Tag Archives: 10-09-2013

Community unites to help R&R pier staff

In the wake of the Sept. 30 electrical fire at the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria, island churches have stepped up to offer aid and assistance to the 30 pier employees who may be without jobs for several months.

The Rev. Gary Batey of Roser Memorial Community Church said All Island Denominations, an organization of island churches, has come forward to help the pier staff with food and, if needed, economic aid and other assistance.

Batey said all island churches — Roser, CrossPointe Fellowship, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Episcopal Church of the Annunciation, Harvey Memorial Community Church and St. Bernard Catholic Church — are participating in the effort.

“Each employee will have their specific needs addressed,” Batey said. “We’ll go case by case.”

He said pier employees won’t receive cash donations, but AID will help with food purchases and other essentials, FP&L payments, assistance with rent and other needs.

Batey also said AID is accepting donations from the public in any form, be it food, clothing or cash. He said donations to help the pier staff will be pooled by AID volunteers.

One problem, according to Rod & Reel Pier manager Dave Cochran, is the uncertainty as to how long repairs may take and the extent of damages. As of Oct. 7, insurance adjusters had only begun their evaluations, while WMFR had completed its investigation.

Batey said AID would continue assistance for pier staff as long as possible.

Anyone seeking assistance or offering a donation can call 941-725-2433, Batey at 941-778-0414 or contact the office of another AID church.

Other island organizations are joining with AID.

The Anna Maria Island Privateers voted last week to offer labor to help rebuild the pier and to help raise donations for the AID pier fund.

Privateer Roger “Hoodat” Murphree said the nonprofit has members who are carpenters, construction workers and flooring experts and they’re “ready and eager” to pitch in assistance where needed.

Cochran said the positive response to the disaster has been overwhelming and he and the staff appreciate the concern and help.


Quick action by MCSO, WMFR to pier fire praised

West Manatee Fire Rescue Inspector Keith Miller said fast thinking by a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputy and quick response from WMFR at the Rod & Reel Pier on the morning of Sept. 30 may have kept an electrical fire from being worse than it was.

MCSO Sgt. Paul Davis said Deputy Gary Sellitto was on routine patrol at the Rod & Reel Pier around 8:30 a.m. when he smelled smoke, but found nothing burning in the two kitchens and no evidence of a fire.

Sellitto searched the premises, saw large amounts of smoke coming from the walls and began asking kitchen staff if they smelled smoke or if any food was burning.

Miller said the fire call was received at 8:33 a.m. and the first fire unit was on the scene at 8:40 a.m.

Other units arrived soon after, including one unit from the Longboat Key Fire Department and a Manatee County Emergency Medical Services vehicle. Cedar Hammock Fire District also responded.

Miller said the fire appeared to be between the first and second floor inside the paneling, and behind the kitchen wall. There was extensive smoke, he said, but few flames. Firefighters had to cut through the walls leading to the kitchen and the panels separating the two floors to reach the source of the smoke.

“We had to tear out walls around the kitchen to reach the fire. It was the only way we could find the source,” he said.

Miller said the fire appeared to have been electrical in nature because of the large amount of smoke and few flames.

The fire was brought under control by 9:37 a.m.

Firefighters used a large quantity of water to control the incident and the result is some water damage to the interior along with some holes in the walls and roof, Rod & Reel Pier manager Dave Cochran said.

“We’re going to work as quickly as possible to reopen,” he said. “A lot depends on how fast the insurance adjusters can get things moving. I have no idea of how much damage there is, but there’s a lot inside.”

Miller said he wasn’t an expert in rebuilding or remodeling, but his unofficial estimate was several months of repairs are probably needed at the pier. He said fire adjusters will have a better estimate once they inspect the scene.


Captain Morgan artist joins Invasion Weekend

The Anna Maria Island Privateers recruited American artist Don Maitz to help with the November weekend when the nonprofit invades and captures the island.

Maitz is perhaps best known for his “Captain” character promoting Captain Morgan rum. He works in commercial, science fiction and fantasy art and twice has received the Hugo Award for best professional artist.

His work can be found on the covers of books written by Ray Bradbury, Gene Wolfe, Michael Moorcock, Raymond E. Feist, C. J. Cherryh, Stephen King and Isaac Asimov.

During the three-day Pirate Invasion, Maitz has authorized the use of “Starboard Gunner” for commemorative T-shirts, and will sell limited-edition art. He also will attend the invasion Saturday, Nov. 2, when the Privateers seize Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach.

