Tag Archives: 07-04-2012

Rescuer awarded Carnegie Medal, scholarship

“It was just instincts really,” said Connor Bystrom, 22, who last year saved his friend C.J. Wickersham from a shark attack in the Gulf of Mexico about six miles off Anna Maria Island.

    The instincts that naturally led him to rescue his friend of 17 years have now led to a prestigious hero’s award, the Carnegie Medal, and a $5,000 scholarship from the 108-year-old Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.

    The commission has awarded 9,539 medals to recognize “ordinary citizens who perform extraordinary acts of heroism,” according to the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission website.

    Throughout the 108 years since the fund was established by industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, $34.4 million has been given in one-time grants, scholarship aid, death benefits and continuing assistance.

    In Bystrom’s case, he, Wickersham and a group of friends were spearfishing, having lunch and enjoying a day on the water Sept. 24 before the attack occurred. Wickersham was fishing from a ledge near the floor of the Gulf, and as he surfaced, he called out he had been attacked by a shark, Bystrom said.

    Bystrom, who with the others were about 25 feet away from Wickersham in the Bystrom family boat, immediately jumped into the water, swam to his friend, grabbed him by the arm and towed him back to the boat where the others helped pull him up. Once inside the boat, Bystrom said, he used an anchor line to make a tourniquet to stop the bleeding from the large bite on Wickersham’s leg.

    According to reports after the incident, Bystrom laid across Wickersham to secure the tourniquet and towels used to stop the bleeding. Another in the group called 911 on a cell phone and arranged to have an ambulance waiting at the Rod & Reel Pier, and another friend drove the boat quickly to the pier and beached it on the shore.

    Wickersham was transferred to the ambulance and transported to an awaiting Bayflite medical helicopter, and on to Bayfront Medical Center for treatment.

    Bystrom says Wickersham has made a full recovery, and they remain friends and “see each other a lot.”

    About his award and scholarship, Bystrom said, “It’s great.”

    The scholarship will help with some of the costs of the veterinary medical school in Grenada that he will attend starting Aug. 5, he said.

    Bystrom, a surgical technician at a Sarasota veterinary office, also works with his veterinarian father, Bill Bystrom, and his mother, a wildlife rehabilitator.

    He says, “I’ve always loved animals.”

    His golden retriever, Sailor, will be moving with him to Grenada next month.

    Bystrom is an Anna Maria Elementary School and Manatee High graduate. He studied ocean engineering at Palm Beach State College, Boca Raton, before deciding to focus on a degree in veterinary medicine.

    The young man he saved, his family, and the group of friends with him that day — all who took quick and appropriate action to ensure Wickersham’s recovery — all agree: The Carnegie Medal is a great tribute to Bystrom, a humble, quiet young man. A hero.


Case Summary June 27, 2012


Holmes Beach, Florida

Connor M. Bystrom rescued Charles J. Wickersham from a shark attack, Anna Maria, Florida, September 24, 2011. Wickersham, 21, was spear fishing in the Gulf of Mexico with friends, including Bystrom, 22, surgical veterinarian technician. Their boat was anchored in water about 38 feet deep at a point about six miles from shore. Wickersham was in the water, at the surface, about 25 feet from the boat when a shark bit him deeply on his left thigh; the shark was thought to be a 9-foot-long bull shark. Wickersham struck it on the nose with both fists, and it released him. Bleeding profusely, he shouted to the others that he had been attacked by a shark. Bystrom jumped into the water and swam to him. He grabbed Wickersham by an arm and, swimming, towed him to the boat, where the other men in the party pulled him aboard. Bystrom climbed aboard and with the others tended to Wickersham as they sped to a marina. Airlifted to the hospital, where he was detained six days, Wickersham required surgery, including significant suturing, to close his wound. He recovered in three months.

        • Editor’s note: This summary is from the www.carnegiehero.org website.

Time nears for Anna Maria charter review

Anna Maria Mayor Mike Selby reminded commissioners at the end of their June 28 meeting that a charter review committee would be formed in the near future. The charter requires a committee review every five years, and the last committee met in 2008.

Selby said there are some gaps in the charter, particularly how long an appointed commissioner serves.

Former Commissioner Tom Aposporos, who chaired the 2003 and 2008 charter review committees, spoke briefly and said the charter was “forward thinking,” and the “gaps” Selby referred to were easily fixed.

