The Anna Maria Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization put on a winning event with the Dolphin Dash 5k run/walk Jan. 14. For more photos, story and a complete list of winners in the various divisions, click here.
Olivia Ortiz and Canaan Kitterman were crowned overall winners at the Jan. 14 sixth annual AME-PTO Dolphin Dash 5K walk/run.
Ortiz won the overall female division while Kitterman claimed the overall men’s division title. The event featured multiple age divisions from 9 and under to runners competing in the 70s age groups.
Ortiz won the overall women’s title with a time of 17:25 while Kitterman won his crown with a time of 16:46, turning in the best overall time of the day.
The annual event is sanctioned by the Bradenton Runners Club and raises money for Anna Maria Elementary School-Parent Teacher Organization.
More than 280 runners participated in the 2012 event. Adults registered for the event for $20, while children competing paid $10.
|Dolphin Dash! 2012|
|Sanctioned by Bradenton Runners Club|
|* BRC members|
|1st Overall||Olivia Ortiz||17:25|
|Grand Masters Winner||Lynda Botzenhart||24:51|
|Sr. Grand Masters||Arlene Jarzab||25:17|
|5||Dawn Galagan Rodriquez||34:32|
|5||Ellen Jaffe Jones||30:25|
|1st Overall||1||Canaan Kitterman||16:46|
|Grand Masters Winner||Rob Hetterich||20:56|
|Sr. Grand Masters||Frank Davis||22:34|
|9 & under||1||Jack Groves||22:41|
|6||Eric Brust Jr||33:38|
|ten to 12||1||Judah Dean||20:48|
Anna Maria commissioners agreed to have Mayor Mike Selby look into costs associated with hiring a special master to handle code enforcement violations and replace the current code enforcement board.
The same idea was presented by former Mayor Fran Barford in 2005, but was rejected by the commission.
Selby said each time the code board meets, it costs the city $1,130 for staff, utilities, the code board attorney, court reporter and city attorney Jim Dye.
In the past six years, however, the city has collected only $200 in fines, and the board meets between four to six times each year, the mayor said.
The code board is not a good return for the cost and few people volunteer to serve. It also can cause resentment among residents.
“It’s neighbor versus neighbor,” Selby observed. Those serving on the board don’t want to be required to pass judgment on people they know.
The mayor said he’s checked with the Florida League of Cities and the vast majority of cities have a special master system.
A special master is a board-certified attorney appointed by the Florida Attorney General. Hearings are held during working hours, reducing the cost.
At the same time, Selby recommended the city revert to allowing anonymous complaints.
In September 2009, following numerous anonymous complaints to the code board about Pine Avenue businesses, the commission opted to require a signed complaint before initiating an investigation. Under the present system, only the mayor and code enforcement officer may know the complainant’s name.
Selby noted that when anonymous complaints were allowed, there were 56 one month, but under the signed complaint system, there were 22 complaints in one month.
Along with the special master, the city should introduce a citation system for violating a code or ordinance, he suggested.
Most people issued a citation pay the fine rather than go before the special master, Selby said.
Additionally, the mayor asked the commission to have the code enforcement officer become pro-active for cases that involve violating the right of way.
Just from the number of real estate signs he’s observed in the right of way that deserve a citation, Selby said the city would easily surpass the cost of a special master.
“We have ordinances that need to be enforced, but no consequence” for a violation, Selby observed.
Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick opposed anonymous complaints. She said the city should “do a better job” of explaining the confidentiality involved in signing a complaint.
Chair Chuck Webb said he’s been involved with special master cases as an attorney and, when accompanied by a fine schedule, the system works well and generates revenue for the city.
Selby said the city needs to access all available revenue sources.
Commissioner SueLynn was intrigued by the fine schedule and anonymous complaints for the right of way. Mattick agreed that right-of-way complaints might be made anonymously.
Commissioners agreed to have Selby pursue the idea and return with a cost to engage a special master. He also will provide a draft schedule of fines for various ordinance offenses.
Anna Maria seeks business license
Anna Maria city attorney Jim Dye was directed by commissioners at their Jan. 12 meeting to investigate any possible way the city might resume collection of the occupational license tax.
