Monthly Archives: December 2016

These are a few of our favorite things

Friends are, of course, No. 1 on our list of things to be thankful for every year. Friends who share great recipes are No. 2.

For these friends and recipes, the holidays are a time for sharing.

Here is the eggnog recipe given to Janet Aubry of Anna Maria by her friend Ralph Ellis of Houston. He told Janet that it was originally published decades ago in Harper’s Bazaar as ‘the’ traditional holiday beverage.

She adds, “May your days be merry and bright after you drink this and, for heaven’s sake, don’t drink this recipe and drive afterward.”

18th Century Eggnog Recipe
Ingredients:
12 eggs separated
2 and 1/4 cups granulated sugar
4 quarts heavy cream
1 cup powdered sugar
1 pint rum (dark)
1 quart brandy (2 pints)

Directions:
Reserve six egg whites in one bowl and six egg whites in a second bowl.

In a large bowl beat all yolks well. Add granulated sugar gradually to yolks and beat well.

Add rum and brandy alternately and slowly to yolk mixture. Then, to this mixture, add three quarts of heavy cream.

Beat six egg whites until very stiff and fold into mixture.

Then beat remaining six egg whites VERY stiff and beat powdered sugar into them.

Add, stirring lightly, remaining cream and fold this mixture into the other.

Let stand in refrigerator 4 to 12 hours. Top with grated nutmeg (we prefer fresh grated) before serving. The recipe serves 20, but Janet generously “packages” jugs of joy for her holiday guests to carry home.

Mmmmm, rum cake
Also on our favorite list of friends is Billie Martini of Holmes Beach. She seems to know just the right time and day to appear at The Islander office with deviled eggs and Bacardi Rum Cake, both of which are VERY popular among staff. Post a warning over the “last” piece of cake, as fingers can be crushed in the taking.

Billie’s Best Bacardi Rum Cake

Cake:
1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1 18 1/2 ounce yellow cake mix
1 3 1/4 instant vanilla pudding mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup cold water
1/2 cup Wesson oil
1/2 cup Bacardi dark rum (80 proof)

Glaze:
1/4 pound butter
1/4 cup water
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Bacardi dark rum (80 proof)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees (Fahrenheit). Grease and flour 10-inch tube or 12-cup Bundt pan. Sprinkle nuts over bottom of pan. Mix all cake ingredients. Pour batter over nuts. Bake one hour. Cool cake. Invert on serving plate and prick the top.

For glaze, melt butter in saucepan. Stir in water and sugar. Boil 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in rum.

Drizzle and smooth glaze evenly over top and sides, allowing cake to absorb glaze. Repeat until the glaze is used up.

Yummy without rum
Susan Nudd warmly agreed five years ago to share her Christmas cookie recipe, passed down by her mother, she said, from a recipe that originated from the Amish-Dutch community of Sullivan, Ill.

“I’ve been making them since high school, then with my mom,” Nudd said.

Nudd’s cookies were discovered by us some years ago as she served them following the Roser Memorial Community Church Bethlehem Walk, and they had been decorated with special care by her granddaughter, Aaron Grace Tribble, then age 5.

Original Amish sugar cookies
First mix one cup sugar, one cup powered sugar, one cup Oleo. (Is that called margarine now, or is there still Oleo?)

Add two eggs, then one cup oil. Add 4 3/4 cup flour, one teaspoon baking soda, one teaspoon cream of tartar, one half teaspoon salt, two teaspoons vanilla.

Cool dough about one hour, roll in balls, press with a fork and decorate with colored sugar, candy sprinkles and the likes. (Not icing.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

“It makes a really big recipe,” Nudd said. “About six dozen cookies.”

And it too is worth packaging and sharing with friends and as holiday hostess gifts.

Happy turkey!
“Season that sucker and cook it hot and fast.” That’s the advice of my longtime friend and chef, Augie Mrozowski, some 30 years ago on cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.