He said the term of the commissioner appointed by the commission to replace the commissioner who becomes commission chair — and thus the mayor — following the 2012 general election is an “extraordinary situation.”

The charter specifies that if there were no candidates for mayor — as is the case in 2012 — the new commission elects a chair and that person automatically becomes mayor of the city. That means, however, that the commissioner named mayor loses the right to vote on the commission.

At the same time, the charter calls for the remaining four commissioners to “appoint” a fifth commissioner, then elect a commission chair and vice chair.

Another “situation” is that former elected officials need to wait one year before running for office, Aposporos said.

“That does not refer to a former elected official being appointed to the commission,” he noted.

City attorney Jim Dye said he was preparing a list of “options” for consideration by the current commissioners to undertake to resolve some of the charter questions. His list will be presented at the July 12 commission meeting.

Commissioner SueLynn, also formerly mayor, said she would like the mayor to have a vote in any new charter change.

“But that would mean the mayor couldn’t talk to commissioners as now,” said Commission Chair Chuck Webb.

Selby suggested that, because the commission will have to appoint a fifth commissioner at its post-election November  organizational meeting, the city should now seek interested people.

Dye said there is “wisdom in the process (of appointing a commissioner) to create transparency. I think the formal process is a good idea, but people can still put their hat in the ring.”

Webb said that the city’s website should contain information for anyone interested in being an appointed commissioner.

“I think we should get the word out now for anyone who wants to be a commissioner, although this may be just a one-year term,” Webb said.

The 2003 charter approved by the electorate established a city commission-mayor form of government and removed the mayor as a voting member of the commission.

SueLynn was mayor during the 2003 charter change and recommended its approval.

Dye said, however, that the first order of business for the commission is to establish the length of term for the appointed commissioner. He said he would study the charter to ensure this can be accomplished by ordinance.

Any substantive changes to the charter, such as allowing the mayor to have a vote, must be approved by the electorate, Dye reminded the commission.

AMI has ‘hot ticket’ for summer tourism

If the good weather that followed the passage of Tropical Storm Debby remains through late August, expect an abundance of visitors to Anna Maria Island, says Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman.

“If we don’t get a storm like Debby, it’s going to be a great summer season, better than last year,” Brockman predicted.

“There’s been nothing but good news from the rental agents and owners. Tourism to the Island has not slowed down since a brief spell in May. Usually, June tourism is slow, but not this year,” she said.

The Island’s summer tourist season used to be a time when accommodation owners and managers would renovate their properties, close for a few weeks for their own vacations, or just get ready for the coming winter season, she said.

Not so these days, Brockman noted.

“We have become so well known, plus the economy makes the Island a good value,” she said.

Brockman said the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has done a “fantastic job” of advertising the Island’s “old Florida charm,” and as a family destination, particularly for people living in Florida and the southeast.

Brockman said AMI is getting a lot of stay-cations. “They’re coming from Lakeland, Orlando, everywhere in Florida, plus Georgia and other states in the southeast. They can drive here in one day.”

Brockman said she spoke recently with a Kentucky family coming for vacation that was pleased by the old Florida lifestyle, but wanted to be close enough to attractions for their kids.

With an average nightly room-rate of about $130 in the summer months, the Island is very attractive to families who want value for their money, said David Teitelbaum, owner of four resort hotels in Bradenton Beach, and a board member for the chamber and the Manatee County Tourist Council.

“The value-for-dollar here is much better than one gets in Orlando, Miami or other Florida tourist destinations,” Teitelbaum said.

“You can’t get the old Florida look and feel anywhere else in this state for the price,” he said, sounding much like a walking advertisement for the Island. And he has good reason to be positive.

“We also are very-well booked this summer,” he said. “There are a few room nights here and there, but anyone thinking of an Island vacation shouldn’t wait until the last minute to call, or they might be out of luck.

“With four properties, we can usually find a place for someone, but the larger apartments that sleep six are in demand and renting fast,” he said.

Zita Kollar of Gulf-Bay Real Estate agreed with Teitelbaum. People shouldn’t wait until the last minute to call for a reservation.

“Call now if you want to get a good rental at the time you want,” she said, although she had few units available the week of July 4.

For other summer dates, their managed properties are renting almost as quickly as she, husband Jesse Brisson, and mom Robin Kollar can answer the phones, she said.

