Tag Archives: 07-02-2014

Anna Maria cell tower could be operational in January

After nearly 12 years of chatter, a cell tower in Anna Maria could be a reality as early as January.

Kevin Barile of Florida Tower Partners LLC, the company contracted by the city to build the tower at city hall, updated commissioners on his progress at their June 26 meeting.

“Everything is going well,” Barile said.

He showed commissioners a change to the tower base, altering the dimensions but maintaining the same coverage and height.

He said the change will better accommodate the four carriers he expects to occupy the tower when it becomes operational. Barile said Verizon and AT&T have committed to leases, while negotiations with two more carriers are ongoing.

He also presented a revised timeline to commissioners, including Jan. 28, 2015, as the target for completion.

The site plan for the tower was to be presented to the planning and zoning board July 1. Following that board’s review, the site plan goes before the commission for approval.

Once the commission approves, Florida Towers will submit its plan to the building department for a construction permit.

Barile estimated that once the required permits, including those from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Federal Communications Commission, among several others, are received, construction should begin in mid-December.

Carriers could begin adding equipment on completion, which will trigger his company to make a lump-sum payment to the city of $350,000.

Verizon and AT&T are anxious for the tower to be completed, Barile said. “They’re calling me every week for an update. I tell them everything is proceeding as planned, it just takes time to get all the permits. They are very anxious to get going.”

Commissioners then addressed the possible lawsuits that have been noticed to the city.

They unanimously passed a resolution making June 26 the last possible date for property owners to apply for a variance to the living-area ratio ordinance adopted in June 2013.

The city already has seven letters of intent to file a claim under the Bert Harris Property Rights Act of 1995, city attorney Jim Dye said. The resolution “closes the door” on future letters to file a related claim, Dye said.

Dye explained that the city must first attempt to settle the claim through negotiation with the property owner.

He plans to meet individually with each commissioner and explain the details of the claims.

While he said he “can’t act as the go-between” among commissioners, he can present an overall strategy for each claim to the commission after his talks.

Dye said the usual way to deal with a Bert Harris claim is for the city to issue a variance, but commissioners already have denied a variance to Mark McClean and Kathy Hayes, he noted.

In preparation for the July 4 weekend, Mayor SueLynn said Waste Management Inc. is providing the city additional garbage cans for placement at beach access locations. WMI will not charge for the extra cans or pickup, she said.

The city also will post a sign at the city limits by July 3 stating “No Fireworks,” the mayor said. Additionally, Sgt. Paul Davis, head of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office substation in Anna Maria, has extra deputies scheduled for duty that weekend.

“You hope you’ve got all your bases covered, but we’ll see,” SueLynn said. “If people have a problem with rowdy behavior, fireworks or trash, please call the sheriff’s office,” she urged.

The mayor also reminded commissioners that the first budget meeting for the 2014-15 fiscal year is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 9, at Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

Commissioners continued the second reading of an amendment to the sign ordinance that allows property owners to apply for additional signage at their property. The amendment was continued to 6 p.m. Thursday, July 10, at city hall.

July 4 weekend coming with a bang

Those thinking of finding an island accommodation for the July 4 weekend had better act fast.

Rooms are filling up, according to many island accommodation owners and managers, and the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce has had its hands full trying to find rooms for procrastinaters.

Marianne Norman-Ellis said phones at Mike Norman Realty, 3101 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, have been ringing constantly with people looking for accommodations.

“We’ve only got a few units left. They’ve been renting fast, especially beachfront units,” she said.

“We’ve also been getting emails galore and even walk-ins. We’re trying to help everyone find a room and enjoy the weekend,” Norman-Ellis said. “But with July 4 on a Friday, people have been booking for the entire week.”

“This is going to be the busiest holiday of the summer and should be even busier than last July 4,” she added.

Norman-Ellis said the agency is “doing everything possible to accommodate visitors,” including working with the chamber and other chamber members to find accommodations.

David Teitelbaum, owner of the Tortuga Inn, Tradewinds, Seaside, Tropic Isle motels and Old Bridge Village in Bradenton Beach, said he’s been amazed at how early people began making reservations.

“People booked more than a month in advance, and our reservations are looking really good this week. I know we’re going to exceed our occupancy levels of last July 4,” he said.

