Tag Archives: News

Michael moves surf on Anna Maria Island

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Surfer Chris Banin catches a wave Oct. 9 in the Gulf of Mexico at Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach. Hurricane Michael passed Oct. 10 in the Gulf of Mexico west of Anna Maria Island as a Category 3 storm, creating swells of more than 6 feet along island beaches. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Michael spares AMI, decimates Panhandle

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Betsy Sillars, a resident at Avenue A and 24th Street, points Oct. 9 to the street where water rose from Sarasota Bay to her front and back doors. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
Hurricane Michael and a king tide flood Kingfish Boat Ramp, 752 Manatee Ave., Holmes Beach, Oct. 9 as the storm powered northward to landfall in the Panhandle. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

Surfers filled the Gulf waters off Anna Maria Island Oct. 9, taking advantage of the big waves generated by Hurricane Michael.

The only other evidence of the massive storm around Anna Maria Island? Minor street flooding at high tide, along with gusty showers, scattered debris and a disrupted school day for island kids.

The Panhandle was not so fortunate.

On Oct. 10, Michael roared ashore, making landfall at Mexico Beach. With winds at 155 mph, it was a Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson scale — the first Cat 4 to hit the Panhandle and the third most powerful Atlantic hurricane in terms of pressure.

The devastation drew comparisons to 1992’s Hurricane Andrew. Michael flattened the small beach town of Mexico City and nearby coastal communities, killing at least 17 people, according to CNN.

Michael passed Anna Maria Island overnight Oct. 9-10, chugging some 200 miles off the coast.

Islanders reported tidal flooding, both overnight and again the afternoon of Oct. 10, when canals overran their seawalls. Parking and road flooding occurred by the Island Library on Marina Drive and in some low-lying areas of Gulf Drive in the three island cities.

Gary Hickerson, who lives on 75th Street in Holmes Beach near a canal, said water was up to the top of his seawall. “The tide is high, but not too bad,” he reported.

And, for the most part, the water quickly subsided as the tide went out.

“We fared well. There was no major flooding on the island at all,” Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said Oct. 11. “We had sandbags ready, and did give out a few,” the chief added.

A few broken limbs were scattered in the storm, as were patio chairs.

The Manatee County School District closed Anna Maria Elementary Oct. 10 in anticipation of severe flooding, which failed to materialize. School buses for middle and high school students on the island did not run Oct. 10.

A district notice read, “ Any students who have to miss school as a result of these decisions will receive an excused absence for the day.”

The Center of Anna Maria Island scrambled and organized an impromptu day camp for island kids on their school holiday. AME classes and island bus transportation resumed Oct. 11.

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring representatives feared a storm surge and coastal flooding would wipe out the eight remaining sea turtle nests on the island.

AMITW executive director Suzi Fox confirmed Oct. 11 that four nests were lost to coastal flooding.

However, only minor beach erosion occurred on the island, with Coquina Beach seeing the brunt of washouts. The beach has a history of erosion.

Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources, said the Gulf beaches fared well. He said there was a loss of sea oats but they would make a quick recovery.

JT Thomas, HBPD code enforcement officer, checks beaches daily. Oct. 12, he said the storm “smoothed everything out” and he saw no erosion. He said some dunes were topped by water and standing water behind the dunes remained Oct. 12.

Dean Jones, Anna Maria public works manager, said the city did “about 20 minutes of street pumping on a flooded side street.”

“The infiltration system worked excellent,” Jones said. “Our workers made sure the valves were open and clean and they did the job they were meant to do.” He reported no erosion on Anna Maria beaches but said sand was leveled out from the ebb and flow of water.

The Rod & Reel Pier, 875 N. Shore Drive, Anna Maria, closed its restaurant due to damages sustained when Michael passed.

Rocky Corby said work at the eatery was still underway Oct. 12 after waves knocked out the pipe system, leaving the restaurant without water. While plumbers continued to make repairs, Corby said the business planned to be open by Oct. 13.

Locals, for the most part, took the storm’s passing in stride but, a year after Hurricane Irma’s strike on Florida, also took some precautions.

William Schoharie of Bradenton Beach was seen pumping gas at Jessie’s Island Store early Oct. 10, as Hurricane Michael approached the Panhandle. He was one of several motorists lined up for gas at the station. “Remember Irma?” he said. “I’m topping it off.”

Fortunately, it was just a top off.

By the afternoon of Oct. 11, things were back to normal on Anna Maria Island.

People in the Panhandle faced a much different reality.