The city lost it’s right to impose the tax after the 1995 commission failed to meet the Oct. 1 deadline set that year by the Florida Legislature for cities to either increase its fee or retain its fee schedule to continue to collect the tax.
The 1995 commission adopted the occupational license tax the first week of October 1995, and backdated the resolution to Sept. 30, 1995. In 2003, however, the Florida Department of Revenue tossed aside that resolution, saying the city had missed the deadline and was, therefore, not entitled to collect occupational license taxes. The city was not required to refund fees collected between 1995 and 2003.
City clerk Alice Baird said the fee brought in about $25,000 in revenue annually.
Additionally, said Mayor Mike Selby, the license fee provides the city a database to easily track owners of rental properties.
Commissioners agreed the revenue and database are necessary and directed Dye to investigate all possible avenues to resume collection of the tax.
Newly elected or appointed officials in Anna Maria will get the city’s annual serving of Florida’s Sunshine Law at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24, at Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.
City attorney Jim Dye will head the annual seminar on Florida’s Sunshine Laws and public records laws for newly elected officials and recently appointed members of boards and committees.
The city holds the yearly seminar following the swearing in of newly elected officials.
Along with the new elected officials — Commissioners John Quam, Dale Woodland and SueLynn — new members of the planning and zoning board, capital improvements advisory committee, the environmental education and enhancement committee and the code enforcement board are required to attend.
City clerk Alice Baird said Holmes Beach officials, board/committee members and staff have been invited to attend Anna Maria’s seminar. Dye’s law firm, Dye Dietrich Petruff and St. Paul, P.A., provides legal counsel to both Anna Maria and Holmes Beach.
Dye said it’s not a bad idea for current Anna Maria commissioners, committee members, and the mayor to attend for a refresher on Florida’s Sunshine Laws and to learn of new court opinions and rulings on the applicable laws.
Anna Maria is required to hold a Sunshine Law seminar following each election because of a 2000 court order that resulted from a settlement of a case that involved the mayor’s denial to The Islander of access to public records.
Florida’s Sunshine laws are divided into two parts, public meetings and public records, Dye said.
A public meeting is any meeting between “two or more people who can take action” on an issue, Dye said. Such meetings must be properly noticed to the public.
“Take action” means there could be an official vote by the same two people at the same time on an issue, then or in the future, that has a binding effect.
Public notice requires the city to display an announcement of the meeting in a public location at least 24 hours before the meeting. The meeting notice must contain a specific date, time, location and subject.
Dye said it’s a misunderstanding that some believe a city commissioner can’t discuss an issue with a planning and zoning board member without a public notice. Those two people do not sit at the same voting table, are “not on the same body,” and thus are permitted to discuss issues without public notice, he said.
Joint commission-P&Z board work sessions do not have to be publicly noticed because no binding vote is taken at such sessions.
Because the mayors of Anna Maria and Holmes Beach do not have a vote on the commission, commissioners can discuss issues individually with the mayor without a public notice. Two or more commissioners cannot meet with the mayor at the same time regarding city business.
Neither the mayor nor city attorney, however, can act as a conduit between commissioners, and both city’s mayors have a veto vote on legislative matters.
E-mails are relatively new to the public records laws, Dye said, but have been dealt with by the Florida Supreme Court in various rulings.
Dye said the court has ruled that e-mails about city business to and from public officials, or an elected official and a private citizen, are official documents that need to be available to the public. As long as one party involved in sending or receiving the e-mails is subject to the public records laws, the transmissions are public documents, he said.
However, Dye said, a “one-way” e-mail, where no reply is requested, is the exception to the public records law requirements.
“As long as there is no dialogue and no response,” these e-mails do not violate the Sunshine Law, he said.
The City of Anna Maria learned about public and private e-mails in 2010, when then-Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus was sending and receiving e-mails about city business to and from private individuals.
Some 800-plus e-mails about public business were eventually disclosed, resulting in Stoltzfus’ recall from office in a September 2010 recall election.
Flush with $550,000 from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Manatee County natural resources director Charlie Hunsicker said the planning and design phase of the 2015 Islandwide beach renourishment project is under way.
