Tag Archives: 07-25-2012

Empty nest found on cell tower, faux bird OK’d

There’s another home in Holmes Beach that can be called an “empty nest.”

An investigation into the Holmes Beach cell tower by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission found no evidence of fledglings, eggs or any birds inhabiting an osprey nest.

FWC spokesperson Gary Morse and pilot/officer Mike Wood flew over the tower July 16 and took photographs. Nothing they observed or saw later in the photos suggests ospreys or other birds occupy the nest, although some birds, including osprey, may perch on the tower near the nest for a few moments before flying away.

The investigation came after two workers for Crown Castle Inc., the maintenance company for the tower, hung a fake bird high on the tower to keep other birds away.

Several residents who live near the tower, including Tondra Lapossa of 59th Street in Holmes Beach, thought the workers might have been interfering with an occupied nest.

Lapossa said in the past she’s heard fledglings becoming especially vocal around 2-3 a.m. and she’s also heard workers on the tower at those hours. She said she hasn’t heard any workers for several months.

Bird enthusiast John van Zandt observed the two Crown Castle workers installing the fake bird on the tower, and was concerned there might be a family of ospreys in the nest.

But Morse and FWC law enforcement officer Terry Noll found nothing out of the ordinary in their investigation of the incident, including the company’s permits for the tower.

If an active nest is discovered, Crown Castle’s permit allows the company to remove the nest to a suitable nesting platform, said Morse.

He clarified his statement in the July 18 Islander that if the nest was active and the company had no permit for the work performed, it might have violated FWC regulations. But Crown Castle has the required permits and the FWC investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing.

Morse said osprey nesting is not common at this time of year, and the noise heard by neighbors might have been normal vocalizations from ospreys and other birds perching on the tower.

The Holmes Beach Police Department last week talked with Kevin Simmons, the area maintenance manager for Crown Castle, about placement of the faux bird.

HBPD Lt. Dale Stephenson said Simmons cooperated with police and indicated he would provide any additional information requested.

When contacted, Simmons referred questions to the company’s legal department because of the FWC investigation. He said the company takes pride in caring for active nests at its towers.

Correction
The July 18 story in The Islander about the Holmes Beach cell tower birds incorrectly identified one of the FWC investigators. The story should have named FWC law enforcement officer Terry Noll.

Anna Maria eyes law enforcement expenses

Anna Maria commissioners at a budget session July 17 opted to have the mayor negotiate with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office to find any cost cuts.

City treasurer Diane Percycoe presented the MCSO’s proposed $698,735 contract for law enforcement services for 2012-13. The $698,735 is an 8.5 percent increase from the 2011-12 fiscal year.

In Percycoe’s draft budget of $2.259 million, 30 percent is for MCSO services. But Anna Maria taxpayers are actually paying more than the nearly $700,000 in the budget to the MCSO, she said.

Percycoe said using the county’s current tax rate of 3.894 mills and with 36 percent of the city’s ad valorem taxes going to the county, Anna Maria taxpayers would pay an estimated $3 million to the MCSO next fiscal year. And that is a “conservative estimate,” she added.

The news caused concern for some commissioners, who said they are not questioning the quality of law enforcement service, just the cost.

“I want to make it clear we are not looking for our own police department,” said Commissioner John Quam. “We are just looking at the possibilities of negotiating with the MCSO” to lower costs.

Mayor Mike Selby said he would meet with Sheriff Brad Steube as soon as possible to discuss potential savings, including the officer salaries and overtime rates.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb said the city has to take a “hard look at the contract” in the interests of better managing city funds.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said he had no doubt that the $698,000 would eventually be $750,000.

Percycoe’s draft budget of $2.259 million uses a millage rate of 2.0 mills, down from the 2.05 millage rate the city approved for 2011-12.

One mill equals $1 per $1,000 of property value. A house valued at $500,000, with a $50,000 homestead exemption bringing the taxable value to $450,000, would result in $900 in city tax at the proposed rate.

The rollback rate — the rate needed to generate the same amount of ad valorem revenue as in 2011-12 — is 2.0214, Percycoe said.

That means the proposed millage is a tax decrease.

“Taxable values have increased 1.4 percent over last year,” she said, marking the first time in six years Anna Maria property values showed a gain.

Percycoe presented a graph showing the city receives 11 percent of the property tax paid by city residents. The Manatee County school district gets 50 percent and Manatee County government gets 36 percent. The remaining 3 percent goes for mosquito control and water management.

