Tag Archives: 04-16-2014

On the high wire! On Holmes Beach field! The flying Wallendas!



Rick Wallenda rides the high-wire bicycle, Hailey Warren, 10, is on his shoulders. Also performing up top, Blake Wallenda. Hailey performed gracefully on the rope, as did the elegant Nicolette Fornasari. On the ground in the “bull fight,” were
Hailey’s parents, Doady and Tosca Fornasari.




For the two-day April 11-12 CityFest host, the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, and Wallenda sponsors, Brighthouse and the city of Holmes Beach, and all the CityFest helpers and sponsors, as well as the car show participants….

Applause! Applause!












Islander Photo: John Pointer


Jack Elka’s new drone debuts at CityFest for the aerial views of the Wallenda performance that encompass the high wire, the crowd and the city field. JackElka.com


Scott’s Garage. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

Anna Maria commissioners: Time for paid parking (discussion)

Paid parking has been discussed by Anna Maria commissioners for a decade, if not longer.

Some things don’t seem to change.

At their April 10 work session, commissioners agreed it’s time to move forward with paid parking — followed by an agreement to hold more discussion.

“We’ve been talking about this since last July and getting nowhere,” Commission Chair Chuck Webb said. “My frustration is a lot of talk and we’re not doing anything.”

His fellow commissioners and Mayor SueLynn agreed, the time for talking is over. But by the conclusion of the work session, commissioners agreed to more discussion.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said he’s talked to so many residents who are just “fed up” with the parking issue.

Commissioner Nancy Yetter agreed. “North Shore Drive on a nice weekend is just full of cars parked anywhere they can,” she said.

Woodland said he used to laugh at people who said there was a parking problem.

“But around 2003, when the big advertising push started for the island, I started to notice more and more cars on weekends,” he said. “And I started to hear about problems from our residents.”

He said the Manatee County Tourist Development Council spends millions advertising Anna Maria Island. If they quit advertising the island, “it wouldn’t have any effect on the number of visitors,” Woodland said. “Everybody now knows where we are.”

Since Anna Maria gets no direct funding from the Manatee County tourism development tax — the 5 percent paid on rentals of six months or less — Woodland asked, “Do we want our residents to pay more in taxes for our infrastructure or do we want visitors to help us?”

Commissioners agreed that some form of paid parking is needed and city residents should not have to pay for parking.

“Either the tourist development council provides us some relief, or we counter with paid parking,” Commissioner Carol Carter said.

Woodland said the TDC has an annual budget of $6 million, while Anna Maria’s budget is slightly more than $2 million.

“Our beaches are public beaches,” he said. “They are always available, but the growing demand of people to visit our beaches has put strain on them, our infrastructure, residents and traffic,” he said.

Woodland said that from his $4,622 tax bill for 2013, only $510 came back to the city.

“Just 11.2 percent of my tax bill comes back to Anna Maria, yet we have to maintain our roads, provide parking and drainage and we have thousands of visitors and vehicles come every year. We just need some help.”

Woodland proposed paid parking by the day, week, month and year. Areas exempt from paid parking would be from Palmetto Avenue north on Gulf Drive to Pine Avenue, all of Pine Avenue, the city pier and Bayfront Park on North Bay Boulevard.

“This is going to be a controversial subject. We have to look for a fair solution, but let’s keep it simple,” he said. “Have parking kiosks around the city and people can buy a sticker for a day, week, month or year.”

Residents would go to city hall with proof of property ownership or residency to receive one free parking sticker.

Paid parking would only be in the rights of way, not on private property, Woodland emphasized. He suggested a starting point would be $5 for a one-day parking pass, $25 for a week, $50 for a month and $100 for a year.

“I know we’ll be called elitist by the mainland, but I don’t care. Our duty is to our residents,” he said.

Although Woodland envisioned no additional staff, Mayor SueLynn said another staff member would be needed, if nothing more than to handle the administrative details.

The mayor also presented a list of 25 problems the commission should consider before establishing a plan using kiosks for payments.