“And people are coming for the entire week, not just for the weekend. We’re almost booked solid and we’re scrambling to help people find an accommodation.”

At Anna Maria Island Accommodations, 315 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, the scene is just as hectic.

“Telephones have been ringing constantly the past few weeks, and the number of emails has loaded up our inbox every day,” said Susan Brinson, co-owner with husband Mike. “We’re doing everything we can to find accommodations for people that fit the days they want, but the options are going fast.”

Many people want waterfront rentals, and those units always go quickly, she noted.

“It’s going to be a busy, busy weekend and I think retail shops — the couple also own the Flip-Flop Shop and Candy Stop on Pine Avenue — and restaurants will see plenty of activity,” she said.

At the chamber office, 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, chamber vice president Deb Wing said the number of people calling for a room has reached epic proportions.

“We’re having so many walk-ins, call-ins and emails that we’ve been busier than I can remember. And a lot of our members are already full for the weekend and just don’t have anything available,” she said.

A large number of callers are they can’t find anything, asking the chamber for help, she said.

“We’re trying as best we can,” Wing said.

Quite a few inquiries are for a one-night stay, and that’s hard to find with July 4 on a Friday, she said.

Still, the chamber will work with walk-in visitors looking for a room, she said.

Located at 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, Wing said the chamber’s office will be open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. July 2-3, but closed July 4-6.

“If you’re looking for a room on the island for this weekend, you’d better call now,” she said.

Wing also urged chamber members with available accommodations to contact her.

To reach the chamber, call 941-778-1541.

Daylight sea turtle nester gives crowd rare show

A small crowd huddled on the beach in Bayfront Park early June 24.

The crowd was watching a rare sight — a loggerhead sea turtle nesting in daylight.

Just after daybreak, Tonya May, volunteering for Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, walked her designated section of beach looking for turtle tracks and nests.

She reported there were no signs of nesting activity and no tracks to her AMITW section coordinator, but as it turned out, there soon would be some.

“At about 8:30 I received a call from Suzi (Fox) that a turtle was nesting in Bayfront Park. The sheriff’s office had alerted her,” said AMITW section coordinator Maureen McCormick.

According to McCormick, a jogger had noticed the nesting sea turtle on the beach and continued on her run to city hall to alert authorities.

AMITW executive director Suzi Fox called McCormick, who rushed to the site. May had already arrived home in Bradenton and missed it.

“A small and very respectful crowd joined us to watch her,” said McCormick.

Sea turtles typically come to shore at night to lay their eggs, guided by moonlight and avoiding predators during the laborious process of digging, laying, burying and swimming back to sea.

AMITW volunteers walk the beach just after sunrise to look for signs of nesting activity — repetitive grooves in the sand made by the turtle’s flippers — before they are disturbed by beachgoers. If the tracks lead to a nest, it is recorded and marked.

Sightings of sea turtles, unmarked nests or hatchlings leaving the nest should be reported to Fox by calling 941-778-5638.

First nest hatches on Longboat Key
The first sea turtle nest of 2014 in Manatee and Sarasota counties hatched June 22.

Mote Marine Laboratory, which monitors nesting on Longboat Key southward through Venice, reported the hatchlings on Longboat Key.

Mote scientists say nesting season is going strong and they hope for a healthy number of hatchlings. So far this year, Mote has documented 1,095 nests by loggerheads, the most common sea turtle to nest on the shores of Southwest Florida. Mote also recorded two nests by Kemp’s ridley turtles, the rarest species on local beaches.

Longboat beachgoers should report any sea turtle nesting activity to Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program at 941-388-4331. Rare Kemp’s ridley sea turtles normally nest during the day, while loggerheads and greens usually nest at night.

Shorebird nesting update
According to Fox, the largest shorebird nesting ground since her group began monitoring for birds sits on the beach in the 2500 block of Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach.

“We have a football field of birds out there,” Fox said. “And people are being fabulous, staying clear.”

A few least terns began the nesting site, which soon was surrounded by more and more least terns. As the least terns’ eggs began to hatch in May, a flock of mating black skimmers joined them at the nesting site.

Fox said the least tern chicks are undergoing “flight school” and “fishing school” with their parents.

