Animal-rights advocates Paula Demilly and Alisa Foxworthy demonstrate June 16 along with a crowd of about 800 at a rally outside the Manatee County administration building in downtown Bradenton, where the county board held a public hearing on the proposed 2011-12 budget. Animal-welfare advocates were concerned, based on prior comments by two commissioners, that funding might be cut for the county’s pet adoption programs. During the hearing, commissioners assured activists that would not happen. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy
Animal-rights advocates Paula Demilly and Alisa Foxworthy demonstrate June 16 along with a crowd of about 800 at a rally outside the Manatee County administration building in downtown Bradenton, where the county board held a public hearing on the proposed 2011-12 budget. Islander Photo: Bonner Joy
The long July 4 weekend will begin with a rowdy capture and conclude with a big bang.
Plans for the weekend include a siege at Bradenton Beach City Hall, a parade and three fireworks displays.
The Chiles Group will present the fireworks displays after sundown July 2 on the north end of Longboat Key near the Mar Vista Dockside Restaurant; on July 3 in Bradenton Beach near the BeachHouse Restaurant and on July 4 in Anna Maria near the Sandbar Restaurant. Each event features a public display and the restaurant hosting VIP receptions.
Owner Ed Chiles promised the events would be “bigger and better than ever.”
The Anna Maria Island Privateers krewe also has big plans for the weekend.
The nonprofit’s annual Independence Day Parade will begin about 10 a.m. July 4 at Coquina Beach and travel north through each Island city to Bayfront Park in Anna Maria.
Participation in the parade is free, but entries must be motorized.
From Bayfront Park, the Privateers will navigate their float back to the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe at the Manatee Public Beach, where they will award scholarships to college-bound students and celebrate American patriotism and scholastic achievement with a barbecue.
The krewe will launch its holiday weekend at 4:30 p.m. July 1, laying siege to Bradenton Beach City Hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.
Privateer Tim “Hammer” Thompson gave city commissioners and Bradenton Beach Mayor Bob Bartelt fair warning during a commission meeting June 16.
Thompson, with a menacing growl, warned that Bartelt would be kidnapped and held for ransom. AMIP would be demanding cash, as well as a key to the city and a commission proclamation to gain Bartelt’s release.
The Florida Department of Transportation is advising motorists in Anna Maria to exercise caution when driving near the Pine Avenue-Bay Boulevard intersection, where construction crews are continuing work on an 800-foot-long boardwalk along the shore near the city pier.
The project, funded by a federal grant and supervised by the DOT, began in mid-May and the north portion of the boardwalk and the pier’s north parking lot are expected to be put into service in July. The entire project should be completed by early October, a DOT press release said.
Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce board members learned at their June 15 meeting that the chamber still had not been paid $40,000 owed by Manatee County for the chamber’s service as a tourist information center from November 2010 through May 2011.
But chamber president Mary Ann Brockman said a retroactive contract was on the county commission’s June 21 agenda. If passed, Brockman was hopeful the chamber would immediately get at least the estimated $8,000 owed for November and December.
The chamber has continued to act as a tourist information center for the county since Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Elliott Falcione told Brockman in January county attorneys wanted a contract to replace a verbal agreement with former BACVB director Larry White. The verbal agreement was in place since 2001, Brockman said.
It’s taken nearly five months to get a contract both sides agree upon, Brockman said.
During the past few months, with no monthly income from the county, Brockman cut back in some areas and occasionally borrowed against the chamber’s money market certificate to meet payroll and other expenses. The monthly BACVB funds cover postage, rent and miscellaneous costs associated with promoting county tourism.
“I’m extremely hopeful this will pass,” Brockman told the board.
In other business, chamber board members discussed the possibility that dues might be raised to meet rising expenses. That discussion was continued to the July 20 meeting.
The board learned that a planned November Caribbean cruise was canceled because the chamber did not receive the minimum required reservations to confirm passengers.
Larry Chatt reported some “bugs” in development of a new website, but expects the site to be running by July 1. The interactive website will give each chamber member a listing that can be changed and updated by the member.
Board member David Teitelbaum reported that ad sales for the new Island trolleys that begin operating in August are “going well.” Prior advertisers were given first choice on location and all have signed up to advertise.
About three-fourths of all the available ad space on the trolleys has been sold, he said.
The first of the county’s new trolleys will begin operating in August, with other trolleys to become operational in the ensuing months. Five trolleys will be in the fleet, although only three will operate at any one time on the Island. The remaining trolleys will be in maintenance. The Island trolley service will continue fare-free, Teitelbaum noted.
Brockman said the chamber is taking applications for its 2011 business awards. Anyone wishing to nominate a business for an award can go to the chamber’s website at www.annamariaislandchamber.org and download an application.
A date and location for the awards dinner has not been chosen, although Brockman said she is hoping to find a location for a Nov. 7 banquet.
The Manatee County Tourist Development Council June 20 rejected a request from the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce for $10,000 for the 2012 wedding festival.
Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Elliott Falcione said the time had come to halt advertising the festival separately and instead include advertising in the BACVB’s overall marketing campaign.
Chamber executive assistant Deb Wing said funds were requested to highlight the festival’s change to early May, when more rooms would be available to attendees.
The February 2011 wedding fest was a success, but the idea to get “heads in beds” was only partially successful as many attendees were unable to book rooms in February.
“I wanted to bring you better heads-in-beds figures,” Wing said of the $10,000 request, adding that the funds would be well spent for that purpose.
County Commissioner and TDC Chair Carol Whitmore, however, disagreed.
“I know it’s hard, but we have to stretch our advertising dollars,” she said.
She said the BACVB should promote the festival with a link on its website and that a joint marketing plan should be developed.
Falcione said he would work with Wing on a plan, and noted that the BACVB budget included $45,000 for AMI Chamber co-op advertising.
He said he and Wing would return to the TDC in August with a plan for consideration.
Falcione then presented the BACVB’s proposed $4.9 million budget for fiscal 2012-13, which passed unanimously without comment.
Whitmore said the county commission must approve the budget before it becomes final.
“Nothing is etched in stone,” she said.
The budget includes $500,000 in unspecified tourism related projects and debt service, $500,000 as a transfer to the Manatee County Civic Center and $159,000 to the tax collector.
A statement from the BACVB noted that the budget funds come from the 5 percent “bed tax” on all accommodations rented in Manatee County for less than six months. Of the 5 cents per $1 collected, 3 cents goes to destination marketing, 1 cent is for beach renourishment and 1 cent for promoting and advertising tourism.
From the first 3 cent collection, the BACVB allocates 10.5 percent to Bradenton for debt service on McKechnie Field, as the spring training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The BACVB proposed to spend $517,500 for online marketing with leading U.S. newspapers and tourism websites.
For television, radio and out-of-home marketing, the BACVB provided $319,000, while $53,565 would be spent advertising with the St. Petersburg Times.
Magazine advertising totaled $306,657, while community partnerships was $165,000. Included in community partnerships was $25,000 for the Island chamber to act as a tourist information center for the county, and $45,000 for co-op advertising with Island chamber members.
The international market was not forgotten, with $28,575 slated for travel shows and sales missions in Germany and London, $51,000 for Canadian marketing and $147,000 for advertising and marketing in Great Britain.
The BACVB’s draft production budget for 2012-13 was $878,500 and included $200,000 to an unidentified advertising agency, $100,000 to “Phase V – Fulfillment Services,” and the “Joe Pickett Sports Commission Fee/Events” was allocated $150,000 in the draft budget.
The city commission isn’t ready to bail on a resolution they adopted last fall creating a registration for boaters in the Bradenton Beach Mooring Field south of the Bridge Street pier.
But the commission may repeal the ordinance if they think the measure will sink in a review by a special master in a quasi-judicial hearing scheduled for July.
In October 2010, the commission adopted a resolution requiring boaters anchoring their vessels in the mooring field for extended periods to register with the city. Several years ago, Bradenton Beach, under a state statute, secured jurisdiction of the bay and Gulf waters extending 500 feet from shore.
Police Chief Sam Speciale said his department needed the registration requirement to know who was living on the boats and how to reach boaters in an emergency — a hurricane, a sinking vessel or a break-away boat.
A break-away boat can cost the city thousands of dollars, Speciale said, adding, “This gets to be a heck of an expense for us.”
The chief said the annual $15 fee attached to the registration was just an administration fee: “That’s 4 cents a day.”
Some boaters grumbled about the registration requirement, and a challenge is pending a review by city-appointed special master Harold Youmans.