SueLynn agreed vehicles should pay to park in the rights of way and Manatee County residents should pay a smaller fee than others.

“There are a number of issues to solve,” she said, “and I estimate it would take at least six months to get everything ready for an ordinance.”

Webb agreed and asked commissioners to study the proposals from Woodland and the mayor and then hold a work session on paid parking.

Commissioners set the parking meeting for 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 7, at city hall. No other items will be on the agenda, Webb said.

The mayor said she would likely hear from county tourism officials about the issue before the May 7 work session. She said she does not think tourism officials will favor paid parking in Anna Maria.

In other matters, commissioners agreed that application permits for clearing trees and vegetation from Gulffront Park should have a responsible person on the application, not a limited liability company.

Commissioners also agreed that the city would hire the contractor, payment would come from the applicant and non-native plant species had to be cleared before the commission would consider trimming native plants.

Commissioner Doug Copeland said he would talk to state forestry officials about the effects of trimming native vegetation along the Gulf of Mexico.

The commission also heard from Longboat Key Mayor Jim Brown about the town’s experience working with the nonprofit Urban Land Institute in Washington, D.C., which performs long-range studies for the future of cities.

Brown said any study of what Anna Maria Island should have 20 years from now should be a combined effort by all three island cities. Otherwise, he suggested, an effort by one city would be a “waste of money.”

SueLynn said she would bring the issue up at the next Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials meeting April 16, and ask city officials from Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach to present the idea of a co-op study to their commissions.

The next commission work session will be the parking meeting at Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive. The next commission meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, April 24.

DOT hosts Cortez Bridge meeting to address project questions

Bridges are hot-button topics for bridge-dependent folks on Anna Maria Island.

The Florida Department of Transportation plans a public information meeting on the upcoming $4 million repair project of the Cortez Bridge 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, at the Kirkwood Presbyterian Church, 6101 Cortez Road W., Bradenton.

A DOT press release said the meeting is to provide area residents with information on how long the project would last and any possible closings of the bridge to vehicular traffic.

DOT officials and engineers will be at the meeting to answer questions from the public.

Robin Stublen of the DOT emphasized that this is a repair project to extend the life of the bridge for 10 years while the DOT and the public determine the long-range future of the bridge.

The bridge was built in 1954 and has exceeded its life expectancy, but the future of Cortez Bridge “is a separate issue,” Stublen said.

The repair project is scheduled to start April 28 with work preformed 9 p.m.-6 a.m. weekdays. There will be times when traffic is only one lane and a flagging operation will be in place, he added.

Additionally, the bascule will be raised on occasion, but never for more than 15 minutes, he said.

“We’re not going to divert traffic to Manatee Avenue,” Stublen said. Any bascule raisings are expected to take place 2-3 a.m., he said.

“And we’ve been working with emergency services so they can call the bridge tender to ensure the bascule is lowered if needed.”

Stublen said a DOT study of the project determined working at night with occasional 15-minute bascule raisings “is the least amount of inconvenience for those who use the bridge daily.”

The DOT chose the end of the winter-spring visitor season for to start work with the prospect that vehicular traffic will be reduced on the bridge after April. The repairs are not expected to impact boat traffic.

The work is expected to last about two months.

The planning, development and engineering study of the future of Cortez Bridge is still being prepared. That study should be ready for public dissemination by the end of 2014, a DOT website said.

For more information on the April 22 meeting, contact Brian Bollas at 727-946-1869 or Stublen at 800-292-3368.

Easter Sunday arrives with sunrise service

Easter Sunday will arrive April 20, with a celebration on the shore of the Gulf of Mexico in Holmes Beach.

The Kiwanis Club of Anna Maria Island’s annual Easter Sunrise Service will take place at 6:30 a.m. at Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive.

The annual service draws more than 1,000 people to the beach.

The Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe will be open at 6 a.m. for the early worship. Also, the island trolley will be in operation at 6 a.m.

Organizers suggest attendees bring blankets and chairs — for comfort, because the beach can be chilly at dawn.

The Rev. Sung Lee of Roser Memorial Community Church will deliver the invocation.