It’s sage advice, not to make a pun. Salt and pepper all over, including inside, cook breast side down, 450 degrees for about an hour and a half (18 pounds or so), then flip it and lower the temp to about 350 degrees for 20 minutes to a half hour to brown the top.

It will be moist and delicious, it’s guaranteed. We put trimmings from the veggies, carrot and potato peel, onion skins and celery tops in the bottom of the pan. When the turkey is done and removed, we then add the wing tips and other non-edible portions of the turkey to the veggies already in the pan and add some water to create au jus.

Bring the pot to a simmer for a few minutes, strain out the veggies and turkey parts, and then add a roux mixture (equal parts butter and flour mixed smooth) to the liquid — and you have awesome gravy.

Why we don’t cook a small turkey and trimmings once a month is the only remaining question. It’s that delicious.

Finally, one of the Island’s best
More than 16 years ago we first featured Bernard Haulsee of Anna Maria and his 20-year tradition of baking a fruitcake recipe handed down by his mother.

When it comes to holiday baking traditions, this is one of the tastiest. Really. It is not to be categorized with the store-bought brick variety.

Each eight-pound cake is full of cherries, pineapple, coconut, raisins and pecans — and an abundant “baptism” of Jim Beam.

“I love to bake them,” said Haulsee in 1993. “It’s a hobby. Some people tease me by telling me it’s a pretty expensive hobby, but I tell them that it’s a lot cheaper than playing golf!”

The week before Christmas was Haulsee’s favorite time during the holidays. With his cakes wrapped carefully in foil, he made his rounds to deliver his delicious gift to his friends and local businesses — those who had helped him during the year.

“They are always glad to see me,” he said. “This makes it a nice Christmas for all of us.”

As a holiday gift to Anna Maria Island, Haulsee agreed to share his recipe.

“Be sure to tell them not to stir the butter and sugar and eggs too much. If they do, the cake will crumble after its baked. Don’t want it to crumble,” he warned.

Many thanks to Mr. Haulsee, although considering his age then and that we haven’t enjoyed his fruitcake or seen him since 1994, we can only hope the best for him and his family.

Bernard Haulsee’s Heavenly Fruitcake
“Barely” cream together:
1 pound butter or margarine
3 cups white sugar
Add 1 egg at a time until 11 are added.

Mix together in order in another bowl:
1 1/2 pounds candied cherries
1 1/2 pounds candied or dehydrated pineapple
3 cups pecan nuts
2 pounds raisins
2 cups grated coconut
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 ounces grated ginger root
5 cups all-purpose flour sifted on top of dry ingredients
2 teaspoons vanilla

Directions:
Mix dry fruit batter in with butter, sugar, egg batter.

Mix well. Recipe makes two cakes. Grease or spray each loaf cake pan with Pam. Bake 2 1/2 hours at 275 degrees.

If using Pyrex loaf pans, cut baking time to 2 hours.

Optional: After cakes have cooled for 24 hours, set cake in a small amount of Jim Beam. After liquor is absorbed. Flip cake over and repeat.

Many thanks and best wishes to Janet, Billie, Susan, Augie and Bernard.

Readers: Warm your hearth and your heart and share some of our friendly, good cooking for the holidays.

Columbia Restaurant 1905 Salad

1/2 head iceberg lettuce, chopped
2 ripe tomatoes, cut in eights
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/2 C swiss cheese, julienne
1/2 C ham, julienne
1/4 C green Spanish olives, chopped
2 teaspoons grated Romano cheese

Dressing
1/8 C white wine vinegar
1/2 C extra virgin Spanish olive oil
4 cloves garlic minced
1 t. Worcestershire
s&p
1 t oregano
2 t lemon juice
brine from olive jar

Toss, add romano.

AM commission seat stays vacant — for now

The election of Anna Maria Commissioner SueLynn to commission chairperson by her fellow commissioners, and thus mayor, went smoothly at a Nov. 15 organizational meeting.

The city charter says the commission chair is mayor in the absence of the mayor, which is the result of no one running for the office in the Nov. 6 city election.

But when time came to nominate and vote for a commission replacement for SueLynn, the division between Commissioners John Quam and Dale Woodland on one side and Commissioners Chuck Webb and Nancy Yetter on the other was so strong, tempers occasionally flared and Pine Avenue parking appeard to divide the city electorate and commission.

Woodland and Quam sought Carl Pearman to fill the vacant commission seat on the dais, while Webb and Yetter were in favor of former Commissioner Gene Aubry.

After the first vote on a replacement commissioner ended in a 2-2 tie, all four commissioners announced they did not plan to change their vote, regardless of discussion.

Woodland said he thought Pearman would bring “balance” to the commission.

“I worked with Dr. Pearman on the CIAC board and I support him because 95 percent of our city is residential and I think he would give more balance to the board. He’s not against development, just over-development,” Woodland said.

That prompted a response from Webb that Woodland was implying that some commissioners favor development.

“None of us are for over-development,” Webb said.

“You’re implying that some on this board would support over-development and that’s just not true.”

Quam said Pearman would “work for the common good of the people and not for any private interest.”

Woodland said he’s always been concerned about the intensity of parking on Pine Avenue and the approval of site plans that allow back-out parking.

Webb responded that discussing that issue was irrelevant to the task.

“That’s a dead issue. That was passed last year. We don’t need to bring that up again. Gene Aubry drew the plan voluntarily and it passed,” Webb replied.

Aubry, an architect, said he drew three parking plans, including one that Quam favored.

Webb said he wanted Aubry because he’s already been elected once and his many years experience as an architect ensures he knows and understands what codes and ordinances are all about. He demonstrated the knowledge of the Anna Maria codes when he served as commissioner.

“I don’t always agree with Aubry,” Webb said. “Probably 50 percent of the time I disagree with his view, but I respect his views and I know he understands building codes and ordinances.”

After more discussion and another 2-2 vote,

Woodland said he didn’t mind if the commission remained deadlocked.

“If the commission has to go 2-2 all year. I win,” he said.

That drew a response from Yetter that she thought commissioners were elected to serve the people, not themselves.

“You win?” she asked. “It’s not about you, it’s about the community. You are acting like this is all about you.”

Webb said he was shocked to hear Woodland’s philosophy. “I’ve been in government 35 years and there are always problems at some level.”

If the commission is going to be 2-2 all year, there’s no point in holding any meetings, he suggested.

With no vote compromise in sight and commissioners becoming testy in their discussion, Webb asked city attorney Jim Dye to research city options, including a special election for the vacant commission seat.

“I don’t see any movement on the board, and I don’t know how to solve this,” said Webb. “At least if we have a special election, we’ll get it resolved,” he said.

In the last Anna Maria special election, Aubry was elected commissioner in a September 2010 election against Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus, who had been recalled on the same ballot. Aubry served the remainder of Stoltzfus’ term.

Dye said he would have answers at the commission’s Nov. 29 meeting.

Former Commissioner Tom Aposporos, who had indicated he was a candidate for SueLynn’s commission seat, did not attend the meeting and was not nominated as a candidate.

Commissioners then elected Quam as commission chair and Webb as vice chair, and adopted the basic rules of order for commission meetings. They also signed the code of ethics for commissioners.

Dye suggested Dec. 11 as the date for the city’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law seminar. City clerk Alice Baird said the city traditionally invites other island elected officials and committee members to the meeting and she would check if that date was OK with them.

A decision on the date of the Sunshine meeting will be made at the Nov. 29 commission meeting.

That meeting is at 6 p.m. at the Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

Silent commissioner says goodbye

Anna Maria commission meetings the past six years, Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick always gave the impression of the strong, silent type on the dais.

She would often sit and wait out 30 minutes to an hour or more of discussions by other commissioners or public comment before speaking, and then only when she found it necessary or had something she believed important to add.

“I only talked when I had something I felt was important to the discussion. I didn’t think it was my job to give long-winded speeches about my thoughts or positions on issues,” she said.

“But it was time to go. I promised myself that if I won in 2010, it would be my last term. I’m more than 70 years old and I want to spend time with my kids and grandkids.

“I don’t know how I did as a commissioner, that’s for others to judge, but I do believe we accomplished a lot in the six years I was a commissioner.”

Indeed. Probably her most important achievement was writing the grant that obtained funding for the Anna Maria City Pier boardwalk, gazebos and landscaping. She actually wrote the grant before being elected to her first term in 2006, and participated in the planning and completion in 2011.

“But there were other things. That was just a beautification project that I thought would really make the pier more old Florida and give older people with difficulty walking an easy way to get onto the pier and watch the waters and activity,” she said.

She mentioned the city’s purchase of the six lots at the Pine Avenue-Bay Boulevard intersection, the restructured Pine Avenue parking plan and the comprehensive plan amendment for the environmental and preservation zones as other commission accomplishments during her tenure.

Mattick is still worried that vacation rentals may take over the city and the commission has little control over how a house is used, but she’s confident the city will overcome the issue.

“People take pride in our Anna Maria. It’s a slice of old Florida that I hope never changes.

“Commissioners are taking action against the few rowdy party-goers and I think we’re on the right path.

I certainly enjoyed my time as a commissioner and want to thank my colleagues and the city staff for all their help,” Mattick said.

“Being a commissioner was an experience I’ll never forget, and it’s not a bad thing to tell people you used to be a city commissioner.”

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn said Mattick will be missed on the commission, and she hopes the former commissioner will be available in the future to give her wisdom and knowledge to herself and commissioners.

SueLynn again is Anna Maria mayor

SueLynn was returned to the post of Anna Maria mayor at a Nov. 15 organizational meeting — a position she held from 2002-2006.

Commissioners, however, were divided 2-2 on a person to take her commission seat on the dais.

No one ran for mayor in the 2012 election, thus, the city charter states that the commission chair becomes mayor in the absence of the mayor.

Other commissioners said they did not have enough time to devote to being mayor, but SueLynn stepped up and said she would accept the commission chair nomination and thus become mayor again.

She was unanimously voted in as commission chair, then sworn in as mayor, taking the gavel from departing Mayor Mike Selby.

SueLynn said, “I’ve done this once before, but now I’m going to need all your support. I can’t be in here all day every day. I will need support of staff and commissioners.”

She then thanked Selby for his two years in office and for bringing peace to a city that had been divided on several critical issues.

Beer, wine on menu at Coquina Beach

Cheers.

Beer and wine will soon be sold among the libations and food items at the Coquina Park Cafe at Coquina Beach after Bradenton Beach commissioners narrowly approved a conditional use permit by a 3-2 vote Nov. 15.

Since reopening in May, after months of renovations to the concession stand, an effort has been under way to gain approval to sell beer and wine at Coquina Beach.

But commissioners, under advisement from Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale, rebuked an effort earlier this year. Speciale cited security concerns, saying he did not want Coquina Beach to return to its former unsavory reputation.

Commissioner Ric Gatehouse also objected to the proposal submitted by concessionaire United Parks Services Inc., and publicly supported by Manatee County Parks and Recreation director Cindy Turner.

Gatehouse cited a lack of accountability for underage drinking and the lack of trained, knowledgeable staff to not allow over-drinking as his main objections. Providing containment of drinking alcohol beverages to the concession stand was another concern.

UPS, Turner and city officials held an August meeting to begin addressing the city’s concerns. Gatehouse, Speciale and building official Steve Gilbert also met privately with UPS and Turner.

UPS representatives and Turner appeared at the Nov. 15 commission meeting to once again request a conditional use permit to begin selling beer and wine at the beach food stand.

Speaking for city staff, Gilbert said staff was comfortable with the results of previous meetings.

“We heard an application a number of months back from UPS and there were concerns about containment and police problems,” said Gilbert. “We believe those issues have been resolved and staff is comfortable at this time.”

Gatehouse said the meetings with UPS and Turner were productive and that his concerns of having adequate supervision in place have been addressed.

“I think my concerns have been alleviated,” he said.

Commissioner Gay Breuler expressed her thanks for the hard work UPS and Turner provided in addressing the city’s concerns, but that she would not support approving the permit.

“This beach is voted as a favorite family beach,” she said. “Therefore, I’m not in favor of it.”

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh agreed, saying she did not understand why the term recreational had to include alcohol. She, too, would not support the permit.

Mayor John Shaughnessy said UPS and Turner addressed the concerns that were brought up by commissioners and worked diligently in good faith to alleviate those concerns.

“We made some conditions as to the safety, supervision and so forth,” said Shaughnessy. “They have been very cooperative in this area and you have to remember that this is a conditional use permit.”

Gilbert said staff added more stipulations to the conditional use permit and asked commissioners to include those stipulations in the motion.

The stipulations require UPS to provide signage declaring that alcohol was to be consumed only on-site at the concession area. The second stipulation requires UPS to use identifiable beer and wine drinking cups.

“And No. 3 is that all sales will cease at 9 p.m.,” said Gilbert.

Speciale added that his concerns over enforcing alcohol use in the area were addressed with the county adding and paying for additional patrols.

Gatehouse motioned to approve the permit with staff stipulations. Vice Mayor Ed Straight seconded the motion, but added that if any problems arise from selling alcohol at Coquina Beach, “I will be in favor of rescinding this permit.”

Gatehouse, Straight and Shaughnessy voted in favor of the motion while Vosburgh and Breuler voted nay.

The county manages Coquina Beach, but the city retains local authority.

Dune project, lawsuit await BB decision on mediation

Bradenton Beach commissioners, city attorney Ricinda Perry and attorney Charles Johnson, hired by the city to litigate a lawsuit filed against the city over an argument to construct a parking lot on the beach, met for about 90 minutes Nov. 15 in a shade meeting.

Shade meetings are closed to the public in order for officials to discuss pending litigation, but a court reporter records the meeting and transcripts are released to the public following resolution of the matter.

The shade meeting was held to discuss an unexpected October offer of mediation from plaintiffs Jo Ann Meilner, Tjet Martin and Bill Shearon, who sued to stop a parking lot/dune project across from city hall and next to the BeachHouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N.

The project would include the installation of a 4-foot sand dune along Gulf Drive to protect city hall from storm surge, but includes about 12 additional parking spaces for the restaurant, and about five city parking spaces.

The joint development agreement between the city and restaurant owner Ed Chiles calls for Chiles to pay for the lion’s share of the project.

However, the agreement failed to get past the Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board in April, of which two of the plaintiffs are former members.

During a May city commission meeting, the atmosphere turned unfriendly as P&Z members heard accusations from the dais of a biased and “tainted” recommendation. Perry also questioned whether P&Z members were qualified to make such a recommendation.

P&Z recommended that commissioners reject the agreement based on their interpretation of the land development code, comprehensive plan and city charter.

In the weeks following the contentious May meeting, four P&Z members resigned. Meilner and Shearon, also a former city commissioner, brought forth the suit in June with Martin, a partner of Shearon’s in the Linger Longer Resort.

Meilner then surprised commissioners during public comment at an October meeting by making an offer to arbitrate the case.

She told commissioners that she and her co-plaintiffs had no interest in having taxpayers pay a large legal bill, and made the offer with the sole condition that the city would agree to an arbitrator’s decision.

Perry wanted clarification of whether it was arbitration or mediation the plaintiffs were offering. At a Nov. 1 city meeting, Perry said she wanted to discuss the differences with commissioners. She said she was willing to do so in a public meeting.

Commissioners tentatively agreed to hold the discussion in public, but Commissioner Ric Gatehouse said he preferred a shade meeting just in case details of the case needed to be included in the discussion.

The details of the shade meeting were not discussed.

As of Nov. 1, work on the project was authorized to begin. The project had to wait until the end of sea turtle nesting season, but thus far, the city has opted to hold off on the project.

Should the plaintiffs succeed in their lawsuit, one of the requirements would be for the city to return the development area to its original condition at the city’s cost.

Island honored with 5 Clean Beaches awards

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, county parks and recreation director Cindy Turner and other elected officials and staff were presented with five blue flags emblematic of a “Blue Wave” award for a clean beach in ceremonies at Coquina Beach Nov. 14.

Clean Beaches Coalition founder and president Walter McLeod presented the flags, saying it was unusual to find five beaches on one island that met the criteria to receive the “Blue Wave” flag and designation.

The first flag was raised at Coquina Beach as Turner thanked the parks and recreation staff, who work seven days a week to keep the beaches clean of trash and seaweed. She also thanked the Keep Manatee Beautiful organization, the city of Bradenton Beach and the volunteers who regularly walk the beach picking up trash and cigarette butts.

In addition to Coquina Beach, the flags are designated for Manatee Public Beach, Cortez Beach, the boat ramp across from Coquina Beach and Bean Point in Anna Maria.

Turner noted that, in 2011, Parents magazine voted Coquina Beach as one of America’s Top 10 Best Beaches for Families. She hopes the other beaches will make the Top 10 list in the future.

McLeod said the “Blue Wave” program began 13 years ago and was the first national environmental certification for beaches.

Anna Maria Island beaches and other area beaches were surveyed in May for the Blue Wave criteria, which includes cleanliness and a dedication to environmentally friendly projects.

Election wake: Holmes Beach department head departs

Holmes Beach Public Works Superintendent Joe Duennes — a top city official for more than 15 years — unexpectedly stepped down from his position last week.

“As of 4 p.m. today, he’s done working” said outgoing Mayor Rich Bohnenberger Nov. 16, adding that Duennes will be on “terminal leave until Feb. 17.”

Bohnenberger granted Duennes’ request that he be paid for time earned through Feb. 17, with Nov. 16 being his last day, he said.

Duennes retired in 2009 by electing to enter the Florida Retirement System Deferred Retirement Option Plan, a program that incentivizes public employee retirement.

Duennes was eligible to remain in the DROP program until Feb. 28, 2014.

The program allows public employees who qualify by number of years or age to retire, but stay on the job and collect a salary for up to five years. It also allows their monthly retirement benefits accumulate in a FRS trust fund, earning tax-deferred interest. They must leave by their last day in the program or lose their accumulated contributions.

Duennes headed the city’s public works, building and code enforcement departments — which average about 14 employees in all.

During the past year, the city’s building practices have been scrutinized by focus groups and others. Some residents and candidates in the Nov. 6 election rallied for stepped-up building code enforcement related to setbacks, pool regulations, stormwater plans and remodeling under the Federal Emergency Management Agency rules.

Bohnenberger said the criticism leveled at the building department was unjustified in light of it being recognized as one of the top city departments in the nation.

Yet, he understood Duennes might feel it’s “time to move on, especially when you consider all the nasty comments that have come out with the election,” Bohnenberger said.

Duennes departure is the latest in a number of recent changes in the department.

Holmes Beach resident David Greene, an electrical engineer, was added to the building department staff Oct. 23, and is in the process of acquiring his plans examiner license.

Building inspector Bob Shaffer was fired in September after being disciplined for “leniency to marginal and over the line practices by some contractors,” according to an April 20 memorandum in his personnel file.

Duennes’ predecessor and former Longboat Key building official John Fernandez was brought in as an independent contractor in July to handle FEMA issues and department overflow.

For 2012, as of Nov. 7, 1,009 building permits were issued, already 22 more than 2011,  including 190 mechanical, 101 roof, 95 pool, 86 erosion control, 73 remodel, 72 electrical, 55 window and 20 demolition. It is over the 987 permit total for 2011.

As building official, Duennes was responsible for issuing building permits, certificates of occupancy and statements of zoning compliance, according to the city charter.

Fire destroys camper-van

A 2008 Westfalia camper-van owned by Sandpiper Resort resident Jim “Denver” London caught fire around 4 p.m. Nov. 16 as London was turning into the mobile home co-op at 2601 Gulf Drive.

London said the van stalled on him after he made a left turn into the resort, and he began to smell smoke. He said when he got out of the camper-van to investigate, he saw flames coming from the rear of the vehicle.

The West Manatee Fire Rescue was called and a unit was at the resort within a few minutes, London said. By that time, however, he said the gas tank had exploded and the vehicle appeared to be a total loss.

A WMFR fire investigator at the scene said the cause of the blaze will be investigated, but determining the cause of a camper-van fire is often difficult unless gas cans or similar flammable items are found in the vehicle.

London said he had only some clothes and groceries in the van at the time of the fire.

Westfalia camper-vans are made by a company owned by Volkswagen of Germany.

Firehouse Subs awards grant

Firehouse Subs awarded West Manatee Fire Rescue a $9,207 grant to purchase search and rescue equipment for the district’s 30 firefighters, 30 reservists and two vehicles.

        WMFR firefighter and emergency management technician Jeff Philips displayed a sample bailout pouch at the Nov. 15 WMFR commission meeting.

        Philips learned of the grant opportunity while surfing the web, he said. And, with WMFR firefighter/paramedic Buddy Bowen, he identified the particular lightweight equipment to purchase from surveying other such bailout-kits.

        Philips said the lightweight equipment, including rope, pulleys, hooks and carabineers, is designed to assist rescue personnel in extricating victims from tight quarters.

        Sixty pouches for WMFR personnel and two bailout kits with more sophisticated devices for the ladder truck and battalion vehicle have been ordered.

        According to WMFR Fire Chief Andy Price the equipment ties into the district’s ladder training.

        In other business, Price announced WMFR has maintained its 3 rating from the Insurance Services Office, a widely used company that monitors insurance laws and standards.

        “We finally got information from the ISO that our rating will remain the same,” he said.

        The district prepared for and underwent ISO testing, including a site visit, earlier this year. The rating is reviewed every 10 years or less, if requested by an agency, he said.

        ISO rates communities from 1-10, with 1 being perfect, based on quality of fire department, water supply, hydrant locations, communication systems, building codes and inspection programs. Insurance companies use the ratings to set insurance premiums.

        Price said the district “maxed out on points for communication,” was “close to max in water supply, but was not getting all the points from the fire” categories. He blamed it on a lack of staffing.

        The district’s three firefighters per station are less than other departments covering similar communities, he added.

        Commissioners discussed whether the district could save money with a better insurance rate if it increased personnel. Price estimated it would cost $1.2 million annually for an additional 10 firefighters to increase its rating from 3-2, and not likely justified by a reduction in insurance costs.

        “It’s not bad news,” said Commission Chair Randy Cooper. “It is what it is.”

        Price also recommended a $15,000-$20,000 Commission on Fire Accreditation International accreditation study while the district plans for his and Deputy Chief Brett Pollock’s retirement.

        Price said the district had previously considered the accreditation process too time-consuming and costly. However, he said, the CFA has a new stream-lined process and he’s determined many accreditation requirements already have been satisfied by the district.

        The testing will “validate and measure the district’s capability and effectiveness,” and the district will “gain a clearer picture of what we do,” Price said.

        Cooper said, “I’m all in favor. But I think it’s best for the public to get a handle on the costs.”

        Commissioner Scott Ricci objected to being presented with the proposal without prior explanation.

        Commissioner David Bishop favored the concept as a tool in the succession planning, adding he saw value in a process that would cost approximately $4,000 for the next five years.

        Price said he’d prepare and present a formal cost breakdown at the next meeting.

        Before adjourning, commissioners thanked retiring Commission Jesse Davis for his 20 years on the commission.

        The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 20, at the WMFR Administrative office, 6417 Third Ave. W., Bradenton.