For more information about the Pirate Invasion, go online to www.pirateinvasion.org.

For more information about Maitz, go online to www.paravia.com.

Bradenton Beach pier project inches — slowly — forward

“I’m not sure when I will get confirmation, but it is looking fantastic. I’m so excited that I can’t sleep at night.” — Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy

There’s been a lot of bad news when it comes to the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach, but good news is emerging on the horizon.

Visitors, residents and fishers who enjoy the pier have endured a lot in the past 18 months, ever since Tropical Storm Debby arrived in June 2012, breaking anchored boats nearby in Sarasota Bay loose and crashing them into the pier.

Wave action from Debby damaged the adjacent floating dock beyond the city’s ability to make repairs and the pier remained closed for a few days. But the floating dock remained off limits for a year before Federal Emergency Management Agency funding was released to repair it.

Within days of a celebratory re-opening of the floating dock, Tropical Storm Andrea arrived and, while the floating dock remained intact, more boats crashed into the pier, closing the outer half of the structure.

Andrea’s outer bands brushed the island in early June 2013 and the pier remained closed. The damage to the pier was fixable, but with a planned reconstruction project looming, the city held off on repairs and funding for what was thought then would soon be rebuilt.

However, the reconstruction project that was scheduled to be completed in August, according to a ZNS Engineering timeline, has yet to begin.

As 2014 looms and tourist season builds, city officials are hopeful a request for proposals will be drafted soon, allowing bidding on the project to proceed, likely not until November. That puts the construction timeline into the spring.

At the Oct. 3 city pier meeting, Police Chief Sam Speciale, who facilitates the pier team, said he hopes to see the RFP out “as soon as possible.”

Building official Steve Gilbert said the RFP will include bidding to install 152 pilings and a bid for the wooden deck replacement and pavilion reconstruction.

The city also will seek optional bids for using upgraded materials, such as composite decking and pressure-treated creosote pilings that have a longer life span, as well as upgrading shingles to metal on the copula roofs.

The city also would like to have 15 additional pilings installed to act as buffers to wayward boats during storm events.

Due to budget restraints, the initial design called for the elimination of two of the three copulas, but the city now will seek bids to restore them all.

Any proposed upgrades, however, go beyond the city’s estimated $1 million budget for the pier.

But that’s where good news comes in, a positive light on the pier’s future after 18 months of ongoing problems.

Mayor John Shaughnessy recently approached the Manatee County Tourist Development Council for funding. State statutes limit what the TDC can fund, but tourist-related projects are encouraged and the pier appears to qualify.

The pier ranked high among Manatee County attractions in many surveys of visitors to the area by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor Bureau.

Shaughnessy said he wanted to plant a seed with the TDC, the funding agency for the BACVB, and expected the process to take some time. He has been pleasantly surprised with the quick response.

He met with BACVB’s Elliot Falcione and Manatee County administrator Ed Hunzeker within a few weeks. “We sat down and talked about it,” said Shaughnessy. “I’m still not at liberty to discuss how much the TDC is willing to contribute until it’s verified.”

Shaughnessy had another meeting scheduled, after Islander press time, but said he has been assured his request has been put on the “fast track and everyone is being very cooperative.”

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, also the TDC chair, told Shaughnessy that a vote is coming soon and it looked favorable that the TDC would help the city with funding.

“I’m not sure when I will get confirmation, but it is looking fantastic,” said Shaughnessy. “I’m so excited that I can’t sleep at night.”

The commissioners are first required to provide authorization for city attorney Ricinda Perry to review the RFP. That is likely to be an agenda item for the city’s Oct. 17 meeting.

Once Perry reviews the RFP, it will come back before the commissioners for approval, who won’t meet again until early November.

Expectations are high to have the RFP out soon after that approval and for the city to begin taking bids for the pier project in November.

Future BB pier restaurant tenants plan family fare

Lease negotiations continue between the city of Bradenton Beach and the tenants of the Historic Bridge Street Pier restaurant, but there is excitement in the air for Roland Pena and his family.

While the lease is being finalized, the menus are being planned. Pena, who owned a short-lived Starfish Cafe in the back of Vitamin Seas Health Food store, 3228 E. Bay Drive, Holmes Beach, said the emphasis will again be on healthy food, but the pier restaurant won’t deprive anyone from indulging in favorite foods.

“This is going to be a family business and that’s pretty special to all of us,” he said. “So it makes sense to do everything we can to make sure that this restaurant is family-oriented. There will be something for everyone.”

