Tag Archives: 05-23-2012

Relay celebrates life

Robert Swearingen, of Bradenton, left, a sarcoma survivor, watches the opening ceremonies at Relay for Life at Coquina Beach May 19 with co-workers from the Crab Trap in Palmetto, including caregivers Zanna Sammartino of St. Petersburg and Ann Sommer and her children, Lizzie and Aiden, of Ellenton. Islander Photos: Kathy Prucnell

Mayor Mike Selby proclaims May 19 “Power of Purple Day” to Coquina Beach some 250 Relay for Life sponsors, survivors, caregivers and team members. With him on stage are committee member Marlene Podguis, left, cancer survivor Kathy Hood, Bradenton Beach Commissioner Gay Breuler and Relay For Life advocacy chair Nancy Ambrose. Approximately $33,000 was raised from the event, according to Ambrose. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

Anna Maria Island Privateers join the Relay for Life at Coquina Beach May 19, including from left, Tim “Hammer” Thompson, Ronald “Candyman” Fisher, Dee “Patch” Lonergan, Kathy “Longlocks” Griffenkranz, friend Sarah and Cindy “Bubbles” Shealy-Swager.

Relay for Life committee members rally the troops at the start the 18-hour event at Coquina Beach. The 29 teams were asked to keep a member on the track 1 p.m. May 19  until 7 a.m. May 20 to illustrate “cancer doesn’t sleep.”

Cancer survivors take the first lap May 19 at Relay For Life while a young man, with a young man wearing a Blake Medical Center T-shirt looks on. Blake and Miller Electric were two of the relay’s major sponsors. The event benefits the American Cancer Society. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

AMI Art League closes ‘until further notice’

The Anna Maria Island Art League closed its doors May 15 without warning.

Signs on the doors at the league’s gallery and facilities at 5312 Holmes Blvd. states, “Closed Until Further Notice.”

Art League president Laura McGeary said May 18, “We have no plans to close the art league,” but made no further comment on the closure.

Executive director, Christina Reginelli, said the league board met May 16, and the problems appeared to her to be financial in nature.

Reginelli told The Islander she resigned May 18 and posted the signs on the door the same day. She said she felt that with no funding she had no alternative but to cancel upcoming events, including summer camp for kids, and closed the doors.

Several board members told The Islander they had resigned, including Ellen Aquilina, Karen Hasler, and Alexandra Lillis, but all declined to comment on the closure.

The art center facility includes exhibit areas, classrooms, gallery/conference room, photo lab and an art library where the league has offered a broad range of classes.

The league sponsors two art and craft festivals each year, Winterfest and Springfest, at the Holmes Beach city field, which, according to the league’s website, provide funds for the art center and its scholarship program.

Calls to festival director Colin Bissett were not returned.

The festivals historically draw some 10,000 festivalgoers.

Concern last week over the league’s closure was voiced in the art community.

Joan Voyles, member of both the Art League and Artists’ Guild of Anna Maria Island, said the league has been an “integral part” of the community.

About 22-23 years ago the league split off from the guild, she said, but the three Holmes Beach galleries, including Island Gallery West, cooperate and coordinate their efforts to create a positive image, showcase talent and maintain the area’s reputation as a destination for the arts.

“We work to be supportive and continue to want to be supportive,” she said.

Founded by local artists and enthusiasts, the nonprofit opened the Island’s first art center in the city in June 1993, according to its website.

As recently as May 8, the league had announced its weekly Kids Camp 2012 to begin June 11. A business card exchange — a May networking event of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce — was to have taken place May 23, but the chamber moved the event last-minute to the Village Cafe in Anna Maria.

The league’s website still includes the camp announcement and other features, and as of Islander press time, there is no announcement from the board regarding the future operations.

As a nonprofit, the league has maintained registration with the Florida Secretary of State.

WMFR hikes 2012 tax assessment

At a public hearing May 17, West Manatee Fire District commissioners increased the district’s assessment roughly $4 per household.