“I’m positive we are going to be well ahead of last July. It’s all good,” Zita Kollar said.

Larry Chatt at Island Real Estate, with nearly 300 properties to manage, echoed Zita Kollar’s sentiments.

“Knock on wood. If the weather remains good through August, it’s going to be a great season, probably the best. We’re up 30 percent from last year at this time for advance reservations,” he said.

Chatt is in good company when he says book now, don’t wait until a few days before you want to come.

Many smaller motels on the Island are experiencing a booming summer season, just like their larger counterparts.

Bonnie Wright at the Rod & Reel Motel, Anna Maria, said she had a few nights available the week of July 4, but those were filling up fast. For August, the motel is booked nearly 100 percent, she said.

“People like to come here because it’s quiet and old Florida. There’s the Rod & Reel Pier for fishing and a good restaurant there, and we have a beach area. It’s all going to be great this summer,” she said.

Ed Chiles, owner of the Sandbar, Mar Vista and BeachHouse restaurants, agreed this summer season should be a record-breaker, but good weather is needed, at least for the next six weeks.

“We are in the heart of the summer season and summer business has been great, except for (Tropical Storm) Debby. If we can continue to have excellent weather, everyone’s going to have a fantastic summer of business,” Chiles predicted.

Brockman said the chamber maintains an up-to-date list of member properties and agencies that have vacancies. Anyone arriving on Anna Maria Island without a reservation can call the chamber at 941-778-1541, or visit the office at 5313 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, for assistance.

BB P&Z approves 3 resort beer-wine applications

The Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board met June 28 for the first time since four members resigned in May after an April decision to deny the city’s joint development agreement with the BeachHouse Restaurant pitted the commission against the P&Z.

The city favored the agreement and at least one commissioner, as well as city attorney Ricinda Perry, attacked P&Z member qualifications, while Commissioner Ric Gatehouse accused P&Z members of presenting a “tainted and colored” recommendation based on personal bias.

Two board members resigned within 24 hours, a third resigned a few days later and a fourth resigned after asking for — and not receiving — an apology from the commissioners for the way P&Z board members had been treated.

The contentious May meeting where P&Z recommendations were placed on trial by Perry left the board without a quorum until John Burns and Dan Debaun were appointed by commissioners to the board in early June.

P&Z, now with five members, had four in attendance to establish quorum and moved on with regular business. Pat Whitesel was elected as the board’s new chair and Dakota Matthes was elected vice chair.

Burns and Debaun, both former board of adjustment members, also were in attendance.

As P&Z reorganized, a public hearing to consider a special exception application submitted by David Teitelbaum on behalf of the Tradewinds Resort, 1603 Gulf Drive N.; Tropic Isle, 102 22nd St. N.; and Seaside Inn, 2200 Gulf Drive N.; was resumed.

The special exception application is to allow the three resorts to sell beer, wine and other merchandise to their patrons, similar to a special exception approved by the city for Teitelbaum’s Tortuga Resort.

The city was represented by city planner Alan Garrett, who noted city staff had no objection to the special exception application, although he requested three stipulations be added to the application.

Garrett said the stipulations should set hours of operation to be 8 a.m.-10 p.m., limit sales to resort patrons only, and the sale of beer and wine shall comply with all local alcohol laws.

Garrett said the application under districts zoned R-3 does allow for small mercantile operations, including coffee shops, cocktail lounges and retail uses.

Teitelbaum said what he was asking for already was approved for Tortuga, and emphasized that sales would not be marketed to the public, and would be limited to the guests at each resort.

“Last time I was here for this was for Tortuga and these stipulations were requested,” he said. “We agreed to them and I’m proud to say we have kept our promise.”

Teitelbaum said he was proud to have four resorts in Bradenton Beach, “and probably has a couple more coming. We also understand what it means to be a good neighbor and believe strongly in being a quiet neighbor. I feel we are contributing to this community and we’ll follow the law and rules accordingly.”

Burns cited a land-development code section that prevents an overabundant concentration of alcohol establishments to “prevent problems associated” with the sale of alcohol in the R-3 district.

Garrett said there are certain criteria that outline that code, which deals with public safety and welfare.

“If it’s over concentration then it’s your duty to find a negative determination,” he said. “If not, then it’s your duty to find a positive determination. All we do is give you the information.”

