Tag Archives: 08-20-2014

Anna Maria suggests pedestrians ‘Stop, Wait, Wave’

Pedestrians crossing Gulf Drive at Spring Avenue in Anna Maria are being greeted with a sign on the pavement on both sides of the crosswalk that says, “Stop, Wait, Wave.”

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn said the stencil idea is for pedestrians to better use the crosswalk and exercise caution when crossing.

“This is a test case. If it works and pedestrians and motorists understand what to do, we’ll think about placing the stencil at other crosswalks,” she said.

SueLynn said the idea came from resident Maureen McCormick, who recently vacationed in Camden, Maine, where she saw a similar sign for pedestrians.

“Maureen said it appeared to work in that city. It sounded like a good idea, so we’re trying it to see if it works here,” SueLynn said.

Educating pedestrians and motorists is critical to crosswalks, she added.

The first step is for pedestrians to understand what to do at the crosswalk, the mayor said.

She hopes pedestrians stop at the stencil, wait for the flow of traffic, and then signal by waving to any oncoming vehicles that they are entering the crosswalk. Most drivers know to stop for pedestrians, but education is key to “Stop, Wait, Wave,” the mayor said.

Under Florida law, once a pedestrian enters a designated crosswalk, they have the right of way and vehicles must stop to allow them to cross the road, the mayor said. Vehicles are not required to stop for people waiting on the sidewalk or roadside.

It may take some time to develop the best educational tools for motorists and pedestrians to understand the stencil, she added.

“Hopefully, this will catch on. We’re going to watch how it works and discuss ways to educate everyone on what to do if we proceed further.”

AMI turtle watch reaches peak of hatching season

Sea turtle nests on Anna Maria Island are in full hatching mode.

“This week has been the busiest week so far. We’ve had over 30 nests hatch out,” said Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director.

Fox said the recent hatches bring this year’s numbers of loggerhead sea turtle hatchlings to the Gulf of Mexico up to nearly 8,000.

“Thanks to the full moon, they made it to the water,” Fox said.

The Aug. 10 super moon and the waxing-waning nights before and after the super moon helped guide the hatchlings to the Gulf, and Fox said she saw fewer disorientations than in previous weeks.

According to Fox, there were 21 hatchling disorientations so far this sea turtle season – May to October– more than double the previous season’s numbers by this time in the season.

Sea turtles are guided naturally to the Gulf by the sparkle of twilight and moonlight on the water.

Star-gazers were drawn to the beach at night to observe the Aug. 10 super moon, when the moon is closest to the earth in its elliptical orbit, and the Aug. 12-13 Perseids meteor shower.

Fox said the celestial spectators were not problematic to the hatchlings.

“People were really minding their manners on the beach,” Fox said.

The AMITW performs excavations three days after the hatch and records data from the nest.

After the waiting period, volunteers dig up the nest. They take everything out and sort the contents, accounting for hatched and unhatched eggs and any live or dead hatchlings remaining in the nest. The data is used to create a nest success rate, Fox said.

“We’re having a very high success rate. When we get them running the right direction, it really helps. The moon was brighter than the houses. They’re hatching out fabulously,” said Fox.

Fox said nearly half of the sea turtle nests laid on Anna Maria Island have hatched. And AMITW volunteers found evidence of one latecomer — a new nest laid late in the nesting season.

“She’s a little late. We were all joking, we’ll be carving pumpkins when it hatches. We’ll need turtle friendly candles in our pumpkins,” Fox said.

Chappie Park dedication celebrates namesake, natural Florida

Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie has seen some changes in his community since he moved to Bradenton Beach more than 30 years ago.

One welcome change is taking place on a little patch of beachfront where, thanks to Chappie and like-minded friends and government officials who halted a planned development, a passive park is planned.

The John R. Chappie Gulfside Park at 1402 Gulf Drive N., across from the Tortuga Bay motel is an inconspicuous, small patch of Gulffront paradise, easy to miss even when you’re looking for it.

That’s fine with Chappie. He relishes the thought of the park being so inconspicuous in its natural beauty that people might not even notice it.