WMFR Chief Andy Price recommended the 2012 rate hike to meet rising operational costs and put away funds for expected increases in insurance costs. The rates are being set for fiscal 2012-2013 tax year, beginning Oct. 1, and “long before the tax bills are sent out,” he said.

On a motion by Commissioner Scott Ricci, seconded by David Bishop, the three district members in attendance, including President Randy Cooper, unanimously passed a resolution to amend the rate charged to district residents.

WMFR Commissioners Larry Tyler and Jesse Davis were absent.

The hike is permissible because it represents a 2.5 percent increase, below this year’s 3.16 percent assessment cap as measured by the county’s 1 percent personal income growth factor, said Price.

“It’s not a large increase, but it’s a necessary one,” he said.

The district expects a 19 percent increase in its worker’s compensation insurance, a 10 percent increase in health insurance costs and a 6 percent increase in Florida retirement contributions.

The board’s resolution sets vacant parcels at $22.23 per lot or acre. It raises the base assessment for residential parcels, including condominiums and mobile homes, to $169.32 for the first 1,000 square feet and 10 cents per square foot above 1,000 square feet. For duplexes, the new base assessment is $338.64 for the first 2,000 square feet and 10 cents per square foot above 2,000 square feet.

Commercial parcels will be assessed at $399.56 for the first 1,000 square feet and .173 cents per square foot above 1,000 square feet. A $169.32 base assessment will be charged per unit or available rental space for travel trailer parks, mixed uses and hotel/motel parcels.

The resolution also authorizes Price to review the fire assessment roll, adjust each property and transmit it to the Manatee County Property Appraiser.

In other matters, Price reported that new radios being procured by an $800,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency grant are expected by June 20.

Deputy Chief Brett Pollock wrote the successful grant for all Manatee County fire departments and districts.

Attorney Jim Dye is preparing an agreement relative to sharing costs with the other districts, Price said.

Price also called attention to a new hurricane preparedness plan that had been distributed to commissioners. Due to timing of the Station 2 remodel and other district concerns, Ricci said he needed more review, and a consensus of the board postponed the matter.

The next meeting will be 6 p.m. Thursday, June 21, at the WMFR administrative office, 6417 Third Ave. W., Bradenton.

March resort tax collections again break record

For 12 consecutive months, resort tax collections by the Manatee County Tax Collector’s office have set a new monthly record when compared with the same month the previous year. March 2012 collections were no exception.

Sue Sinquefield of the resort tax collections office reported March collections — funds taken in by the office in April — were $1.344,608, easily surpassing the previous monthly record set in February 2012 by nearly $277,000.

February collections were $1.067 million.

The resort tax — officially known as the Manatee County Tourist Development tax and commonly called the bed tax — is the 5 percent charged by Manatee County on accommodation rentals of six months or less.

Sinquefield said that while she’s not in the tourism industry, it would appear Anna Maria Island was “bursting at the seams” in March. She said better tax collection methods and an increase in renters combined to set record monthly and annual totals for resort tax collections.

Resort tax collections for March were up 19 percent from the $1.13 million collected by the office in March 2011.

Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman said she wouldn’t be surprised if the number of visitors to the area was up 10 percent in March when the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau announces its survey figures.

For the fiscal year, resort taxes for the first six months are $4.516 million, a 21.6 percent climb and $816,000 more than the $3.7 million collected for the first six months of the previous year.

Sinquefield said collections appear on pace to surpass last year’s record collection of $7.1 million.

“The word has spread” among vacation rental property owners and agents to pay the tax, Sinquefield said.

Agents from the resort tax collections department have been known to conduct “sweeps” of known rental areas, including Anna Maria Island, looking for owners and agents attempting to avoid paying the 5 percent resort tax and the 6.5 percent county sales tax.

Sinquefield said a licensed vacation rental property owner must register with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, apply to the county tax collector’s office for a resort tax collection license and be approved. Those who do not comply may have to pay a fine, in addition to past-due taxes.