Meanwhile, the black skimmers’ nests have begun hatching in great numbers. Fox said there now are more than 50 black skimmer chicks.

Beachgoers will be able to view the birds through a telescope and binoculars, guided by Manatee County Audubon Society volunteers over the July 4 weekend.

Audubon volunteers will set up a tent to offer information about the birds, as well as provide scopes to view the chicks up close.

The chapter is looking for volunteers to help with the event. Anyone interested can email Dee Hanny at ynnahda@yahoo.com or call 941-745-1553.

2nd Save Our Center meeting set for July 14

Anna Maria Island Community Center executive director Dawn Stiles and the center’s board of directors will hold the second “Save Our Center” meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, July 14, at the center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.

Stiles will provide an update on budgeting for the new fiscal year, as well as on fundraising efforts that have come together since a June 4 community meeting.

On June 4, Stiles said the center was in financial distress and only had about $60,000 to operate. Without additional funds, Stiles said the center might have to close its doors in a month.

The community responded with support.

An anonymous donor agreed to match donations to the center up to $50,000 and the campaign was a success, although the total amount raised thus far was not provided by press time for The Islander this week.

Stiles has trimmed the operating budget for the coming year, and she plans to discuss that subject at the meeting. The center has a July 1-June 30 fiscal year.

Stiles also supplied demographic information to show the center’s largest membership group by age is seniors in the 60-plus range. They account for 43.6 percent of center membership.

The center has 2,095 members, she said.

At the June 14 meeting, Stiles and board president Scott Rudacille also plan to discuss operations, programs and volunteer opportunities.

For information, call the center at 941-778-1908.

Center membership:       Age 4-17     Age 18- 59  60-plus       Total

Anna Maria          105    193    333    631

Holmes Beach      198    168    364    730

Bradenton Beach 36      13      51      100

Bradenton   236    166    134    536

Longboat Key      22      16      17      55

Cortez         11      6        14      31

Sarasota     4        71      12      87

Totals:        612    569    914   2,095

Holmes Beach sculpture taken for tour

Have you noticed something is missing at Holmes Beach City Hall?

The large abstract sculpture that decorated the front entrance for more than a decade is gone, and it’s not coming back.

The aluminum structure was removed on a flatbed truck July 25 at the request of the artist, Linda Howard, of Ellenton.

According to Howard, the sculpture was taken to an art show in Canada and will be traveling to various shows around the country.

The sculpture is one of two donated by Howard to the city in 1999.

And Howard claims the work was on loan to the city.

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who was mayor of Holmes Beach when Howard presented the artwork to the city, said she is sad to see them go.

“I’m surprised she took them back, I don’t remember her ever saying they were on loan. I thought she had donated them,” Whitmore said. “But whatever her reasons, I appreciate what she did for Holmes Beach.”

Whitmore said many people associate the city of Holmes Beach with the sculptures and the works have even appeared on Holmes Beach postcards in the past.

However, the sculptures were not without controversy when they first arrived.

Holmes Beach residents were divided on whether or not they liked Howard’s abstract work when the sculptures were placed — one at city hall and the other, a smaller piece, near the entrance to Key Royale — in October 1999.

A petition asking for their removal circulated and more than 83 people asked to have the sculptures removed, while another petition with 140 signatures asked to have the artwork stay.

The Key Royale sculpture was removed about a month ago, according to Lori Kee, deputy city clerk.

Howard said both structures were in need of repair and that was one reason they were removed.

Howard is an Illinois native who graduated from the University of Denver in the 1950s.

She has held teaching positions at Manatee Community College, the University of Florida and the University of New York. She has received numerous awards for her sculptures, which she displays all over the country. She is represented by galleries in Miami, Atlanta and Tallahassee.

Her work can be viewed at online www.lindahowardsculpture.com.

Law enforcement focuses on holiday traffic, illegal fireworks, alcohol

Different police departments have different policies when it comes to the Fourth of July.