The Rev. Stephen King of Harvey Memorial Community Church will deliver the morning’s sermon, titled “Good News.”

The Revs. Dee Ann de Montmollin of the Episcopal Church of Annunciation and Rosemary Backer of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church will share Easter Scripture.

The Rev. Ed Moss of CrossPointe Fellowship will give the offertory prayer and the Rev. Michael Mullen of St. Bernard Catholic Church will give the benediction.

Daniel Paul Anzaldo, accompanied by Drew Thomas will provide the music.

Collections at the service are shared among the six island churches and support charitable work in Manatee County.

For more information, call Kiwanis president David Miner at 941-748-8122.


Island churches celebrate Easter

The six churches on Anna Maria Island are celebrating Holy Week with services and other events.

Maundy Thursday is April 17.

Good Friday is April 18.

Easter is April 20.

CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, will hold a Good Friday service at 7 p.m.

Easter service will be at 9 a.m.

For information, call 941-778-0719.

The Episcopal Church of the Annunciation, 4408 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, is marking Holy Week with Stations of the Cross at 5:30 p.m. through April 16.

There will be a Maundy Thursday service, including the washing of feet, at 7 p.m. April 17. After the service, the Vigil in the Garden will begin.

At noon April 18, the Good Friday service begins with meditations on the Seven Last Words by members of the parish, both clergy and lay.

On Easter Sunday, the first service of Holy Eucharist Rite I, begins at 7:30 a.m. There will be a Festival Eucharist Rite II with music at 9 a.m.

After that service, there will be telling of the Easter story and an Easter egg hunt about 10:15 a.m.

The final service is another Festival Eucharist Rite II with music at 11 a.m.

For information, call 941-778-1638.

Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 6608 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, will observe Holy Thursday with Communion and a stripping of the altar at 7 p.m.

There will be a noon service and a 7 p.m. Tenebrae (Service of Darkness) on Good Friday.

On Easter Sunday, there will be festival worship at 8 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

Between the Easter services, the church will serve brunch and hold an Easter egg hunt.

For more information, call 941-778-1813.

Harvey Memorial Community Church, 300 Church Ave., Bradenton Beach, holds service on Sundays at 9:30 a.m., according to the church website.

For more information, call 941-779-1912.

Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, will observe Maundy Thursday with a 7 p.m. service in the chapel — a celebration of the Lord’s Supper and special music by flautist Mary Deur.

On Good Friday, there will be a noon service in the chapel, with special music by violinist Alissa Doudna.

On Easter Sunday, there will be 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. services in the sanctuary. Attendees are asked to bring a flower to place on the cross.

For information, call 941-778-0414.

St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach, will observe Holy Thursday with a 7 p.m. Mass.

The observance on Good Friday — Passion of Our Lord — will be at 3 p.m.

On Holy Saturday, there will be an Easter Vigil Mass at 8 p.m.

On Easter Sunday, there will be a Mass at 8:30 a.m. and there will be two Masses at 10:30 a.m.

For information, call 941-778-4769.


Citizen asks Holmes Beach to improve Birdie Tebbetts Field

Holmes Beach resident and Manatee West Hurricanes Baseball team manager Andy Procter has big plans for the future of the city’s baseball field.

However, without funding, he has learned, the plans may not come to fruition.

Last October, Procter proposed improvements to Birdie Tebbetts Field and his plans were viewed favorably by the Holmes Beach City Commission. But the city declined to foot the bill.

Procter said he also sent his improvement plans, along with an economic impact statement, to the Manatee County Tourist Development Council.

Mayor Carmel Monti told Procter he was doubtful the TDC would provide funding and advised Procter to speak with the city’s human resource specialist Mary Buonagura.

Buonagura said she is compiling materials to apply for grants that could cover the cost of the improvements, along with a staff report to present to city commissioners.

Procter said in late March he gave Buonagura the application for a grant offered by the Pittsburgh Pirates Fields for Kids campaign.

Procter said only the city can apply.

His call for improvements coincides with a notice to the county sent March 17 by city attorney Patricia Petruff — a 120-day notice to the Manatee County Board of Commissioners to terminate the 1998 interlocal agreement.

