Tag Archives: 12-22-2010

Santa, Sandbar bring joy

The children, snug in sweaters and winter coats, ran to Santa Claus, kicking up sand and shouting hellos.

St. Nick waved from the back of a pickup truck trailed by a lanky snowman, SpongeBob SquarePants and Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Loudspeakers amplified a recording of “Here Comes Santa Claus,” which could be heard at least as far as the water’s edge, even over the hard-crashing surf.

It was not a typical day at the beach.

With temperatures in the low 50s and wind biting ears and reddening cheeks, about 160 children celebrated an early Christmas Dec. 14 at the Sandbar Restaurant, 100 Spring Ave., Anna Maria.

The children, along with parents, teachers and aides, were the guests at the 16th annual Lawton Chiles Kids Christmas Party.

The late Lawton Chiles, who served as a U.S. senator and Florida governor, started the party in 1998. Son Ed Chiles, owner of the Sandbar, BeachHouse and MarVista restaurants, carries on the tradition with his staff.

Organizers said the attendance set a party record.

Children arrived at about 10:30 a.m., some in cars with their parents but most on buses from the Healthy Families Manatee and Head Start programs.

Anna Maria Island Privateers welcomed party guests with beads and “argh” and “merry Christmas, matey.”

On the Sandbar patio, children decorated Christmas ornaments, chased the Cat in the Hat, danced with SpongeBob and watched Snowbird and Sparky clown around before dining on chicken tenders and french fries.

Shortly before noon, Santa Claus arrived, riding in the bed of a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office pickup truck. Rough weather forced him to cancel plans to arrive via a U.S. Coast Guard boat.

Several shivering teachers said they envied Santa’s heavy red suit and fur trim, while children crowded around the jolly guy to whisper secret wishes in his ear.

Santa then visited one-on-one with each child, presenting them with a wrapped toy, a holiday outfit and a Publix gift certificate for a Christmas dinner.

The party, overseen by Sandbar manager Patti McKee, is presented with the support of the Chiles family, the Chiles restaurant group and a number of volunteers.

“I want to add my personal thank you to those of you who have given so generously,” said Ed Chiles. “My family and the entire Chiles group family wishes you and yours a wonderful holiday season.”

Policing reviewed for pier party

Sgt. Dave Turner of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Anna Maria substation and MCSO Deputy Gary Sellito said they’re impressed with plans to celebrate the city pier’s centennial.

The officers were briefed by the centennial celebration committee at its Dec. 13 meeting on plans for the May 13-14. 2011, celebration. The Anna Maria City Pier Centennial Celebration Committee has been planning the event for more than two years.

Turner said the committee is providing plenty of time to plan for crowd and traffic control. The number of officers needed will depend on how much of Pine Avenue is blocked off for the celebration, which includes a wine and food festival.

The pier celebration begins at 6 p.m. May 13, with a parade from CrossePointe Fellowship to the City Pier organized by the Anna Maria Island Privateers.

The Privateers also plan a family picnic starting at 4 p.m. May 14 at Bayfront Park that should end about 7 p.m., just in time for a fireworks display.

The Islander newspaper and City Pier Restaurant are sponsoring the $10,000 fireworks show and selling memorial planks as a fundraiser. A maximum of 1,000 planks will be sold.

The fireworks display comes with a VIP party at the City Pier with limited seating. The fireworks will be shot from a barge offshore, which means the MCSO marine unit will be needed for patrol, according to Turner.

Sellito said he was concerned about closing the pier to the general public, but he acknowledged there may be a safety issue if too many people attempt to view the fireworks from the pier.

Committee chair Sissy Quinn asked Anna Maria Mayor Mike Selby to check with city attorney Jim Dye on that issue.

Sellito said if the vendor map is ready by the end of January, that will be “plenty of time” to assign deputies.

Volunteer Caryn Hodge estimated about 2,500 people would attend the food and cultural event, but Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick thought that number low.

“We drew 10,000 people for Bayfest,” she said.

“And we’re already advertising in Europe and Germany and elsewhere about the celebration,” Mattick said, adding that many stamp collectors are coming just for the one-day U.S. Post Office cancellation stamp depicting the city pier.

Turner and Sellito said attendance would likely be higher than 2,500 people on May 14.