In addition to a rise in property values, there also was good news with the city’s dredging of the Lake LaVista inlet, which occurs about every 18 months.

Percycoe said Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie was instrumental in getting the project recategorized, so the city’s matching share is reimbursed.

“We no longer have to pay 50 percent,” she said.

Commissioners also discussed professional fees paid this year, particularly for legal services.

Webb noted the city had some major ordinances written and a few more need to be formalized.

“They take a lot of effort,” said Webb. “I don’t like seeing the bills that high, but until we get through this cycle, that’s just the way it is.”

City attorney Jim Dye billed the city $92,000 this fiscal year, with two months remaining. The budgeted amount for 2011-12 was $57,100.

Webb asked Percycoe to ask Dye to itemize his expenses for each city task and separate them in bills. Percycoe said she’s asked Dye to use that format, but it hasn’t yet been done.

Commissioners agreed to hold another work session at 6 p.m. July 24.

Anna Maria budget dates
6 p.m. Monday, July 30, Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive, special meeting to set tentative millage and rollback rates. After the commission establishes the tentative millage rate, it may be lowered but it cannot be increased.
6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 14, budget work session, Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.
6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 21, budget work session, if needed, Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.
6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, first public hearing, 2012-13 city budget, Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.
6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 19, final public hearing, 2012-13 city budget, Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

Millage rates

One mill equals $1 per $1,000 of property value.

An Anna Maria property owner with a home valued at $500,000 and with homestead exemptions of $50,000 would pay taxes on $450,000.

At a 2.0 millage rate, the city’s property tax would be $900.

At the present Anna Maria millage rate of 2.05, the homeowner would pay $922.50.

At the rollback rate of 2.0214 mills — the tax rate that would generate the same amount of ad valorem revenues as in the 2011-12 budget — the homeowner would pay $909.63.

Tax bills also would show millage rates for other entities, including the county, the school district and mosquito control.

BB backs off hour-reduction for building official

One of the few proposed savings in the Bradenton Beach 2012-13 budget was to scale back the billable hours for building official Steve Gilbert.

Commissioner Ric Gatehouse made the proposal as he looked to reduce the city’s $104,000 deficit.

Gatehouse said the hiring of city planner Alan Garrett should reduce Gilbert’s workload, but Gilbert disagreed during the planning department’s July 18 budget meeting at city hall.

“Just to respond to comments about reduced workload, we brought a planner in for the specific task of doing planning,” said Gilbert. “The building official, under the land-development code, still remains as the final sign off, so I still have to do what the planner does. The planner is just to get expertise on planning and zoning.”

Gilbert said if there is a reduction in workload due to hiring a planner, it only means he can focus on the building official workload neglected while also concentrating on planning duties.

“So I wish there were a 20 percent workload reduction and you could see me with my feet up 20 percent of the day,” said Gilbert. “All that’s going to happen is that I’m going to be able to take that time” to address my duties.

Mayor John Shaughnessy said he opposed renegotiating Gilbert’s contract.

“My feeling on being mayor of the city of Bradenton Beach is I don’t have to be an expert on anything,” he said. “Anytime you are in charge of something you want to surround yourself with competent professionals. That’s why we have Steve.”

Gatehouse also recommended that Gilbert’s overtime fees — about $14,000 this year — be reduced by structuring the agendas to avoid his attendance at night meetings.

Commissioners said they rely on staff expertise to make informed decisions, but they would try to limit Gilbert’s night meetings.

“I’m very careful about that,” said Gilbert. “If a meeting doesn’t involve planning and zoning, then I’m not there. That hasn’t been the case very often lately.”

Gatehouse said between limiting night hours and streamlining the permitting process, he would eventually see the reduction he is seeking. The city also is reviewing the permitting process to ease the burden on taxpayers and charge users a fee to cover administrative costs.

Gatehouse said he would withdraw his suggestion, but “I’ll be looking at it again next year,” Gatehouse told Gilbert.

Gilbert’s hours was the only point of contention in the planning department’s $352,741 proposed budget, an increase from $340,057 this year.

Commissioner Gay Breuler motioned to approve the planning budget as presented. Gatehouse seconded the motion, which passed 5-0.

Department budgets finalized

Commissioners also unanimously approved the administration’s $368,858 budget, an increase from $358,617 from this year.

Attorney fees were the main point of contention for Gatehouse, who suggested city attorney Ricinda Perry’s fees could be reduced by limiting her participation in meetings, and preferably during the day.