For March 2012, Anna Maria Island and the Manatee County portion of Longboat Key paid $860,541 in resort taxes, or 64 percent of the total collected.

Holmes Beach led the Island in resort taxes with $388,938, Bradenton Beach had $136,164 and Anna Maria provided $110,439.

Webb running, Mattick may miss deadline, Yetter ‘serious’

A vacationing commissioner may have no choice but to sit out the November election. Anna Maria’s qualifying period to run for either city commission or mayor starts May 29 and ends June 8.

Three-term commissioner Jo Ann Mattick apparently does not plan to return from Ohio until sometime after the qualifying period.

Mattick said before she left in mid May for vacation she was “undecided” about another term. She told Anna Maria city clerk Alice Baird she would not be returning to the city until July 23, Baird said.

Baird said she informed Mattick before her departure of the qualifying dates for the Nov. 6 election.

Efforts to reach Mattick for comment were unsuccessful by press deadline May 21.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb, also up for re-election in November, has picked up a qualifying packet, and said he will seek a third consecutive term in the Nov. 6 city election.

Political newcomer Billy Malfese, chair of the environmental education and enhancement committee, also obtained a qualifying packet.

With Mayor Mike Selby announcing last week he will not seek another term, the office of mayor is open to qualified residents.

Planning and zoning board member Nancy Yetter, who failed in her bid for a commission seat in November 2011, said she is “seriously considering running for the office of mayor.”

Yetter said she does not plan to campaign for a seat on the commission, but she said she is “serious” about considering a run for the mayor’s office.

“Jo Ann and Chuck are both friends of mine and I would not want to run against them for commissioner,” she said.

However, should Mattick decide that her service to the city will end with three terms, Yetter said she might reconsider and seek that office. She’ll make her decision by the start of qualifying, if not sooner, she said.

Anna Maria’s qualifying period was up on the calendar this year in order for the city to “piggyback” on the November general election ballot, said Manatee County deputy supervisor of elections Nancy Bignell.

Under federal law, the county must have absentee ballots printed and mailed to registered voters at least 45 days before primary elections, she said. With primary voting Aug. 14, municipal qualifying times had to be moved forward to enable the cities to “piggyback” on the county process, Bignell said.

Municipal elections in Manatee County are non-partisan and no primary voting is required. But adhering to the county guidelines will save Anna Maria about $3,000, Bignell added.

Anna Maria commissioners serve two-year terms and are paid $400 per month. The city’s mayor also serves a two-year term and is paid $800 monthly.

A qualifying packet to seek either a commission seat or that of the mayor may be obtained at Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria.

Manatee County trooper named officer of the year

Florida Highway Patrol Cpl. Darrel Carroll patrols the roads of Manatee County with devotion and fairness, according to fellow law enforcement officers.

For his dedication to duty, Carroll was named the 2012 Officer of the Year May 17 by the Manatee Hundred Club at the Bradenton Country Club.

On hand for the celebration were Manatee County state attorney Earl Moreland, Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Bob Sweat, former FHP Major Ron Getman, Bradenton Mayor Bill Evers, Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube, Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine and Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale.

Carroll, who primarily has the difficult task of working crash scenes in Manatee County, was humbled by the recognition, thanking a large crowd of his fellow law enforcement officers, who attended the ceremony.

There were eight nominees for the recognition, including Longboat Key Police Chief Al Hogle, who died three weeks ago in a tragic motorcycle accident.

Two Bradenton Beach officers and one Holmes Beach officer were among this year’s nominees. HBPD officer Brian Copeman was up for the award, as were BBPD Detective Sgt. Leonard Diaz and Sgt. Shane Shehorn.

Bicyclist goes the distance in cancer fundraiser

Jasper Curry will soon be embarking on what may yet be the most challenging journey of his life.

