Tag Archives: 07-09-2014

All-American July 4 Parade on AMI

 

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The Anna Maria Island Privateers show their colors in their annual July 4 parade.

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Gabrielle Gilbert is all-American girl.

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The American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24 leads the parade.

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Holmes Beach Commissioner David Zaccagnino shows civic pride.

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Dogs for the Earth introduces spokesdog Tiffany.

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Mayor Bill Shearon tosses beads from the Bradenton Beach police boat.

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Islander Photos: Karen Riley-Love, Bonner Joy

AM planners give nod to cell tower plan

Calling all Anna Maria residents with a cellphone: The days of dropped calls and no bars for service are numbered.

If all goes according to schedule, a proposed cell tower could provide signals by Jan. 28, 2015.

That’s according to Kevin Barile of Florida Tower Partners, the company planning the communications tower at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

Barile presented his company’s site plan and a construction timeline to planning and zoning board members at a public hearing July 1.

“And that’s a conservative estimate,” he told the board.

Board members voted unanimously to recommended approval of the site plan to the city commission.

The company will dig down to 27 feet to begin construction of the tower. The base structure will be 10 feet tall and 35 feet by 80 feet. The base will contain tower equipment, anchor the tower and also allow parking underneath.

Landscaping will surround the base and Florida Power and Light has agreed to install its electrical service to the tower underground, Barile said.

The number of parking spaces at city hall, if the plans are approved, will be reduced from 63 to 61, he said.

Verizon Wireless and AT&T are ready to put equipment on the tower once it’s built.

Under Barile’s timeline, the city commission will hold its first public hearing on the site plan July 24, with a final hearing Aug. 14.

If approved, Florida Tower Partners LLC will then seek approvals from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Federal Communications Commission.

Once those are received, Barile estimates construction could begin Dec. 18.

Each service provider would apply for a permit to add its antennae to the tower, he said, and those companies could begin adding equipment to the tower the day it’s ready.

Barile said he sent notices of a balloon test at the tower site to 623 property owners and eight people showed up for the test.

“All asked the same question,” he said. “When’s it going to be ready?”

City planner Alan Garrett said the city has received no complaints or questions about the tower.

At the P&Z hearing, no one spoke in opposition to the site plan.

Florida Tower Partners is paying the city a one-time fee of $350,000 to lease the space for the tower. The city also will receive a percentage of the gross monthly receipts FTP will collect from the carriers.

Mayor SueLynn said the $350,000 tower income is included in her 2014-15 budget proposal, which she plans to present to commissioners July 9, along with suggestions on spending the revenue.

Sea turtle walks and talks popular among visitors

As sea turtle nesting season peaks, the curious are invited to see a nest firsthand and learn how volunteers mark the spot.

Longtime Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring volunteers Glenn and Claudia Wiseman conduct tours for anyone interested in learning how volunteers do what they do and about the sea turtles nesting on Anna Maria Island.

“We’ve had so many people calling about the tours I’ve had to turn some down, or schedule them for different days,” said Claudia Wiseman.

The Wisemans, both retired teachers, field questions while they locate and mark off nests many mornings.

After making reservations, tourgoers meet beachside at 7 a.m. and are taken to a fresh sea turtle nesting site, identified by an AMITW volunteer monitoring that section of beach just after sunrise.

A July 2 tour brought the group to a nest laid on Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

Claudia kicked the talk off, showing the crawl marks made by the sea turtle as it exited and re-entered the Gulf of Mexico. The crawl marks are rhythmic grooves in the sand made by a turtle’s flippers as it scoots up and down the beach.

The Wisemans explained how AMITW volunteers identify the center of the nest and then they began to dig to locate the eggs in the nearly 3-foot in diameter escarpment made as the turtle dug its hole, and reburied its precious deposit.

The eggs typically are buried 18 inches deep and there is an average 80-100 eggs per clutch, or nest. According to Glenn Wiseman, the east coast of Florida is one of the most popular sea turtle nesting grounds in the world.

At the nesting site, those on the tour got a peak at the eggs nestled in the sand before they were reburied.

Soliciting help from the audience, Glenn Wiseman hammered stakes around the nest. Claudia Wiseman, again with help from a tour member, tied a bright pink ribbon around the stakes.