Under the agreement, Manatee County provided funding for the construction and maintenance of the field.

The recent addition of the dog park in the outfield, resulted in the relocation of the Birdie Tebbetts Field sign, and removal of the flagpole and scoreboard — all donated to the city and dedicated when the field opened. According to building department clerk Robyn Kinkopf, public works will re-install the fixtures, but there is yet no plan.

Procter’s proposed improvements to the field support a larger goal: to hold an Anna Maria Fall Classic baseball tournament. Procter wants to hold 10 weekends of youth baseball tournaments September to December, leading up to an Anna Maria Fall Classic championship.

The Manatee West team has been searching for a field, and he thought of Holmes Beach because he and several players’ families live on Anna Maria Island.

“When do we need tourists? In the fall, when all the restaurants and hotels are empty,” he said.

Procter’s economic impact statement estimates each event would have a direct impact of at least $18,000 “coming during the offseason, when most city businesses would welcome the much needed revenue.”

Procter’s proposed improvements include adding 15,000 square feet of sod, a movable pitcher’s mound, batting cages and a shell walkway to the restrooms. His preliminary bid for the work is $25,800.

Procter said for the Anna Maria Fall Classic to be possible, improvements to the field would need to be made by August.

Neal Preserve opens at last on Perico Island

If there is such a thing as being preserve-rich, Manatee County may be headed in that direction.

The Neal Preserve on Perico Island on State Road 64/Manatee Avenue West — about 200 yards east of the Anna Maria Island Bridge, across from the Harbour Isle development — held a grand opening April 9, nearly nine years after the county bought the property.

It is Manatee County’s third nature preserve on Manatee Avenue between the mainland and the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

It is the perseverance, dedication and diligence of Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department that resulted in all three preservation parks — and he will likely dedicate a fourth preserve, also on Perico Island, within a year.

More than 200 people attended the opening ceremony and heard from various county officials, including Hunsicker, who opened the ceremony.

Hunsicker thanked developer Pat Neal and the Neal family for donating $6.9 million of the $15.9 million purchase price. Manatee County paid $6 million and a grant for $3 million completed the purchase in July 2005.

That year, Pat Neal — who has developed many housing projects in Manatee County — expressed an interest to county officials in preserving the 120-acre parcel on Sarasota Bay. Following several months of negotiations, the purchase was agreed upon and the Manatee County Commission approved funding.

Neal is a Manatee County native and former state senator, who, in the 1970s, began a successful career in condominium and home developments with Westbay Point and Moorings in Holmes Beach and the Whitney Beach condos on Longboat Key.

Development of the preserve took some time as the county acquired grants the past seven years to improve the property for public use. Hunsicker said nearly $800,000 in grants were obtained from 2006 to 2013 to create the nature trails, picnic pavilion, kayak launch, boardwalk and observation tower at the preserve.

The preserve fronts on Sarasota Bay on the south side of Manatee Avenue West and has trails leading through the mangroves to the water’s edge. It also has a trail connecting it to the Robinson Preserve.

Additionally, Hunsicker said bird, fish and plant preserves were developed. The preserve has a public parking area of crushed shell and several port-o-lets.

The county also has developed the Robinson Preserve on Manatee Avenue West/State Road 64, and the Perico Island Preserve is under construction.

The Neal Preserve is open to the public at no charge.

Bradenton Beach jewelers lose $6k in diamond deal

A Longboat Key maintenance man has been charged with stealing an $85,000 diamond ring and selling the stone to a Bradenton Beach jeweler.

Michael Artman, 51, Bradenton, is in the Manatee County jail facing charges of burglary, theft after trust and dealing-in/possessing stolen property after the diamond showed up in New York City.

Longboat Key Police say Artman confessed to the crime.

The LBK police investigation began when a woman living at Windward Bay condominium on Longboat Key reported Feb. 3 she was missing a diamond ring from her nightstand. An inspection by police revealed no sign of forced entry. The officer stated in his report he found no evidence in the woman’s condo.

It was when the victim remembered stopping to speak to a maintenance man — later identified as Artman — on the day of the theft that police became suspicious.

Artman was employed by Windward Bay for more than 17 years, but had been dismissed from his position, police reports state. But reports state it was common to see Artman on the grounds as he still did side-jobs for residents of the condos.

Police allege Artman used a key he kept from an old job to enter the woman’s apartment with the intent to steal. The report said Artman took the ring from the nightstand, but left other jewelry items, and relocked the condominium as he left.

After removing the largest diamond from the ring, police said Artman took it to Bridge Street Jewelers, 129 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach, and offered it for sale.

The owners of the business, Brad and Kassy Smith, said Artman spent the past four years building a business relationship with them, buying and selling jewelry he said was left to him in his mother’s estate. When he showed up with the diamond, they were out of town, and they asked a jeweler working at the store to examine the stone.

Following that examination, Brad Smith said he purchased it for $6,000.

“I got the diamond, had it looked at and discovered it was natural — not enhanced — and probably worth around $30,000,” he said. “I sold the diamond to someone I’ve done business with for 25 years, and he sold it to another guy. It changed hands probably four times in three days.” The stolen diamond ended up in New York (city), according to Brad Smith.

Smith said he is out the money he paid to Artman.

“He wanted the $6,000 in six different checks of $1,000,” Smith said. “He said he didn’t want his ex (wife) to track the money, so he was going to cash it one month at a time, to pay his rent. But then he cashed them all at the same time, three days later.

“We’re the ones who got hurt, our reputation, too. I would have never done it if I had known it was stolen. I lost money,” Brad Smith said. He said he didn’t want to be associated with the criminal aspect due to their purchase of the jewel.

Kassy Smith said Bridge Street Jewelers does not normally purchase jewelry from customers, but she and her husband believed Artman because their past business dealings presented no problems.

“We are very much victims in this crime. There was a trust factor. In four years, you’d think something would come up,” she said.

“We 100 percent cooperated with police — gave them evidence.… If it wasn’t for us, he would have never got caught.”

She said now that the news about the arrest is public, other people who had missing jewels at Windward Bay are coming into Bridge Street Jewelers, asking if the store has them.

Smith said their store made no other stolen jewelry purchases and she has been unable to help any other victims.

“We have no record of stolen items — nothing matches up (to our records). He must have been selling somewhere else,” she said of the other missing items.

Police said Artman admitted taking 10-15 items of jewelry over a period of years, and the investigation continues.

Artman is being held in jail on a bond of $22,500.

Boater rescued by marine units

A boater was rescued March 29 after his sailboat capsized due to rough conditions south of Longboat Key Pass.

Around 3:20 p.m., the U.S. Coast Guard at Station Cortez received a report of a person in the water and an overturned vessel in the Gulf of Mexico around the 5100 block of Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key.

The vessel was last seen 2 nautical miles south of Longboat Key Pass in the Gulf, the report said.

The victim was staying at White Sands Beach Resort on Longboat Key and rented an 8-foot sailboat for an afternoon on the water. However, not long after he launched the vessel he ran into trouble due to red flag conditions — gusts of wind, high seas and a rip current, according to Longboat Key Fire Rescue Chief Paul B. Dezzi.

A Manatee County Sheriff’s Office marine unit was dispatched and spotted the man in the water waving his hands in the air, the report said.

Dezzi said the man was only in the water for about 15 minutes before he was picked up by the MCSO.

“He was wearing a lifejacket,” Dezzi said, “and the jacket saved him from going under.”

The MCSO marine deputy lowered the dive door on the stern of his vessel and deployed a soft flotation device attached to a rope. The man was able to hold onto the device and deputies pulled him aboard.

The victim was uninjured, although he was taken to the Manatee County Marine Rescue Division Headquarters, 2651 Gulf Drive South, where EMS examined him. He was released a short time later.

The U.S. Coast Guard eventually found the boat in the Gulf near the middle of Longboat Key, and towed it to the resort, Dezzi said.

State Attorney determined to take Chiquet to trial in 2014

It’s been almost five years since Joseph Edmund Chiquet was arrested and charged with multiple counts of sex crimes involving a 15-year-old girl.

This week, for the second time since his arrest, the Bradenton Beach man has been placed into a state mental institution, deemed incompetent to stand trial.

Assistant State Attorney Anthony Dafonseca said a court hearing held last Wednesday lead to the placement. Judge Charles Roberts found Chiquet incompetent to stand trial after hearing a doctor’s testimony, according to Dafonseca.

While it seems like a blow to the prosecution of Chiquet, Defonseca said last time Chiquet was committed, his competency was restored in a matter of weeks and he returned to jail.

Manatee County clerk’s records show page after page of court documents referring to continuances, motions for competency hearings, sealed competency results, testimony of doctors, court dates set for trial, and court dates canceled for trial.

It’s been going on for five years. As a result, Chiquet has remained in jail awaiting trial longer than most defendants.

Chiquet was arrested in 2009 by the Bradenton Beach police. His charges include multiple counts of lewd and lascivious sexual battery on a child 12-15 years; possessing child pornography; promoting sexual performance by a child; and promoting the sexual performance by a child in a movie or photograph.

In addition, Chiquet’s bond was revoked on his original arrest in 2010 after he attempted to coerce the mother of his son to say she was the female who appeared in the photos. He allegedly offered her $10,000 to make the claim. She told prosecutors she listened to his offer, but never intended to do what he asked. Chiquet was arrested again in Sept. 2010, charged with witness tampering and facing additional charges of contempt of court relating to the original arrest.

Defonseca said he is the third prosecuting attorney who has been assigned the case. Prior to his assignment, Chiquet was offered a plea deal of 20 years by a different assistant state attorney.

It was rejected.

Defonseca said despite the delays, he remains focused on the prosecution of Chiquet.

“We absolutely intend to see this case go to trial. Myself, our office, the victim, Judge Roberts, we are pretty much determined that we will get the case to trial this year,” Defonseca said Friday.

Once Chiquet is deemed competent to stand trial, he will be transferred back to the Manatee County jail where he will remain held on no bond.

A call placed to Chiquet’s attorney by the Islander was not returned.

Stabbing suspect faces additional charges

A man arrested after allegedly stabbing a woman multiple times March 15 in the Holmes Beach apartment they shared with another man now faces additional charges after the victim reported finding a homemade weapon in the apartment.

Andrew Helderman, 23, 300 block of Clark Drive, now faces new charges of making or discharging a destructive device and possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon in addition to the charges of aggravated assault and attempted first-degree murder.

The initial second-degree attempted murder charge was dropped March 31 and replaced with the first-degree attempted murder charge because officials now believe the attack on the victim was premeditated, court documents state.

Helderman also injured his male roommate in the March 15 attack.

The attorney representing Helderman, Franklin Roberts, entered a plea of not guilty to all charges and requested a jury trial.

According to the HBPD police report, the 31-year-old victim discovered the “bangstick” — capable of firing a 12-gauge shotgun round — while moving out of the apartment.

She was released from the hospital after recovering from a series of lacerations she suffered during the stabbing. She is planning a move to Tampa.

HBPD Officer Steve Ogline stopped by the apartment March 20 when he noticed the tailgate of a vehicle parked at the residence was open.

The woman showed Ogline a weapon that, according to police, Helderman built only a few days before he attacked her.

She said Helderman had showed it to her and fired it at least once into a wooded area across the street from the apartment.

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office assisted the HBPD in determining if the device was operational.

It is made of metal tubing, vacuum cleaner parts and electrical tape, and was determined to be capable of firing a bullet when packed with gunpowder, according to the report.

Helderman is a felon who served six years in prison in Glades County. He was convicted of battery on a detention officer, false imprisonment, criminal mischief, grand theft auto, escape from a juvenile detention facility and aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. He is prohibited from owning a gun.

Helderman is being held at the Manatee County jail on a $174,000 bond.

According to the court website, the arraignment scheduled for April 11 at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W, Bradenton, was continued.