He’s trained hard and he’s no newcomer to competition. He’s raced sailboats since he was a fourth-grader at Anna Maria Elementary School — an Optimist, Laser and 420. He has also taught sailing, and he earned a spot on the University of Florida sailing team.

On May 27, he and 29 others will leave Baltimore for Portland, Ore., as part of a larger group of 90 riders heading to Seattle and San Francisco to benefit the nonprofit 4K for Cancer.

Supporters have backed Curry with more than $5,000 in pledges, and the money raised will help underfunded cancer patients to continue their treatments, he explains.

Curry just finished his sophomore year at the University of Florida where he is majoring in economics with a minor in business.

And for the past six months, in addition to studying and working with an investor group in Gainesville, he’s been preparing physically for his trip, averaging 150 miles most weeks on bike paths around the college town.

Curry is well prepared for the emotional part of his journey, as well. He is confident, yet humble. He says he’s looking forward to how “the ride will hopefully inspire hope in others.” It’s been “a great motivator for me.”

He became interested in the bike ride after viewing it on Reddit, a social news media website, “just after casually surfing the net,” he says.

The 4K for Cancer bicyclists will meet hundreds of people who have experienced cancer. They will travel an average of 75 miles daily to different towns — with break days about once a week — where they will participate in presentations, dinners and other activities, such as free cancer screenings.

Before the event, each rider is paired with people they’ll be meeting on the trip. And during the trip, patients and riders keep in contact.

“When we get to their town, we will finally meet them in person and get to know them better,” Curry said.

All 90 cyclists — equipped with a bike and appropriate gear from the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults — will depart Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Curry’s group to Portland will head north and west through Pennsylvania, Ohio and the Midwest, and meet the San Francisco-bound group in Boulder, Colo., for the July 4 holiday. From there, they’ll ride through Wyoming Teton National Park, south to Salt Lake City, and then west through Idaho to Oregon.

Their itinerary identifies their first stop in Waynesboro, Pa. Other cities on the journey include Pittsburg, Chicago, Omaha, Neb., Denver, Laramie, Wyo., and Eugene, Ore.

Support vans ride along with the cyclists, who eat and sleep along the way courtesy of schools, churches, restaurants and others.

The 4K for Cancer was launched by students at John Hopkins University in 2001. After seven years of affiliation with Hopkins, and three years as its own nonprofit, 4K for Cancer became part of the Ulman Cancer Fund, a group dedicated to fighting the effects of the disease in young people started by Doug Ulman, a three-time cancer survivor, first diagnosed at age 19. He is president of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

Curry hasn’t met Ulman but, with a big smile, says he hopes to someday.

Like the undergraduates that first started 4K for Cancer, Curry will be seeking to combine his desire to fight cancer in memory of a lost loved one with a dream of cycling across country.

In the last few years, Curry lost “two very important people in my life due to cancer,” his grandmother who died “despite receiving some of the best treatment in the world,” and family friend, Randal Stover of Anna Maria, who was a “second dad to me.” He showed Curry the world of cars, auto shows, drag races and motor cross events.

He’s dedicating his ride to both Stover and his grandmother.

“This will obviously be an emotionally charged summer for me,” he says.

Inspiration for Curry also has come from the supportive community of Anna Maria Island, he says. His teachers and counselors at Anna Maria Elementary School were the “very best.”

“You couldn’t ask for a better place to go to school,” he says.

Cindi Harrison, guidance counselor at the school, “was definitely a big influence on me. She always made time to talk and support me through my studies,” he says.

What’s stuck with him over the years is her story about how stepping on ants is bad. He remembers her asking, “Would you want to be stepped on?”

“It makes me think about things from other people’s perspective,” he says.

He’s also been thinking about his ride from various perspectives. “I am sure this ride will be the most physically and mentally demanding endeavor I have ever set out upon,” he says.

But, without hesitation, he says he’s ready and armed with a passion to look at things from the perspective of those ants.