City clerk Nora Idso said she would check the agenda before meetings and confer with Perry.

Breuler motioned to approve the administration budget as presented. Gatehouse seconded the motion, which passed 5-0.

Commissioners also unanimously approved the community redevelopment agency budget, which “has nothing in it,” said Idso. “All of the money that was in it will be going toward the pier reconstruction project.”

A price for the pier project has not been determined.

Additionally, commissioners approved their $33,050 budget, with $28,000 in salaries split between three commissioners, the vice mayor and mayor.

Commissioners passed all of the department budgets, with the exception of capital improvement projects, which was tabled until July 25 so Idso could include $25,000 for street repairs.

“There is good news,” said Idso. “There is a little more revenue that we got from things like telephone taxes. It’s not a lot, but we’ll take every penny we can get.”

The final budget will be voted on in September after two public hearings. Commissioners will set the tentative millage rate at a meeting at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 25, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

BB commissioners clash over budget

Bradenton Beach commissioners, seeking to overcome a $104,000 budget deficit in 2012-13, clashed July 16 at city hall during a second round of budget talks.

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh questioned in an email the process, expressing disappointment at across-the-board increases in department budgets.

Vosburgh, who has been attending city meetings via live video from Utah, wrote, “The reason I’m bringing this up is that I’m trying to convince you to see this budget in a more conservative way and to look out for our citizens.”

Vosburgh continued, “As we are going through the budget, not one dime was reduced in any department … I am very conscientious and take this job very seriously.”

Vosburgh said she has years of business experience and, “I would not feel that I am doing my job unless I try to convince all of you that we are going in the wrong direction if we do not try to balance the budget.”

Vosburgh’s email prompted a response from Commissioner Ric Gatehouse, who said her letter contained inaccuracies and misstatements.

“First, let me say that by calling for budget cuts and admonishing commission for not finding cuts, while not identifying any specific line items where (Vosburgh) could find cuts, is somewhat disingenuous and could be construed as mere political posturing,” Gatehouse said.

Gatehouse said commissioners should cut costs, and offered his proposals to save $50,000.

Vosburgh asked in her email if the commission’s budget cuts during last summer’s budget process had an adverse impact on the city.

Commissioner Gay Breuler said she believes the previous budget cuts went too far.

“I do believe we cut the budget in such a way last year that we caused disruption among the staff and left little to play with in emergency situations,” said Breuler. “We allocated nothing for capital improvements and little or nothing for maintenance issues.”

Gatehouse agreed.

“You left nothing in the budget for emergencies, which always occur, which is why we have scrambled on every issue that has come up to find the funds to fix it,” he said.

Vosburgh said she is not criticizing anyone and respects the views of her fellow commissioners, but “you all seem to have different views than I do.”

Mayor John Shaughnessy addressed the back-and-forth July 17, before commissioners addessed the public works budget.

I’d like to say to the commission that over the last few days there has been some discourse within the commission,” he said. “As far as last year’s budget is concerned, I don’t care who voted for it. It’s done. It’s over.”

Shaughnessy said the issue at hand is the 2012-13 budget.

“My concern is this budget and how commission can come up with and vote on what’s reasonable and what the city needs,” he said.

The mayor said it’s important how that process occurs.

“Let’s not be petty and take things to heart,” he said. “I have no doubt that everyone has the city’s best interest at heart, and I know we can all work together to get what’s best for Bradenton Beach.”

Historic Bridge Street Pier budget approved

Bradenton Beach commissioners unanimously approved a proposed $34,300 budget for the Historic Bridge Street Pier, which does not include community redevelopment agency funding for the upcoming reconstruction project.

The bulk of the pier budget approved July 17 consists of $9,000 for utilities.

Public Works director Tom Woodard requested an additional $5,385 to upgrade the controller system for the pier’s clock.

“Right now it has two separate controllers, so it’s not in sync,” said Woodard. “As you know, the bell was donated by the Norman family, and it was our agreement to maintain it and it is taking some salt air damage.”

Woodard was asked if the clock’s control system was a high priority, and he said it was not.

“The clock has not stopped working, but we did have extra maintenance calls for it, and both companies are out of state, so we have to fly them in and put them up,” he said.

Commissioner Ric Gatehouse said he would like to see the city get another year out of the system.