Parking will be available at the Anna Maria Island Community Center field, CrossePointe Fellowship and Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Holmes Beach.

After hearing of all the progress, planned events and attendance sizes, Turner estimated he would need between five and eight deputies for the two-day event, but emphasized that’s just a preliminary estimate. The extra deputies would complement the regular MCSO shift for the city those days.

The committee will meet again at 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 3, for an update on activities, but Hodge said she might not have the final number of food vendors at that meeting.

“That’s OK,” Sellito said. “We’ve got plenty of time.”

Turner added that the committee has done a lot of planning and work for the centennial.

BB property owner fined

A Bradenton Beach property owner must pay a $3,104.64 fine for unpermitted roofing work on a structure.

Special magistrate Harold Youmans ordered the fine and judged David A. Niewiek in violation of city ordinances regarding construction permits during a hearing Dec. 15 at Bradenton Beach City Hall.

Niewiek and a trust own property in the 300 block of 23rd Street North.

Bradenton Beach building official Steve Gilbert said that several months ago, while driving to another location, he noticed roofing work taking place at the 23rd Street North site. Gilbert didn’t recall a permit issued for such work, so he checked when he returned to city hall.

Gilbert said his research found no permit sought or issued. Questions about whether the structure was covering too much of the lot also came up and remain under city review.

Bradenton Beach code enforcement officer Gail Garneau said she posted a notice of code violations at the property on Oct. 14 and received a call from the property owner the next day.

Garneau said the property owner applied for a permit Nov. 23.

Engineer and surveyor Jeff Hostetler represented Niewiek at the hearing. He didn’t dispute that a permit was not sought, but argued that the contractor was neglectful, not Niewiek.

Hostetler said Niewiek paid the contractor for the roofing work and the invoice included the cost of a permit application.

Youmans, however, said the property owner “as a matter of law is responsible for agents doing anything on their property.”

The hearing lasted about 90 minutes, including a brief break.

At the conclusion, Youmans made several findings, including a decision that city regulations were violated and that Niewiek should pay a fine of $2,000 — $50 per day for the 40 days the violation existed — as well as cover the city’s expenses, estimated at $1,104.64.

Garneau had recommended a fine of $250 per day, but Youmans noted that there was no pending threat to citizens’ health and welfare and that the violation was corrected.

The city has yet to issue a permit for the work, because there remains a disagreement between the building official and the property owner regarding the proposed percentage of lot coverage.

Robinson resumes HBPD challenge

“There is an elephant in the room no one wants to talk about,” Holmes Beach Commissioner Al Robinson said as the Dec. 14 commission work session wrapped up.

Robinson handed out a follow-up statement to the commission regarding comments he made at a November work session on the city’s police department. In the statement, he said he was elected on his promise to lower taxes, and that his comments were not an attack on police personnel, but rather the “gravy-train system” that developed over the past 15 years.

“Our cost is $800,000 a year more than it should be if we ran our police department like our sister cities to the north and south,” said Robinson. “You know we have our heads in the sand. We’re just spending money like crazy and for no justification.”

“Is Bradenton Beach crazy? Is Anna Maria crazy? Or are we crazy?” he asked. “Because somebody is doing it wrong.”

Robinson claimed that the other Island cities do not have a police office staffed on a regular basis and should people need to speak to the Bradenton Beach police chief, they’d have to reach him in his patrol vehicle.

According to Robinson the cost of having nine employees in the police department office and carrying the police pension plan are reasons the city pays more than its sister cities. Bradenton Beach and Anna Maria, he said, have no office staff and no overhead. Anna Maria is policed by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

As for the pension plan having an unfunded liability, Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach don’t have police pension plans.

“Someone is doing it right, and someone is not,” Robinson said.

In an hour-long discussion, commissioners weighed in on upcoming state pension reform legislation, the lack of funding or manpower from the county to patrol the public beach and that, according to commissioner David Zaccagnino, residents pay more in taxes to the MCSO than they do for all of Holmes Beach city services.

Commission Chair Sandy Haas-Martens said residents voted years ago by ballot initiative to maintain a city police dispatch when the Island Communications Center was disbanded.

As Haas-Martens attempted to wrap up the meeting again, Commissioner John Monetti spoke on the police department budget.