Debaun said there is a difference between a general use and a restricted use, such as the one Teitelbaum applied for, but Burns disagreed.

“The code does not differentiate between the two,” he said. “Ultimately it’s a commission decision” he said.  “Two (locations) are in very close proximity of each other and it’s something the commission should take a close look at.”

Matthes motioned to approve all three applications, and all were seconded by Debaun. Each motion passed with a vote of 3-1, with Burns casting the nay vote.

Burns wanted his concerns noted on the abundance of alcohol sales in the R-3 district.

“I just want it pointed out in the findings of fact that a note should be made to the city commission on the over concentration issue in order that they can address it with eyes wide open,” said Burns.

“I just want you to know I disagree with you strongly,” Teitelbaum said. “I can see where people are concerned with one establishment being next to another and another, but this is a private resort. I think your interpretation is misguided and I say that with great respect. Hopefully this comment could be passed on to the commission as well.”

Whitesel said it would. The P&Z recommendation to approve the special exception application will be presented at a city commission meeting in the future.

Court to hear Bradenton Beach porn case

A July 11 docket sounding will determine whether a Bradenton Beach man charged with having sex with a 15-year-old, possessing and promoting child pornography and witness tampering, will go to trial July 23 in the 12th Judicial Circuit Court.

Joseph Edmund Chiquet, now 37, was arrested in 2009 after police learned he had a sexual relationship with a teenager, and that he took sexual photographs of her in his Bradenton Beach apartment. Search warrants for evidence yielded additional child pornography and felony charges.

In 2010, authorities added a bribery charge, accusing Chiquet of offering an ex-girlfriend $10,000 if she’d tell police she was depicted in the photographs and not, as prosecutors allege, the 15-year-old girl.

Along with the bribery charge, according to assistant state attorney Christopher Nigro, the court revoked Chiquet’s bond. He remains in the Manatee County jail.

Nigro said he’s prepared for a July trial, “hoping it’s what ends up happening.”

As of presstime for The Islander, Chiquet’s attorney Mark Lipinski of Bradenton did not return a call for comment.

A Feb. 16 court order required the state to disclose phone records — from both cell and office phones — of an assistant state attorney previously assigned to the case who allegedly spoke to the ex-girlfriend.

The defense sought the records, alleging the ex-girlfriend “at some point in time started tape recording Mr. Chiquet’s phone calls with her,” and calling police and the then-assigned assistant state attorney, Tony Casoria, according to Lipinski.

Lipinski said the recordings were made without court order or police authorization, and were illegal, and wanted the state attorney’s phone records to determine when the calls were made.

Nigro said the records have been tendered to the defense.

Two appeals already have been taken in the case — one on a defense appeal seeking to suppress evidence gathered as a result of a search warrant and one by the state to prevent the turnover of the phone records. Both affirmed prior circuit court rulings allowing discovery of the evidence.

Judge Thomas Krug will hold a docket sounding at 10 a.m. Wednesday, June 11, in Room 6-A Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Anna Maria drenched but unwounded by Debby

Tropical Storm Debby dumped an estimated 8-10 inches of rain on Anna Maria June 23-25 and, predictably, most of the city was flooded for several days, said Mayor Mike Selby.

“But there wasn’t any real damage to homes or structures,” he said.

Selby said he and public works supervisor George McKay had no reports of homes damaged by wind or trees.

“We had a lot of limbs that came down and lots of streets flooded,” the mayor said.

There were some downed Brighthouse Network cable lines, he said, but no power lines or telephone lines tumbled.

Selby said he and McKay inspected the city Sunday evening, June 24, and were out in the pouring rain securing some of the fallen cable lines.

“We just secured them so they would not become a danger to motorists,” Selby said. “But we both took a good soaking that night.”

Most of the flooding was along North Shore Drive and intersecting streets, he said, which is typical in Anna Maria during rainy periods.

Because the rains came for several days, drainage systems could not keep up with the downpour, Selby said. Low-lying areas such as along North Shore Drive and intersecting streets became lakes and streams for several days, he said.

McKay and his crew were out June 24, putting up signs advising motorists of high water on the roads.

Many of the city streets were still flooded June 26, but bright sunshine June 27 began to reduce standing water.

Particularly hard hit was the 800 block of North Shore Drive, McKay said.

The Anna Maria City Pier Restaurant weathered the storm in good shape and no damage was reported by manager Dave Sork to either the restaurant or the pier. The pier was closed June 24, but reopened at 4 p.m. June 25.

