Tag Archives: 11-28-2012

David Viens, former islander who killed wife and cooked her body in LA County, fires attorney, delays sentencing

A Lomita chef who killed his wife and cooked her body in his restaurant’s kitchen fired his attorney today, delaying his sentencing to prison.

(The Islander, Holmes Beach — David and Dawn Viens once resided in Holmes Beach and operated the Beach City Market and Grill in Bradenton Beach 2002-05 before a drug raid sent him to jail and Dawn Viens moved from the community.)

David Viens, 49, convicted of second-degree murder in September for killing his 39-year-old wife, Dawn, was set to receive a sentence of 15 years in prison in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom. Dawn Viens has not been seen since Oct. 18, 2009. Her remains were never found.

Superior Court Judge Rand Rubin granted David Viens’ request during a brief hearing. Viens’ attorney, Fred McCurry, quickly left the courtroom after Viens smiled at him and shook his hand.

“Thank you, Fred,” Veins said.

Why Viens fired McCurry was not disclosed. It should make no difference for his mandated sentence, but Viens can argue himself for the verdict to be dismissed, something that virtually never happens at the end of a trial.

During his trial in September, Viens’ facial expressions often displayed displeasure at his attorney’s work and questioning of witnesses. When McCurry rested his case, Viens stood from his wheelchair and announced, “Your honor, I object!”

Although prosecutors – armed with two recorded Viens’ confessions – argued the killing was premeditated and sought a first-degree murder conviction, McCurry argued that jurors should return a conviction on a lesser charge of second-degree murder or manslaughter.

Jurors chose second-degree murder after just five hours of deliberation. A first-degree conviction would have brought a sentence of 25 years to life.

After his wife disappeared, Viens told her friends and the Daily Breeze that she had simply left him. But after months without a trace of her, sheriff’s detectives opened a homicide case. On Feb. 23, 2011, Viens jumped from a Rancho Palos Verdes cliff after a Daily Breeze article reported that detectives considered him a “person of interest” and believed his wife was dead after finding blood in the house they once shared.

At the same time, Viens’ daughter, Jacqueline, told detectives that her father had admitted to killing his wife, though accidentally, by placing duct tape over her mouth because she was keeping him from sleeping. He awakened to find she had vomited and was dead.

Viens survived the fall and remains in a wheelchair.

He wore a back brace in court Tuesday.

While hospitalized, Viens confessed twice to detectives, once telling the same story he told his daughter and later saying he placed his wife’s body in a large pot and cooked her over four days, dumping her remains in his restaurant’s grease trap.

Dawn Viens’ sister, Dayna Papin, and father, Michael Papin, who lives in Florida, appeared in court Tuesday with plans to speak at the sentencing. Dayna Papin said she expected the postponement.

“My dad came all this way and was not able to experience the feeling of justice,” Dayna Papin said.

During a break in the court proceedings, Michael Papin spoke with David Viens’ mother, Sandra Viens.

Papin said later that they had dated in junior high school and it was a coincidence that their children later married.

He had not seen her in 50 years.

He said he had no animosity toward her.

“We just talked about old times,” he said. David Viens asked for a continuance.

After a few courtroom appearances to receive trial transcripts and file motions, Viens is set to be sentenced on Feb. 1.

Reprinted with persmission. larry.altman@dailybreeze.com

FEMA focus on superstorm Sandy delays BB day dock repairs

The Bradenton Beach day dock, adjacent to the Historic Bridge Street Pier, will remain closed to the public for now.

The dock has been closed since before the June arrival of Tropical Storm Debby due to a design flaw in the dock hinges, which caused sections to separate over time.

Debby’s high winds created strong wave action on Sarasota Bay that damaged the dock beyond repair. The city has been working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to fund a modified replacement of the dock that will see it reduced from nine sections to about five.

Funding has been approved, but Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby announced at a Nov. 21 community redevelopment agency meeting that the project could face further delays.

Cosby said to move forward, all that remains is two signatures, one from FEMA and one from the state.

“FEMA has conceptually approved our idea to reduce the size,” said Cosby. “We are just waiting for the approval to go up the chain and we are at the last person who needs to sign off on it from both FEMA and the state.”

Cosby said FEMA has not forgotten about the project, but anyone still working on Debby’s damages was sent to the northeast after superstorm Sandy hit.

Commissioner Ric Gatehouse asked for an estimated timetable, but Cosby said it’s up in the air.

“FEMA moved most of their people out of here after Sandy hit,” said Cosby. “Our state representative is the only one that is here right now. The money is appropriated. It’s just the final sign off we are waiting for, but it will be worth the wait.”

FEMA has agreed to the Bradenton Beach mitigation plan, which had to be approved from a standpoint that the city is unable to replace the original dock due to the design flaw.

The planned size reduction lowers the cost to the point where FEMA’s allotment of $57,000 will cover the entire project.

The dinghy dock, across from the BridgeTender Dockside Bar and Inn was completed earlier this month. Duncan Seawall completed the repair work and is ready to begin work on the day dock as soon as the city gains final authorization.

In other CRA matters, Cosby said the houseboat that sank in Sarasota Bay during a storm that came through the area after Debby, will soon be removed.

Cosby said the final paperwork to turn the boat over to the city is done, and an authorized vendor has been contacted to remove the vessel.

Cosby said all of the boats remaining in the anchorage area of the bay near the pier have been checked and are up to code.

Vosburgh, Straight sworn in for new BB terms

Bradenton Beach Commissioners Jan Vosburgh and Ed Straight were sworn into office Nov. 19 at Bradenton Beach City Hall in front of a gallery that included Manatee County Commissioners John Chappie and Carol Whitmore.

The county commissioners were on hand to congratulate Vosburgh and Straight on their desire to continue to serve the community of Bradenton Beach. The two incumbents were unopposed in the 2012 elections.

Chappie is a resident and former mayor of Bradenton Beach.

Though Thanksgiving has passed, there were plenty of reasons to give thanks following the ceremony.

“I’m thankful to live in this beautiful community of Bradenton Beach,” said Vosburgh. “I’m also thankful for the opportunity to serve the wonderful people who live here.”

Straight said he is thankful he chose to make Bradenton Beach his home 38 years ago.

“I’ve seen the city grow over the years,” he said. “We have a great community here. There will always be disagreements, but we have a very good little city and I hope everything continues as it has.”

Both commissioners look forward to resuming their terms on the dais and feel they are up to the task.

“When I first took office, I was told it would take two years to learn the job, and I believe that’s true,” said Vosburgh. “I’m feeling very comfortable in my role as commissioner now and am better prepared to fulfill my promise to the citizens to continue to keep costs down and watch tax dollars carefully.”

Vosburgh said she has built a great relationship between herself and her constituents and looks forward to continuing that effort.

“I’m a part of this community, too. I’m very active in the community as a citizen, public servant and as a volunteer,” she said. “I believe if you work with citizens directly, most of the problems can be easily solved before they feel the need to come to the city. If you are going to be a commissioner, you have to believe that you can make positive things happen.”

Straight said the city faces many challenges in the coming years, and he is determined to face them from his seat on the dais.

“Getting all of the drainage problems solved to everyone’s satisfaction is not easy just because of the nature of living at sea level,” he said. “But we definitely have been working on it and I think we have made good progress.”

Straight said commissioners face a tough challenge in the coming weeks in revisiting the city’s noise ordinance. While both commissioners said Bradenton Beach’s noise issues are vastly different from the other island cities, “making everyone happy will be difficult,” said Straight.

Vosburgh said the realities are that Bradenton Beach is considered more of a recreational town than Holmes Beach or Anna Maria, but she looks forward to working toward a compromise between residents, businesses and resorts.

Groins, beach renourishment discussed at CBIEO meeting

A full spectrum of shore protection objectives was discussed at the Nov. 21 Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials, the first meeting held in several months.

Manatee County Natural Resources Department director Charlie Hunsicker addressed Anna Maria Island officials and Manatee County commissioners gathered at Bradenton Beach City Hall.

The broken groins at Cortez Beach were among the topics discussed, with Hunsicker saying funding is in place to begin the long-awaited replacement of the groins in 2013.

Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, a former Bradenton Beach mayor, said the groins, even in their current state, have proven to be a valuable tool in preventing beach erosion.

“We were asked to remove them completely, but that’s not what we wanted to do,” said Chappie. “At the time, there was no intention to replace them, but we knew the state would eventually change its mind. I know they have presented an eyesore to the beach, but we knew that even their footprint was helping to prevent beach erosion.”

Hunsicker presented a design of the groins that will have a pier-like presence at the beach.

“Four years ago, the state wouldn’t have let us do that,” he said. “So we have an opportunity now to build an erosion control structure that can also be a recreational amenity.”

Hunsicker also went into detail about the county’s hopes for when it begins to receive payments from the Restore Act of 2012, passed by Congress following the British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster.

Hunsicker said BP has not yet paid for the environmental damage caused by the explosion and subsequent oil leak into the Gulf of Mexico, which temporarily devastated fisheries, businesses and tourism along the Gulf Coast.

The Restore Act established the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, but each state was allowed to develop its own model for receiving payment. Louisiana, for example will have funds paid straight to the governor’s office, while Florida’s model calls for funds to flow directly in to its 23 Gulf Coast counties.

“The three island cities are part of our Gulf, so we are going to be inclusive with the community when looking at projects under the criteria of the fund,” said Hunsicker.

Manatee County’s estimated share of the BP damages settlement range from $4.7 million to more than $19 million. Hunsicker said the expected amount could be close to $15 million.

“We have to hold our priorities first when looking ahead to our needs versus wants,” he said.

County Commissioner Carol Whitmore has been appointed as the Manatee County representative at an upcoming 23-county consortium. Hunsicker said it’s like a “mini legislative” meeting to begin the discussion on the settlement and how much each county receives.

In the meantime, he said, “We don’t know how much money is coming to us, but we can still bring the community together and ask for their input.”

Hunsicker said the county has put together a form for potential projects and that the process of identifying priorities will be completely transparent.

“When the projects come in, we’ll post them on our website,” he said. “Everyone will be able to see in real time applications come in and how they are whittled down.”

Hunsicker cautioned county commissioners to be wise in choosing projects to be funded by the BP settlement.

“If we can try to match these projects with our comprehensive plan proposals, we’ll be in a good place and are not reinventing the wheel,” he said. “We have to ask ourselves are we dealing with needs or wants? Here’s an opportunity with an airdrop of millions of dollars to satisfy our needs first before we move over to our wants.”

 

Shore protection

Hunsicker said convincing others that beach renourishment projects are cheaper as a preventative measure continues to be a challenge.

Anna Maria Island is currently listed as the No. 1 priority for beach renourishment and work is expected to begin in 2014.

“I’m convinced that a strong beach limits property damage,” said Hunsicker. “We know that sand is the way we can make our island safer.”

The county first began renourishment efforts in 1992, and the island has been in a 10-year cycle, with the last full renourishment effort taking place in 2002.

Hunsicker said it’s difficult to see the importance of renourishment through the eyes of a beachgoer.

“They see us put all this sand on the beach and a lot of it is washed away in a few weeks, but that’s not how renourishment works,” he said. “Beaches are like an iceberg. What you see on the beach is only the tip.”

Tie vote leaves AM commission vacancy

With Anna Maria commissioners deadlocked 2-2 on a replacement commissioner to take Mayor SueLynn’s seat on the dais, Commissioner Chuck Webb suggested a special election to settle the issue.

At the commission’s Nov. 15 organizational meeting, planning and zoning board member Carl Pearman and former Commissioner Gene Aubry were both nominated and seconded to replace SueLynn, who was voted commission chair earlier in the meeting and thus relinquished her commission seat to become mayor.

When she called for commission nominations, Commissioner Dale Woodland nominated Pearman, a motion seconded by Commissioner John Quam. Commissioner Nancy Yetter, who was seconded by Webb, nominated Aubry.

There were no other nominations as former Commissioner Tom Aposporos withdrew his name from consideration before the meeting.

There were two rounds of voting, one for each nominee, the vote ended 2-2 — Woodland and Quam versus Webb and Yetter. After much discussion among the four commissioners on the dais, all said they did not intend to change their vote.

Webb said if no one planned to change his or her vote, the way to resolve the issue might be a special election. He asked city clerk Alice Baird to check into the cost of balloting on a single issue.

At the organizational meeting, two commissioners, incumbent Webb, who was up for another term and unopposed in the Nov. 6 election, and newly elected Yetter — also unopposed — were sworn into office. Then a full board — five commissioners — voted among themselves for someone to succeed outgoing Mayor Mike Selby.

Selby opened the meeting and stepped down after SueLynn was elected commission chair.

The city charter calls for the commission chair to take the seat of mayor since no one ran for the office in the Nov. 6 city election.

But the agenda at the Nov. 15 meeting seemed at odds with what commissioners agreed to at their Oct. 25 meeting.

At that earlier meeting, city attorney Jim Dye said the commission could organize the voting for commission chair and replacement commissioner any way it wanted.

Then-commission chair Webb suggested that the commission first vote on a replacement commissioner, then a commission chair to become mayor. Then have the new mayor sworn in and the replacement commissioner sworn.     This would ensure a full, five-member commission to vote for a new chair and vice chair, Webb had said.

There was no dissension among commissioners Oct. 25 to Webb’s suggestion.

However, at the city’s Nov. 15 organizational meeting, Woodland suggested the commission first vote on a commission chair to become mayor.

Webb said he thought the commission had decided Oct. 25 it was going to first elect a replacement commissioner, then a chair, but Woodland wanted to elect the chair first. Quam agreed and neither Yetter nor SueLynn disagreed. Webb then reluctantly agreed.

The agenda called for election of a commission chair first, then a replacement commissioner.

The result was SueLynn was elected chair unanimously.

Selby stepped down.

After much discussion on the merits of each candidate among the commissioners, and a brief speech by Aubry about his qualifications and previous volunteer work for the city, two rounds of voting both ended 2-2 for each candidate. Pearman was absent from the meeting, Quam said, due to a family commitment.

Webb said he didn’t know how to resolve the deadlock except by special election.

Baird said later it would cost the city about $3,500 to hold a special election for commissioner.

SueLynn said it’s up to the commission to decide if it wants a special election or not. Anna Maria’s mayor does not cast a vote in the event of a tie on the commission.

It would not be the city’s first special election for a commissioner.

In September 2010, the city held a recall election for then-Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus. The recall was on the same ballot where Aubry was elected 363-332 and completed the remaining 13 months of Stoltzfus’ term.

FISH, fishers work toward cooperation

Ten days after a Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage meeting in Cortez, FISH members and disgruntled fishers met Nov. 15 to discuss how each can help the other.

The Nov. 5 FISH meeting brought some local commercial fishers to the table to express frustration over a perceived lack of FISH assistance to the fishing industry.

At the same time, FISH members noted the long absence of fishers from the organization’s meetings and the lack of their participation in the nonprofit’s primary fundraiser, the annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival.

At the heart of the Nov. 5 dispute was the use of the FISH boatworks facility, a facility that has undergone criticism in the past for being more of a “boys club” hangout than a working facility to benefit FISH and the community.

Fishers renewed their complaints that the facility is being used for recreational boaters, leaving fishers nowhere to conduct major repairs on the boats they use to make a living.

FISH board members took notice last month of the mounting frustration and appointed board member Rick Stewart as the boatworks committee chair, responsible for taking the facility in a new direction.

The opposing sides agreed to meet at a boatworks committee meeting Nov. 15 where the Nov. 5 arguments renewed.

Stewart told fishers he wants the boatworks to embrace the “entire Cortez fishing community” and asked fishers to elect a spokesperson to bring their concerns to the meetings.

Jodi Tyne, who first confronted the FISH board Nov. 5, offered the first symbol of peace by offering herself as a volunteer for the Commercial Fishing Festival. Her actions drew in others from the fishing side of the argument to also volunteer.

After more than an hour of mostly arguments between the two sides, Tyne’s actions brought declarations of cooperation from the FISH board members present.

FISH secretary Joe Kane stated, “There were declarations of support to launch a new era of cooperation in establishing FISH boatworks for the entire community — especially fishermen.”

Tony Taylor said, “We want to represent our heritage. We need a place to do our boat work.”

Junior Guthrie, an outspoken critic of FISH at the Nov. 5 meeting, acknowledged the lack of involvement from fishers.

“We made a terrible mistake by not being involved,” he said. “We need to be involved.”

Stewart said his vision for the facility is to see it run as a business, not a clubhouse, “but a place that FISH can earn money while still providing services to the community.”

Work sessions to consider building official, moratorium

Two Holmes Beach work sessions are scheduled in the next two weeks to consider the need to replace the recently retired building official and a possible building moratorium.

        The city commission will hear an update on Mayor Carmel Monti’s building official selection at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29.

        Also at 7 p.m., on the following Thursday, Dec. 6, the commission will look at the possibility of a moratorium as a way to give the commission time — without sparking a flood of building permit applications — to decide a course of action for an issue labeled by Commission Chair Jean Peelen as the “big house problem.”

        Joe Duennes, the superintendent who directed the city’s building, public works and code enforcement for more than 15 years, retired earlier this month, leaving the city of Holmes Beach down a department head and building official.

        Duennes oversaw 14 employees and the city’s development, including the issuance of 1,044 permits as of Nov. 19.

        Duennes finalized his retirement with former Mayor Rich Bohnenberger Nov. 8, but an announcement was not made until Duennes’ last day, Nov. 16. It also was nearly Bohnengerger’s last day, as Monti and two new commissioners were sworn into office the morning of Nov. 19.

        At the Nov. 20 city commission meeting, Monti told commissioners — one day after being sworn into office— that three candidates were being considered for Duennes’ replacement, and “to give it a week” and he’d be ready with an update.

        Also at the meeting, the first chaired by Peelen, discussion of a building moratorium came up during agenda items listed as “important substantive issues for commission to address.”

        The substantive issues listed under “big house problem,” included possible floor or living area ratio rules, an underground footer prohibition and a possible one-pool-per-lot rule or including pools in coverage limitations — measures supported by commissioners Judy Holmes Titsworth and Marvin Grossman in their campaigns for office.

        Peelen suggested the underground footer issue be separated for discussion at the next work session but Titsworth interjected that city attorney Patricia Petruff advised a moratorium because of the many development related issues.

        “It’s not just the underground footer, although that is a huge one,” Titsworth said. “As a recommendation from Patty, that’s the only way to deal with it, or the best way to deal with it.”

        According to Petruff’s partner, Stephen Dye, who attended the meeting in her stead, recommended that Petruff, unavailable until the week of Dec. 3, be on hand for work session discussion as well as legal tailoring of such a measure.

        Commissioners then scheduled the discussion for a Dec. 6 work session.

        “My only worry is there is going to be panic in the community between now and the sixth,” Peelen said, adding she’d like to “get the word out there” that what’s being considered is short-term and narrowly crafted.

        Peelen suggested the proposed moratorium be limited by geography and type of building.

        Disagreeing on that point, Commissioner David Zaccagnino said he’d researched the issue earlier in the year, and would bring his findings to the next discussion, but recalled there had to be “a pretty darn good reason to do it.”

        Zaccagnino also reported, “Over the weekend I fielded many, many, many phone calls and concerns about the transition in our city, and am feeling confident after talking to the mayor that there’s going to be a smooth transition. I have complete confidence in him,” he said.

        Zaccagnino said people are concerned because “there are a lot of things in the process right now for a lot of building going on.” He pointed out the construction industry is part of the economy that supports the school and the community center.

        According to Treasurer Lori Hill, the city took in $375,613 in permit fees during the 2011-12 fiscal year. The 2012-13 budget projects $296,000 to be added to the coffers from building permits.

        Newly hired in the building department, David Greene reported to commissioners that there was a current 8-10 permit application backlog, “much less than when I started three weeks ago.”

        “We are still moving forward with building permit processing,” he said.

        With a degree in electrical engineering and 20 years of experience with inspections in the construction industry, Greene expects to gain his plans examiner and inspector license the week of Dec. 5.

        The city hired Greene Oct. 23 after former building inspector Bob Shaffer was fired following discipline for leniency to certain builders.

        According to Greene, both inspections and applications are continuing, with former Longboat Key building official John Fernandez — working for the city on a part-time contractual basis — signing off on inspections.

        In other business, the commission unanimously approved:

• The first reading of an ordinance changing the land development code to require stormwater management plans for residential construction.

• The first reading of an ordinance amending the LDC to require building permit applications within 90 days after site plan approvals, with provisions allowing for one 90-day extensions if approved by the commission and for a site plan expiration if a permit is not maintained.

• A resolution to relocate among 2011-12 budget line items, $10,000 from public works insurance to general government life and health insurance and $20,000 from public works insurance to police department health and life insurance. The budget remains unchanged.

A consensus of commissioners agreed to:

• Split off the regular meeting from work sessions, and hold weekly work sessions at 7 p.m. on Thursdays.

• Begin commissioner office hours in city hall conference room, 5801 Marina Drive, Titsworth on Mondays, Zaccagnino on Tuesdays, Commissioner Pat Morton on Wednedays, Peelen on Thursdays and Commissioner Marvin Grossman on Fridays. Hours for each day will be 10 a.m.-noon.

• Advertise open committee positions by press release to local newspapers and placing them on the city’s website.

• Attempt monthly open houses at city hall.

• Improve audio and video access on the city website.

• Create guidelines for citizen presentations.

• Meet periodically with neighborhood groups, including builders and real estate agents.

• Begin mayoral briefings to individual commissioners on substantive issues with the caveat of Dye’s recommendation the mayor and commissioners abide by sunshine laws, which limit commissioner discussion of public business to open and noticed public meetings.

• Hold shade meetings at 5:30 p.m., Dec. 11, on two ongoing lawsuits, one filed in May against Bradenton Beach and the Sandpiper Resort Co-op, and a second filed last month against Peelen by John F. Agnelli Jr.

• Allow commissioners to contact the city attorneys and to monitor costs.

• Agree to participate in liaison appointments. Liaisons previously have included legislative, parks and beautification, recycling/solid waste, building and grounds, roads, bridges, drainage and canals.

• End the city’s acceptance and lottery of local business gift certificates to employees, and research performance-based incentives.

Commissioners appoint new chair, vice chair

Taking their cue from the voters who elected two new commissioners and a new mayor in Holmes Beach Nov. 6, the commission elected new leadership at its organizational meeting Nov. 19 in front a packed gallery.

        The election swept newcomers Judy Titsworth and Marvin Grossman as commissioners and Carmel Monti as mayor into office, and they took their oaths of office before the meeting from one-time mayor, Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore.

        With already-seated commissioners Pat Morton and David Zaccagnino, the commission elected Commissioner Jean Peelen, a commissioner since November 2011, as chairperson.

        The commission also elected Titsworth as vice chair.  Commissioner David Zaccagnino first nominated Commissioner Pat Morton as chairperson, but the motion failed for a second and Morton declined the nomination.

        Mayor Carmel Monti thanked Zaccagnino for his past efforts as chair and extra work during the past year.

        “We are all thrilled to be up here,” Peelen said after Zaccagnino passed the gavel to her. “We are just very excited about this opportunity that the voters have given us. You can expect us to make mistakes. We are new at it. I’m relatively new at this. The three others are new at it.”

        She also said the new commission leaders would look for guidance from the more-tenured commissioners, city attorney and city clerk on procedure and substance.

        “But hold our feet to the fire,” Peelen told the gallery. “We were elected and are up here for specific reasons. We need for you to continue to participate and be sure we do the right thing at all times.”

        The commission chair and vice chair are elected each year, and serve at the pleasure of the commission, according to the city charter. The chair directs the commission meetings and serves as deputy mayor during the temporary absence or disability of the mayor, also according to the charter.

        Monti thanked the crowd for support and said, “We will give our 200 percent, our best efforts to make you proud of us and make good on our commitments.”

        He also invited citizen input on city business. He said his door would always be open at city hall, at home and through emails.

        Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy and County Commissioner John Chappie congratulated Monti and the new commissioners on their election.

        Shaughnessy said, “I, as mayor of Bradenton Beach, am looking forward to working and cooperating with you and to return the three senses back to our city.

         “First the sense of hearing. Listening to each others’ sides and concerns, rather than turning deaf ear. Second is common sense. That we should all use and apply to all problems and issues we encounter rather than ignoring or taking a superior or righteous attitude.

        “And lastly, no pun intended, dollars and sense, the wasteful use of taxpayers and private citizens’ hard-earned money to a means that benefits no one. Enough said about that.”

        Shaughnessy then added, with a chuckle, “You all had to be out of your minds to take on this gigantic responsibility.”

        After the meeting, resident Renee Fergusson said, “We’re very happy. I think this is going to be good for the city.”

        Recently appointed alternative planning board member Barbara Hines added, “I think there is a lot of potential for a lot of good to happen.”

Pier tenant says ‘no’ to water taxi

A proposal to bring a water taxi for visitors from downtown Bradenton to offload at the Anna Maria City Pier was rejected by pier leaseholder Mario Schoenfelder.

In a letter to former Anna Maria Mayor Mike Selby — received Nov. 15, Selby’s last day in office — Schoenfelder said he appreciated the opportunity to discuss the issue with Selby but he has concerns.

“We have previously expressed concerns over safety, liability and overloading the existing infrastructure,” Schoenfelder wrote.

“Our specific concerns are in regards to rest room facilities, especially parking and increased congestion at peak usage times. Because of these concerns, we are unable to give approval to the use of the city pier as a docking facility for the taxi at this time,” he concluded.

Capt. Tracey Dell of the Kathleen D catamaran cruise ship and the Island Pearl shuttle boat had proposed the water taxi to the commission in October 2011. Commissioners favored the idea because the taxi would bring foot traffic to city businesses. The taxi also would stop at Fort Desoto Park, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach.

But the commission told Dell he must gain approval from Schoenfelder before any action can be taken.

Dell said he’s talked with pier manager Dave Sork, but Schoenfelder has not been available.

Dell said Schoenfelder should not be concerned about parking because most of the taxi passengers would be walking, not driving vehicles. A few people might board the water taxi at the pier, he said, but he’s not relying on that.

“There might be a few, but we want to address all his concerns. We’ll cover the liability and we have rest rooms on board for our passengers,” said Dell.

“The water taxi is something that everyone seems to want. We’ll continue to pursue the idea through other channels if necessary. We want Mr. Schoenfelder to have a level of comfort for the taxi,” said Dell.

The maximum number of people the taxi can carry is about 45, Dell said, and some passengers would likely choose to dine and enjoy the amenities at the City Pier Restaurant.

“We want to take visitors from Bradenton to Fort De Soto Park in Pinellas County, then Anna Maria, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach, then return to each pier, then back to downtown Bradenton,” Dell said.

“I thought it was a win for the pier restaurant. I’m somewhat surprised at Schoenfelder’s decision.”

Dell said the idea is for taxi visitors to visit the Pine Avenue, get lunch or to enjoy the sights and boutiques. They would only be in the city a few hours before the return trip.

Mayor SueLynn said she would speak to Schoenfelder after she and city staff review the concerns.

“I think we can meet Mr. Schoenfelder’s concerns. The city is going to help (Schoenfelder) with some pier repairs, so we might have some input on the taxi in return,” she said.

North End Merchants Organization president Tina Fusaro said NEMO members were receptive to a presentation by Dell last year, but the organization does not make recommendations.

City attorney Jim Dye said the final decision on the water taxi is with Schoenfelder because he holds the lease.

Fishing – 11-28-2012

Patience, persistence pay off

 

With frequent cold fronts and steady north winds, fishing around Anna Maria Island will require persistence along with a little luck.

We’re in between our fall and winter patterns, which means you’ll need to get out on the water and do your homework. You may find that the fish in the backcountry that you were fishing have disappeared. Or, more likely, they just moved in search of food and warmer water. Now is the time to start checking canals, creek mouths and docks to locate a bite. You may even want to consider switching over to shrimp instead of shiners if these cold fronts persist.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the Spanish mackerel bite. Reports from the beaches to the piers and even up in the Manatee River prove that these toothy fish are still abundant and on the feed. As long as schools of shiners and threadfin herring remain in the area, we should get a couple more weeks of catching these high-activity fish.

Sheepshead are appearing around the Sunshine Skyway Bridge fishing piers. I’m also noticing quite a few on the flats, especially around oyster bars or areas with rocky bottom. Live shrimp for bait will catch these fish, although you can’t beat a fiddler crab or tubeworm. Remember, a small strong hook is key in catching these bony-mouthed fish.

Capt. Rick Gross of Fishy Business fishing charters is fishing the backcountry in search of redfish, trout and catch-and-release snook. To catch these fish, Gross is either using live shiners or artificial baits such as DOA Cal jigs or MirrOlure Lil Johns.

For the spotted seatrout, Gross is fishing grass flats with depths of 3-6 feet. Anchoring in areas abundant with sandy potholes, Gross instructs his clients to cast live bait around the edges of the holes. When using artificials, Gross is not anchoring but simply doing a slow drift. Again, he’s targeting flats with sandy potholes. Fishing either method Gross’ clients are reeling in seatrout up to 26 inches.

For the redfish and catch-and-release snook, Gross is moving to shallower grass flats. A depth of 2-3 feet is perfect. For these fish, Gross is chumming with live shiners to get the fish in a feeding mood and also to give his clients a target to cast to when the fish break the surface while feeding. Not only is this technique rewarding to catch a keeper-size redfish but to catch one that you can see feeding is pure enjoyment. Slot-size reds are the norm this past week as week as catch-and-release snook up to 30 inches.

Jeff Medley at the Sunshine Skyway Bridge South Fishing Pier is still seeing a few kingfish being caught by pier fishers targeting Spanish mackerel. “The largest king this past week came in as 25 pounds,” says Medley.

Spanish mackerel are abundant during the morning hours around the pier. Gotcha plugs or silver spoons are getting the bite. Expect to catch ladyfish and blue runners when targeting mackerel.

Pompano are being caught at the landside of the pier in the shallow water. Love’s lures pompano jigs are the primary bait, although live sand fleas will suffice if you can find them.

Pier fishers using live shrimp are catching respectable numbers of sheepshead. Fish up to 3 pounds are being caught, but expect to catch more in the 1- to 1 1/2-pound range. Also while fishing with live shrimp, pier fishers are reeling up black sea bass. Most are in the 12-inch range, but bigger fish are being caught.

Capt. Warren Girle is fishing nearshore structure targeting Spanish mackerel and bonito. For fantastic action on drag-screaming fish, these two species pack a punch. Bonito in the 8- to 10-pound range are providing bent rods for Girle’s clients during the early morning hours. The same applies for the Spanish mackerel, which are reaching sizes of 5 pounds. To catch these fish, Girle is anchoring over structure and chumming with live shiners. Once these fish have dialed in on the chum, Girle instructs his clients to pitch their baits into the feeding frenzy. Then it’s game on.

On the flats of Sarasota Bay, Girle is targeting spotted seatrout and redfish. For either species, Girle is anchoring around sandy potholes that are surrounded by grass flats. The idea depth where Girle is finding these fish is 3-5 feet. By pitching free-lined shiners into the holes, Girle is catching a mix of spotted seatrout and reds. Slot-size trout are the norm, while reds up to 27 inches are being caught.

Dave Sork at the Anna Maria City Pier says, “If you can deal with the wind, there are plenty of mackerel to be caught.”

The Spanish mackerel in the 2-3-pound range are being caught on white jigs, Gotcha plugs and Clark spoons trailed behind a popping cork. While targeting mackerel, expect to catch ladyfish, blue runners and jack crevalle.

Pier fishers using live bait such as shrimp or shiners are catching good numbers of flounder. Catching flounder above 12 inches, keeper size, is a challenge, but attainable.

Jim Malfese at the Rod & Reel Pier says despite the winds out of the north, the Spanish mackerel bite is hot and heavy in the early morning. Pier fishers using white jigs or Gotcha plugs are catching macks in the 2-3-pound range.

Along with the macks, pier fishers are catching blue runners, ladyfish and a few jack crevalle.

Pier fishers using live shrimp are catching decent numbers of black drum, sheepshead and slot-size redfish. All three species are being caught on bottom rigs. Pier fishers targeting these fish are casting baits right next to the pier or up under the pier as far as they can get it. When using shrimp for bait, purchase an ample amount. There are plenty of “bait stealers” line pinfish and grunts under that pier that love to nibble your shrimp away before a red or a black drum can get to it.

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