The money will “get the ball rolling,” Hunsicker said, for Coastal Design and Engineering to begin surveying Anna Maria Island for “hot spots” that should be renourished.
Hunsicker and Coastal Planning engineers toured the Island Jan. 13, first examining locations renourished in the 2002 and 2006 renourishment projects. The team also looked at the artificial reef constructed in the Gulf of Mexico just off the south end of Coquina Beach to determine the progress of that aspect of the most recent beach renourishment project.
But $550,000 is just the beginning of what may eventually become a $20 million-plus renourishment project. The borrow area must be examined to determine if it’s feasible to accommodate the amount of sand planned for placement on the shore, along with the quality of the product.
There also will be costs for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit.
Manatee County has applied to the DEP for $800,000 from the 2012-13 state budget to continue the renourishment planning and design.
Hunsicker said it was too early to estimate how much sand would be needed, what areas would need renourishment, the cost of the project and how much would come from state and federal funding.
A major portion of the county resort tax — the 5 percent collected on any rental six months or less in the county — amounts to the county’s share of the beach renourishment cost.
Several years ago, Hunsicker designed an Islandwide renourishment plan that divided the Island into several different areas. Anna Maria was split into four sections, each with varying needs for renourishment.
Hunsicker then envisioned groins for the Tampa Bay beachfront from the tip of Bean Point south to the Rod & Reel Pier.
Residents in that area have complained for years that their beaches are eroding and they’ve had to fund countermeasures.
Those areas were previously ineligible for state or federal renourishment funding because the DEP had designated that shoreline as bayside. The DEP only funds oceanfront or Gulffront beach renourishment.
Several years ago, however, after several applications by Anna Maria officials and a study by Dr. Robert Dean of the University of Florida that concluded the area was affected by the Gulf of Mexico, the DEP changed the designation to Gulffront, making the area eligible for inclusion in beach renourishment.
The designation ends about 100 yards north of the Rod & Reel Pier.
In 2009, Hunsicker had said he hoped to begin the next Islandwide renourishment project in 2012-13, but had cautioned then that the time-line was only an estimate.
One issue that sidetracked Anna Maria from a full beach renourishment in 2002 was granting of easements.
Unlike the 2002 renourishment, when the Corps required easements in perpetuity from Gulffront property owners, Hunsicker has said the Corps will only require temporary easements for the 2015 project.
A number of Anna Maria Gulffront property owners declined to sign easements in 2002, which resulted in renourishment of only a .6 mile portion of Anna Maria beach from near the Sandbar Restaurant toward the south.
F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “Show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy.”
The truth of life is that heroes don’t always show up when they are needed, but heroes did arrive in time to lift the spirits of local children for Christmas during a time of tragedy even Fitzgerald would have had difficulty scripting.
Lacy Yerian is the mother of two children and the legal guardian of four more. She gained custody of the four children from her former sister-in-law when the state deemed the parents unfit. Three of the four children were born with fetal alcohol syndrome.
Yerian’s own children are debilitated with Oppositional Defiance Disorder and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Her daily challenges reach beyond the norm, but life sometimes ignores the burden already in place and compounds difficulty with tragedy. Yerian’s husband died of a heart attack this summer at the age of 31.
She was left alone to care for own children and her late husband’s sister’s children, and still life’s dark side was not through with this family. A mid-December fire claimed the struggling family’s home and all of their belongings.
Yerian was able to move into her father’s one-bedroom home where he also lived with his girlfriend and her two children. Her father is disabled following 15 heart attacks.
For the past several weeks, the entire brood has resided within the small confines of the home.
Yerian’s family has nothing but the clothes on their back, mostly donated by the Red Cross following the fire.
Five of the six children require special schooling at Learning Unlimited, and that is where the AMI Privateers learned of the family’s misfortunes.
“Kathy (Griffenkranz) and I visited the kids and they are well mannered,” said Wayne Collins, secretary of the Privateers. “The mother cleans houses for neighbors when possible to supplement her meager income, but it is random and certainly not enough.”
Collins said he doesn’t recall ever seeing a family in more dire straits, and brought the family’s plight to the Privateers board of directors. It wasn’t long before the Privateers adopted the family for its annual Christmas charity event.
The family would otherwise have let Christmas pass as just another day.
Yerian’s only help comes from her niece, 14-year-old Destiny. She lives with her aunt and does her best to help instead of living a normal 14-year-old’s existence. The other children are 14-year-old Austin; Timothy, 8; Mariah, 6; Sky, 5; Summer, 4; and Adam, 3.
Yerian’s monthly income is about $800 from social security and the state-sponsored Relative Care Giver fund. The family has applied for food stamps and they have a Goodwill furniture voucher from Project Heart for when they have a place to call home.
The Privateers rolled up to the Yerian home Christmas Eve in true Island style, complete with Santa Claus, a lighted sleigh and, of course, plenty of pirates. Members of the Privateers take time away from their own holiday plans to ensure another family has a good Christmas.
“It started a few days before Christmas when a few members visited the family with a Christmas tree and decorations,” said Collins. “The members stayed and, with the help of the children, decorated the tree and it was beautiful,” said Collins.
The Privateers returned Christmas Eve with plenty of gifts for the children and the rest of the family. The evening included a complete, prepared Christmas dinner.
“The children were excited when we pulled up in our lighted sleigh laden with gifts,” said Collins. “The looks on their faces were quite simply, priceless. It felt good to be a part of such an event. We got back much more than what we gave, quite honestly.”
Collins said all the Privateers are proud of the work they do in the community, but this particular moment truly drove home the importance of being involved.
“It was a lot of work by a lot of members, and we look forward to this event every year because it is so special and unique,” he said.
“We were told by Lacy’s dad that the kids were so excited that they barely slept that night because they were so eager to open their presents on Christmas morning,” noted Collins. “It is always gratifying to help people, but to help people, children in particular, during this time of year is beyond description.”
This is the first year since the Privateers began doing their Christmas family adoptions that the story has been provided to the media. Yerian gave permission to the Privateers to share her story, but she did not return phone calls for comment.
The family now has qualified for subsidized housing, paid for by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and approved by local public housing agencies.
Christmas was saved by the Privateers, but the miracles will continue for Yerian’s children, who expect to have a new home soon.
Word is spreading — and not necessarily by cell calls — with regards to poor cell phone reception throughout areas of Anna Maria Island.
“It’s about quality of life, public safety and necessity,” said Jimmy Eatrides, CEO of Alpha-Omega Communications LLC, during a presentation for a new cellular communications tower for Bradenton Beach at the Jan. 12 city commission workshop.
“These are the things we are dealing with here,” he said. “When you look at Bradenton Beach, you have to look at why good wireless and connectivity are important.”
Cell phones have evolved over the last decade, and have become a necessity, similar to, “electricity, water, and sewer services,” said Eatrides.
The Jan. 12 meeting was an informational presentation that outlined the current problems, while offering solutions.
“I’m not going to ask you to do anything today,” said Eatrides. “This is just an informational meeting. This topic is very complex, so we just want to present relevant information that will hopefully help you make the appropriate decision.”
Eatrides and business partner Kevin Barile, president of Ridan Industries II LLC, made their presentation receptive to the commission. No one from the public attended to voice any comments on the subject, but the commissioners did have questions.
Commissioner Gay Brueler asked about health concerns related to cell towers, particularly in regards to radio frequency exposure.
Barile said radio frequency output is strictly monitored by FCC regulations and providers must adhere, noting that exposure from cell towers is less than from an individual’s cell phone.
“You are exposed to about .75 to 1.0 watts of radio frequency from your cellphone’s handset, which is higher than what you get from a tower,” said Barile. “Actually, it’s an argument for a tower, because the closer you are to a tower, the less frequency is being used by your phone to pick up signal.”
Eatrides said the signal from a tower is actually less than what is emitted when someone uses their garage-door opener and that a cell tower’s frequency exposure to the public, “is million times below the allowable FCC standards.”
Commissioners were presented with maps outlining the current coverage issues facing Islanders.
Bradenton Beach, in particular, sits in a wide hole between existing cell towers, and Eatrides said both are only designed to broadcast about a mile.
Eatrides said Bradenton Beach picks up on those towers, but has to contend with a variety of issues to maintain signal.
“Coverage for these areas is about a mile, and Bradenton Beach is out, far away from the nearest cell sites,” he said. “We have a big hole we have to fill one way or another, in terms of coverage. The only other option would be Coquina Beach and that would shortchange the other towers and primarily broadcast to fish and dolphins.”
Eatrides and Barile say tower at the Bradenton Beach public works building is the optimal solution, and are offering the city the same deal that is currently being negotiated in Anna Maria.
In exchange for the location, the city would receive an advance of $350,000 and 30 percent of tower profits, paid monthly.
After providing commissioners a list of options, pros and cons, Barile and Eatrides are recommending a 150-foot “stealth unipole.”
Stealth towers can be made to appear as a flagpole, palm tree, lighthouse and more, and all equipment is inside the tower. They are recommending a flagpole because of its location and minimal impact on the skyline.
Barile said that from a land-use point of view, “The public works site is optimal and would fill the coverage hole,” he said. “It’s one location. If any carrier wants to come into the area, they’ll use this tower.”
Barile said it’s a myth that if one tower goes up, “they spring up everywhere like mushrooms. One tower can host up to six carriers.”
However, there would still be a coverage hole the recommended tower, according to the maps presented to the commissioners.
“We use the 1-mile coverage as a base, but if you aren’t going through a gazillion trees, coverage is actually a mile and a half, and that will overlap with the tower to the north, so you would be covered,” he said.
Barile said the impact to the city’s public works facility would be minimal.
“You might lose one to two parking spaces at the most,” he said.
Commissioner Jan Vosburgh pointed out that she worked in electronics for close to a decade and was concerned about how technology can outpace itself.
“I can’t imagine anyone would complain about this,” she said. “But what bothers me the most is that technology changes so quickly. How far are we from this being obsolete?
Barile said in his 15 years of constructing towers, he has never seen one removed.
“I have seen them replaced, but never removed,” he said, noting that the contract will provide for relatively inexpensive removal bonds.
Eatrides said that the towers are “built to Florida building code, which is one of the strictest in the country. The bottom is made to withstand 200-mph winds and the top is designed to fold over. If a major hurricane came through here, most of your buildings would be gone, but this thing would still be here.”
Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said his department is frustrated by a lack of coverage and a new cell tower would dramatically improve his department’s response time.
“We have huge holes in our coverage,” said Speciale. “Our patrol cars are using air cards for the computers and we have some major dead spots. Not only is the call dropped, but the system drops, so we have to reboot that. It’s really important that we have that cell coverage.”
Information provided by the presenters show Manatee County’s emergency responders received 55 percent of their calls from cell phones in 2006. In 2009, the number grew to 66 percent when compared to landlines, and cell phone callers grow each year, as more of the population leaves behind landlines for cell phone use.
Islanders also rely heavily on cell phone use while working, and communications during a natural disaster are essential when it comes to wireless technology.
An argument in opposition of cell towers, according to Barile, is often presented in the form of concerns over property values. Barlile said a study done on the Holmes Beach tower showed no evidence of decreased property values.
“In fact, we are trying to get evidence to the contrary,” said Barile. “We are of the opinion that property values increase when there is quality wireless coverage because it’s one of the first things people want to know about when looking at a new location. It goes back to the necessity of cell phone use as a utility.”
Mayor John Shaughnessy said cell phones are obviously not going anywhere.
“One of the reasons we arranged this is so the commissioners have the knowledge in case their constituents have any questions as we proceed,” he said. “In order to proceed, we have to know what’s going on.”
Barile said that should the commission proceed, he and Eatrides would continue to meet with the public and inform people about the tower.
“When people are informed, they make better decisions,” he said.
Shaughnessy said the city already has ordinances in place “so we are a step ahead of the game anyway. We can’t have our (communications) going out the way they do. We can’t have gaps in the communication when it comes to public safety.”
City attorney Ricinda Perry is expected to present her legal opinion about the controversial nomination of a city-contracted employee for the Ward 3 commission seat to the Bradenton Beach Commission at its 1 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 19, meeting.
The commission’s attempt to fill the seat, vacant since November when no candidate filed to run in the election, was halted during the Jan. 5 meeting.