During the trip, Curry will be blogging at www.4Kj.posterous.com. For more information about 4K for Cancer and the cross-country trip, go online at www.4KforCancer.org.

Charges dropped following Leonard plea

Following a plea to several felonies, the state dropped charges against Charles H. Leonard last week in 15 of 20 or more burglary cases opened following a chase and search through Cortez in December by several law enforcement agencies.

Notices that “criminal charges will not be filed” were entered in the court record May 14 and May 15 by assistant state attorney Pamela Buha in 15 separate burglary files.

Leonard signed an acknowledgement and waiver of rights in April to four grand theft auto charges, armed burglary with a firearm and burglary to a structure.

A hearing June 27 will determine his penalty — the maximum being life, minimum 10 years — but Leonard’s plea “requests a sentencing hearing with a cap of 22 years in the department of corrections.”

Two additional cases against Leonard still are being investigated by the Manatee County State Attorney’s Office.

“I believe there’s one file that he’s not entered an admission,” which is still being investigated, and “another one there’s been a plea,” Buha said.

Leonard is being held in Manatee County jail without bond on a parole violation from a previous sentencing in September 2010, stemming from a July 2010 arrest for fleeing and eluding police in a stolen car.

His December arrest involved several units of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, a helicopter and a K-9 unit, and Bradenton and Palmetto police departments.

According to sheriff’s office reports, a small handgun was found inside the stolen vehicle Leonard had been seen driving. After the arrest, he reportedly admitted to stealing the car and other vehicles, and to numerous burglaries.

Leonard’s sentencing will be at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 27, before Twelfth Judicial Circuit Judge Janette Dunnigan at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

WMFR selects contractor for Station 2 remodel

West Manatee Fire District commissioners May 17 selected Ross Built Construction Co. of Holmes Beach and Manuel Synalovski Associates of Fort Lauderdale as the design-build team for a $900,000 remodel project at Station 2.

With a unanimous vote among the three-member quorum, WMFR will look to Ross Built and Synalovski to propose structural changes needed to update and improve the 1987-built station at 10350 Cortez Road, Cortez.

The Ross-Synalovski team was top choice of WMFR’s selection committee, which interviewed five design-build teams, according to the Rev. Rosemary Backer, committee member. The teams had submitted proposals, including their qualifications and past projects, to the district in March.

Backer told commissioners the committee asked the same four questions of each team. Ross-Synalovski team members were the best prepared for the interview, she said. It was apparent they had spent the most time at the station, she said, as their answers indicated multiple ideas for improvements, as compared to the others applicants.

The committee was most impressed with Ross-Synalovski, and deemed the team “the best fit,” saying they were local, had done past remodeling for the district and “they really know what needs to be done,” Backer said.

The two teams of Manasota Commercial Construction Co. Inc. and World Design Inc., both of Bradenton, and Zirkelbach Construction Inc. of Palmetto and Klar and Klar Architects Inc. of Clearwater were recommended as runners up behind the Ross-Synalovski team.

The selection committee was comprised of Backer of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church; Kerry Ward of Wells Fargo Bank and Scott Ricci, WMFR commissioner.

The committee first formed in 2007 to help the district select the facility survey firm that initially recommended the improvements to Stations 1, 2 and 3, as well as remodeling the district’s new administrative office building.

Station 1, 6001 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, was completed this year at a $307,000 cost. The entire facility was remodeled with the exception of kitchen cabinets and bathrooms. Repairs and renovation work for Station 2 are expected to be more extensive than Station 1, according to WMFR Chief Andy Price.

In 2011, the district completed its administrative offices, 5217 Third Ave. W., Bradenton.

On both prior projects, WMFR contracted with Ross Built.

Prior to the unanimous vote of Commissioners Ricci, David Bishop and chair Randy Cooper, Ricci said, “I’m not entirely comfortable with the design-build,” and would liked to have chosen an architect for the district, but because it was a past decision of the board, he accepted it.

WMFR Commissioners Larry Tyler and Jessie Davis were absent.