She marked the stakes with the nest and section number, omitting the dates. She told the tour group that AMITW no longer dates the nests. Beachgoers in previous years would camp out and wait for the hatchlings to “boil out of the nest,” or emerge from the sand, and head to the water.

Not every nest-watcher proved problematic, but a few flashlights and human interventions proved to be not in the best interest of the turtles or conservation efforts.

The tour group of 20 huddled around the new nest attracted beach walkers, growing the crowd.

One person who joined the tour at the onset began explaining AMITW’s work and shared some turtle facts with a beach walker who joined the crowd.

That’s just the type of interaction AMITW hopes to come from the tours.

“Primarily what we like to do is education versus the monitoring,” Claudia Wiseman said as she watched the rookie turtle expert talk with the beach walker. “We used to police the beaches during turtle season, but now we educate.”

She said the education efforts have received a better response and promotes stewardship.

Island turtle tours will continue throughout July. The frequency of nests declines as the season continues, making a daily nesting demonstration more difficult.

Later in the summer, AMITW’s team will transition into conducting tours to hatched nests, where the volunteers will excavate the nests and count the hatched or unhatched eggs.

 

Sea turtle walks, talks on AMI, LBK

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring is offering tours of nesting areas on island beaches.

AMITW tours are free, but require a reservation. To schedule a tour with AMITW, call Claudia Wiseman at 248-982-5600.

Tours are offered daily, but limited to 25 people. AMITW tours are led by trained volunteers.

Mote Marine Laboratory offers tours on Longboat Key. The stroll on the beach is free and led by Mote-trained volunteers.

All ages are welcome but an adult must accompany children. LBK’s turtle walks are at 6:45 a.m. Saturdays in July. Reservations are not required.

Participants in the Mote Marine tour meet at the public beach access at 4795 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key. Parking is available at the beach access.

BB clerk resigns on threat of criminal charges

Just weeks after Bradenton Beach commissioners fired six-month city clerk Jamie Anderson, pro tem clerk Tammy Johnson has resigned.

She resigned July 3.

The notice was prompted by allegations from city attorney Ricinda Perry that Johnson violated public records laws.

Perry suggested Johnson could resign or, if she chose to stay on the job, an ensuing investigation of Sunshine Law violations could warrant criminal charges, resulting in her termination.

In her letter of resignation, Johnson wrote she was leaving to “pursue other opportunities.”

Her last day in the office will be July 11. She asked Mayor Bill Shearon to allow her to take accrued personal leave and vacation from July 14-Aug. 22, and he agreed.

Perry alleged that Johnson could have faced first-degree misdemeanor charges for deleting public records and job termination if found guilty, pursuant to city policies.

Johnson asked for guidance in a June 24 letter to Shearon.

In that letter, Johnson stated that Perry told her she will be moving forward on the public records complaints made by “multiple sources on multiple occasions.”

In April, Robert Lincoln, on behalf of himself and as the attorney representing ELRA Inc., Ed Chiles’ BeacHhouse restaurant corporate entity, asked for an investigation as to whether his emails to commissioners were being improperly deleted by the clerk’s office.

Ric Gatehouse, the city’s IT contractor and a former city commissioner, looked into the issue and determined the emails were being deleted from Johnson’s computer.

Johnson said she deleted some emails from Lincoln because she believed they were duplicates.

At the time in question, all emails addressed to commissioners first went to the clerk’s mailbox and were redirected by the clerk to the commissioners.

Johnson told The Islander she was trying to be efficient by deleting duplicates, while ensuring she forwarded a copy to the commissioner-mayor distribution list.

“It was very time consuming,” Johnson said. “I couldn’t tell which email went to who unless I printed it out.”

In May, Perry advised Johnson to forward the city commissioners and mayor their respective emails regardless of them appearing to be duplicates.

“The fact is, if it’s addressed differently, it makes a different public record,” Perry said. “Further, no email should be deleted as it is a public record and should be preserved as such.”

Johnson said she believed the issue was resolved in May after new protocols were enacted to prevent future email issues.

Gatehouse told The Islander that longtime clerk Nora Idso had requested all emails be sent to the clerk’s office, where she distributed them to officials in compliance with Florida Government-in-the-Sunshine-Laws.

But that was some five years ago.

Since then, the city’s email designee changed and emailing became a more prominent means of communication for citizens wishing to contact their elected officials.