“The discussion was precipitated by a statement that it is the elephant in the corner that no one wants to talk about,” Monetti said. “And I’d like to offer that it has been talked about — appropriately — during the budget process and just because Commissioner Robinson wants to continue to talk about it beyond that appropriate venue in this way does not reflect a lack of concern on others’ parts, as implied.”

Key Royale resident Andy Sheridan said he had reviewed the data provided by Robinson and questioned the commissioner’s intent.

“There seems to be some indication that [Robinson] feels that something is being mismanaged or something of that nature. I think the white elephant in the room is that [Robinson] hasn’t come right out and said exactly what he wants to do about this.”

“He is providing what he believes is background information,” continued Sheridan. “But what are you really looking to do? Are you looking to eliminate our police chief?… Some personnel carrying a badge?… Our communication center?… The folks that do the paperwork so our officers can stay on the street? … The folks we call at the dispatch?”

As he grew visibly frustrated, Sheridan continued, “What do you want to do about it? Just come right out and say it.”

Robinson said he thinks the city should research how neighboring cities are providing police services more efficiently than Holmes Beach. “Why is the cost of putting a man in a patrol car $171,000 a year more for us compared to our neighbors?” he asked.

Sheridan questioned Robinson’s calculations, asking if he considered all the people working in the department or breaking down the budget to only reflect patrol officer salaries.

“I took the total cost operations in Anna Maria and divided by the number of people on patrol. I did the same for Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach. It’s a simple math problem,” Robinson responded. “I’m comparing apples to apples.”

Monetti, however, said Robinson was comparing apples to oranges. “They really are separately set up departments and when you say these are real numbers that you throw out there, well I would respond that they’re numbers you just throw out there. You have a history of taking numbers and, if these are indeed real numbers, it will be the first time I can recall that you have thrown out a number that is a real number.”

“In my mind you like to play with numbers,” Monetti continued. “You throw things out as if they are facts. You take them out of context and you apply them and it is detrimental to the overall conversation — I believe.”

Sheridan left the commission with the final word.

“I think you need to get involved with the treasurer from each city to determine how each organization structures its budget rather than making a broad stroke at a number and attempting to compare that.

“Commissioner Robinson ran on lowering taxes and being fiscally responsible. We need ways to address and correct these issues instead of continuing to disseminate information that may, or may not, be accurate.”

Pitching in

Pam Leckie, chair of the Roser Food Pantry, accepts a $300 check from Ron Pepka and other players in the Anna Maria Horseshoe League, which holds casual but competitive games at the Anna Maria City Hall pits on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Leckie said the donation would go to the pantry fund, needed when donated supplies run low. Islander Photos: Lisa Neff

Ron Pepka of the Anna Maria Horseshoe League writes a $300 check to the Roser Food Pantry at Roser Memorial Community Church. Horseshoe players donate $1 each Wednesday and Saturday. Some of the money is used for league equipment, but money also is collected for the food pantry.

Herb Puryear takes aim during horseshoe practice at the city hall pits.

Fritz Eldrich watches his horseshoe fly during practice Dec. 15 at the Anna Maria City Hall pits.

Sam Samuels and Ron Pepka point to a certificate of commendation tacked to a shed door at the Anna Maria Island City Hall horseshoe pits from the Anna Maria Island Historical Society.

Gene Bobeldyke tosses a shoe.

TIFF grows up: 4 million registered, 4 states, 4 years

To Inform Families First is offering access to a registry Floridians can sign up with this holiday season that provides family and friends with a free gift — peace of mind.

Through TIFF’s website, toinformfamiliesfirst.org, Floridians can register emergency contact information with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to ensure that a family member or friend will be notified quickly in an emergency.

“When you are in the middle of an emergency it’s too late to be thinking about registering,” said TIFF board member Linda Moore. “Put the paper down for 2 minutes and register now. It will be one less thing to think about in a time of crisis.”

Five years ago, the Emergency Contact Information registry did not exist and it took 6 and a half hours for Christine Olson, a waitress at the Rod & Reel Pier, to learn that her daughter Tiffiany was involved in a motorcycle accident. Due to the delay in notification, Olson was unable to reach the hospital before 22-year-old Tiffiany died.

It was this unimaginable event that served as a catalyst for Olson to rally government officials to make a change — to inform families first. TIFF volunteers have not stopped working to raise awareness about the voluntary registry among Floridians, as well as encouraging other states to adopt similar registry programs.