If you’re planning to celebrate the holiday by launching some Roman candles or bottle rockets, don’t bring them to Anna Maria Island.
The Holmes Beach Police Department and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office are planning a crack down on illegal firecrackers.
“Every year we have a beach cleanup on July 5,” said HBPD Chief Bill Tokajer. “Last year I was appalled at how many of these fireworks we picked up. It took us hours.”
Tokajer said he will have extra patrols watching out for illegal fireworks, like bottle rockets, roman candles and mortars.
“We will be confiscating any illegal fireworks we come across, any fireworks that explode, launch or are projectiles,” he said. “These fireworks put our citizens and children in danger, and we are concerned.”
Sky lanterns also are illegal and will be confiscated, Tokajer said.
“They get caught in trees and are a hazard to marine life,” Tokajer said.
Tokajer also cautioned parents to monitor their children and “play it safe” when operating legal fireworks, such as sparklers, snappers and snakes.
But don’t worry, America’s 238th birthday will still go off with a bang; there will be plenty of opportunities to see professional fireworks launched over the holiday.
On July 3, catch the professional pyrotechnical show after nightfall at the BeacHhouse Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach. And fireworks will be launched July 4 on the beach at the Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria.
Tokajer said his team also will be writing tickets for motorists who park illegally.
HBPD officers wrote more than 200 parking citations, Memorial Day weekend.
When parking, Tokajer says people should remember to park in the direction of traffic flow, avoid parking on sidewalks and not block driveways.
Traffic and parking is the priority for Bradenton Beach police officers.
“We are expecting thick crowds and heavy traffic,” BBPD Chief Sam Speciale said. “We are asking people to drive safely and be on the look out for pedestrians.”
Speciale said he will have patrol and reserve officers safeguarding the beach, along with deputies provided by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, including deputies on horseback at Coquina Beach.
Speciale said the amount of people on the beach has swollen tenfold since he started working for the BBPD 27 years ago.
He cautioned parents to keep an eye on their children and to not let them wonder off in a crowd.
Over Memorial Day weekend, there were numerous reports of missing — and found — children at Coquina Beach, and more than 2,000 spaces there were filled by 10 a.m. People began parking anywhere they could find, Speciale said.
The chaos was compounded by the removal of some bollards that formerly directed traffic flow at the county park. The county also took out all of the “no parking” signs on the access roads and removed a gate on the east side of the road north of Leffis Key.
Because the “no parking” signs had been removed, the BBPD was unable to enforce parking at the park and the missing gate allowed people to circumnavigate the traffic backup on Gulf Drive and use the access road.
However, Charlie Bishop, of the Manatee County Property Management Department, said about 98 percent of the bollards have been replaced.
“We hope we will never have a debacle like that one again,” Speciale said.
In addition to fireworks and parking concerns, officers on the island will look out for illegal alcohol consumption and underage drinking.
“Alcohol is not allowed on the beach. If we see it, you are getting a ticket,” Tokajer said.
Sgt. Paul Davis, head of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office-Anna Maria substation, said his deputies are prepared for one of the “busiest weekends we’ve ever had in the city.”
Davis said the Anna Maria deputies will be on duty throughout the weekend and additional deputies have been assigned to the city from mainland units.
“We’ll primarily be looking for alcohol and fireworks violations,” Davis said, “and illegal parking.”
He said the goal of deputies is to allow people to enjoy the holiday weekend, but ensure safety is maintained in the city.
“We want people to come to Anna Maria and have a good time,” Davis said. “But if the weather is good for the weekend, we’ll be dealing with an awful lot of people and there are bound to be some violations.”
Deputies will confiscate illegal fireworks and alcohol and citations may be issued, he said.
“Alcohol on the beach is a major problem on holidays and it’s illegal. We’re advising the public not to bring alcohol. Just come and enjoy the day.”
Another issue for deputies is illegally parked vehicles. Anna Maria requires all tires off the roadway on its streets, he said.
“Don’t do anything stupid,” Davis advised visitors. “This is a family day and a celebration of our country. Just obey the rules and enjoy the professional fireworks show at the Sandbar,” he said.
      Islander reporter Rick Catlin contributed to this story.

Man charged with construction burglary, child neglect

Two people were arrested June 26 after allegedly involving the children of one suspect in a burglary at an Anna Maria construction site.

Trevor John Bjurstrom, 29, and Nicole Denise Asman, 42, each face a charge of grand theft from a posted construction site.