School council focuses on improving reading scores

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Principal Jackie Featherston, left, begins the first Anna Maria Elementary School Advisory Council meeting of the 2018-19 school year Oct. 8 with introductions. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Hot off the heels of the Scholastic Book Fair at Anna Maria Elementary, the school advisory council is working on keeping students reading.

Meeting Oct. 8 for the first time in the 2018-19 school year, SAC members discussed improving a dip in test scores from last year, including drops in reading and science. The purpose of the council is to develop and evaluate yearly school improvement plans and assist in creating the school budget.

AME principal Jackie Featherston said in 2017-18, the council focused on math, resulting in improvements in math scores, but reading scores fell.

She said the school’s goal for 2018-19 is to have 80 percent of AME students meet efficiency in English Language Arts, as measured by the district’s K-5 quarterly assessments and Florida Standards Assessment tests in grades 3-5.

The percentage is based on a decline in test scores over the past couple of years at AME — from 79 percent in 2016-17 to 73 percent in 2017-18.

“For any school to make 80 percent proficiency is phenomenal. It’s very difficult to do,” Featherston said Oct. 8. “And we’re certainly very capable of doing it. We’ve got a lot of good experienced teachers who know what they’re doing and are taking their work very seriously.”

The SAC will use $5,800 from the Manatee County School District to pay for remediation of third-fifth grade students, including new after-school tutoring for third-graders, which will happen twice a week. Teachers will determine which students need remediation and recommend after-school tutoring to their parents.

The remediation model for fourth- and fifth-grade students is for a substitute teacher to run the classroom twice a week while teachers work with small groups of students on different skills.

Additionally, the state gave AME $1,024 for school improvement project expenditures. Featherston recommended 100 percent of the money support the school improvement plan.

“Whether that means paying a teacher a little bit more for some extra tutoring hours, getting substitutes or retired teachers in to support that way. Whatever we need to support that improvement,” she said.

The council voted unanimously to approve her recommended use of the money.

As the first SAC meeting of the new school year, council officers, including the positions of chair, vice chair and treasurer, were selected.

Janae Rudacille nominated David Zaccagnino to serve as chair, while Rudacille was nominated to serve as vice chair. Featherston nominated student support specialist Ivory Graham to serve as treasurer.

Without opposing nominations, the council unanimously voted to approve all three nominees.

Additionally, the council unanimously voted to approve Jenny Moore, Lauren Palmer, Curtis Hightower and Josh Fleischer as new members.

AME staff members voted among themselves for membership on the council, not requiring a vote of approval from council members at the first meeting of the year.

HB candidate promises ‘free’ tech support

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A campaign piece for Joshua Linney, a candidate for mayor in Holmes Beach, includes “1 free hour of tech support with postcard.” Islander Courtesy Graphic

Holmes Beach mayoral candidate Joshua Linney mailed postcards to residents Oct. 1 asking for their vote.

Included in the pre-election postcard are typical candidate promises, vowing to serve and be a voice for citizens.

There’s another promise. Stamped on the side of the postcard is: “FREE 1 hr Tech Support w/postcard.”

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer wondered about the legality of the postcard promise and passed it along to city clerk Stacey Johnston, the city’s top election official. Johnston checked with Manatee County Elections chief deputy Sharon Stief, who replied to Johnston in an Oct. 11 email, citing the state statute prohibiting vote buying.

“In regards to the statement on the postcard, Florida Statute 104.061(2) states ‘No person shall directly or indirectly give or promise anything of value to another intending thereby to buy that person or another’s vote,’” Stief wrote.

According to Linney, he is a website designer with a digital media degree from the University of Central Florida who serves the community as an IT technician.

The Islander asked the candidate about his offer of free IT advice and, in an Oct. 12 email, he replied: “I am fully aware that it violates state campaign law to offer something of monetary value to the voters, so let me explain …”

Linney said he wanted to give people a reason to engage him. He wanted to ask, “What is the number one thing they want me to know as a candidate.”

He wrote, in part, he is willing to answer any questions, “As many as they want to ask me, for at least an hour, hopefully, or longer.”

Asked whether the postcard mailing ran afoul of the vote-buying prohibition, Sarah Revel, the state’s communication director, said she could not make a legal determination and advised consulting an attorney.

In Trushin v. State, a 1982 Florida Supreme Court decision upheld the constitutionality of the statute against vote buying as well as Theodore Trushin’s conviction under it.