The non-native exotic plants and trees are being removed and new plantings in their place will be beach-friendly native plants and trees.

Plans call for a no-impact learning area in the center of the park, not much more than a clearing covered with crushed shell, where those interested in the environment, birds, turtles, wildlife and natural Florida will be able to gather and leave nothing more than footprints.

Suzi Fox, executive director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, will contribute her knowledge of sea turtles and other wildlife at the park by creating informational placards.

Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby worked toward this day for a long time as chair of Bradenton Beach’s capital improvement projects committee. He was smiling broadly at the dedication.

Chappie Gulfside Park is being funded strictly with donated funds. Resort-owner and Bradenton Beach resident David Teitelbaum attended the celebration. He donated to help make the park a reality, as did the Bermuda Bay Club homeowner association, represented at the groundbreaking by Erica Page.

And so when the time came for the official groundbreaking, as Chappie and Cosby posed with the golden ceremonial shovel and donors, residents and city officials and staff looked on, no one wanted to disturb so much as a shovelful of sand and toss it aside.

Instead, the shovel rested with its tip barely piercing the beautiful soft white sand, just enough for the photographers to get pictures and, in accordance with the park’s purpose, doing no harm and leaving nature undisturbed.

Completion of the park, named to honor Chappie in October 2011, is expected in early 2015, but don’t look for any glaring changes.

Other than the removal of the berm, which Cosby pointed out is not a natural dune, things will be very similar to what existed all along. There will be no parking, although a trolley station is planned at the park’s modest entrance on Gulf Drive.

Chappie, a former Bradenton Beach mayor and commissioner, said, “We have a moral obligation to preserve, protect and enhance our shoreline and dune system. We’re going to be judged by how we leave things.”

Bradenton Beach pier startup celebrated

It was clear sailing for Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon and former Mayor John Shaughnessy Aug. 12 for the official kick off of renovations to the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Commissioners Jan Vosburgh and Ed Straight, Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale, public works director Tom Woodward and some members of the public met mid-morning for the celebration and installation of a sign officially declaring the pier off limits for construction.

A few surprised folks toting fishing poles weren’t happy to discover the pier closed, but after being pointed to an alternate fishing spot, they were receptive.

Plans for arrival of a barge with workers and equipment were delayed due to the tide. It seemed high tide was needed to access the area, so everyone contented themselves with watching Duncan Seawall Dock and Boat Lift employees as they removed the first section of the decking to start the project.

Shaughnessy said he was happy with the decision to add 15 pilings as buffers to prevent a repeat of the damage done when boats that broke from their moorings slammed against the pier during tropical storm Debby in June 2012 and again in June 2013 during effects from tropical storm Andrea. Those incidents delayed work scheduled to begin prior to June 2012.

The $1,478,717 contract is being paid by Bradenton Beach, with the county reimbursing 50 percent of the cost up to $1 million. The contract with Duncan allows 164 days for completion, and documents outlining the projected construction timeline are available for review at city hall.

Shearon stated his pride for the city and the efforts made by many people in seeing the job done and funded. He said he was thankful to everyone who had helped get the project organized and underway.

Shaughnessy let his sympathetic nature show, saying, “This is going to be hard for me.” He became visibly emotional as he looked skyward, thanking the late Nora Idso, former city clerk, for all the effort she put forward during her tenure to make the city pier project a reality.

Cortez Bridge meeting set Aug. 28

The Florida Department of Transportation is hosting an open house 4:30-7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 28, at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach, to take display information and take public comments on the future of the Cortez Bridge.

A press release said the public meeting is part of the DOT’s project, development and environment study of Cortez Bridge.

Comment will be solicited on options for continued repair, rehabilitation or replacement of the two-lane bridge. A video will be shown explaining the various alternatives.

Attendees will be able to talk one-on-one with DOT officials and express their views.

For more information, call project manager Tony Sherrard at 863-519-2304, or email antone.sherrard@dot.state.fl.us.

Utility theft stirs up discussion among Holmes Beach officials

An alleged incident of utility theft at a Holmes Beach property has prompted discussion among city commissioners.