Bjurstrom also faces charges of child neglect and trespassing on a construction site.

Bjurstrom and Asman allegedly drove to a fenced-in construction site in the 700 block of North Shore Drive around 6:20 p.m., according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s office report.

Bjurstrom allegedly took his two children, ages 6 and 8, inside the fence and began handing them rebar and wiring to take to Asman, who remained on the other side of the enclosure. Asman then loaded the material into the car, the report said. The contractor for the site is Beach to Bay Construction.

Both Bjurstrom and Asman were arrested and taken to the Manatee County jail. The children were placed in the custody of Florida Department of Children and Families’ Child Protective Services.

Bjurstrom is being held on $4,500 bond, while Asman is being held on a $1,500 bond.

Holmes Beach woman dies of accidental gunshot

A Holmes Beach woman died June 6 from an accidental gunshot while cleaning her revolver.

Janice Louise Kratzert, 65, was found dead inside her home in the 300 block of 60th Street around 12:45 p.m., according to the report from the Holmes Beach Police Department.

A neighbor called 911 after looking through a window and seeing her body slumped in a chair and blood on her chest, according to the report.

The neighbor said he became curious when Kratzert did not come to the door as she normally does in the morning to give his dog a treat.

A team of emergency medical responders arrived at Kratzert’s home at 12:28 p.m. and she was pronounced dead.

An HBPD officer found a silver revolver on the table next to a cleaning kit, the report said.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said officers initially thought Kratzert may have died as the result of a suicide, however, they were able to determine Kratzert had been cleaning her gun and it had fired accidentally.

Locals knew Kratzert as “Scooter Jan” for the yellow motor scooter she drove.

On Sunday mornings, Kratzert’s scooter would frequently be seen outside D.Coy Ducks Tavern, 5410 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, where she took part in cribbage games.

“She was a very caring and giving person,” said Rhonda Gula, a bartender at D.Coys. “She had a huge heart and she would go out of her way for anyone.”

Gula said Kratzert often splurged on a friend’s birthday. “She’d get them pizza or order them a round,” Gula said. “She loved spoiling people on their day.”

“She was a wonderful person and she will be missed,” Gula added.

HBPD: alleged bicycle thief in custody

The Holmes Beach Police Department has arrested a 26-year-old Bradenton man who allegedly stole bicycles in Manatee and Sarasota counties and pawned them for cash.

Daniel Lee Upton was arrested June 24 on charges of burglary and grand theft for allegedly stealing two bicycles from the parking garage of Sunbow Bay, 3700 block of East Bay Drive, April 19.

The bicycles were valued at more than $1,000 and were later discovered at a pawnshop in Bradenton, according to an HBPD police report.

During an interview with HBPD, Upton allegedly admitted to several other bicycle thefts in Holmes Beach and on Longboat Key.

Upton may now face eight charges related to bicycle thefts in two counties, according to the HBPD.

He was taken to the Manatee County jail, where he is being held on a $4,500 bond.

Housekeeper stole $8,000 in jewelry

A Bradenton Beach woman was arrested July 24 after she allegedly stole more than $8,000 worth of jewelry from a Bradenton home where she was employed to clean.

Erin L. Wright, 32, 401 Gulf Drive, faces charges of grand theft, defrauding a pawnbroker and dealing in stolen property.

Wright had been cleaning the home in west Bradenton since 2013, according to the Bradenton police report.

On June 12, the homeowners told police they left $60 cash on the kitchen counter as payment for Wright’s services and left a house key inside the mailbox as they usually did when she was expected to clean.

When they returned home, the money was gone but the house was not clean, the report said.

The victims also noticed several items of jewelry, valued at $8,000, were missing, according to the report.

A detective from the Bradenton Police Department checked Wright’s pawn history and discovered she had sold several items that matched the description given by the victims.

Wright allegedly admitted to taking the cash and jewelry when she was interviewed by police.

Wright was taken to Manatee County jail where she posted a  $10,500 bond and was released.

Attorney Destiny Allyson Prater entered a plea of not guilty on Wright’s behalf and requested a jury trial.

Wright’s arraignment will be held at 9 a.m. Friday, July 11, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

            Mike Quinn, publisher of newsmanatee.com, contributed to this report.