Trushin had circulated a letter in a Miami Beach apartment complex, promising: “To every resident of the Roney Plaza Apartments who comes to my office to pledge their vote to Judge Frederick N. Barad and Judge Calvin R. Mapp, in the upcoming runoff election, I will prepare a Last Will and Testament for that person without charge.”

Florida campaign election law provides a method to complain about candidates and their campaigns.

Stief said, “If someone wanted to file a complaint regarding this, they would file it with the Florida Elections Commission — (850) 922-4539.”

Cleanups spruce up AMI, Cortez

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Volunteers gather in the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage Preserve in Cortez after collecting litter as part of a coastal cleanup coordinated by Keep Manatee Beautiful. Islander Photo: Courtesy Kris Martinez

More than 200 volunteers Oct. 6 collected 149 bags of litter on Anna Maria Island and Cortez.

In the annual coastal cleanup, Keep Manatee Beautiful collaborated countywide with community groups and schools, including Anna Maria Island Elementary, and cleared 2,980 pounds of garbage from the island, according to KMB executive director Jennifer Hoffman.

On the island and in Cortez, volunteers met at Anna Maria City Hall, Kingfish Boat Ramp, Coquina Beach and the Florida Institute for Saltwater Preserve before collecting 6,123 cigarette butts, 584 straws and other trash near the shorelines and streets, Hoffman said in a Oct. 11 text.

Red tide debris disposed of included two birds, 15 fish and 624 horseshoe crabs.

Hoffman also reported more than 700 people countywide, including 250 from the island, volunteered in the event, part of an international effort.

In a Facebook post, AMI Women of the Moose reported more than 100 volunteers helped collect litter on the global cleanup day.

Cortez chimed in with 19 friends, family and students from IMG Academy who picked up debris along Cortez Road, the village as well as the FISH Preserve.

The group picked up “lots of paper,” bottles, beer cans, tires, a tv, suit cases, plastic and Styrofoam cups, FISH member Kris Martinez wrote in an Oct. 9 email to The Islander.

“We didn’t have any boats in the water to do shoreline (cleanup) because we didn’t want people in there,” considering red tide in the area, she added. Past cleanups involved volunteers on fishing boats.

Other groups participating in the cleanup included Anna Maria City Hall, the Anna Maria Island Privateers, Edison Academics of Bradenton, Happy Paddler Kayak Tours and EcoVentures of Bradenton, the State College of Florida Earth Club, Southeast High School Seminole Pride, Woodlands Quality Pool Care of Anna Maria and the Surfrider Foundation, Suncoast Chapter.

Bradenton Beach approves plan for Avenue C

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Some ponding is evident Oct. 10 along Avenue C in Bradenton Beach. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Bradenton Beach is moving forward with plans to restore Avenue C with enhanced stormwater infiltration.

City engineer Lynn Burnett led the fourth in a series of work sessions at city hall Oct. 9 to explain stormwater improvements and garner resident input on restoring rights of way and driveways along Avenue C, which has been torn up since early 2018 as part of the Manatee County force main project.

During the work session, the commission unanimously approved authorization for Burnett to move forward with a contract with Westra Construction Corp., the county’s contractor for the project, to install stormwater infiltration and then restore driveways and rights of way along Avenue C.

Burnett said the Southwest Florida Water Management District is providing a 50/50 match for stormwater infiltration projects along avenues B and C for the next three fiscal years.

According to Burnett, the Federal Clean Water Act requires infiltration systems to discharge the water and ensure the water is cleaned of pollutants before flowing into Sarasota Bay.

She said new projects must have a “water quality component” to be eligible for Swiftmud grant reimbursement.

Avenue C was planned for construction following the completion of the county’s work in late summer 2019, but the city has been given the opportunity to piggyback the county’s contract with Westra to install a drainage system along Avenue C while the road is torn up, Burnett said.

Previously, the commission committed to restoring the driveways and rights of way along Avenue C — with pavers, concrete, asphalt or sod — following the drainage project.

Burnett said the goals of the project are to restore the road so people are no longer living in a “mud-hole,” reduce flooding and improve runoff water-quality.

The plan is to cover the 4-foot-wide roadside infiltration systems with Geogrid — a stabilization material — and replace the materials people had previously used in their yards, including sod, shell and rock, over the Geogrid.

Burnett said the stormwater improvements would cost about $170,000 before Swiftmud reimbursement.

The driveway and rights of way restoration will cost about $141,000 and will be funded with city reserves and not matched by Swiftmud.

Burnett said Westra could start installing infiltration systems in November, wrap-up by February 2019 and final driveway and right of way restoration could conclude March-April.