During a meeting June 16, commissioners, Mayor Bob Bartelt, city attorney Ricinda Perry and Speciale discussed whether to proceed with the special-master process or repeal the resolution. A decision was delayed until a meeting July 7.
The commission, going into last week’s meeting, was facing a recommendation from Perry to strike the resolution, which would eliminate the registration rule.
The proposal stated, “After considering public comment and having considered supporting documentation and testimony from the staff, the city commission of the city of Bradenton Beach has determined it be to in the best interest of the city to repeal Resolution 10-768.”
In a memo to commissioners, Perry said the purpose for the registration program was to address “a recurrent problem with the mooring of derelict vessels” in city waters. “Specifically, a number of vessels were abandoned and causing damage to public property, including the city pier.”
Since then, code enforcement officer Gail Garneau has worked to clear the anchorage field of derelict vessels. Perry, in the memo, stated, “The derelict vessel issue has been resolved.”
The attorney also noted, “This, coupled with the recent demands that sea turtle season has placed on the code enforcement department, has led to the need to reevaluate the means and needs of enforcement in city waters.”
Additionally, Perry told commissioners that while she believed the resolution was “defensible,” going before the special master was a gamble that could cost the city $2,500-$5,000.
“Boater rights are very well protected in this state,” she said.
Later, she added, “I can’t say you have 100 percent chance of prevailing.… But I feel this is quite defensible.”
The special master, citing case law, wants proof that the resolution was enacted to address public health and safety issues in the mooring field.
A body of public evidence exists to prove code violations in the mooring field, including problems over the last year with derelict and abandoned vessels, Perry said.
However, in regards to alleged evidence of criminal activity, which Youmans will want to see, the Bradenton Beach Police Department has intelligence notes of suspicions and allegations, but not public complaints or reports.
Documentation of criminal activity or alleged activity is “what the special master’s eye is looking for,” Perry said.
After a lengthy discussion, commissioners agreed that Perry should work with the police department to decide whether a summary or trends report based on the intelligence notes can be presented to the special master without jeopardizing police work.
Commissioner Gay Breuler said when the commission regroups July 7, elected officials still must decide whether they want to invest in the defense, regardless of the whether the case is winnable.
“Is it worth the cost?” she asked, noting that Speciale indicated the registration rule served its purpose and that the city had received a grant to pay for the towing of abandoned vessels.
The mayor, however, said the downside of losing the registration rule would be that new boaters could arrive and the city would have no way to identify them or reach them.
Meanwhile, Speciale said police continue to monitor the mooring field, including routine checks to verify that vessels are registered with the state and in compliance with Florida statutes.
In other business
In other business at the Bradenton Beach commission meeting June 16, commissioners:
• Approved paying a $5,562 invoice from M.T. Causley for building department services.
• Continued a public hearing on a proposed ordinance on a solid waste franchise agreement with Waste Pro of Florida to 7 p.m. July 7.
• Hired LTA Engineers to survey and prepare sketches of a sidewalk on the west side of Gulf Drive from Cortez Road north to the Gulf Drive Cafe. The cost would be $2,000.
• Approved a motion for Perry to continue as the city attorney through December 2012. The agreement includes a description of city attorney services and sets the fee at $170 per hour and a waiver that provides for Perry to continue to represent Island businessman Ed Chiles and his interests, including the BeachHouse Restaurant.
Commissioner Gay Breuler, noting she wasn’t questioning Perry’s integrity, sought a comfort level with the waiver. “It’s only perception,” Breuler said.
Perry said she welcomed the discussion of “an issue that comes up every year.” She pledged never to sue the city on Chiles behalf and said if ever commissioners became uncomfortable with her representation on a certain matter she would recuse herself.
• Approved an application from the Bridge Street Bistro, 111 Gulf Drive S., for the placement of 45 seats for outdoor dining. The permit allows for the temporary placement of the seating — 60 days beginning June 20.
• Heard from Anna Maria Island Privateer Tim “Hammer” Thompson of a planned siege at city hall at 4:30 p.m. Friday, July 1. The mayor will be kidnapped for ransom, Thompson warned.