Resident Jo Ann Meilner said in public comment that state statutes prohibit a city-contracted employee from holding public office.
Richard Gatehouse was nominated to fill the vacant seat, but the motion to approve him failed to receive a second when two of the three voting commissioners raised concerns over the state law.
Perry advised to continue the nomination process to the next meeting, in order for her to review any applicable statutes and provide direction to the commission.
Also on the Jan. 19 agenda, commissioners will review and consider an extension of the dates allotted on a special event permit to the Gulf Drive Cafe and Tiki, 900 Gulf Drive, for Sunday vendor markets. Previously, commissioners granted the restaurant a permit to conduct the flea market for a trial period that expires Jan. 29.
Commissioners will consider allowing the market to continue through April 29. Concerns over the market involve traffic issues on Gulf Drive and at the nearby Cortez Road intersection during the market’s hours of operation and the service of alcoholic beverages. The commission conditioned the market on requiring two off-duty police officers be present to oversee traffic and drinking.
Commissioners also will conduct a first reading and public hearing on a proposed amendment to the city’s ordinance involving open-air dining areas.
Currently, the ordinance, in particular, prohibits open-flame cooking. Changes to the ordinance are to allow a special exception permit to be applied for within the Bridge Street and Gulf Drive historic overlay district.
Ronald Littlehale, 64, of Holmes Beach, pleaded not guilty at his Jan. 10 arraignment in DeSoto County on 13 felony charges of soliciting a child for unlawful sexual conduct.
A sting operation by the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office, together with a central Florida task force on Internet-related crimes, led to Littlehale’s arrest Nov. 9, following a report from a DeSoto County resident about suspicious activity on her Facebook account.
Twelth Circuit Court Judge James S. Parker appointed the public defender’s office to represent Littlehale, and set a docket sounding for Feb. 8.
At Littlehale’s next court date, assistant state attorney Cliff Ramey expects a demand for discovery and time to respond, however, the docket sounding may determine whether the case is ready to be set for trial.
Littlehale was formally charged with 10 counts of transmission of harmful material to minors by an electronic device, two counts of obscene communication/soliciting a child for any unlawful sexual conduct by computer and one count of electronic transmission of pornography.
Information available at press time indicates Littlehale remains in custody at the DeSoto County jail with bond set at $130,000.
A March 19 trial date has been set for a Bradenton Beach man charged with having sex with a 15-year-old, possessing and promoting child pornography and attempted bribery of a witness.
Joseph Edmund Chiquet, who has pleaded not guilty to all charges, was arrested in 2009 after police learned Chiquet and a teenager had a sexual relationship, and that he took sexual photographs of her in his Bradenton Beach apartment.
In 2010, authorities added a bribery charge, accusing Chiquet of offering an ex-girlfriend $10,000 if she told police she was depicted in the photographs and not, as prosecutors allege, the 15-year-old girl.
A Dec. 19 court order requires the state to disclose phone records — from both cell and office phones — of an assistant state attorney previously assigned to the case.
A written court order is expected to specify when the state’s release of records to the defense is due, according to assistant state attorney Chris Nigro, now assigned to the case.
The phone records to be released include conversations between the defendant’s ex-girlfriend, the state attorney’s office and former assistant state attorney Tony Casoria.
The defense has sought these records because the ex-girlfriend “at some point in time started tape-recording Mr. Chiquet’s phone calls with her,” and calling police and Casoria. According to the defendant’s attorney, Mark Lipinski of Bradenton, these recordings were made without court order or police authorization, and were illegal.
Prior court rulings led to two appeals in this case. The first appeal, including a denial of defendant’s motion to suppress certain evidence obtained in police searches, was lost by the defense. The second appeal regarding the phone records was lost by the state.
With respect to the searches, Bradenton Beach police seized pornographic pictures obtained from a Dell computer found after a search warrant was issued for Chiquet’s home. On a second warrant issued to search Chiquet’s vehicle, police seized an Apple computer and found additional pornographic material pertaining to the 15-year-old victim.
Judge Thomas Krug is newly assigned to this case, and is expected to hear the trial. Lipinski said he was uncertain whether the trial would proceed in March.