“It wasn’t practical any more,” Gatehouse said. “The emails were clogging up the system, so we had to come up with a better way.”

Gatehouse arranged for each commissioner and the mayor to receive, manage, archive and respond to emails without involving the clerk.

Everything seemed to be running smoothly for Johnson, who was made temporary clerk June 19, until the private meeting with Perry, who said it may be in Johnson’s best interest to avoid charges and resign from her position.

If she chose not to resign, Johnson was told she would be called in for a conference to review the accusations and make determinations as to what happens next. Those determinations would then go to Shearon for review.

Perry told Johnson that additional accusations are forthcoming.

At the meeting where the commission dismissed Anderson, Perry said there were concerns indicated on the anonymous evaluations that Anderson mismanaged Johnson, her only employee.

One commissioner wrote that Johnson and Anderson were not “team players,” and not getting along with other departments within the city.

Johnson also was faulted in Anderson’s evaluations for being rude to the public, city staff and commissioners.

Another commissioner wrote that Johnson “has a bad attitude” and “needs to be disciplined.”

Perry also told Johnson that deleting the records while acting under the direction of her previous supervisor “may not be a viable defense.”

 

Who will be city clerk?

Johnson was appointed pro tem city clerk June 19, but only until the city could advertise and hire a new clerk.

Since advertising the opening on the city’s website, only two applications have been received.

At their July 3 city meeting, commissioners voted to bring former deputy clerk Terri Sanclemente on board to perform city clerk services for a term of six months, with the understanding that she could become a full-time employee.

Johnson will train Sanclemente during her last week, July 7-11.

Commissioners are still planning to hire a full-time clerk to replace Anderson.

Sanclemente will be paid $17 per hour on contract, and will not receive employee benefits.

The new clerk will be selected though an evaluation process, where each commissioner anonymously chooses three applicants, then their choices will be presented at a public meeting, where a decision on which applicant will be hired will be based on a ranking matrix.

The clerk vacancy again will be advertised on the city website at www.cityofbradentonbeach.com.

Complaint lodged against mayor: operating lodge without license

According to a recent complaint to the city, Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon and his partner Tjet Martin may be operating their vacation resort without all the needed licensing.

Robert Lincoln, attorney representing ELRA Inc., Ed Chiles’ BeacHhouse Restaurant corporate entity, filed a complaint June 19 with the state regulatory agency — the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations — alleging Shearon and Martin have been operating Linger Longer, 302 Gulf Drive, without a state-mandated public lodging license.

An ensuing investigation conducted by the DBPR-Division of Hotels and Restaurants revealed that Shearon was operating without a license and required Shearon to apply for his lodging license within 60 days.  The case was rated “high priority” by the division.

Shearon said he has since applied for the license.

A lodging license may cost anywhere from $205 to $250, according to the DBPR and, if an establishment is not in compliance, the operators of the business could be fined.

On June 20, Lincoln sent a letter of notification to the city. In the letter, Lincoln cites Florida Statutes and he highlighted a passage in his letter that states: “Operating a transient rental property without a state lodging license is a second-degree misdemeanor and state law provides for the immediate arrest of a violator.”

Shearon said he has operated the business for 11 years and has always tried to do the right thing when it came to his taxes. “I just didn’t know,” he said.

Code enforcement officer Gail Garneau filed a report in response to the complaint that showed Shearon and Martin are in the process of obtaining the required state lodging license.

The couple reside at Linger Longer and rent out the remaining units to vacationers.

Martin is running for the Ward 4 commission seat against incumbent Commissioner Jan Vosburgh. She also serves on the city’s scenic waves committee.

Shearon said part of the problem was a change in state law, HB 883, which requires vacation rental operators to have state licensing in hand before they can receive a business tax receipt from the city.

The city already is in the process of adding that requirement to the business tax application and renewal forms, Shearon said.

Shearon said adding language to the forms requiring vacation rental businesses to provide a state license number before receiving a city business tax receipt will solve a lot of problems.

“This was actually a blessing in disguise,” Shearon said. “There are a lot of people out there who are doing the same thing and we need to fix it on a city level.”

New center budget cuts $100,000-plus from expenses

Anna Maria Island Community Center executive director Dawn Stiles presented her 2014-15 budget to the board of directors July 1. She cut spending by $101,738.