“On the list of priorities, this is obviously not real high,” he said. “Since this is a low priority, I would say to put this off until next year, when maybe we have more to work with.”

Commissioners and Mayor John Shaughnessy agreed.

“We have enough in our pocketbook to contend with now,” the mayor said. “We need so many other things and we can’t do everything this year.”

Commissioners also suggested that Woodard seek estimates on what it would cost to paint the pier. The proposed budget has $5,000 in professional services, and an additional $3,000 in the building and repair.

They discussed whether public works should repaint the structure or a professional painter with knowledge of painting structures near saltwater.

Commissioner Gay Breuler motioned to approve the pier budget. Vice Mayor Ed Straight seconded the motion, which passed 5-0.

Streets, roads

Woodard told commissioners the city’s Christmas decorations were aging, and he asked about adding funding into the streets and roads budget for holiday banners on Bridge Street for Christmas and July 4.

Woodard said the decorations are not a priority, “but they are five years old and getting in really bad shape.”

Commissioners liked the idea of banners, but will not fund anything not deemed a priority in the coming fiscal year.

Breuler suggested a committee to boost interest and get the public to be more involved in decorating Bridge Street during the holidays.

Commissioners budget $500 for the Bridge Street Merchants and Commissioner Jan Vosburgh said that money is primarily used for Christmas on Bridge Street.

Breuler volunteered to chair a committee to see if citizens would get more involved, and Vosburgh also agreed to serve.

The streets and roads budget rose from $180,016 to $191,401 for 2012-13.

Operating expenses, salaries, retirement contributions and audits are the bulk of the increases.

Breuler motioned to approve the budget as presented. Gatehouse seconded the motion, which passed 5-0.

Commissioners will set the tentative millage rate at a 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 25, meeting at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

BB commissioners approve police budget

Bradenton Beach commissioners July 16 approved more than $960,000 to fund the police department for the 2012-13 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

Commissioners kicked off Week Two of budget talks at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N., making minor adjustments to the police budget.

Commissioner Ed Straight asked Speciale if he is comfortable with his final budget.

“These budgets are pretty bare bones,” said Speciale, who noted he adjusted the department’s operating expenses by adding $2,500 per a commission request.

“One thing everybody has to understand is, if there is money left in our budget it goes back into the general fund,” said Speciale. “We don’t decide to spend extra money. We’ve never done that.”

City clerk Nora Idso said she is comfortable with the police budget.

“When we put these budgets in, we’ve always followed them very closely to make sure what we are spending,” said Idso. “We don’t do what the fire department does. We don’t ask for new ladder trucks. We ask for what we need. I think people think when we do our budgets we put in what we want to spend and spend frivolously.”

Mayor John Shaughnessy said the police budget is about health and safety and it should be appropriately funded.

“We can’t have our officers patrolling the streets at night with cars that have 180,000 miles on them,” said Shaughnessy. “If we do get flak from the voters, then I’m willing to stand up for it.”

Commissioner Ric Gatehouse motioned to approve the police department’s proposed budget, which was seconded by Commissioner Gay Breuler. The motion passed 5-0.

Commissioners also unanimously approved a $13,000 emergency operations budget, based on the department’s communications needs.

CIP budget tabled until July 25

The need to address the city’s infrastructure became a topic of conversation during the summer budget process.

Gatehouse proposed $50,000 in cuts to hours of contracted building official Steve Gilbert and city attorney Ricinda Perry, as well as finding an alternative solution to the city’s street cleaning issue.

Gatehouse’s proposal is to take those savings and put the funds into street repairs in 2012-13, although commissioners backtracked July 18 to make a significant cuts to Gilbert’s hours during the planning budget meeting.

Commissioners received July 16 the one- and five-year priority lists from public works director Tom Woodard addressing street repairs.

The list puts repaving Second Street North for an estimated $15,000 and repaving of Bay Drive North from Bridge Street to Second Street at $10,000 priorities.

The proposed CIP budget was for $10,200. Gatehouse’s request would bump it to $35,200.

“I’ve made proposals for cuts, and we could apply $25,000 of those cuts to the repaving and still maintain where we are,” said Gatehouse.

Commissioners have indicated a tax increase would be likely to address infrastructure needs, but Idso said it doesn’t matter if commissioners raise property taxes.

“We’ve come to the point where we have cut so much over the last few years that even if we were to raise the millage to 2.16 it’s not going to get it done,” she said. The current rate is 2.1359.

