Tag Archives: 08-24-2011

Chief, mayor resolve issues

NFL owners and players settled their differences in time for the football season to begin as scheduled. Bradenton Beach’s most prominent Packers fan and Bears fan — the mayor and police chief, respectively — also recently resolved some issues in time to enjoy NFL play.

“I wanted to drop you a line to see if you wanted to schedule a time next week that you and I could sit down and try (to) sort some of this stuff out,” Chief Sam Speciale wrote in a recent e-mail to Mayor Bob Bartelt.

He continued, “I’m looking forward to resolving some of our issues so we can get back to business before football season starts (Go Bears).”

A meeting between the mayor and chief took place Aug. 15 and lasted about two hours.

“It was a clearing of the air,” Speciale said.

Both men said later that a tense and somewhat contentious period has passed. The mayor said he has answers and the chief said he has guidance.

“Him and I, sitting down, talking, everything went great,” Speciale said. “We discussed the issues. We both gave our feelings. I walked out of there with a very positive attitude.… Both of us have to work toward the betterment of the city.”

The mayor said, “We went over some things.… I’ve got answers from the chief that satisfy me.”

Speciale’s request for a sit-down came less than a week after a volatile public meeting on the police department budget. Dozens of people packed the small Katie Pierola Commission Chamber to endorse the police department and defend Speciale — rumors were circulating that the chief might be fired and the sheriff’s office hired to replace the police department. Neither action was on the agenda, and at the conclusion of the meeting the commission reaffirmed its prior vote for the police budget.

Speciale’s request for a conversation with Bartelt also came about three weeks after he met with Vice Mayor Janie Robertson in a closed-door personnel session. An attorney representing the city attended, as did a Florida Police Benevolent Association representative who accompanied Speciale.

Robertson said the mayor asked her to take the July 21 meeting, which was held to inform the chief “there would be a list of tasks requested.”

“The meeting was performance-related,” Bartelt said. “We were looking for certain reports, things like that.”

Minutes state that Robertson gave a “preliminary declaration of future job expectations which are not currently being performed” during the meeting, which lasted about 30 minutes.

A July 25 memo to the chief from Robertson detailed “specific objectives to assist you with improving your performance.”

The memo said the chief should:

• Attend all countywide police department meetings, as well as city commission meetings.

• Achieve accreditation for the police department.

• Prepare monthly reports to the commission on the hours on patrol, hours on car patrol, hours on beach patrol, the number of crimes investigated and reported, the number of ongoing police investigations, the number of closed investigations and the number of citations issued.

• Prepare a memo identifying department divisions and a summary of employee responsibilities.

• Evaluate his top officers and oversee evaluations of other officers, and provide performance evaluations to the city clerk.

• Provide records of in-service training and certifications for the past five years to the city clerk’s office.

• Prepare goals for the department.

Speciale, in an interview with The Islander, responded to each point:

• He said he attends county law enforcement meetings and many city meetings, and will be present at all commission meetings.

• Accreditation comes from a private company and costs money. “For an agency this size, it doesn’t make sense,” the chief said, adding that the Holmes Beach Police Department also is not accredited.

• The data requested in monthly reports to the commission exists in BBPD logs, which can be provided for review.

• Employee responsibilities have been detailed in job descriptions since 2001.

• Job performance evaluations take place, but not using standard forms. “The city never formally voted on doing job evaluations,” the chief said.

• Records of in-service training and certifications are available.

Speciale said he requested the meeting with the mayor to review the tasks and answer questions.

“The mayor is my boss,” he said. “I’m loyal to the city, and I’m loyal to my boss.”

Speciale said the events of recent weeks make it clear that the mayor and commission want more information more regularly about the police department.

“I’m more open to what the commission wants, what the mayor wants,” he said. “If the commission wants more information sharing, I’ll gladly do that. I’ll gladly give them all they want.”

And so the city’s most prominent Bears fan, who hails from Chicago, is ready for some football.

And the city’s most prominent Packers fan, who hails from Milwaukee, is ready for some football.

“Go Bears,” said Speciale.

“All I can say is the Packers reign triumphant,” Bartelt said.

Tension has dissipated, but a rivalry remains.