The total expenses for 2014-15 are $937,138 compared with $1,038,876 for 2013-14. The center’s fiscal year is from July through June.

The board approved the budget, which will be presented to the public July 14, during a 6 p.m. meeting at the center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.

One budget slice resulted from the elimination of an assistant executive director. Scott Dell, who held the position, resigned in June.

Approximately $60,000 was cut from salaries.

For 2014-15, Stiles estimated two major revenue producing programs to be the Island Affaire gala, bringing in $148,605 in revenue, and direct donations, bringing in $171,018.

Stiles estimated $53,630 in direct grant revenue and $83,029 in direct assistance from Manatee County.

In Stiles’ budget, the center’s net income is $43,909. From that amount, the center would pay $38,990 in debt service and $4,700 in capital expenses, leaving $219 as the net income for the fiscal year.

The new budget and cost-cutting measures followed  the June 4 “Save Our Center” public meeting, where Stiles and board chair Scott Rudacille informed the public that the center was in a financial crisis and on the verge of shutting its doors.

An outpouring of donations followed — more than $72,000 — plus the the pledge from an anonymous donor to match contributions up to $50,000.

 

Board expansion

At its July 1 meeting, the board unanimously approved adding new members to the existing directors. Existing board members include Rudacille, Blair Schlossburg David Teitelbaum, Jason Sato, Erin Heckler and Cindy Thompson.

Under the center’s bylaws, four vacancies remain on the board. Anyone interested in serving on the board or as a center volunteer can call the center to express interest at 941-778-1908.

The new members are:

• Ed Chiles, Anna Maria resident, owner of two restaurants on Anna Maria Island and one on Longboat Key, and a member of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council.

• Mike Coleman, Anna Maria resident, business owner and member of the Anna Maria Planning and Zoning Board.

• Rex Hagen, well-known philanthropist and Anna Maria Island resident of many years who frequently donates to public projects on Anna Maria Island. Hagen funded the tennis courts at the center many years ago.

• Michael Selby, businessman, former mayor of Anna Maria and volunteer at the center.

• David Welch, retired businessman.

Efforts to reach Janczewski and McManaway were unsuccessful.

 

‘Save Our Center’ meet set

The Anna Maria Island Community Center will host a second “Save Our Center” meeting Monday, July 14, at 6 p.m.

The meeting will take place in the center gym, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.

Executive director Dawn Stiles said board chair Scott Rudacille will announce new board members, and the new budget and growth strategy will be discussed. Questions from the audience will be addressed as well.

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

Convicted sex offender moves to Cortez

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported June 27 a convicted sex offender has moved to Cortez.

According to the FDLE website on convicted sex offenders, the man’s residence is in the 12000 block of 45th Avenue West.

The website stated the 44-year-old man was convicted in Manatee County in September 1989 of lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under 16.

The man has since been released from his probation, but by law is required to report his residence to the FDLE within one week of moving to a new location.

FDLE reports there are three convicted sex offenders living in Cortez, two in Holmes Beach and one in Bradenton Beach. No convicted sex offenders live in Anna Maria, according to the site.

HB traffic committee plans halt to residential street parking

Parking options could diminish for island visitors if the Holmes Beach Traffic and Congestion Committee has its way.

The committee members discussed further restricting parking in residential areas at their June 30 meeting.

The committee is seeking to relieve tension on residential streets during high traffic times, such as holidays, by restricting parking there altogether.

One kink in the plan to further restrict parking in residential areas may be limitations on beach renourishment funding. According to Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resource Department, funding for beach renourishment projects relies heavily on the availability of public parking on the island.

According to committee chair Carol Soustek, much of the committee’s is work now is focused on counting the number of parking spaces that exist and determining what can be eliminated without jeopardizing renourishment funding.

“We’re verifying information that we have, making it very clear what we can and cannot do,” said Soustek. “I don’t think we have a problem with what we have, but we don’t want to cause any problems.”

Hunsicker told attendees at a June meeting of the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials that the island cities must check with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection on the number of public parking spaces required to receive government funding for renourishment before adopting ordinances that further limit parking.

Hunsicker said the DEP has a formula that is applied.

Committee members also discussed the potential for issuing decals that would allow residents to park on streets in residential areas if they do proceed with a plan for further restrictions.

The traffic committee will next meet at 9:30 a.m. Monday, July 21, at city hall. The committee plans to present its research and a parking plan to the city commission 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 22, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

 

2 arrested on burglary charges

Two people were arrested June 26 after they allegedly broke into three vehicles and tried to unlock the front door of an occupied home in Holmes Beach.

Lee Taylor Bergeron, 18, homeless, faces charges of attempted unarmed burglary of an occupied dwelling, unarmed burglary of an occupied dwelling and three counts of unarmed burglary of a conveyance.

Bergeron’s alleged 16-year-old accomplice faces two counts of burglary to a conveyance.

On June 23, an HBPD officer responded to a report that a man and his wife were awakened around 1 a.m. by the sound of something being inserted into the front door lock of their home in the 400 block of 72nd Street.

The couple told police they jumped out of bed when they heard someone jiggling the handle.

The woman looked out the door and saw a male running from the property, the report said. She later told police the man was wearing stonewashed jeans.

Officers searched the area but did not find a suspect. They did, however, note that two vehicles parked on the same block had been burglarized.

Loose change had been removed from both vehicles, and keys were missing from inside the couple’s Ford Explorer SUV, the report said.

One of the officers noticed that the home across the street had surveillance cameras posted outside. He asked the resident if he could review the tapes to try to identify the burglars.

A review of the tapes revealed two males near the cars. Not only had the two vehicles parked across the street been burglarized, but the surveillance video caught a man, later identified as Bergeron, enter his Ford F150 parked in his driveway, collecting any loose.

Bergeron also allegedly broke into the man’s outdoor tiki bar area and looked around using a flashlight, the report said.

The video showed Bergeron and another male, known to an HBPD officer, leave the scene.

During an interview with police, the juvenile suspect said he stood by while Bergeron entered locked cars to collect change. When Bergeron discovered the keys inside the parked vehicles, he tried to enter the adjacent residence in order to steal keys for another car so boys “could drive it to a party in town,” the report stated.

The juvenile said the they “got spooked” when the residents of the home awoke and they noticed several marked patrol cars in the area. He told police they dumped the keys in a nearby lot.

HBPD officers asked the juvenile to take them to the lot where the keys were discarded. They reportedly located the keys and returned them to their owner.

While Bergeron admitted to trespassing, he did not admit to the burglaries, the report stated.

However, police identified Bergeron by matching the tattoos on his arms from the surveillance video to photos on his Facebook page.

Bergeron was arrested and taken to Manatee County jail, where he is being held on a $10,500 bond. His arraignment will be held at 9 a.m. Friday, July 11, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

The 16-year-old was taken to the juvenile detention center.

Local ‘dry water’ campaign nets arrest

Local participation in a national event designed to crack down on boating under the influence netted one arrest.

Seven other boaters received citations for safety violations during Operation Dry Water, which was conducted nationwide June 27-29.

During the weekend, law enforcement officers at local, state and federal levels were on heightened alert for those violating boating-under-the-influence laws.

Locally, one man was arrested June 28 for allegedly boating under the influence.

Christopher James Callahan, 20, 100 block of Crescent Drive, Anna Maria, ran his boat aground at 8:30 p.m., according to a report from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

The U.S. Coast Guard pulled Callahan over after allegedly observing him drive the boat aground, struggle to get off the shoal, then swerve while leaving.

A Coast Guard officer observed Callahan stumble and slur his words. So he had Callahan perform a sobriety test designed for boaters. The officer believed the results showed Callahan to be under the influence and he asked Callahan to pull his boat to a nearby boat ramp.

According to the report, Callahan bumped his vessel into the side of a concrete seawall and almost walked off the pier.

At that point, an MCSO deputy intervened and Callahan was given another sobriety test, which authorities said he failed.

Callahan was taken to Manatee County jail, where he was released the next day on a $500 bond.

Nationwide thousands of law enforcement officers were out on the water during Operation Dry Water.

“The mission of Operation Dry Water and the law enforcement officers who participate is to reduce the number of alcohol- and drug-related deaths on the water,” John Fetterman, National Association of State Boating Law Administrators Deputy Executive Director, said in a news release. “Boating should be a fun and enjoyable time spent with friends and family. We are asking that boaters make sure their voyage remains enjoyable by boating sober. Too many accidents and deaths are caused by those who choose to boat under the influence.”