Idso said if it is necessary to begin infrastructure projects, she will release dollars from the city’s reserve fund.

“We’ve put lipstick on a pig for years now,” she said. “That’s my opinion as a finance officer. Let’s take the money out of reserves without having to raise the millage and hurt the taxpayers.”

That ultimately will be a commission decision, but commissioners already agree it’s time to address infrastructure.

“We are at a tipping point here,” said Gatehouse. “We’ve neglected essential infrastructure, and we will get to the point where taxpayers will be on the hook for millions in repairs.”

Shaughnessy said, “I’m into getting things done now. We’ve got to take the bull by the horns and get this stuff done. It always costs you more in the long run if you don’t do it right away.”

Commissioners began to make a motion to approve Gatehouse’s request to place $25,000 into the CIP fund, but Idso requested more time to crunch the numbers.

She said she could have the final numbers to commissioners by their July 25 millage meeting.

Commissioners will meet to set the tentative millage rate at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 25 at city hall. They can lower but not raise the millage before hearings and budget approval in September.

Street sweeping to pick up in Bradenton Beach

Bradenton Beach commissioners July 17 addressed two new issues — street sweeping and emergency electricity — with public works director Tom Woodard.

During initial budget talks that started July 9, Woodard said sweeping costs went up dramatically when he lost his storage yard to the parking lot next to public works. He said without storage, his costs rise from $3,600 to $14,000 annually, “because only one company does both the sweeping and hauling away.”

The expense left the city without street sweeping for the past six months. According to Woodard, the city’s county permit could be pulled if sweeping doesn’t resume.

City clerk Nora Idso suggested a location near Herb Dolan Park at 25th Street and Avenue A.

“There is a basketball court there and in between is city right of way parking,” said Woodard. “It’s shell, dirt and grass, so it’s not a manicured area, and I think we could get back on board” for the $300 monthly price.

Woodard said the city used the location to stage a stormwater project and by using it for swept debris, he could save the added expense.

Commissioner Gay Breuler wondered how neighbors would feel about the area being used as a temporary dumpsite.

Woodard said it would only be once a month, and the debris would “be there a day at the most” before city workers hauled it away.

Street sweeping was not in the proposed budget submitted by Woodard, so he asked for additional funding to meet the estimated $300 a month fee.

Commissioners added $5,000 to department budget, bumping it to $208,080.

“We are making the budget worse, not better,” said Commissioner Jan Vosburgh. “I’m not real happy with that.”

Mayor John Shaughnessy said if Vosburgh had an alternative, he wanted to hear it.

“Nobody wants to go up in costs, but if it’s a mandatory thing then we have to make sure we have enough money to do it,” said Shaughnessy.

Breuler motioned to approve the stormwater budget with changes to reflect the added $5,000. Vosburgh seconded the motion, which passed 5-0.

Reserves to fund generator

After discussing how to add an estimated $10,000 not budgeted for 2012-13 to install a replacement generator purchased two years ago, Idso proposed using reserve money to fund the project.

Woodard began the July 17 facilities management budget meeting with a request to add $10,000 to the $133,599 budget.

He laid out two proposals for commissioners to consider since the newer generator can run on natural gas or propane.

He said to install a 500-gallon underground propane tank, run a line and purchase a connection, the price would be $10,000. To run a natural gas line, he said, would be $20,000 and that didn’t include installation.

Woodard said the 500-gallon tank would supply electricity to his department and the police station for up to 10 days in an emergency.

Idso said there is enough money in this year’s budget, after the city eliminated its sanitation department, to pay for the project. Using reserve funding, she said, the project could begin soon.

With no more discussion, Breuler motioned to accept the $133,599 facilities management budget as presented. Gatehouse seconded the motion, which passed 5-0.

Commissioners will set the millage rate at their 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 25, meeting at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

The millage rate determines property taxes paid to the city based on $1 per $1,000 of assessed value. Commissioners can lower but not raise the millage rate after it is set.

Commissioners will hold public hearings on the budget in September.

HB commissioners preview budget

With local property tax revenues declining, Holmes Beach treasurer Rick Ashley is expected to propose a reduced city budget July 24.

“They’re no big changes,” said Ashley, who met last week individually with commissioners to preview the budget.

One reason for the reduced budget — $800,000-$900,000 less than last year — is because the current budget includes a $1.1 million stormwater project, he said. While that project is nearly complete, $227,905 is budgeted for other projects aimed at improving drainage near 34th Street and Sunbow Bay.

