Tag Archives: 07-18-2012

New issues arise during BB budget talks

As Bradenton Beach commissioners continued their budget discussions, public works director Tom Woodard brought forth some issues needing to be addressed that are not in the proposed budget.

Woodard said due to previous budget cutbacks, scheduled hardening of city buildings has been neglected, and the city is required to have that work done.

Woodard also said storm shutters for city hall would not hold up to a major storm.

Commissioners have discussed developing a priority list in budget talks with the department heads, Woodard especially.

“We are going to need to rely on you to let us know what is necessary by priority,” Commissioner Ric Gatehouse told Woodard.

Woodard said two of his top priority items, which have not been budgeted, include the installation of a backup generator at the police department the city purchased two years ago. The generator was purchased to replace the World War II-era generator the city relies on to keep operating during a storm, but funding was never approved for the installation due to budget cuts.

“And now it’s just been sitting in my garage,” said Woodard. “It runs on propane or natural gas, but I have neither one.”

Woodard said it would cost $20,000 to run a natural gas line, but for an estimated $10,000 he could install the generator and add an underground propane tank.

The generator would supply enough power to keep the police department and public works buildings running through a storm. City hall employees would move to the police department to continue city operations, as there is no generator for city hall.

Woodard said the U.S. Department of Defense still owns the city’s old generator and is trying to eliminate it from inventory.

“The second thing is that every year I have to do a report for the state for street sweeping and keep track of how much we pick up,” he said. “Before, I had a storage yard and it wasn’t an issue. Now I don’t. I’ve only found one sweeping company that would haul it away. Every other company requires a place to dump it, but we are looking at an annual $14,000 contract.”

Woodard said he expects to get grief from the state. “I haven’t (had the streets swept) in six months because I have no place to store it. And the other problem is that it used to cost $300, and now it is significantly more.”

Woodard said if something isn’t done soon the city could be pulled from the county’s permit. He said if the city doesn’t use the permit, it will lose the permit.

City clerk Nora Idso said she would look at the budget and try to address need for the $10,000 generator.

“This is about health, safety and welfare,” said Idso. “Even if there is money in the reserves to get some of these necessary things up and running, we need to do it.”

BB public works budget is about being prepared

Bradenton Beach Commissioner Gay Breuler said during a July 9 public works budget discussion that “our infrastructure … is looking shoddier and shoddier and I think that’s an insult” to city staff.

Infrastructure became a primary topic in budget talks. Commissioners will set the tentative millage rate July 25, which determines how much the city receives in property taxes.

Public works director Tom Woodard submitted proposed budgets for the Historic Bridge Street Pier, streets and roads, facilities management and stormwater management.

With the pier to undergo reconstruction sometime after the budget is finalized with Community Redevelopment Agency funds, the proposed 2012-2013 pier budget is $1,700 more than last year’s $32,600 budget. The pier budget does not include the CRA expenditures for the reconstruction.

But contracts for the project are in the pier budget.

With contracts needed for the construction project, attorney fees in the pier budget doubled from $500 to $1,000, while the biggest increase was utilities — budgeted at $7,000 last year — up $2,000 to $9,000 in the new budget.

The proposed streets and roads budget increased from $180,016 to $191,401. The stormwater management budget proposal increased from $200,058 to $203,080 and the facilities management budget increased from $124,507 to $133,599.

The biggest increase in the stormwater management budget reflects a proposed pay raise of 3 percent for city staff in salary, insurance and retirement contributions.

The facilities management budget includes a $5,000 increase from $10,000 to $15,000 for building repair, and reflects new carpet for city hall offices.

The largest increase proposed in the streets and roads budget is for operating expenses. Woodard has increased this budget from $9,000 to $15,000.

“Operating expenses have raised because infrastructure is requiring more maintenance,” said Woodard, who was asked to compile a priority list for roadwork, as commissioners eye infrastructure improvements with an emphasis on roads.

“And put a timetable on them in which we can approach” the street repairs said Commissioner Ric Gatehouse.

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh noted Woodard previously budgeted more than he used for some items, and asked if the director could find any reductions.

“I’m comfortable with what I’ve submitted,” said Woodard. “It’s at the commission’s discretion, of course, but I need that cushion for when things come up. Examples are the seawall that broke apart at the end of 11th Street and we got into an issue with an underground water pipe we had to fix on Church Street.”

Woodard said it’s better to budget the money to address emergencies than to ask commissioners to pull money from the general fund.

Vosburgh had the same issue in the facilities management budget, where she felt the building repair line item might be “padded quite a bit.”

Woodard said, “It goes back to infrastructure and covers city hall, the police department, public works, the library and the rest rooms and showers at the pier. You see $15,000 there, but if we had another issue like this year, where we have to replace two air conditioners, that’s going to be most of that $15,000.”

Mayor John Shaughnessy said there was a lot in the current budget that was out of the city’s control.

“Things like the repair of equipment and the cost of fuel, which affects everything,” he said. “You have to budget it over a period of a year, and nobody knows what gas is going to cost next month.”

Shaughnessy said the commissioners are stewards of the city and it is the citizens’ right to complain.

“But I’d rather have them complain about the budget than complain about why their streets are never being repaired,” he said.

Motion on competency filed in Bradenton Beach porn case

A motion to declare a Bradenton Beach man legally incompetent to proceed to trial has been filed by his attorney.

Joseph Edmund Chiquet has spent the past two years in jail awaiting trial on charges of having sex with a minor, child pornography and witness tampering.

The defendant’s physicians now are questioning his fitness to stand trial based on reports filed June 27.

According to the motion, two physicians consulted with the defendant in custody at the Manatee County jail, and both found him to be incompetent.

Chiquet, 37, was arrested in 2009 after police learned of his alleged sexual relationship with a teenager, and that he took sexual photographs of her in his Bradenton Beach apartment. Search warrants allegedly yielded additional child pornography from Chiquet’s computers.

While out on bond in 2010, Chiquet was charged with offering a $10,000 bribe to a former girlfriend to tell police she was depicted in the photographs and not, as prosecutors allege, the 15-year-old girl.

After adding the bribery charge, the court revoked Chiquet’s bond, and he since has remained in custody, according to 12th Judicial Circuit Court assistant state attorney Christopher Nigro.

Two appeals, one by the defense and one by the prosecution regarding the discovery of evidence, have prolonged the case.

Settling the most recent discovery dispute, Nigro said he provided the phone logs of a prior assistant state attorney assigned to the case as requested by the defense.       The phone records were sought as part of a defense that points to possible illegally taped discussions with the defendant, Chiquet’s attorney Mark Lipinski has said.

A Nov. 14 docket sounding and November trial date were set July 11, postponing a previously scheduled July trial.

A competency hearing, however, is now expected to take place before the trial.

The hearings will be held before Judge Thomas Krug at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Connelly sentencing next week

Holly Connelly, 30, found guilty May 11 of charges she schemed to defraud more than $50,000 from the Key Royale Club, will be in court for sentencing at 1:30 p.m. Friday, July 27.

    A Holmes Beach police investigation last year into embezzlement at the club, 700 Key Royale Drive, Holmes Beach, led to Connelly’s arrest.

    Connelly surrendered to authorities in July 2011. She was arrested for scheming to defraud the private club of $387,181.77 and detained at the Manatee County jail on $500,000 bond. She eventually was able to bond out of jail on supervised release.

    But she faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison on the first-degree felony of defrauding her former employer. She was the bookkeeper for the Holmes Beach club between June 2008 and April 2011.

    Connelly pleaded not guilty in August 2011 and originally demanded a jury trial.

    The State Attorney’s Office of the 12th Judicial Circuit Court said Connelly pleaded no contest in May and the court adjudicated the embezzlement charges with a finding of guilt.

    Circuit Court Judge Thomas Krug will preside over the sentencing at the Manatee County Courthouse, Room 6A, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

DeSoto prosecutor: trial depends on public defender

Ronald Littlehale, 64, of Holmes Beach — alleged to have solicited minors and possess and transmit child porn — has been held in the DeSoto County jail since his November 2011 arrest.

The prosecutor assigned said July 11 she is awaiting word from the Littlehale’s attorney, a public defender, to determine whether Littlehale will stand trial or attempt to negotiate a plea agreement.

“Right now, I have no indication whether he’ll be going to trial or if he wants to negotiate a plea,” said assistant state attorney Rebekah Bragg of the DeSoto office of the State Attorney of the 12th Judicial Circuit. “Obviously with Mr. Littlehale, he’s facing charges that dictate prison time.

“I don’t know if the public defender is very busy,” said Bragg, adding that her disclosure of documents to the defense is complete and “the ball is in his court.”

Littlehale is charged with 13 counts relating to unlawful solicitation of minors and transmission of pornography in DeSoto County. He was arrested Nov. 9, 2011, at his residence in the 7600 block of Gulf Drive on warrants from DeSoto County.

At his Jan. 10 arraignment, Littlehale pleaded not guilty to 10 counts of transmission of harmful material to minors by an electronic device, two counts of obscene communication/soliciting a child for any unlawful sexual conduct by computer and one count of electronic transmission of pornography.

Nineteen additional counts of possession of child pornography were recommended Jan. 26 by the Holmes Beach Police Department, the result of an executed search warrant at Littlehale’s home.

The new charges allege unlawful possession with the intent to promote 16 still images and three video images of child pornography. These charges came after HBPD seized Littlehale’s computer and cell phone, which then were examined at a crime laboratory in Tampa, according to Detective Sgt. Brian Hall.

The HBPD charges have not yet been filed by the state attorney.

A sting operation by the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office, together with a central Florida task force on Internet-related crimes, led to the charges. A DeSoto County resident reported suspicious activity involving Littlehale on her Facebook account, according to law enforcement reports.

Littlehale’s next court appearance before Judge James S. Parker will be at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1, at the DeSoto County Courthouse, 115 E. Oak St., Arcadia.

Access never denied

Overlooked in the ongoing printed concerns voiced over the Sandpiper Resort’s 27th Street gate is the fact that no Holmes Beach resident is now, nor has ever been denied access to that section of the street leading to Gulf Drive.

The sole purpose of the gate and accompanying sign is to serve as a reminder to those residents and their renters that the park is privately owned.

The how and why of the single incident of the gate appearing to be locked remains a mystery to all, especially since the gate was not truly locked.

The street went gateless for years, but the growing use by the public, golf carts, bicyclists and unknown pedestrians venturing into the park, as opposed to heading to Gulf Drive, has become a safety issue for our elderly residents.

Strangers trespass on our privately owned streets, sit on our privately owned benches and use our privately owned dock for fishing. Such activity is tantamount to you looking out a window and seeing a stranger trespassing through your yard.

I’m sure you, too, might find such activity intrusive and alarming. At the risk of being accused of making a personal attack, it should be noted that a Holmes Beach commissioner continues to be seen driving or walking through our private streets, and was recently observed wading down by our dock in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Debby.

The assertion at a recent Holmes Beach commission meeting, that absent a lawsuit, the situation could “conceivably lead to physical altercations needing police intervention,” brought a chuckle to our residents, most of whom would be blown over by a strong wind.

To our many Holmes Beach friends, you continue, as always, to be welcome at our waterfront gatherings.


Barbara A. McCormack

Sandpiper Resort

Holmes Beach ‘beats’ builders on FEMA 50 percent rule

As an update to the recent crackdown in Holmes Beach on policing residential remodels that exceed the 50 percent Federal Emergency Management Agency rule, the city has succeeded in reigning in two demolitions.

        According to Mayor Rich Bohnenberger July 10, the city has been combating fraud in applications to remodel ground-level homes.

        The single-story homes are referred to as pre-firm homes by FEMA, having been built prior to the 1975 regulations that required newly built homes be elevated above flood levels.

        Finding discrepancies in two recent permit applications for remodeling from two separate contractors, the city denied the permits, Bohnenberger told the city commission.

        Bohnenberger previously warned that the FEMA violations could jeopardize the city’s insurance rating.

        “Their permits were denied and (the applicants) came back with modified permits,” and they weren’t allowed to demolish as much of the structure as originally planned, he said.

        “We beat them,” said Bohnenberger.

        FEMA requires the city monitor construction projects so that homes are built with safeguards against hazards due to flooding.

        The mayor issued a memorandum June 26 about the violations of the FEMA rule, including a permit application for substantial improvements at 303 68th St., which was denied.

        A second permit application for a demolition and remodel at 111 49th St. also was denied, according to building inspector Bob Shaffer.

        FEMA guidelines and the city’s ordinance limit the cost of pre-firm remodeling projects to 50 percent of a structure’s appraised value.

        Replacement is permitted under the rules if a home is rebuilt with all living areas elevated above the base-flood level.

        City permits for the remodeling work are issued based on appraisals in addition to owner and licensed contractor affidavits attesting that the cost will not exceed 50 percent of the structure’s value.

        In the recent cases where the city challenged the applicants, the city hired an independent appraiser and cost estimator to review the permit packages.

        “We’ve been struggling to find a strong legal basis to turn these down,” said Bohnenberger. He said the problem started years ago after FEMA recommended the appraisal and affidavit ordinance. It “just wasn’t working.”

        With the independent review, he said, “now we have enough documentation to support it,” he added.

        To prevent future remodeling violations, the city will be using a FEMA consultant, requiring a demolition permit and implementing a new rule prohibiting contractors from demolishing more than 50 percent of a residential structure as part of ground-floor remodeling.

Holmes Beach to hike business fees 5 percent

The Holmes Beach business tax receipt fee appears to be on its way up in price.

    On first reading July 12, city commissioners approved an ordinance to increase the tax on all businesses, including merchants, financial institutions, professionals, residential rentals, hotels and motels, restaurants and others.

    The measure is expected to pass a second reading in August.

    If it does, the city will increase the fees 5 percent and also increase the administrative fee to process the receipts from $15 to $25.

    The new schedule for the fees ranges from $16.54 to $165.38, with the higher fees for restaurants that seat more than 51 people, and motels with more than seven units.

    Commission Chair David Zaccagnino called the business tax receipts “minimal fees” to keep track of businesses.

    He said most businesses will see a $26.25 tax receipt increase to $27.56 or a $78.75 fee increase to $82.69.

    Florida statutes authorize a maximum 5 percent annual increase. According to Zaccagnino, the city has not increased its fees since 2001.

    For a second consecutive year in 2012, state legislators proposed bills aimed at eliminating local business tax receipts.

    The city commission opposed such a move by resolution in January. The state senate and house bills died in separate committees in March.

    The tax brought about $80,000 to the city in each of the last two fiscal years, and protects citizens from potentially unscrupulous businesses, according to Zaccagnino.

    “The ordinance serves two purposes,” said Mayor Rich Bohnenberger after the meeting. “It serves the purpose of a revenue stream and allows the city to monitor businesses and make sure they’re in the right zoning district.”

    The proposed ordinance also would amend the code to clarify a section on professionals. It requires a fee from all state-licensed professionals, unless he or she is a salaried employee.

    The code provides that the fee is collected from every person who maintains a permanent business location or branch office within the city, manages any business or profession or occupation within the city limits or transacts any business or engages in any occupation or profession when such tax is not prohibited by federal law.

    It was not made clear if the fee applies to people who work from home.

    Commissioners voted 4-0, with Commissioner John Monetti absent, to approve the first reading of the fee ordinance.

    In other matters, commissioners approved the mayor’s recommendations to reappoint Michael Klotz to the code enforcement board until April 2015 and to reappoint Gary Hickerson to the planning commission until July 2015.

    Commissioner Jean Peelen said that while she voted for the reappointments and others in the past, the city should advertise any open committee positions when terms expire.

    The city is “very fortunate” to have people who continue to serve on committees, as well as people on waiting lists, said Zaccagnino.

Fight with girl leads to child abuse charge

A 24-year-old Holmes Beach woman was arrested on a felony child abuse charge following a physical altercation with a girl.

A group of men and women, including Sara Strain, were at a motel July 9 in the 3200 block of 14th Street West in Bradenton. A Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputy was on routine patrol when he observed Strain leave the Michiani Motel with a swollen eye.

The deputy stopped Strain, who said she had been in a fight with a girl at the motel. The officer interviewed the rest of the group, who said Strain had returned to the motel room for her phone charger and, for no apparent reason, attacked the 17-year-old girl.

According to the arrest report, the girl suffered a swollen face and cut lip. She fought back after being attacked.

Strain told the officer the juvenile was the aggressor, but witnesses signed affidavits saying Strain had attacked the girl.

Strain was arrested and taken to the Manatee County jail on $1,500 bond, which she posted the same day and was released.

Strain is scheduled for a first appearance at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1, at which time the court also will hear a protection order filed against her.

Looks like Kansas

Megan Donnelson Jensen of Perico Island spotted and photographed this waterspout around 5:15 p.m. July 14 in the Gulf of Mexico offshore of Bradenton Beach while on the beach with her husband. “It was pretty cool,” she said. “We’re originally from Kansas — tornado alley — so we love to watch a good storm.”