“We’ll have two sides to the menu,” said Pena. “One side will be a healthy menu and the other side will feature all of your fried foods and other things people will like. We aren’t going five-star here. We plan on keeping the menu simple but good and affordable.”

On the healthy side of the menu, Pena said he’ll feature a lot of the staples from his former restaurant, including wraps, vegetable dishes, smoothies, herbal teas and more.

Pena said this is the first project he has been able to start that will involve his entire family. The former Starfish Cafe was only open February-July.

Initially, the restaurant was to be called Starfish by the Bay, but Pena said Karen Bell, the owner of the award-winning Star Fish Co. Seafood Market and Dockside Restaurant — just across the bridge in Cortez — wasn’t pleased to learn the Penas planned a similar name.

Shortly after his bid was selected by commissioners, Pena said, she let us know of her feelings. “There is a difference in the name and she is an Inc. and we are an LLC, and my attorney said we would win a legal battle, but asked if it was worth the fight.”

Pena said he didn’t want to start up his dream project under a negative umbrella so the family is considering other names.

Pena won the bid for the restaurant, bait kiosk and harbor master’s office. He plans to sublease the harbor master’s office to a water taxi company.

Rusty Roberts will run the Rusty Anchor Bait Shop at the kiosk outside the restaurant. His plans include having the bait shop open 24 hours a day.

“Not everyone can get out here during business hours to fish,” said Robertson. “A lot of people have to work until the evening. They end up having to buy some bad quality frozen bait at a grocery store. And people like to fish at night, too. We want to be here for everyone.”

There is no timeframe established by the city and Pena for the restaurant and bait shop to open. Lease negotiations with the city are ongoing and a pier renovation project is expected to start up in November.

While the renovation won’t impact the restaurant, it will close the pier. Pena said there is still much to do and he’s hopeful the opening of the restaurant will coincide with the reopening of the pier.

“We are not in a rush right now,” said Pena. “We know some things still have to get worked out, but we are all very excited to be part of the community.”

Cagnina home, vacant lots sold

Anna Maria developer Shawn Kaleta recently purchased the former Cagnina family house at 207 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria, and the four adjacent vacant lots behind Ginny’s and Jane E’s at the Old IGA, 9807 Gulf Drive. The seller was Marie Franklin. The sale price was $1.86 million, according to Kaleta. The lots are zoned residential. Islander Photo: Rick Catlin

Bradenton Beach woman faces child abuse charge

A 50-year-old Bradenton Beach woman faces a charge of felony child abuse.

According to the probable cause affidavit, Bradenton Beach Police Department Officer Eric Hill responded to a Sept. 28 domestic battery call in the 100 block of Seventh Street South and made contact with the man who reported the incident.

The man said a juvenile female and her mother were upstairs arguing. The girl came down and told him that her mother choked her while she was on her bed.

Hill interviewed the juvenile victim, who said she called her mother a name, at which time she alleges the mother grabbed her by the throat. Hill did not observe any marks on the girl’s neck.

Hill then interviewed the mother, who denied choking her daughter, but admitted to pushing her.

The mother told police she was disciplining her daughter for making a derogatory comment.

The mother was arrested and transported to the Manatee County jail, where she was detained on $5,000 bond. She posted bond and was released Sept. 30.

She is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 18, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W. Bradenton.

Man pleads not guilty in BB boating incident

A man accused of fleeing an officer and recklessly operating his boat in Bradenton Beach has pleaded not guilty and demanded a jury trial.

A preliminary hearing for George Mark McElroy was scheduled for Oct. 11.

A probable cause affidavit filed with the court by the Bradenton Beach Police Department states that McElroy was arrested Aug. 23 in the 200 block of Bridge Street.

Officer Michael Bazell wrote that he was patrolling the mooring field near the Historic Bridge Street Pier and saw a man “operating his vehicle recklessly” within 100 feet of shore.

The officer said he repeatedly advised the man, who was verbally abusive, to dock his boat. The man left the area, then returned, claiming he had called an attorney, according to the BBPD.

The man was taken into custody for alleged reckless operation of his boat and fleeing and attempting to elude a law enforcement officer.

Sexual battery case closed

A Bradenton Beach man arrested in April for alleged sexual battery with a weapon against a victim 12 or older and aggravated assault will not be prosecuted.

Records at the Manatee County Judicial Center show that formal charges will not be filed against Terry Richard Moroz.

Moroz had entered a not guilty plea in April.

The notice from the prosecutor that the case would not go forward was filed in mid-September.