Commissioner Jean Peelen introduced the subject at an Aug. 12 commission meeting.

“There are two lines of inquiry I want to follow here. I understand there’s nothing in our code that dictates how builders get their power on building sites … I’m really troubled no one was arrested,” she said.

Dorothy Pon arrived at the rental property she owns on 65th Street in Holmes Beach in July and found a construction crew from a neighboring building site using her electricity. She also found the screen enclosing her pool had been damaged.

Pon called the Holmes Beach Police Department and officers addressed the problem, although no one was arrested and no charges were filed.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer told commissioners at the meeting, he determined there was insufficient evidence to make an arrest, and he further consulted with the state attorney.

“The way this happens without admission, we have to be able to show they knowingly did it, and in this case we can’t,” Tokajer said. “The state attorney does not tell us who we can arrest and who we can’t. They only advise what is prosecutable.”

Tokajer said in a case such as this, there is not enough for the state attorney to prosecute the contractor, project manager or any of the workers.

But Peelen wasn’t satisfied. She contacted state attorney Lon Arend for further clarification on the issue following the Aug. 12 meeting.

Arend stated in an email that while the state attorney’s office does not give opinions on probable cause for arrests, they frequently discuss with law enforcement officers “whether a potential case is likely to meet the threshold of ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,’” for prosecution purposes.

“As I discussed with the chief, although circumstances seem straight-forward that someone did indeed unlawfully use the electricity … the issue is how to prove which person is responsible … a general complaint against a contractor or company would potentially be sufficient in a civil case, but we are held to a much higher standard for a criminal charge.”

Tokajer also emailed city attorney Patricia Petruff about the case, in an attempt to ensure future cases were easier to prosecute.

According to Tokajer, Arend suggested the city enact an ordinance mandating that before permits are issued the contractors have a T-pole — a temporary power source provided to the job site by Florida Power and Light — or a written agreement to use utilities from neighboring properties.

Commission Chair Judy Titsworth said the issue of requiring T-poles at building sites is on her list of future agenda items.

Anna Maria building official, Bob Welsh, said permits for demolition or construction in Anna Maria first require a T-pole onsite and, in some cases generators are allowed upon approval by the building official.

“There’s usually no excuse for not having power at sites in Anna Maria,” Welsh said. He said in 2011 the city “had to scramble around to make some tools.”

Steve Gilbert, building official for the city of Bradenton Beach said there’s nothing in Bradenton Beach’s code requiring contractors to prove a source of power at the building site.

He said typically builders use a T-pole or generators. In some cases they have arrangements with neighbors. Gilbert they don’t require power at the site,  but they are inspected.

“I wouldn’t be opposed to sitting down with the other (building officials) to try and make standardized policies we could institute across the board,” said Gilbert.

Hurricane Charley remembered

Hurricane Charley, a Category 4 storm with 145-mph winds, made landfall 10 years ago on Aug. 13, 2004, near Punta Gorda, about 60 miles south of Anna Maria Island.

Anna Maria Mayor SueLynn, who was mayor at that time, remembers that the storm’s path was predicted to make landfall at the mouth of Tampa Bay as it moved north along Florida’s Gulf coast.

“We really expected it would be bad. The island would have been in the northeast quadrant of Charley, and that’s always where the highest winds and rain are in a hurricane,” she said.

Anna Maria Island was evacuated and city governments were relocated inland in expectation of flooding and severe damage on the island.

“We feared the worst,” she recalled.

The storm was expected to strike Tampa Bay around 3 p.m. that day. Around 10 a.m., however, forecasters with the National Hurricane Center in Miami said they detected a slight easterly movement in the hurricane’s path.

That movement changed the storm’s course before it reached Tampa Bay and brought it ashore at Punta Gorda. Charley smashed through Charlotte County, bending light and telephone poles, destroying mobile homes and tearing the roof off other homes and structures.

Charley then pushed inland and caused considerable damage in the Arcadia area and along its path through the state.

SueLynn recalls how relieved city and island residents were, even though the island’s good fortune was someone else’s bad luck.

