Tag Archives: 09-29-2010

Flu shots widely available

Flu shots have become widely available — and as easy to get as stepping up to the counter at the local drug store.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone 6 months old and older should get a flu vaccine this fall.

While flu is unpredictable, it’s likely that H1N1 viruses and regular seasonal viruses will cause illness in the U.S. this flu season, according to the CDC.

So the CDC is recommending a 2010-2011 flu vaccine that will protect against three different flu viruses: an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season.

The Manatee County Health Department, 410 Sixth Ave. E., Bradenton, is offering flu shots Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

The shots are free for people with Medicare and $25 for others.

Walgreens, with the slogan “Get it. Before you get it,” is offering walk-in all-in-one shots. The Island store is at 3248 E. Bay Drive, Holmes Beach.

CVS, 611 Manatee Ave., Holmes Beach, also is offering all-in-one shots. Customers can make appointments Thursday through Monday this week, or walk in on Tuesday.

Publix, 3900 E. Bay Drive, Holmes Beach, will offer flu vaccines from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12.

Pricing at stores depends on insurance plans, but generally a non-Medicare customer can expect to get a shot for about $25-$30, not taking other insurance coverage into account.

The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce hosted a vaccine day last week.

The Anna Maria Island Community Center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria, will host its vaccine day Friday, Nov. 5, from 9 a.m. to noon and the cost $25.

On Longboat Key, the Longboat Island Chapel will host a flu shot clinic Tuesday, Oct. 12.

Additionally, many physicians are offering flu shots, with insurance plans sometimes covering the expense, or part of the expense.

Aubry sworn in as Anna Maria commissioner

Gene Aubry was sworn in as Anna Maria’s newest commissioner at 9 a.m. Sept. 22.

Aubry won the Sept. 7 recall election by a 363-333 vote to fill the remainder of Harry Stoltzfus’ two-year term, which began when Stoltzfus was elected in November 2009. In the same election for his replacement, Stoltzfus was recalled by the electorate in a 362-331 vote.

The effort to recall Stoltzfus began in March when Bob Carter and several other city residents formed the Recall Commissioner Stoltzfus Committee.

The legal process to recall Stoltzfus resulted in the election, but certification of the results was withheld due to a 12th Judicial Circuit Court order.

Following an appeal to Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal by Citizens for Sunshine Inc., a public watchdog organization, the court agreed there was no reason to continue to withhold certification.

The results were certified Sept. 20 by the Anna Maria election canvassing board of city clerk Alice Baird, George McKay and Sherry Oehler.

Aubry spoke only briefly, saying thank you to the 50-plus supporters who came to witness him taking the oath. Commissioners Jo Ann Mattick, Chuck Webb and Dale Woodland attended and extended congratulations to Aubry.

Aubry said he hoped the divisiveness that has taken place in Anna Maria the past year would end, but he realized many people agree with Stoltzfus’ positions, particularly those relating to Pine Avenue and parking.

“I hope to bring a calming influence to the commission. I have no set agenda, just to listen to people and try to make the best decision for the city,” Aubry said.

Aubry, an architect, indicated he would refrain from voting if an issue involving former client Pine Avenue Restoration LLC came before the commission and he had been paid to work on the plans.

He said he would discuss his work for PAR with city attorney Jim Dye before hearing any PAR issues.

Aubry said his wife, Janet, works on the interior design of completed PAR projects.

But Aubry has no illusions that the next few months will be critical for the city.

“We have to all be reasonable and reach a compromise on the parking issue and what we want for our mixed-use business district,” he said.

A major issue is to get the city’s land-development regulations paired with the 2007 comprehensive plan and have everyone understand the rules and the interpretations.

“Sometimes our rules are not exactly good,” Aubry said, and there is a lot of conflicting language between the LDRs, comp plan and building code.

With more than 40 years experience working with building codes, Aubry wants the planning and zoning board, commission, building department and city administration to sit down and “find out where the conflicts are” and get interpretations settled.

Aubry believes in doing things “by the rules,” but different interpretations of the same ordinance have caused problems for the city.

“Right now, it’s confusing when the LDRs can be interpreted in a number of ways. We have to attack the big picture” and get the correct interpretation for a number of codes, he said.

Included in that picture is the parking safety issue on Pine Avenue. Backing a vehicle out of a parking space, across a sidewalk and onto Pine Avenue is not safe for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, he said.

Aubry said he was asked in the past to design a parking plan for Pine Avenue that would eliminate backing out across a sidewalk and create a safer environment.

Some people believed he was proposing the plan, he said, but he was just responding to a request for assistance by Commission Chair John Quam.

Aubry said the plan he drew provides all the parking the city will ever need on Pine Avenue as there

are only a few lots remaining for development the street.
He’s also going to apply his architectural knowledge to site plans and projects that come before the commission.

“As an architect, I’m not the expert, but I can sit down and work out conflicts. I want to be fair, work within the law, and I’m willing to compromise,” he pledged.

If he has something to say about a project or proposal, Aubry said he would make his comments at a commission meeting.

His first meeting as a commissioner was Sept. 23.

Campaign spending

Aubry reported a total of $3,087.75 in contributions as of Sept. 2, with $1,508.47 in expenses.

His campaign’s first contribution was a $100 loan from himself, followed by $150 from Richard York.

Aubry later loaned his campaign $1,000.

A $250 contribution came from Robert Carter, as did $250 from Sato Real Estate.

Those contributing $200 to the campaign were Pat Engman and Richard Thomas.

Dale Powers gave $100, as did John Kolojeski, Albert Pescitelli and John Cagnina.

Campaign expenses reported for Aubry were $48 as the election assessment fee; $60.30 to U.P. Plans for photocopies; and $189 to the U.S. Postal Service for stamped envelopes.

Aubry also reported $47.92 in expenses to The Sign Factory for magnetic signs; $237.75 to the U.S. Post Office for mailing; $555 to The Islander for advertising and $370.50 in advertising expense for another media outlet.

For the same period ending Sept. 2, Stoltzfus reported $1,050 in contributions and $974.94 in expenses.

He started his campaign treasury with $100 from himself and later loaned his campaign $300.
Contributions of $100 came from Linda Kapisak, Terry Schaefer, William Yanger and Anna DeAugustine.

Those contributing $50 were Charles Daniel, Gary Simmons and Karen DiCostanza.

Edward Ice contributed $40, while Eric Davison, Edward Callen and Thomas Turner each gave $20 to the campaign.

Campaign expenses were $48 for the election assessment, $249.61 and $75.40 to Office Depot for supplies, $590.95 to Anna Maria MPO, no purpose given, and $10.98 to the supervisor of elections, no purpose given.

Both candidates must submit a final campaign treasurer’s report to the elections office that will show the disposition of all contributed funds, along with any contributions and expenses incurred between Sept. 2 and Sept. 7, the date of the election.

Deadline looming for Stoltzfus response

Harry Stoltzfus, recalled from the office of commissioner in Anna Maria, has until Oct. 1 to file a response with the 2nd District Court of Appeal regarding its Sept. 16 decision that asked him to show cause why his appeal is not moot given the certification order for the Sept. 7 election.

The DCA gave Stoltzfus 20 days to file a response.

In the interim, the recall election was certified and Gene Aubry sworn in as a commissioner to fill the remainder of Stoltzfus’ term.

Stoltzfus’s attorney, Richard Harrison, had not filed a response to the DCA as of press deadline Sept. 27, but Harrison has said the appeal “will continue.”

He indicated a response would be filed by the court deadline.

The DCA issued its ruling Sept. 16 that certification of the recall election by the Anna Maria election canvassing board could proceed, and gave Stoltzfus 20 days to respond. The election was certified on Sept. 20.

Following certification, Aubry, who defeated Stoltzfus in the recall election by a vote of 363-333, was sworn in Sept. 22. In the same election, Stoltzfus was recalled by a 362-331 vote.

Harrison said the entire recall election was “illegal,” and the harm done to his client would be considerable if the DCA rules in favor of Stoltzfus’ appeal, but Stoltzfus had already been removed from office.

Harrison was said to be on his way to Tallahassee on Sept. 27 on unspecified business and was unavailable to speak by cell phone.

Lower city tax rate set for Anna Maria homeowners

Homeowners in Anna Maria may have reason to celebrate a little when they receive their 2010-11 property tax bill from the Manatee County Tax Collectors Office.

Commissioners at their Sept. 22 final hearing on the 2010-11 budget unanimously voted to retain the city property tax rate — ad valorem taxes — at 1.7882 mils, the same rate in the 2009-10 budget.

The commission wasted little time passing the new budget and millage rate at the hearing, having ironed out financial issues at two prior budget work sessions and one public hearing.

City treasurer Diane Percycoe had originally proposed a $2.1 million budget with a 1.8665 millage rate — the roll-back rate — that would allow the city to receive the same amount of ad valorem tax revenues as in 2009-10. The higher rate is actually a “roll-up” rate, Percycoe said.

At a prior work session, commissioners agreed to move $45,000 from the $985,000 reserve fund to meet the needs in the 2010-11 budget.

Even taking $45,000 from reserves leaves the city with a reserve-to-operating budget of 44.7 percent, well above the 35 percent recommended by city auditor Ed Leonard, Percycoe said.

Because of the recent decline in property values, a 1.7882 ad valorem rate might reduce a property owner’s tax bill this year when compared with 2009-10, Commissioner Dale Woodland said.

Commission Chair John Quam said the 1.7882 millage rate is 4.4 percent lower than the 1.8665 rate presented in the original draft budget submitted to commissioners in July.

Percycoe reminded the commission that the city only receives back about 11 percent of the total taxes collected from a city homeowner by Manatee County government.

One mil equals .1 percent (1/10 of 1 percent). At the city’s ad valorem rate of 1.7882, an owner with a home appraised at $300,000 would pay $536.40 in city property taxes in the coming fiscal year.

If the rate had been set at 1.8665, the homeowner would have had a city tax bill of $559.95. The lower rate saves the homeowner $33.55 in taxes for the fiscal year 2010-11.

Anna Maria 2010-11 itemized budget
Budget year    2009-10    2010-11
Millage    1.7882    1.7882
Roll-back    1.9450    1.8665
Ad valorem tax    $1.106 million    $1.110 million
Total revenue    $2.95 million    $2.14 million
Total expense    $2.885 million    $2.14 million
Administration    $481,591    $489,596
Commission    $33,600    $33,600
Police    $659,000    $665,000
Emergency Ops.    $7,000    $6,000
Roads, streets    $6,000    $3,500
Stormwater    $0    $24,100
Capital projects    $225,000    $225,000

Drug take-back a success

The Holmes Beach Police Department last week collaborated with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on the National Take-Back Initiative.

HBPD’s Lt. Dale Stephenson said the take-back went better than he expected, with about 20 people going to HBPD Sept. 25 to dispose of unwanted or expired medications.

“The pills aren’t healthy for the environment to be flushed because they get into the aquifer,” Stephenson said. “Or even if they get thrown away they end up in the landfill.”

Stephenson said the program also could have a positive effect on crime.

“At least these people who are getting rid of the medications know they won’t possibly come into the hands of juveniles,” Stephenson said. “I don’t have any record of this, but accidental suicides by prescription overdose are pretty high.”

It was the first time the DEA held the nine events from Pensacola to Fort Myers. Together with the DEA’s “A Bag’s Life program,” also held Sept. 25, the DEA collected 2,200 retail plastic bags to be recycled, more than 120 used cell phones and 140 chargers to be donated to charity, and 730 pounds or 220 bottles of medications to be disposed or destroyed.

At the conclusion of the Holmes Beach event, HBPD Officer Joel Pierce sealed the box of medications and turned it over to the DEA for disposal.

Holmes Beach to honor ‘Ms. Duffy’

The Holmes Beach City Commission on Oct. 5 will name and dedicate the Holmes Beach city commission chambers in honor of Patricia A. Geyer.

There will be a meet-and-greet at 8:30 a.m., followed by a dedication at 9 a.m. at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

Geyer, who served 18 years on the city commission and was elected mayor from 1990-94, died May 1 at 80.

She also was the longtime owner and proprietress of Duffy’s Tavern, the Holmes Beach institution known for cold beers and hamburgers, and so was known by many Islanders as “Ms. Duffy.”

‘Medium chance’ of tropical cyclone

The National Hurricane Center is monitoring the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico this week and advising that there “is a medium chance” — 30 percent — of a tropical cyclone developing.

The next system name would be Nicole.

The NHC is monitoring disorganized and thunderstorms over the northwestern Caribbean Sea associated with a broad area of low pressure.

Conditions appear favorable for the gradual development of a tropical system as the thunderstorms drift north, according to an advisory from the NHC.

Meanwhile, a small low-pressure system was located about 725 miles west-southwest of the Cape

Verde islands, also producing showers and thunderstorms.

The NHC said there was a 10 percent chance of the system becoming a tropical cyclone.

Mechanical troubles sideline trolleys

Clang, clink, clunk went the trolleys.

So riders likely will see more substitute buses being employed in the fare-free trolley service on Anna Maria Island.

And maybe in a year, riders might see new trolleys in service on the Island, said Manatee County administrator Ed Hunzeker.

Hunzeker planned on Sept. 28 to ask the Manatee County Board of Commissioners for authorization to use federal transportation funding to buy new trolley vehicles.

Hunzeker also planned to talk with commissioners about how to compensate Island businesses that paid for trolley ads to help maintain a fare-free trolley system.

The six Manatee County Area Transit open-air trolleys — vehicles that have been incorporated into the Island image — suffer so much mechanical failure that they often are in the garage rather than on the road, according to county officials.

“The trolleys are not constructed for the long distance and the hours that we use them,” Hunzeker said.

The mechanical problems likely will lead to the trolleys being replaced. The problems also may lead to the trolleys being taken off the road, possibly to be reserved for use during the busiest tourist times.

The issue has come up at several Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce meetings over the summer. Most recently at a Sept. 15 meeting at which Hunzeker informed business owners and trolley advocates that the present trolleys should be retired, and he wants to use federal money to replace them.

“These trolleys were targeted to be purchased a long time ago,” said Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash. “They’ve had mechanical issues for years now. I don’t think its something we should delay.”

The county commissioners, at their Sept. 28 meeting, will be asked to authorize the purchase of five diesel trolleys — each costs $459,113 for a total of $2,295,565 and a different make and model than those currently on the road — from Gillig Corporation in Hayward, Calif.

Whether the existing trolleys will make it another year — it could take that long to get new vehicles — is a question, Hunzeker said. “Doubtful” was his best answer.

In the meantime, Manatee County Area Transit will continue to substitute standard buses for broken-down trolleys on the Island route.

The bus substitution raises questions for the chamber board and member businesses that purchased advertising on the trolleys, part of a campaign to help the county operate the service without fares.

If the trolleys aren’t on the road, riders, motorists and pedestrians aren’t seeing the eye-popping ads promoting local restaurants, resorts, real estate and rental agencies and other businesses.

“One of the trolleys has been in the shop the whole time,” Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said, referring to the start of the ad campaign earlier this year.

“With the trolleys being down and out of service 40 percent or 50 percent of the time, our advertisers weren’t getting what they paid for,” said Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce board chair Cindy Thompson.

A number of Island businesses have committed to two-year contracts to advertise on the trolleys.

“The advertising program has been a big success,” said David Teitelbaum, vice chair of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council, an Island developer and resort owner, and an active chamber member. Teitelbaum was instrumental in launching the advertising program, as well as founded a spring festival to raise money to keep the trolleys fare-free.