The Emergency Contact Information program allows licensed drivers and identification card-holders to submit two contacts that can only be accessed by law enforcement.

Sitting in state Rep. Bill Galvano’s downtown Bradenton office, Olson was the first person to register her emergency contact information when Florida’s program was activated in 2006. Today there are 4 million Floridians registered and four other states have followed Florida’s lead.

“Who would have known that one awful night would blossom into something like this?” said Olson.

Still, she said there is more to be done.

“It is reassuring to see the number of ECI registrants climb, but with more than 15.5 million licensed drivers in Florida we still have a long way to go,” said DHSMV executive director Julie L. Jones. “Our goal is for all Florida drivers and ID card-holders to register their Emergency Contact Information.”

TIFF vice president Karen Mahlios, Moore and Olson recently met with state Rep. Jim Boyd, a Republican from District 68, to inform him about the organization’s efforts. According to Olson, Boyd pledged his support.

Also, with the assistance of Manatee Educational Television, TIFF filmed a 5-minute promotional video, an educational panel discussion and a public service announcement that Bright House Networks is airing 300 times during the holiday season.

TIFF does not receive any public funding. Olson and volunteers such as Mahlios and Moore dedicate 20 hours or more a week outside of their full-time jobs and family obligations to spread the organization’s message.

There are ways in which the public can help.

Moore suggests that business owners follow the lead of Manatee County School Superintendent Tim McGonegal and Bealls’ senior vice president of human resources Dan Doyle.

McGonegal took steps to ensure school district staff learned of the registry and printed information in the district’s “Parent Pages.”

Doyle is informing 10,000 Bealls and Bealls Outlet employees by enclosing a TIFF flier with paychecks.

Olson suggested that snowbirds share information about TIFF with lawmakers in their home states and ask for similar programs. Despite being named one of the nation’s top 50 most innovative government programs by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Illinois, Ohio, Colorado and New Jersey are the only states to follow Florida’s example.

Olson said that any state already using the Driver and Vehicle Information Database System could integrate a registration program.

Without outside funding, TIFF’s team does not have the resources to travel to conferences, speak at conventions and schools or push for change nationally, said Moore.

TIFF is looking for people with talent and resources. Mahlios noted that previously a business donated pens with the organization logo and Manatee Technical Institute’s graphic design department built and maintains the TIFF website.

Olson also is ordering “show and tell” wristbands that will be available the end of the month.

But, if there is one thing people can do to move the cause forward, it is register emergency contacts.

“It frustrates me when people learn about TIFF and don’t take action,” said Olson. “Why not?”

“It’s not enough to rely on a cell phone’s ‘In Case of Emergency’ function,” continued Olson. “Any number of things can happen to a cell phone in a car accident. The state ECI registry and cell phone ICE can work hand in hand. So, it is still important to register.

“Spending 2 minutes now can save you and your loved ones countless hours of worry. Register today.”

The TIFF website, toinformfamiliesfirst.org, offers a direct link to Florida’s registry as well as Ohio, Colorado and Illinois registries. New Jersey just passed a bill to implement the program this month. The link will be provided as soon as it is available.

According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles office in Tallahassee, people without access to the Internet should be allowed to register in state or tax collector-operated driver license offices.

That’s a wrap

The Women of the Moose host a holiday lunch for children Dec. 18 at the lodge in Bradenton Beach. The group served lunch, presented children with gifts, organized games and booked a visit from Santa Claus. Islander Photos: Lisa Neff

Sara Kubik, 6, and sister Carly examine the contents of the Christmas stockings they received when they arrived to the Moose Lodge for a Dec. 18 party.

Christmas prelude

Santa Claus, with his compass continuing to direct him far south of the North Pole this month, visits with Jacob Dewitty, 9, during the Bridge Street Merchants’ open house Dec. 18 in Bradenton Beach. Islander Photos: Lisa Neff

Mike Sales gets some help from the Anna Maria Island Privateers on “Jingle Bells.”

Santa and a crew sail past the Historic Bridge Street Pier just before the lighted boat parade Dec. 18.

Island police blotter – 12-22-2010

Anna Maria

• Dec. 14, 100 block of Pine Avenue, found property. The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report from a retired U.S. Navy officer who found an unexploded marine locator — a flare — on the beach that MCSO suspects was used for Coast Guard training. The item was picked up.

Bradenton Beach

• Dec. 11, 200 block of Gulf Drive South, theft. Bradenton Beach Police Department investigated the theft of a windshield from a club cart parked at Coquina Beach. A Manatee County employee returned to his vehicle and noticed the Plexiglass windshield, measuring about 4 feet by 4 feet, was missing.

• Dec. 13, 100 block of Seventh Street North, domestic battery. Law enforcement officers responded to an early morning complaint about an argument between a man and a woman. The man faces a domestic battery charge.

Holmes Beach

• Dec. 10, 5500 block of Gulf Drive, driving on a suspended license. A Holmes Beach Police Department officer stopped a motorcyclist known to have had his license suspended and made an arrest.

• Dec. 11, 5200 block of Gulf Drive, criminal mischief. HBPD responded to a complaint of juveniles riding in a Jeep throwing objects at other vehicles.

• Dec. 12, 5300 block of Gulf Drive, disturbance. HBPD responded a tavern to help prevent an intoxicated woman from driving home. The officer gave her a ride.

• Dec. 12, 200 block of 77th Street, disturbance. HBPD responded to a complaint from a man who said his roommate came home drunk, and then, after a disagreement over alcohol consumption, broke windows at the front of the residence. Later police returned to the residence to break up a fight between the roommates.

• Dec. 13, 500 block of Bayview Drive, burglary. HBPD received a report of a house burglary in which an iPod and a safe containing legal documents, passports and a coin collection were taken. There were no signs of forced entry.

• Dec. 13, Anna Maria Island Bridge, criminal mischief. The Holmes Beach Police Department and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office responded to a report that someone threw an object at a vehicle and cracked the windshield.

• Dec. 14, 7300 block of Gulf Drive, trespass. HBPD cited three men for trespass after they were found in a homeowner’s hot tub without permission.

Streetlife is based on incident reports and narratives from the Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach police departments and the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office as of Dec. 17.

Sports – 12-22-2010

The Fish Hole makes strides Magic League

The U10 Fish Hole Magic League boy’s soccer team coached by this writer and boasting members from sons of several former Island Football Club players has come to the halfway point of its season.

The team, which is sponsored by The Fish Hole adventure golf course in Bradenton Beach, defeated Braden River Rage Silver 5-1 Dec. 18 at G.T. Bray Park to even its record at 3-3 in the USA League.

For most of the team, this is a first foray from recreational soccer into a competitive league. As a result, they’ve take their lumps playing teams from Tampa to Punta Gorda, but along the way, they’ve figured it out and have shown steady improvement.

In the Dec. 18 game, the Magic got off to a quick start, scoring in the fourth minute. The play started when Shelby Morrow received a pass from Robbie Fellowes just past midfield. She dribbled forward and drew the defender toward her before passing outside to David Ojeda, who buried his shot for a 1-0 lead.

Fish Hole extended its lead three minutes later on a tricky corner-kick play. Nick Pilato hung out near midfield while players filled the penalty box. Just before Ojeda was to take the kick, Pilato rushed forward and rifled Ojeda’s short drop pass into the goal for a 2-0 lead.

The Magic added another goal by Ojeda late in the first half for a 3-0 lead.

The second half saw Braden River generate more scoring opportunities, but some good saves by Pilato and strong play by defenders James Richards, Brennan Bowers, Conal Cassidy and center back Fellowes kept them at bay, though two rage shots off the crossbar helped as well.

Ojeda added an unassisted goal and Fellowes notched a second-half goal on a cross from Carter Reemelin to complete the scoring and a 5-1 victory. Reemelin, whose mother Deana grew up on the Island, also played a tremendous first half in the goal for Fish Hole Magic.

To all the Islanders and people who provide sports news, and to The Islander readers, we wish you a very merry Christmas.

Horseshoe news
Two teams emerged from pool play during Dec. 15 horseshoe action at the Anna Maria City Hall pits. John Crawford defeated Gene Bobeldyke and Ron Pepka 23-16 to take the day’s bragging rights.

Play gets under way at 9 a.m. every Wednesday and Saturday at the Anna Maria City Hall pits. Warmups begin at 8:45 a.m. followed by random team selection. There is no charge to play and everyone is welcome.