Not so for the Rod & Reel Pier, 875 N. Shore Drive, which is owned by the same entity that leases the city pier.

Manager Dave Cochran said water backed up the drainage pipes, forcing him to close the facility June 23. The utility lines for the pier run under the decking, which often results in problems in a storm event.

By Friday, June 29, Cochran was calling workers to come in for their shifts.

While the storm did no real physical damage, it was a good practice session for everyone, Selby said. City hall remained open Monday, June 25, despite the weather conditions.

“Imagine if this had been a real hurricane. We got a chance to practice our emergency procedures. I hope everyone in the city understands hurricane preparedness and knows the evacuation route,” he said.

One good thing came from Debby, according to the Manatee County Utilities Department.

Many of the county’s depleted water reservoirs were replenished by the rains from TS Debby, a spokesperson for the department said.

West Manatee Fire Rescue Chief Andy Price said the storm eliminated much of the danger of wildfires that can occur in April and May — the height of the dry season in Florida.

Manatee County Emergency Operations Director Laurie Feagans opened the emergency operations center on June 25 and briefed county and municipal officials on what the storm was doing to the area.

“It was good practice for the real thing,” Feagans said.

“There was a lot of flooding and some wind damage. It was a pretty intense storm and I think everyone realized what might have happened had it been a hurricane striking our area,” she said.


State has hotline for
Debby damages

The Florida Division of Emergency Management business function has opened a private-sector hotline for businesses, economic developments, organizations and others in Florida to report any damages or losses from Tropical Storm Debby.

The hotline number is 850-410-1403.

TS Debby floods streets, erodes beaches

Repairs to the Historic Bridge Street Pier and the removal of wrecked boats around the pier will carry Bradenton Beach’s highest price tag, as a result of Tropical Storm Debby.

Public works director Tom Woodard said no other major damage was reported in the city, other than severe beach erosion, which the county has continued to assess as of presstime for The Islander.

“We held up pretty well considering,” said Woodard. “The erosion is the worst I’ve seen in this area since the early 1990s. But there were no buildings damaged and no damage on the bay other than cleanup costs.”

Flooding was an issue during the storm, especially along Avenue A between 24th and 25th streets.

“It was heavily flooded, but that’s a constant problem area for us,” said Woodard. “It’s the same area we just did the stormwater project and I think that helped a lot. But there was no permanent damage from the flooding. The roads weren’t damaged and there were no sinkholes.”

Woodard said other areas of the city had street flooding issues, but he saw no erosion issues and no road damage.

“I think it would have been a bigger problem had we not already taken steps to address flooding issues in those areas,” said Woodard. “Everything operated like it should have.”

Woodard said Manatee County Natural Resources Department Director Charlie Hunsicker was already doing site inspections on Island shores.

“I do know he has been out on a number of site visits and is aware of the erosion problems we had,” said Woodard. “They are doing their inspection. I know Katie Pierola Park took a bad hit, as well as a lot of other places.”

Woodard said there isn’t much of a stretch of Bradenton Beach shoreline that didn’t suffer from the storm, “but we had significant damage to two beach-access points that we just spent $50,000 on. They are still intact, but a portion of them went out onto the beach.”

Woodard said the bulk of the work for his crew will be focused on the pier, “and after that, it’s just a lot of clean up. I think we fared pretty well. If the boats had not hit the pier, we wouldn’t be dealing with nearly as much as we are dealing with now.”

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said he hasn’t seen beach erosion this significant since Hurricane Elena in 1985.

“It was the same as this last storm was,” he said. “It just sat out in the Gulf and beat us up for days.”

Historic Bridge Street Pier sustains bulk of Debby’s damage

“All things considered, we fared pretty well,” said Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale regarding overall damage within the city sustained by Tropical Storm Debby.

Public works director Tom Woodard said the bulk of the storm’s damage, which battered Anna Maria Island for three days beginning June 23, focused around the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

A total of nine boats broke from their Sarasota Bay anchors and crashed into the pier at some point during sustained high winds and surf.

By June 28, four boats had been removed from the pier.

“Not all of them are moved yet,” said Woodard, who estimated the pier would be shut down for approximately two weeks to undergo repairs.