The probable cause affidavit filed by the Bradenton Beach Police Department alleged that Moroz put a 9 mm gun to a woman’s head to force her to have sexual relations with him.

Woman accused of Gulf Drive Cafe theft pleads not guilty

A woman accused of stealing from a Bradenton Beach restaurant has pleaded not guilty and demanded a jury trial.

Dana Lynn Powell of Bradenton was arrested in July and is accused of using a special code at the Gulf Drive Cafe, 900 N. Gulf Drive, Bradenton Beach, to void sales tickets from the computer and pocket customers’ payments.

A witness statement filed by the Bradenton Beach Police Department said the thefts were discovered by checking paperwork after Powell’s shift. The statement said, “Ms. Powell’s voids were way out of control.”

Restaurant management next checked security video.

Powell is accused of taking about $3,800 and faces a charge of third-degree grand theft.

The preliminary date for a trial is in January.

In a separate case, Powell also is accused of dealing in stolen property and obtaining money from a pawnbroker by fraud.

Holmes Beach congestion committee sets goals, pursues action

From purchasing property for a fee-based parking lot to reconfiguring parking and traffic flow at the Manatee Public Beach, Holmes Beach congestion committee members are kicking ideas into high gear.

The committee previously focused on the use of off-site parking lots as a way to address overflow and encourage visitors to the beach to use the trolley system by asking churches, banks and other organizations to open their parking lots on weekends and holidays.

The effort has been hit and miss, with some organizations wanting to participate, others declining and some waiting to see what an agreement with the city would be like.

Committee member Bob Johnson said having an agreement on paper was a priority in order to present something more than speculation to church adminsitrators and business operators.

Mayor Carmel Monti, who is not a member of the committee but sits in on the meetings, said city attorney Patricia Petruff is working on an agreement.

Johnson said he would follow up with Petruff to see if a draft agreement could be presented to the committee at the next meeting.

Johnson presented a six-point priority list that he said needs to be addressed in order for the committee to move forward. Having a written agreement was No. 1.

He also listed how to direct visitors to parking lots away from the beach with signs, smartphone applications and radio messages.

Monti said he is working with a company that provides phone apps for 1,800 cities and is trying to find out how he could include Holmes Beach in the company’s services. The service allows use of an app that could show real-time parking availability on the island and direct visitors to those parking lots.

Committee chair and commission candidate Carol Soustek is working with a radio station on how to implement an informational radio broadcast and committee member Pam Leckie volunteered to work on signage.

Other priorities include establishing a success measurement program to see what works if or when the city adopts any of the committee’s recommendations.

Discussion on traffic flow was addressed by Police Chief Bill Tokajer, who said he is working with the Florida Department of Transportation to use the existing electronic sign near 75th Street and Cortez Road in Bradenton.

The sign has not been used in quite some time, but still works. Tokajer said FDOT has no problem with the city sending brief messages such as “Heavy island congestion” or “Parking lots full.”

Discussion about enhancing Manatee County Area Transit services for beachgoers from the mainland to the island is ongoing, but some officials say it won’t work because people who go to the beach typically bring along a lot of beach gear. Parking on the mainland and taking a bus with a lot of “stuff” would be problematic for passengers on a beach shuttle.

The committee turned its attention to the creation of a drop-off point at the county-operated Manatee Public Beach to allow motorists to unload beach gear and passengers and then park off-site.

Tokajer said that was something he could do without commission approval. He offered to present a concept plan to the committee, possibly at its next meeting.

In the meantime, the effort to work with organizations that would allow parking on private property on weekends and holidays is ongoing.

The committee then turned its attention to a suggestion from resident Jaynie Christiansen, who said the city should invest in property for beach parking.

Discussion ensued on Regions Bank, 3900 Sixth Ave., which is currently shuttered.

Soustek said she attempted to contact Regions to inquire about the property’s value.

“I called three times and nobody called me back,” she said.

However, the committee found the suggestion viable and pledged to pursue the idea.

All ideas are being considered when taking into account FDOT numbers provided by Johnson from a 2012 report that counted an average daily number of 7,200 vehicles traveling on and off the island.

That number doubles on holidays, such as Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, which are considered to be the busiest times of the year on the island.

“The reality is we have a community that is dealing with a disruption from a way of life,” said Johnson.

“The best way to find success in what we are trying to do is to work with the other island cities and unify,” said Soustek. “Even though we are not making progress as quickly as everyone would like, we are making progress. And that’s important to the citizens of Holmes Beach.”

The island congestion committee’s next meeting will be at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Oct. 14, at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive.