced the Longboat Key trolley service from every 30 minutes to every hour.

Final take: Holmes Beach commissioners approved, on a second and final reading, a film ordinance that added a commercial film production wording to the city land-development code.

Animal activism: Animal rights advocates intensified a campaign to make Manatee County a no-kill community. Activist and animal rescuer Lisa Williams, who works for The Islander, called for “powerful, fast change in Manatee County.”

Counting cormorants: Winter birdwatchers conducted a count of shorebirds on — and just off — Anna Maria Island. The tally was 3,013, about half as many as counted in 2010.

Battling bullying: Anna Maria Elementary School students got a lesson about bullying and intimidation with a visit from Manatee County safe schools expert Skip Wilhoit.

High-rise, high cost: Island mayors questioned the Florida Department of Transportation plan to spend about $1.5 million on a project development and environmental study for the Cortez Bridge. The mayors argued that prior studies already indicated that a high-rise bridge at the location was not workable. The DOT said if that’s the case, that’s what the study will show.

Concession consumerism: Manatee County officials reported that new concessionaires at the Manatee Public Beach, operators of the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe, were generating higher revenues than P.S. Beach. The county commission reported that United Park Service outperformed P.S. Beach by about $44,000 for a five-month period.

 

March

Telecom consensus: Bradenton Beach commissioners and planning board members reached a consensus on a proposed telecom ordinance that would comply with federal law but prohibit the construction of a cell tower anywhere other than government property.

Pipe lined: Great Lakes Dock began preparing for a major beach renourishment project on Anna Maria Island, positioning 9 miles of pipe in Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. The first stage of renourishment was to be at severely eroded Coquina Beach.

Pier pride: Area tourism officials informed Bradenton Beach officials that the Historic Bridge Street Pier, an anchor in the city’s commercial district, was tops with tourists. The pier ranked No. 1 with tourists in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Kingfish cosmetics: Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger and other officials visited the county-managed Kingfish Boat Ramp, where a series of landscaping and lighting improvements were proposed. Plans showed native trees and flowers adding color to the Manatee Avenue facility. City officials and Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch reps would later object to elements of the lighting plan.

Rape report: The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office investigated a report that an Anna Maria woman was chased from her home to Bayfront Park, where she said she was sexually assaulted and beaten.

Pro hired: Bradenton Beach commissioners approved a contract for WastePro to begin collecting recycling in the city. Later commissioners would contract with Waste Pro for trash collection and eliminate the city’s sanitation department.

Traffic tie-up: The Florida Department of Transportation apologized for severe traffic backups March 7 on the Island, Perico Island and the Palma Sola Causeway because of roadwork.

Suit settled: Island Inc. and Bradenton Beach settled a longstanding lawsuit over development — or prohibited development — of Gulffront property. The settlement required the city to purchase the property in the 1400 block of Gulf Drive for $350,000.

Angling for Angler’s: Anna Maria developers Mike and Lizzie Vann Thrasher announced the planned relocation of the historic Angler’s Lodge from North Bay Boulevard to the Anna Maria Historic Green Village on Pine Avenue. The plan would rescue from demolition the lodge, built circa 1914.

Free ride: Manatee County administrator Ed Hunzeker said the Island trolley could continue to operate as a fare-free service with some grant funding and advertising sales through an Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce program. “Everything is good for the trolley as long as grants keep coming from the state,” he informed county commissioners.

Bird beach: Researchers participating in a national study set up a safe zone on an Anna Maria beach to monitor and protect red knots. The monitoring work lasted several weeks and then resumed in the fall.

Census count: Preliminary numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau for the biennial 2010 population count showed a decline in Island residents. Anna Maria’s population declined 21.2 percent from 2000 to 2010, Holmes Beach’s 22.8 percent and Bradenton Beach’s 21 percent. Island mayors questioned the findings.