Woodard said not all of the boat owners have been contacted, but those that were, “have been very proactive in getting their stuff out of there. But there are some boats, especially the ones underwater, that we don’t have information on yet.”

Woodard also said two additional boats were sunk in the channel and two more boats anchored in the bay were sunk south of the pier.

“The two in the channel can be a problem,” he said. “That’s the channel used by the Bridgetender and the parasailing company, so they might have a problem getting in and out of there until those boats are removed.”

Five of the nine boats that hit the pier sank under the pier and, as of June 28, work was initiated by the city to move those boats away from the pier and into open water.

Woodard estimates a complete shutdown of the pier for two weeks due to a broken piling.

“The reason why I say two weeks is that one of the concrete pilings is completely broken, but it is a priority of ours to get the pier open. We’ve contacted some dock companies and what they can do is splint the piling and make it safe. Then my guys are already beginning to repair the hand railings and planking so we can make it safe for people.”

Speciale said an engineer has already assessed the damage and would write off the pier as being safe once the broken piling is secured with the splint.

“From there, he will give us the OK to open the pier,” said Speciale. “I’d say two weeks is a fair assessment. We are doing everything we can to get it open as quickly as possible, but we also need to make sure it’s structurally sound before we open it for the safety of the public.”

Rotten Ralph’s Restaurant, on the Historic Bridge Street Pier did not sustain damage and remains open to the public.


Mooring field not a mooring field

Speciale said there have been complaints from citizens regarding the mooring field in Sarasota Bay, from which the boats broke anchor and slammed the pier.

“What people need to know is that it’s not a mooring field at all,” said Speciale. “I wish it was. I was pleasantly surprised the day dock held up as well as it did, and very surprised at the amount of boats that stayed anchored in the bay. They must have been anchored well or we would have had a lot more boats against the pier.”

Speciale said the city has no authority to prohibit boats from anchoring in the bay.

“They have every right to be there,” he said. “The state gave us the opportunity to create ordinances to regulate the activity there, but we can’t stop them from being there. It’s navigable water and they can anchor anywhere they want. It’s not a mooring field. I wish it was. We would have fared much better because with a mooring field they would have had something solid to anchor to with pins.”

Speciale said his department will do everything they can to recoup city funds expended to remove the boats from the boat owners, but it has been difficult thus far to find a boat’s owner with insurance. Some boat owners have offered to sign their titles over to the city, “but what are we going to with a wrecked boat?” Speciale asked.

“Some boat owners are even signing over the titles to whoever wants them,” he said. “The bottom line is that we are going to do whatever we can to recoup the losses from the damage done by the boats.”

Speciale had just returned from a June 28 Manatee County Emergency Operations Center meeting at the time he spoke to The Islander, and reported EOC was gathering information to declare the county as a federal disaster area.

“The state already has and Sarasota County already has,” said Speciale. “If the county is able to do that, then it will open the door to go after federal money to pay for the cleanup.”

Woodard said the last time boats hit the pier, “The cheapest to remove was $11,000 and the most expensive was $21,000. So with nine boats, five of which are sunk, we are looking at a price tag between $50,000-$100,000.”

County to examine Island beaches, shores for erosion

With an Island beach renourishment project scheduled to begin in 2014, Manatee County Natural Resources Department director Charlie Hunsicker is concerned with beach erosion on Anna Maria Island caused by Tropical Storm Debby.

First, however, Hunsicker and a team of coastal engineers from Coastal Planning and Engineering of Boca Raton, the county’s beach renourishment consulting firm, must do a complete survey of beach erosion as a result of the storm.

“I’ve already taken a look at some areas,” Hunsicker said.

“But we are going to check and see how well the beaches performed, or not, with a complete marine survey of the beaches,” he said. “We have to do a ‘before,’ and ‘after’ survey of the condition of the beaches.”

If the survey finds serious erosion took place, the county might be eligible for federal emergency funds, he said. The problem is getting on the eligibility list for those funds, which come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“It could take many months to establish eligibility,” Hunsicker said.

But there is a “possibility,” Hunsicker said, that eligibility might tie in with the planned Island renourishment project that is slated to begin in 2014.

If any beach erosion was considered a “life-saving issue,” the county might be eligible for funds immediately, but that’s not the case, he said.

Hunsicker said he hoped to begin the erosion survey within the next 30 days and present it to the county commission as soon as possible.

The before and after surveys of Island beaches is needed quickly to get on the FEMA eligibility list, Hunsicker said.