Island tourism continues upward trend

Visits to the Anna Maria Island/Longboat Key area showed no sign of decline in June, as tourism rose 6.5 percent that month compared with June 2010, according to the latest Research Data Services monthly tourism report for the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The RDS reported 47,500 visitors came to the area in June, while 44,600 were reported in June 2010.

Occupancy of Island and Longboat Key accommodations was 61.5 percent in June 2011, while June 2010 occupancy was reported at 58.2 percent.

It was all good news for Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce president Mary Ann Brockman.

“I haven’t had any complaints about the summer season. Everyone I talked to said it was going great, and I really expect July and August will also be up from last year,” Brockman said.

Through the first six months of this year, visitor arrivals to the AMI/LBK area are up 3.5 percent from the same period in 2010. The RDS reported a total of 275,500 visitors through June this year against 266,300 for the first half of 2010.

In addition to a tourism boost in June, economic spending also rose, climbing 11.3 percent from the $24.8 million in direct tourism expenditures reported in June 2010 to $27.6 million spent in June this year.

Direct expenditures for the year-to-date were up 5.5 percent through June 2011 compared with the first six months of 2010. The RDS reported $218.3 million in direct spending for the first half of 2011, while direct spending in the first six months of 2010 was $206.9 million.

The average daily room rate also rose in June this year, climbing 4.2 percent from $119.60 in June 2010 to $124.60 for June 2011.

The Island’s top feeder market in June was the Tampa/St. Petersburg area, with 13.2 percent of all visitors originating from that area. The top five visitor markets for June were all from Florida, with Sarasota second with 6.8 percent, the Greater Orlando area third at 6.4 percent, Miami/Fort Lauderdale fourth at 5.5 percent and the Fort Myers/Naples area fifth at 3.2 percent, just .1 percent ahead of Atlanta, which was sixth among feeder markets.

A strong 90.9 percent of visitors said they would return for another vacation, while 93.6 percent said they would recommend Anna Maria Island as a vacation destination to friends.

The top five attributes for an Island vacation listed by vacationers were beautiful beaches at No 1, good food and restaurants was No. 2, a clean and unspoiled environment was third, complete relaxation was fourth, and clear, blue water was No. 5. Multiple choices were allowed in the survey.

BACVB marketing director Deb Meihls had said it would take a few months to get the new system working more quickly.

Ex-bookkeeper pleads not guilty

A former bookkeeper has pleaded not guilty to defrauding the Key Royale Club of $387,000.

Holly Elaine Connelly, 29, was arrested in July and charged with one count of scheming to defraud in excess of $50,000.

She has remained at the Manatee County jail since her arrest, with her bond set at $50,000.

A bond hearing at the jail was set for Aug. 31 after Connelly’s attorney, assistant public defender Jessica Casciola, filed a motion seeking a reduction in bond.

The motion states that Connelly is financially unable to post the amount required under the $500,000 bond and that the amount is excessive and violates the defendant’s U.S. and state constitutional rights.

Earlier this month, Connelly pleaded not guilty to the charge and, through her attorney, demanded a jury trial.

In court records, the prosecution alleges that Connelly, who worked at the Holmes Beach golf club from June 2008 to April 2011, forged checks that were deposited into her Wachovia bank account.

Holmes Beach Police Department Detective Michael Leonard, who recently announced he is leaving full-time policing to pursue a business degree, investigated the case. Leonard reviewed Key Royale and bank records going back to 2008, which led to Connelly’s arrest.

If convicted on the charge, which is classified as a first-degree felony, Connelly could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Anna Maria commission election could be crowded

By the end of the qualifying period Aug. 26, there might be a crowded list of candidates for Anna Maria’s November election.

Three planning and zoning board members have picked up qualifying packets. Former Mayor SueLynn said she would run for a commission seat and has a packet. Lois Finley picked up two packets for friends. And incumbents Dale Woodland and John Quam are seeking re-election.

The P&Z members taking out qualifying papers are Carl Pearman, Mike Pescitelli and Nancy Yetter, according to city clerk Alice Baird.

Anyone can pick up a packet for someone else, Baird explained. What matters is who qualifies by the deadline on noon Friday, Aug. 26, she said.

When contacted, Finley, who formerly owned and operated Mama Lo’s ice cream shop in the Bayview Plaza in Anna Maria, laughed when asked if she would seek a commission seat. She said she was picking the packets up as a favor for some people and, if they qualify, their names would be released by city hall this week.

SueLynn confirmed she was running for a seat on the commission. She was mayor from 2002 to 2006, but did not seek re-election after her second term.

John Quam has said he would likely seek re-election, while Commissioner Gene Aubry will not seek a second term.

Aubry was elected in September 2010 to complete the remainder of recalled Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus’ two-year term that ends in November.

Commissioners in Anna Maria are elected for two-year terms and receive $400 a month in compensation.

Packets for prospective candidates are available from Baird at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.



Anna Maria seeks committee members

Anna Maria Mayor Mike Selby is calling on interested residents to volunteer for one of several vacancies on city committees.

One vacancy is on the capital improvements advisory committee and, at present, Terry Schaefer has submitted an application for that post.

Selby said a vacancy exists for a member of the code enforcement board and for one alternate board member.

There also is a vacancy on the environmental education and enhancement committee, the mayor said.

Anyone interested in applying for a committee can pick up an application at Anna Maria City Hall, 10005 Gulf Drive.

The mayor appoints members of the various boards subject to commission approval.

BB mayor undecided about re-election bid

Bradenton Beach Mayor Bob Bartelt remains undecided as to whether he will seek re-election Nov. 8.

Bartelt was the Ward 4 commissioner in June 2010 when he was appointed mayor to replace Michael Pierce, who resigned mid-term. Bartelt was then elected to the office last fall to serve until the next election, set for this November.

For the past month, Bartelt, a native of Wisconsin and a retired firefighter, has said he is undecided about seeking re-election to a two-year term.

Qualifying to run as a candidate for the office, as well as two commission seats, opens at noon Aug. 29 and closes at noon Sept. 2.

Bartelt, who spends hours each weekday at city hall, said he has concerns about the time requirements for the post.

“If you really want to get things done, you’ve got to give it your all.… It takes time. A lot of time,” he said.

Bartelt, who married wife Kim last fall in an Island celebration, added that their life together is an important chapter in his life.

But Bartelt remains enthusiastic about the business of running Bradenton Beach, especially the projects he and the commission have committed to in the past year.

With Bartelt at the helm, the city forged ahead on a number of projects and issues — constructing a new dune walkover, hiring out recycling and sanitation, amending the comprehensive plan, settling a longstanding lawsuit over waterfront property, trimming the city budget, planning for new trolley shelters and working on an improved gateway at Cortez Road and Gulf Drive.

“I’ve tried to get projects finished … that have been lying around, tried to move forward with projects that were started but got stuck in neutral,” Bartelt said.

The mayor plans to complete several more projects before November.

It remains an unknown as to whether Bartelt will then begin a new round of city projects or seek a hiatus.

Meanwhile, John Shaughnessy, a former commissioner who gave up his seat due to a three-term limit, ended his hiatus. He began last week to collect signatures to run for mayor.

Shaughnessy entered city politics in 2003, when he became Ward 1 commissioner. After he left the office in 2009, he remained involved, including serving on the city charter committee last year.

In the commission elections, Commissioner Gay Breuler of Ward 1 was collecting signatures last week to run for a second term.

In Ward 3, Commissioner Janie Robertson cannot seek re-election do the city’s term-limit rule, which limits a commissioner to three consecutive terms. As of Islander press time, no one had begun the qualifying process for Ward 3.

HB commission candidates on hold

No election packets had been given out by the Holmes Beach city clerk’s office as of 4 p.m. Aug. 19, although all three incumbents have said they will seek re-election. Three commission seats are up for election on Nov. 8.

Incumbent Commissioners Al Robinson, Pat Morton and David Zaccagnino all have said previously they will seek another term. No other city residents have indicated they will become a candidate.

Qualifying in Holmes Beach for the November election is from noon, Aug. 29 to noon Friday, Sept. 2, although election packets can be picked up at any time.

Holmes Beach commissioners are elected for two-year terms. Compensation for a commissioner is $400 per month, while the mayor receives $800 each month.

Packets may be obtained between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive. For more information, call the city clerk at 941-708-5800.

Election 2011

• Noon, Aug. 26: Qualifying for three commission seats began Aug. 15 for three city commission seats in Anna Maria. The period will close at noon Aug. 26 in Anna Maria.

• Noon, Aug. 29-noon Sept. 2: Qualifying for three commission seats in Holmes Beach.

• Noon, Aug. 29-noon, Sept. 2: Qualifying takes place for two commission seats and the mayoral post in Bradenton Beach.

• Oct. 11: The last day to register to vote for the Island elections.

• Nov. 8: Election day.

For more information about the election, go to www.votemanatee.com or call the appropriate city hall — 941-708-6130 for Anna Maria, 941-778-7585 for Bradenton Beach and 941-708-5800 for Holmes Beach.

Gregorich departs ‘Hell’s Kitchen,’ hails AMI

Fans of Jamie Gregorich and the Fox television show “Hell’s Kitchen” will have to resign themselves to seeing the Island native on the local scene instead of the television screen.

The 25 year-old sous chef at Euphemia Haye restaurant on Longboat Key was the ninth contestant to depart this season’s show, making it halfway through the season.

The television show splits 18 contestants into two teams to rival each other under the direction of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, who ultimately decides which chef is eliminated each week. The winner receives a head chef position at BLT Steak in New York City.

Gregorich’s departure from the show was unexpected for those watching, and while she has received an abundant amount of feedback from fans unhappy with Ramsay’s decision Gregorich is upbeat about her future.

“During the casting process it clicked for me that this is a television show that revolves around personalities, not a cooking show,” admits Gregorich. “I was a little nervous when I heard the prize for ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ was winning a job in a town that is completely opposite of what I’m used to.

“I can’t even explain how excited I am to stay here in my humble abode and enjoy the sights and sounds of the beach life,” she said.

Gregorich already has signed up for the fall coed soccer league at the Anna Maria Island Community Center and arranged to spend next summer working in a kitchen in St. Augustine.

“My plans are to keep living the dream and continue my career at Euphemia Haye and teaching at MTI,” said Gregorich. “Knowing myself and my drive, I feel I can do anything I put my mind to.”

County hosts marine rescue HQ open house

Manatee County Marine Rescue Chief Jay Moyles marked the grand opening of the new beach headquarters Aug. 15 with a declaration: “I’m a proud papa. This has been a labor of love.”

Until this summer, Moyles’ marine rescue team operated out of a storage room at the back of a Coquina Bayside rest room.

Now the lifeguards, as well as the marine unit of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, have new digs — a $1.2 million, two-story headquarters with a super-sized garage for boats and vehicles on the ground level and a series of offices on the second level. A dock on the bay includes slips for public safety boats.

A crowd of more than 100 people attended the grand opening last week, which featured a ribbon-cutting, speech-making, tours of the facility and lots of “congratulations” and “cheers.”

“This is something you can be proud of,” said Manatee County Commission Chair Carol Whitmore.

“This is a long time coming,” said Commissioner John Chappie, who represents the Island and west portions of the county. “This is a major investment for public safety. …It’s a perfect location.”

Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube said that on major holidays, when the public beaches fill with thousands of people, beefed up teams of law enforcement personnel are assigned to police the area.

But until the construction of the headquarters there was no beach location for breaks or report-making outside “the hot sun.”

Steube said the headquarters was built “with great cooperation between Manatee County and the city of Bradenton Beach.”

The headquarters is 8,800 square feet and was built to withstand winds of 130 mph, as well as conserve energy. The county used low-emissivity glass to improve thermal efficiency but still offer striking views of the bay and beach. Highly reflective material covers the roof and LED lighting is on the outside of the building.

The headquarters can hold six ATVs, two personal watercraft vessels, two pickup trucks and an MCSO boat.

Aug. 15 was still a working day for those who attended the celebration, including the builder, Zirkelbach Construction of Palmetto.

In a trailer with a massive grill, the ZC team of Alan Zirkelbach and Rich Rapean served hot dogs and hamburgers to the crowd and at the same time fielded telephone calls about building projects.

Across Gulf Drive at Coquina Beach, marine rescue guards continued to watch the beach and the swim zone on a day with choppy waves and storms in the forecast.