“Since June we’ve paid $40,000 to the county,” he said. But businesses have committed to as much as $100,000 in advertising on the trolleys over the next two years.

Teitelbaum said the county is working on a plan that likely will involve refunding a large portion of the advertising dollars.

“The story is, the trolleys are not holding up,” Teitelbaum said. “At least 40 percent of the time they are off the road. We’ve not been happy about that.”

He observed that his Anna Maria Island Resorts ad is on the vehicle that has been in the maintenance garage much of the summer.

“I told Ed (Hunzeker), ‘Hey, I haven’t seen my trolley,’” Teitelbaum said.

Hunzeker later told him, “I found it. It’s in the shop” and the mechanics really like the ad.

“The trolleys are loved by everybody and provide a tremendous service to the people who live here and vacation here,” Teitelbaum said. “But the current trolleys, they really are the first generation and they have problems.”

Thompson said regardless of whether there is a bus or a trolley motoring from one end of the Island to the other, “the public needs and will use the transportation.”

Sunshine concern raised over dinner meeting

A Save Anna Maria officer is questioning whether Manatee County Commissioners Carol Whitmore and John Chappie violated Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law at a Beach Bistro gathering Sept. 15.

County Commissioner Joe McClash also raised concerns about the dinner meeting and questioned the appropriateness of county officials’ participation in an Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce meeting prior to their dinner.

Whitmore and Chappie had dinner with county administrator Ed Hunzeker, Island businessman David Teitelbaum, a chamber board member and member of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council, and Whitmore’s husband Andre Renard.

The dinner with Teitelbaum was on Hunzeker’s and Chappie’s calendars and followed a regular monthly Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce executive board meeting attended by Whitmore, Chappie, Hunzeker and Teitelbaum at the chamber office in Holmes Beach. At that meeting, Hunzeker discussed problems with the Island trolleys, as well as plans to replace the vehicles and compensate Island business owners who paid to advertise on the trolleys.

An affidavit by Nancy Deal of Holmes Beach, secretary of the citizens’ group SAM, raised a question about whether “there might be some kind of Sunshine issue” with the meeting at the restaurant. She and husband Mike were seated near enough to question the county party’s conversation and introduce themselves to officials.

Deal also sent state attorney Earl Moreland a letter about the incident, stating that “the meeting did not appear to be chance.”

On Sept. 22, Deal’s affidavit was attached to a complaint filed with the Holmes Beach Police Department. The HBPD report states that SAM treasurer and Islander Carol Soustek dropped off the affidavit “in regards to a possible violation of F.S.S. Ch 286 that allegedly occurred at 6600 Gulf Drive (Beach Bistro Restaurant) possibly involving Manatee County Commissioners Carol Whitmore, John Chappie and Administrator Edwin Hunzeker.”

Three days later, an HBPD officer interviewed Deal, who told him “she had no other information to provide in this case in regards to the specifics of the conversation she allegedly overhead between the commissioners.”

Florida’s Sunshine Law, one of the most extensive open government statutes in the country, prohibits two or more members of the same board or commission from discussing a matter outside of a public meeting that could foreseeably come before the board or commission. The requirement for a public meeting is that it be open and reasonably noticed.

Sam Morley, general counsel of the Florida Press Association, speaking generally, said, “The restaurant meeting is subject to the Sunshine Law if it was a gathering (formal or informal) of two or more board members to discuss some matter on which foreseeable action would be taken by the board.”

Deal wrote that she didn’t listen to the conversations, but at one point overheard Whitmore say “say either ‘builders’ or ‘developers.’”

Deal also wrote she heard “Mr. Hunzeker say either ‘… not alarm the public…’ or ‘…not inform the public.’”

Deal said in her affidavit that she interrupted the conversation. “I said, ‘What does that mean?’ I then identified myself by name and as a member of SAM. I also asked if there might be some kind of Sunshine issue here, to which Commissioner Whitmore responded, ‘You notice that I was not talking.’”

Reached via e-mail for comment, Deal replied, “I have no comment at this time.”

Whitmore said the dinner was on the up-and-up — that there was no discussion between her and Chappie about anything that might go before the county board.

“I totally did not break any rules. I did not talk to Chappie. He spent most of the night talking to David Teitelbaum. I spent most of the night talking to my husband and Ed. I know the rules,” said Whitmore, adding that the diners sat at the bistro bar, and she was not seated beside Chappie. In her letter to Moreland, Deal said Whitmore and Hunzeker “engaged in a continuous conversation.”

Whitmore questioned the objectivity of the complainant, noting Deal’s involvement in SAM, an organization that often takes political positions contrary to Whitmore and once refused her membership.

“It’s election time,” said Whitmore, a Republican who is running for re-election against Democrat Sundae Lynn Knight in the Nov. 2 general election. Deal’s affidavit was circulating on the Island and in Cortez last week, partly with the help of advocates of Hometown Democracy/Amendment 4 ballot measure, who also are hosting a fundraiser reception for Knight Oct. 9 in northwest Bradenton.

Reached for comment on the Beach Bistro gathering, Hunzeker said “absolutely” the diners adhered to the Sunshine Law, rules he said that are “ground in” by his four decades in government.

Referring to Chappie and Whitmore, he said, “They didn’t talk about anything related to county business.”

Referring to his conversations, he said, “I can talk to any politician I want.”

Chappie was not reached for comment.

The county attorney’s office, asked to review the affidavit, said it determined the complaint lacked merit.

But McClash, after reading Deal’s affidavit, said, “There was obviously discussion of county business at the bar at the Beach Bistro.… That, to me, crosses the line of what you are allowed to do.

The county administrator shouldn’t have a selective meeting with two commissioners and talk about county business. Period. Whether it’s at a bar or in the county administrator’s office. That’s not the way the Sunshine Law expects you to carry out business.… It’s a bad situation.”

Regarding the Sept. 15 chamber meeting, McClash said he didn’t think the Sunshine Law was violated, but he did have qualms about Hunzeker sharing his recommendations for the trolley and the advertising campaign at a chamber meeting before presenting them to the county board.

“I don’t think it had to be noticed as a government meeting as long as there was no discussion with the county commissioners,” said McClash. “Certainly there are a number of meetings that county commissioners attend and there is no discussion, and there is nothing wrong with that. I don’t really have an issue with the meeting taking place with two commissioners being in attendance.”

However, McClash added, taking issue with Hunzeker’s trolley report to the chamber, “It would have been more appropriate to brief the county commission first.”
But Islander publisher Bonner Joy claims the chamber meeting should have been noticed.

The chamber acted on behalf of the county to sell and collect funds for advertising on the trolley, Joy said, so there should have been proper notice of a public meeting. “We also learned Hunzeker requested an ‘embargo’ on public information until such time as his proposals could be presented to the full board of county commissioners,” Joy said.

Morley, the FPA attorney, told Joy, in a preliminary review, “This situation seems similar to the case where an ad hoc committee appointed to meet with the chamber of commerce to discuss a proposed transfer of city property was found to be subject to the Sunshine Law. Here, two commissioners and the administrator met with the chamber, apparently as some form of representatives of the full board, regarding public business. I would think it should have been noticed and open.”

Morley also indicated that when a staff member engages in a policy-based decision-making function with other members of the board, it is a Sunshine meeting.

Morley further said whether a county commissioner spoke or did not speak does not apply in terms of whether the law requires the meeting to be open and noticed.

Deb Wing, executive administrative assistant at the chamber, said the county commissioners often attend the chamber meetings, and “we always post a sign on the door of the AMI chamber to let people know.”

A spokeswoman with the attorney general’s office, the state agency that oversees Sunshine matters, said Sept. 17 that she could make no comment as to whether the case Morley cited would apply to the Sept. 15 Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce meeting at which Hunzeker addressed the Island trolley.

She also said her office had received no complaint regarding either the Sept. 15 chamber meeting or the Beach Bistro dinner.