Cortez group holds elections, talks business

Members of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage held two elections March 31 — one for board members and one for officers.

Members also reviewed plans for the preserve and discussed a financial report.

FISH had six vacancies to fill on the board and only five nominations before voting began. Treasurer Jane von Hahmann nominated Rose Lipke for the board just before ballots were submitted.

The nominees included Plum Taylor, Doug Calhoun, John Stevely, Linda Molto, R.B. “Chips” Shore and Lipke.

All nominees were voted onto the board by wide margins. The tally was Calhoun, 67 votes; Shore, 73 votes; Molto, 62 votes; Stevely, 75 votes; Lipke, 43 votes; Taylor, 74 votes.

All of the officers, with the exception of treasurer, were re-elected to their respective posts.

President Kim McVey won her seat again with 68 votes. There were 11 votes cast in favor of Karen Bell for president.

Vice president Debra Ibasfalean was re-elected with 77 votes. Molto nominated new member Bill Miller for vice president, but he declined the nomination.

Von Hahmann did not run again for her position. Mike Northfield won the seat with 78 votes.

Shore won the seat of secretary with 79 votes. He is the Manatee County clerk of circuit court and comptroller, and he oversees the county’s historical resources.



Von Hahmann presented the group’s financial report showing a $74,000 net income to date for 2014. Von Hahmann hadn’t completed the statement for March at the time of the meeting, but estimated it would bring the net income into the $90,000 range for the first three months of 2014.

The report showed the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival brought in close to $100,000.

Von Hahmann also talked about “big ticket items” members might consider putting money toward. She mentioned making repairs to the kitchen in the former church classrooms, the historic cottage and the community center — the former firehouse.

FISH recently paid to have the floors in the former church, now Fisherman’s Hall, redone. Von Hahmann said the goal with the hall is to make it an event space for community gatherings.

Another proposed investment was for a fund that could sustain the organization for one year “if they didn’t make a dime.”

Karen Bell, owner of A.P. Bell Fish Co., spoke about improving the FISH Preserve.

“It’s been hurry up and wait this year,” she said.

FISH is waiting on $125,000 in grant money from the Florida Department of Transportation and the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

According to von Hahmann, the grants should be enough to replenish 75 percent of the 100-acre preserve.

A plan for improvements based on grants was developed last year that includes reconnecting tidal flow, removing invasive species, replanting and putting in four tidal areas. Walkways also are planned to be improved.

“What we want is to protect that ecosystem that supports the fishing industry,” von Hahmann said.


Sea scout program

Sean Wardell, executive director of FISH’s Maritime Challenge and Sea Scouts Program, addressed the group. The Sea Scout program is a year old and, according to Wardell, has 7-10 regularly attending members at its weekly meetings.

The program is funded under a bequeath from Jay Turner and administered by FISH. The money is solely for running the Sea Scouts.

The fund began with $325,000. According to von Hahmann, $152,000 remains.

Wardell hopes to launch a pilot program for younger children this summer. Sea Scouts accepts members age 14-20. Wardell said the scouts have learned so quickly, he plans to have older scouts teach younger scouts in the pilot program.

The Sea Scouts learn to identify tools, equipment and materials used in the boat workshop. They also learn how to row a boat, sail a traditional small craft and other nautical skills relevant to maritime heritage and the traditions of Cortez.

Local maritime traditions, seamanship and boat building skills are emphasized, along with an appreciation for the coastal ecosystems surrounding Cortez.


Calling all volunteers

The Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage Preserve is participating in the Great American Cleanup April 12.

FISH is working with Keep Manatee Beautiful, which sponsors the countywide cleanup.

FISH members are asking volunteers to help pick up trash and beautify the preserve 9 a.m.-noon.

The FISH Preserve is best accessed from 119th Street West in Cortez.

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