Shawn Kaleta, owner of Beach to Bay Living in Holmes Beach, third from left, awaits the opening of a model home in his Coastal Cottages line of builder designs at 315 62nd St. in Holmes Beach. Kaleta said he and his staff are planning a grand opening and open house for the new model home with “light bites, refreshments and Island-style steel drum music” from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, June 24. Pictured are Beach-to-Bay associates, from left, Adam Batley and Karen Lima, Kaleta and partner Scott Eason. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin
Holmes Beach Commissioner Al Robinson had difficulty at the city’s June 14 public hearing understanding why the police pension board was proposing changes to the retirement plan when it appeared to him that no one would benefit from the proposals.
At the hearing, Robinson asked Holmes Beach Police Lt. Dale Stephenson, the department’s representative on the pension board, “Why are we here?” if there is no gain for anyone.
The pension plan change, called the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, or DROP, includes criteria for officers to take their retirement fund early, but continue working for another five years.
Stephenson said the DROP allows a police officer to drop out of the current pension plan, receive his retirement funds in a plan of his choosing and continue working for the city. An officer electing the DROP does not receive a lump sum in cash, but rather it is transferred into an investment account of the officer’s choosing. The city no longer would fund that officer’s pension.
That still didn’t sound like a benefit, Robinson said, and asked Stephenson how he personally would benefit from the DROP.
Stephenson said the benefit for him would be a few hundred dollars a month, but explaining how the DROP worked to benefit an individual officer is difficult because each officer’s pension plan differs.
City attorney Patricia Petruff told Robinson and commissioners, “It is confusing.”
Mayor Rich Bohnenberger summed it up best when he said that if an officer elects the plan, “We get his services for another five years at 29 percent less” than what the officer currently costs the city.
That’s because the city would no longer fund its share of the officer’s pension. This saves Holmes Beach that percent of salary the city currently pays into an officer’s retirement fund, the mayor said.
Stephenson said after the meeting he was just answering Robinson’s question on what he personally would gain if he elected to enter the program, and his answers were not an indication that he is entering the plan. The plan just gives each officer a choice and they must retire from the department five years after entering the DROP.
Commissioners eliminated the “sick bank” option for officers in the drop plan.
Commission Chair Sandy Haas-Martens said that once an officer enters the drop plan and is paid for unused sick days, he or she shouldn’t be able to go back to the sick bank and borrow sick days from an officer not in the drop plan.
Other commissioners agreed, and Petruff said she would rewrite the proposed pension ordinance to eliminate the sick-bank option.
The commission continued the public hearing to 7 p.m. July 12.
In other business, commissioners received an update from state Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, on legislative activity.
A new law on vacation rentals requires that if a city did not already have a minimum-stay requirement for vacation rentals, it can’t proceed with such an ordinance. The Holmes Beach ordinance that requires a minimum seven-day stay in some zones is grandfathered, Boyd said.
The legislation prohibits Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach, where one-night home rentals are allowed, from passing an ordinance in the future that would increase the rental period.
Boyd also updated commissioners on beach renourishment funding. Beach renourishment funds are in the upcoming state budget, but not at the amount Florida beach communities requested.
“Everyone suffered in the budget, but nobody wanted their deal cut completely,” he said.
Boyd also told commissioners that Florida is the leading state for personal injury protection auto insurance fraud and, if fraud continues to climb at its present rate, PIP auto insurance rates also will rise.
Florida auto insurance companies were defrauded out of about $990 million in the state last year because of unscrupulous lawyers and chiropractors, Boyd said. However, his proposal to halt legislation that would place a $40 to $50 fraud tax on auto insurance policies was defeated in committee, he said.
Bradenton police arrested two men June 15 for allegedly robbing another man in the 4000 block of 42nd Street West.
Michael Wallen, 23, of Holmes Beach, and Tyler Schneerer, 21, of Bradenton, face charges of strong arm robbery. Wallen also faces unrelated charges for domestic battery, trespass and possession of burglary tools.
Police were called to 42nd Street West at about 12:15 a.m. June 15, where they found a man slumped against a utility pole. The man told police that he was riding in a vehicle with Wallen and Schneerer, when Schneerer stopped and one of the two men said, “Are you ready?”
The man said he fled the vehicle, but was chased by Wallen and Schneerer, who allegedly caught, punched, choked and robbed him of about $600 before fleeing.
Police apprehended Wallen and Schneerer separately. Wallen allegedly told authorities the incident was a soured drug deal.
Newsmanatee.org’s Mike Quinn contributed to this report.