Pension plan postponement: Holmes Beach commissioners postponed a second reading of proposed changes to the police pension plan. One reason for the deferment was Florida Gov. Rick Scott had unveiled a plan to reform the state pension system.

 

April

Staffer suspended: The Anna Maria Island Community Center suspended staffer Andy Jonatzke over allegations that he had inappropriate relations with female teen members. The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office investigated allegations but did not make any arrest or pursue charges. Jonatzke, who ran the center’s teen and athletic programs, later resigned and the center board began crafting policies to deal with staff relations with members.

Living memorial: The Holmes Beach Parks and Beautification Committee planted a Southern magnolia in Spring Lake Park in honor of former committee chairman John Molyneux.

Channel conditions: Bradenton Beach commissioners asked county officials to look into concerns about navigation in Sarasota Bay, specifically from First Street South to Longboat Pass.

Parking on Pine: After about 11 months of debate, Anna Maria commissioners voted for a parking plan on Pine Avenue that requires new development to construct sidewalks between parking spots and buildings rather than along the street.

HB beginnings: Holmes Beach celebrated Founder’s Day with a reception, art and history exhibit and festival at city hall and in the city hall field.

Renourishment wrap: The Massive California dredge moved on from the Gulf of Mexico to Port Manatee, signaling to Islanders that a major sand renourishment project was completed. The county-supervised work added sand in Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria and cost about $6 million.

Walk this way: Bradenton Beach completed construction of a dune walkover at the access to the Gulf beach on Bridge Street. Additional dune protection improvements were made to the access at Third Street South.

Sunset songs: Singer/songwriter Mike Sales, in partnership with the city of Bradenton Beach, began a series of sunset performances in Katie Pierola Sunset Park. The event steadily increased in popularity through the spring and summer.

’Cane campaign: The American Red Cross in Manatee County launched the AMI Ready Hurricane Awareness Campaign to promote preparedness on the Island. The campaign began as forecasters were predicting an above average storm season.

Crime decline: Island police officials learned that, according to a uniform crime report from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the rate of crime dropped locally. There was a 41 percent decrease in Holmes Beach, a 68.5 percent decrease in Bradenton Beach and, for Manatee County, which polices Anna Maria, there was a 4 percent decrease.

Tree time: The Island cities, in partnership with Keep Manatee Beautiful, celebrated National Arbor Day. Three sabal palms were planted in Bradenton Beach. Holmes Beach hosted a ceremony at Kingfish Boat Ramp, where dozens of trees and hundreds of wildflowers were planted. In Anna Maria, three green buttonwoods were planted.

Nest No. 1: The first loggerhead sea turtle nest of the season was documented April 27 just south of 25th Street in Bradenton Beach. The nest was the earliest on record in three decades of data collection for the Island.

 

May

Mating manatees: Holmes Beach police officers guarded manatees on the shore from a crowd of curious people, some of whom wanted to get too close to the protected animals. The incident prompted reminders from state wildlife officials about how to steer clear of manatees.

Dock decision: Holmes Beach commissioners passed the final reading of an amendment to the city’s dock ordinance that included a changed definition for “boat.” A “boat” is 16 feet long, at least, and requires a Florida registration.

Chickee checkup: Holmes Beach officials determined that the palm frond covering had to be removed from three huts that were built without proper permission.

Re-election run: Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, a former commissioner and mayor in Bradenton Beach, announced he would seek re-election to a second term in 2012. As of last week, Chappie did not face any opposition in either the Republican primary or the general election.

Pier party: The 100th anniversary of the Anna Maria City Pier was celebrated May 13-14 with a parade, a memorial dedication, a street festival and fireworks.

Marauders meet Islanders: The Bradenton Marauders minor league team joined in the pier centennial celebration in May. And, later that month, the Marauders welcomed Islanders to McKechnie Field for Island Night.

Paying payroll: The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce borrowed to make payroll because of a delayed payment of more than $40,000 from the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. The delay was due to a county attorney decision that a formal contract between the chamber and the county was needed.