The story in the June 27 Islander about the 2014-15 beach renourishment project and funding from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill of April 2010 to Florida for environmental restoration should have stated that Manatee County Natural Resources Department director Charlie Hunsicker said all Florida counties, even land-locked Okeechobee County, are included in the state’s coastal zone.


Holmes Beach weathers Debby, some damages reported

Tropical Storm Debby whipped up winds that damaged at least two buildings in Holmes Beach June 25 near the Gulf of Mexico.

    Reporting significant damage from the storm in the city were Timesaver, 5353 Gulf Drive, and Martinique South, 5200 Gulf Drive.

    Time Saver lost the front façade and overhang that stretched the width of its building at about 3 a.m.

    “It came out in one piece,” said store manager Mondher Kobrosly. “It not only pulled out the whole facade, it pulled off part of the roof.”

    The store also lost cameras, lighting and signs, he said.

    “According to people around here, they heard a big bang. They thought it was a transformer,” said Kobrosly.

    He was thankful no one was injured, and also for his friend and building contractor, Ted Geeraerts, who enlisted help to board up the store’s exposed front, preventing further damage in the early morning hours before Kobrosly arrived at 8:30 a.m.

    Timesaver had remodeled a few months ago, Kobrosly added.

    Later the same day, at approximately 6:45 p.m., winds stripped off a 50-by-45-foot section of the roof at Martinique South, according to building superintendent Harold Britt.

    The roof blew off, and fell on top of the only car in the parking lot at the time, according to Britt and the car’s owner, Martinique resident Gillian Kendall.

    Kendall had been watching the storm from her window, and said the Gulf’s rising tides had taken away 100 feet of beach.

    “It looked like the North Atlantic,” she said, adding she worried about the marked turtle nests she had observed on the beach before the storm.

    Britt said the storm also damaged air conditioner compressors on the roof, caused water damage to six units and blew out glass from windows and doors in the community room.

    The storm’s high tides created flooding in portions of the city despite the new stormwater system serving areas from city hall to the north end of the city, according to Mayor Rich Bohnenberger.

    “The tides have been super high,” he said. “No drainage system would have been able to handle them any better.”

    Fifty-nine calls were logged in by West Manatee Fire Rescue June 23-26, according to a WMFR report.

    Due to TS Debby, calls on June 24 and June 25 were higher than usual, according to WMFR Deputy Chief Brett Pollock. Most weather-related calls involved utility lines down, “arcing” and shorted electrical equipment, he said.

    “There may have been lots of flooding going on — just no calls,” said Pollock.

    At WMFR’s Station 1 in Holmes Beach, Lt. Jeff Lonzo said Island firefighters handled numerous calls June 24- 25.

    On June 25, firefighters from Station 1 responded to eight calls, including a child and dog locked in a car at the north end of Anna Maria, power lines down, arcing wires, medical assists and two structure fires, one on Longboat Key and one on 70th Street, Holmes Beach, Lonzo said.

    No injuries or major damages were reported.

    National Weather Service meteorologist Richard Rude said a buoy offshore of Anna Maria Island measured peak gusts of 47 mph at 7:18 p.m. June 25. He said rainfall measured 9.99 inches from a reporting station in Bradenton from 2 p.m. June 21 to 2 p.m. June 26.

HB mayor misses Anna Maria opening, praises his staff

    Fact checking — it’s not only something for the media.

    A memorandum from Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger sent to staff and media June 26 states, “Holmes Beach was the only Island city open for business Monday, June 25, during the storm.”

    However, one of the two other cities on Anna Maria Island was open for business June 25.

    Anna Maria City Clerk Alice Baird said all departments and city hall were open regular hours June 25, and fielding reports of “quite a bit of flooding” and “beach erosion.”

    Islander reporter Rick Catlin visited Anna Maria City Hall that day and confirmed city hall was open to the public.

    Bradenton Beach Deputy Clerk Tammy Johnson said that while Bradenton Beach city hall was closed, its police and public works director were on the job.

    Bohnenberger — who is running for re-election Nov. 6 against challenger Carmel Monti — sent the erroneous information in a memo to his staff — with copies to the media.

    In the memo, he also thanked his staff for a job well done and for dedication to duty.

        He said, “We can all be proud to have served our city providing full service during the adverse storm conditions.”.”