And there was little wind or rain on the west side of the storm, so the island didn’t get much impact from Charley, she remembered.

However, once news of the devastation of Punta Gorda and Arcadia was received, island churches and volunteers began collecting food, clothing and personal items for victims of the storm.

The response of islanders was “incredible,” SueLynn recalled. “Everyone wanted to help because we had been lucky.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency set up a large number of mobile homes in Punta Gorda and Arcadia to accommodate those left without a housing.

“We were lucky that time,” SueLynn said. “I remember feeling relieved, yet sorry that others had not been so fortunate.”

Although the island missed the brunt of the hurricane, wave action in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in severe erosion along the island’s coastline. Three other Atlantic hurricanes that season added to erosion of the island’s beaches, although none made landfall near Anna Maria Island.

An emergency beach renourishment project took place in 2005, but the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers halted that project after learning the contractor was not renourishing the beach to Corps standards.

Third elderly abuse charge filed against caregiver

An Anna Maria woman, already accused of abusing two elderly persons in her care, was re-arrested Aug. 12 and charged with battery of a victim over the age of 65.

Joan Franklin, 68, of Hammock Lane, already faces two charges filed earlier this year, one for the abuse of a 95-year-old Holmes Beach man and a second case involving an elderly Island woman.

Franklin was apparently a housekeeper for a Holmes Beach couple when the wife died. Franklin is said to have assumed the role of caretaker for the 95-year-old widower. It is not known how soon after this shift in roles the alleged abuse began.

The 95-year-old victim’s grandson, John Kirschner, was both anxious and reluctant to discuss his grandparents’ plight and any abuse his grandfather may have suffered.

According to Kirschner, there is “much more to this story” than abuse.

“If I told you what happened, you’d see it’s like a movie,” Kirschner said.

He said there were instances other than the reported abuse. “Oh yeah, (Franklin) has done a whole load of stuff to our family prior to that. She’s very clever, she just tripped up,” Kirschner said.

He said Franklin worked in his grandparent’s household for about two years before the abuse allegations came about. Kirschner, concerned he could hurt the case, refrained from elaborating further.

According to public records dated April 10, the alleged abuse was physical and psychological. Reports state that Franklin refused to take the victim to a scheduled doctor appointment for treatment of three fractures, that she tied him to the bed against his will because, she said, he was not supposed to get up, and that she threatened to “break his bones” if he tried to move around.

It is further stated that she pulled the elderly man up by his hair, which is similar to another allegation of abuse Franklin is facing.

In the case of the abused woman from March 2014, Franklin is again accused of abusing a person over age 65.

According to statements from the victim and a witness, Franklin’s son, Clinton Franklin, Joan Franklin slapped the victim on the side of the head on several occasions, causing the victim to fall to the floor and causing injury. The witnesses allege that Franklin grabbed the victim’s hair and pulled her around the kitchen; scraped the victims head with a screwdriver; and washed the victim with bleach.

Attorney Henry Lee is representing Franklin. She posted a $1,500 bond and was released from jail Aug. 12.

Further details on the most recent charges were not available. Assistant state attorney Lisa Chittaro is assigned to prosecute the case. Another representative at the state attorney’s office said they were not releasing information on the new case.

Franklin’s arraignment is set for 8:55 a.m. Friday, Aug. 29, at the Manatee Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Mote watches red tide bloom

Marine scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory, the University of South Florida and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are monitoring a bloom of red tide in the northeast Gulf of Mexico that is slowly drifting to the south-southeast, a Mote press release said.

The release said the bloom is about 20 miles offshore between Pinellas and Dixie counties, about 90 by 60 miles.

“No impacts have been detected along the shore this week,” the Aug. 13 press release said.

Scientists are entering the area daily and testing the waters, the release continued.

Advisories on the movement of the bloom will be issued by Mote daily.

For updates on the red tide movement, the release said, people can go on the Internet to myfwc.com/redtidestatus.

A red tide is a higher-than-normal concentration of a microscopic alga, a plant-like organism. The species that causes most red tides in Florida is Karenia brevis (K. brevis).