Resort tax rises: County officials reported a jump in resort tax — or bed tax — revenues, in large part because of increased government efforts to identify which property owners and managers were renting accommodations and required to pay taxes.

Lodge located: The Angler’s Lodge moved in May from North Bay Boulevard to its new home on Pine Avenue, where renovations are under way.

Studying surge: Manatee County revised its storm surge maps following a detailed state study of elevation, geography and development. The maps, officials said, are more accurate, showing expected surge in hurricanes — from Category 1 to Category 5 disasters.

Incoming at AME: David Marshall was named the new principal at Anna Maria Elementary School. He would succeed Tom Levengood, who retired at the end of the school year.

Dear members: Officers at the private Key Royale Club, in a letter to members, detailed the alleged embezzlement of hundreds of thousands of dollars in club funds and an investigation of a single suspect, former employee Holly Connelly.

Seawall work: Bradenton Beach’s mayor warned commissioners that the city would need to dedicate funding in 2012 to the repair of several crumbling bayside seawalls.

Ascending assessment: West Manatee Fire Rescue commissioners voted, reluctantly, for an increase in the annual assessment fee for the district. The board voted for a 3.75 percent increase — less than requested by WMFR Chief Andy Price but more than recommended by one commissioner.

All aboard: Manatee County commissioners endorsed the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce ad campaign for the fare-free Island trolley. The commission approved an agreement for the sale of ads on the trolleys operating 365 days a year from the Anna Maria City Pier to Coquina Beach.

Diluted ban: Manatee County commissioners, in a divided vote, diluted an ordinance that restricts certain fertilizer use in the summer months. The ordinance is slightly stronger than state regulation of fertilizers.

 

June

Governor’s go: Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the state 2012 budget and, while striking more than $615 million, he left intact funding for 12 beach renourishment projects, including money for an Anna Maria Island project.

Not chummy: Some Anna Maria residents, concerned about sharks in nearshore waters, asked city officials and the state to prohibit chumming, especially from the Rod & Reel Pier and Anna Maria City Pier. State officials responded that regulations for shark fishing already were under review.

Making way: Bradenton Beach public works staff removed vinyl banners and banner poles near the intersection of Cortez Road and Gulf Drive. City commissioners eliminated the practice of hanging banners at the location, part of an effort to beautify the gateway.

Super promotion: Ava Ehde was promoted from the supervisor of the Island Branch Library, 5701 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, to library services manager for Manatee County.

Transport test: A task force made up of Island and county staff involved in maintaining Island beaches agreed to test Segway tours at Coquina Beach for a trial period. County regulations generally don’t permit Segways in county parks or preserves, but there was an interest in testing use of the personal transports on the beach path.

Boardwalk’s beginning: After a lengthy planning period, construction began on a boardwalk at the Anna Maria City Pier. The Florida Department of Transportation supervised and funded the project, which was largely driven by a volunteer city committee and Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick.

Dollars and donors: Hundreds of donors lined up at St. Bernard Catholic Church to give blood to Florida Blood Services and, through an anonymous foundation, help raise dollars for Island nonprofits.

Reversing registration: Bradenton Beach officials decided to revoke a requirement that boaters in the anchorage field south of the Historic Bridge Street Pier register at city hall. The decision followed objections from some boaters, who said state law prohibited such registrations.

Case dismissed: A Florida appeals case dismissed a complaint from former Anna Maria Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus, who wanted to appeal his recall from office. The court said the complaint was moot. Stoltzfus was recalled in September 2010 and his seat filled by election winner Gene Aubry.

No horsing around: The Bradenton City Council moved to ban horses from the Palma Sola Causeway, sparking debate on both sides of the issue. The council later decided not to ban horseback riding and horseback surfing.

 

        Next week: The year in review, part II, and The Islander announces The Islander of the Year Award.

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