Local revenue sources are expected to drop from $3,778,664 to $3,294,710 and carryover/reserves to drop from $4,067,027 to $3,742,098, according to the proposed budget.

State revenue sources, which have declined in the past six years, are expected to rise slightly to $823,046 from $819,408.

According to preliminary figures, budget changes include an expected $61,218 decrease in general government salaries, and a $31,567 decrease in police department retirement contributions.

The proposed budget also reflects a 16.67 percent increase in city-paid employee life and health insurance costs. The costs are rising $99,450, from $596,420 to $695,870, according to preliminary budget figures.

Unlike the cities of Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria, which hold a number of commission workshops to review the budget, Holmes Beach historically “never had more than one work session” before setting the required public hearings in September for public input, Ashley said.

He said Holmes Beach commissioners generally haven’t wanted “to count pencils” in the process.

“The plan is to have the hearings in September on the regular meeting dates,” he said.

Holmes Beach, like other taxing bodies, must first set a maximum millage rate — the percent at which properties are taxed.

And, according to support documents for the city’s July 24 meeting, the rate is expected to hold steady at the 1.75 millage rate the city has imposed since 2010.

The millage will be applied to the Manatee County property assessor’s determinations of market value, less exemptions. The assessor then sends Truth in Millage notices to property owners, according to Manatee County Property Appraiser director of assessments Debra Lentz.

The anticipated mail date for TRIM notices is Aug. 16, she said.

The TRIM notice will provide the time, date and place for each taxing body “allowing for public input” into the budget process.

The mail date of the TRIM notice also provides the period in which property owners may petition for a property tax assessment adjustment to the county’s value adjustment board. Property owners have 25 days to petition from the date the TRIM notice is mailed.

By mid-October, the appraiser certifies the tax for collection by the tax collector.

After the public hearings, “sometimes there’re some adjustments and that’s what goes into the final notices mailed out in November,” she said.

Ashley is expected to present the mayor’s millage recommendation during the 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 24, meeting of the Holmes Beach commission and the budget at the work session that follows.

Privateers rally to defend, keep Santa’s sleigh

From over the bow, “Help Rescue Santa’s Sleigh” is the newest rallying cry from the Anna Maria Island Privateers.

The Privateers — the island crew known for its scholarship donations, colorful attire and fun parades and parties — is looking to raise money at two Christmas in July celebrations.

The crew needs money to defend a lawsuit filed earlier this month by former Privateer Richard Maddox, who claims ownership of the sleigh — a modified boat trailer.

“To some it may seem like a sleigh is not all that important,” Privateers media liaison Lisa “Lash” Ritchey stated in a press release July 20.

But when it comes to the Privateers, she continued, “their Santa Sleigh is used almost as much between Thanksgiving and New Years as the Skullywag is used all year long.”

A separate fundraising effort has targeted repairs for the crew’s ailing float/boat.

The Privateers’ sleigh fundraising effort is the focus of the first Christmas in July celebration, planned for 3-7 p.m. Saturday, July 28, at Fish Hole Miniature Golf, 115 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach.

Santa will distribute gifts and be on hand for photos. Pirates will be posted at the sleigh to accept donations for the campaign.

The second holiday-themed event starts at 6 p.m. at the Drift In, 120 Bridge St., Bradenton. The celebration features a potluck Christmas dinner and Santa’s arrival at 7 p.m. Those attending are asked to bring a dish of food to share.

According to the Privateers press release, they are “a bunch of volunteer pirates and wenches.” Privateer events include W.H. “Snooks” Adams Kids Day, the Christmas parade and party with Santa, Holmes Beach holiday open house and the July 4 parade and scholarship program.

The Privateers also help a needy family every Christmas by providing holiday dinners, and a visit from Santa, who arrives at their home with a sleigh full of gifts.

Maddox filed suit against the nonprofit July 11 seeking the return of a boat trailer he claims to have modified for use as a “float or ride at parades, festivals and community functions” and lent to the Privateers.

The suit alleges the trailer — Santa’s sleigh — is valued at $4,500, and the Privateers either failed or refused to return it.

The Privateers said, “We have just recently been served and are working with our attorney Amy Kenyon of the Kenyon Law Group. We have no comment at this time and will make a statement when we are prepared.”

AMIP accepts donations sent directly to the organization, and asks that donors specify the purpose on the check.

For more information, call 941-238-8974 or go online at  HYPERLINK “http://www.amiprivateers.org” www.amiprivateers.org.

And half-way mark reached on ship repairs

More than $5,300 has been raised for repairs to the Anna Maria Island Privateers’ boat/float, the Skullywag.

The Privateers announced last month the Skullywag — the 60-foot-long boat/float flagship that travels in parades and to other festivals and events, and usually parks at the Holmes Beach public works building when not on a merry-making mission — is in need of repairs.

The estimated cost of an overhaul has been raised to $10,000, according to Lisa “Lash” Ritchey, media liaison for the nonprofit organization that sponsors area youth and community events.

“I know how fricken old it is, and $5,000 is a big part of what’s needed,” said Privateer MaryAnn “Maz” Zyla-Smith. The first repairs will be safety-oriented, with aesthetics secondary, she added.

The recent fundraising for the ship came from $3,150 in proceeds at a June 29 concert in Holmes Beach, including sales of Scurvy Dogs, Buck-N-Ear Corn, rum, grog and other refreshments, and more than $2,200 in donations to the club, according to Ritchey.

The Privateers are “thrilled with the support” from the community, and hope to bring the Skullywag — in operation since 2001 — back to its original state to last another 20 years, she said.

Heading up the repairs is incoming Privateers president, Larry Ackerman. He said the Skullywag needs a new motor, a rebuilt transmission, and this work is estimated at $5,000-$6,000.

The vessel’s electrical and air-conditioning systems also need repairs, especially to make it bearable to be in the cabin, which is now “like a sauna.”

“As money comes in, we’re thinking we might as well keep going with repairs,” he said, adding that Skullywag’s fuel efficiency also needs improving.

Ackerman said people have offered to donate work and expertise.

“The public has really jumped on board. It’s all about kids and community. And it’s making a difference,” he said.

The Skullywag is like a “rolling billboard for Anna Maria Island,” Ackerman said.

Donations for the “Save Our Skullywag” fund can be made online at www.amiprivateers.org, or mailed to AMI Privateers, P.O. Box 1238, Holmes Beach FL 34218, with a specific SOS notation.

AM pier seeks gated pier parking lot

Mario Schoenfelder, who leases the Anna Maria City Pier and Restaurant from the city, has a solution for his parking shortage.

Schoenfelder has proposed to install a gate and charge for parking in the north pier parking lot.

He proposes that people who visit the pier restaurant or bait shop get the ticket validated and pay nothing. Those who park in the lot, but visit other shops and not the pier, would have to pay when they depart the lot.

The lease includes designated parking spaces in the pier parking lot, but Schoenfelder said enforcement is a difficult issue.

He’s said he’s willing to cover the cost of establishing a ticketed parking system if it ensures his customers can find parking in the lot.

After city commissioners at their July 19 meeting agreed to close public parking at the vacant lots it owns at the east end of Pine Avenue, Schoenfelder sent his proposed solution to commissioners and Mayor Mike Selby.

He’s asking the commission to determine if he is allowed to install parking limits under the terms of his lease.

Commissioners have previously agreed Schoenfelder is entitled to parking, and a sign at the north pier parking lot says parking is limited to pier customers.

Schoenfelder said his parking problems began in earnest after the city “created a temporary beach” next to the city pier earlier this year. It should have been the city’s responsibility to control parking for beachgoers, he claimed.

Now, he said, he has a “huge parking problem” because people are parking and using the beach, not the pier.

And he doesn’t think the city is helping him find a credible parking solution.

The lease is a “partnership” between the city and the tenant, he said, and “both parties help each other to reach mutual goals. Unfortunately, I am sometimes missing that kind of spirit in the thinking and actions on the part of the city.”

Schoenfelder also said the city has an “obligation to support the tenant’s efforts to run a successful business and customer parking is an essential part of that.”

His company pays the city for its use of the pier and parking spaces for its customers, and he sees “an obligation” on the part of the city to make parking available for his customers.

The city has the power to write parking regulations and designate parking spaces, he said, while the city pier restaurant does not have the same right. Decisions made by the commission are affecting his business, Schoenfelder said, but he is limited in finding solutions.

He believes paid parking is his only option.

“This is a formal application to allow us under the lease to install a gated parking system. If it turns out we do not need the city’s approval to install (the system), please, let me know. I will immediately start the implementation of such a system,” he said.

Calls to Selby or Commission Chair Chuck Webb for comment on the parking request were unanswered by presstime for The Islander.