She said the project would take “45 working days,” but she included buffer time for the holidays, and added that piggybacking on the county project saves the city about $20,000.

Dorothy Blum, an Avenue C resident, encouraged the commission to authorize finishing the project as soon as possible.

“It’s just been amazing what we have to go through,” Blum said. “Filth in the house. Dirt in the house.” And standing water in front of the house that was not there before the project, she added.

Burnett said the county was made aware of the ponding problems and Westra will regrade portions of the road where the preliminary, thin layer of asphalt recently was installed.

She said the road will again be graded as part of the completed project.

“As the city engineer, you’ve reviewed these grades and you know what has to be done?” Chappie asked Burnett.

“Signed and sealed,” Burnett responded.

Several other Avenue C residents spoke to the burden the project has created, including sewage smells, mud tracked into homes and delays when trucks couldn’t deliver mail due to construction.

Denise Saunders, an Avenue C property owner, said she is disappointed that they will have construction on the road for two tourist seasons.

“A lot of us have rental units,” Saunders said. “This is our time, this is when we make our money and nobody wants to go on vacation and hear trucks at 7 a.m.”

Commissioner Jake Spooner made a motion to move forward with the contract with Westra for the stormwater and restoration project, which was unanimously approved.

“At this time, I think this is the best product that gives the best performance for this amount of money and this time frame we’re on,” Spooner said. “Let’s get everyone on Avenue C’s quality of life back to where you want it to be.”

The commission will discuss the project and vote on Burnett’s proposal at noon Thursday, Oct. 18, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

Holmes Beach city field revamp takes shape

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City engineer Lynn Burnett presents a reconfigured city field at an Oct. 9 meeting in Holmes Beach commission chambers, 5801 Marina Drive.

City engineer Lynn Burnett proposed one version of a new Holmes Beach city field.

The commissioners chewed on the various components, spit some out and seemed to settle on an idea proposed by Commission Chair Judy Titsworth at an Oct. 9 commission workshop.

Plans include relocating the tot lot and dog parks, constructing new shuffleboard, horseshoe and bocce courts as well as installing new off-street parking and drainage, water features, landscaping, sod and signage.

Under the latest proposal, the Holmes Beach Micro Skatepark — previously slated for relocation — will be expanded and improved at its current location, 5901 Marina Drive.

The work is proposed over two fiscal years, with $200,000 budgeted this fiscal year, $135,000 from sales tax and $65,000 in beach concession funds, and $100,600 budgeted for fiscal 2019-2020.

The redesign is aimed at better utilization of recreational amenities on Marina Drive with those on city field between 59th Street, 63rd Street and Flotilla Drive.

Under Burnett’s plan, the tot lot, now on Marina Drive near the skate park, would be moved by the city public works department by the end of the year to a shady corner near Flotilla Drive and the gazebo at the park’s south end.

Current amenities include a multipurpose field and Birdie Tebbetts Field, named for a major league catcher and manager who retired in Holmes Beach with his family and died in 1999.

Tebbetts Field, now part of the multiuse complex, is used mostly on Sundays for soccer and football, and sometimes Frisbee. The field would be reconfigured under the Titsworth plan, with a longer dog run alongside the baseball diamond.

Burnett said parking for the dog parks netted five additional spaces, increasing from 11 to 16.

By December, the new shuffleboard, horseshoe and bocce courts are planned for construction.

After the tot lot moves, the construction staging area at 62nd and Flotilla will be relocated adjacent to the public works staging area off Marina Drive, “with good access,” Burnett said.

While the staging is relocated, the new large dog park is planned for construction.

Next will come plantings and buffers.

Also, light from the tennis courts will be available to illuminate the dog parks, she said.

Once the large dog park is installed, fencing can come down, and the field turned into a “true multiuse field,” Burnett said, adding that the renovation could coincide with the skate park and new court improvements.

Also being considered is a splash park next to the comfort station near the tennis courts and an exercise track around city field.

Parking for boats and trailers will be incorporated into the plan near the city boat ramp on 63rd Street.

Morton cautioned that the Seaside Court community may be upset if boat parking is channeled in front of their homes.

Titsworth was concerned about the “two noisiest things, the skate park and large (dog) park” not being located near residential areas.

Dog park user Renee Ferguson went to the podium at the end of the meeting.

“I want to thank everyone,” she said, and she cried.

Scavengers brings treasure hunt to island

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Mike “Uncle Mike” Davidson awaits customers to check out at Scavengers Marketplace AMI, 4201 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach. The island location is the second for the store, which sells art, one-of-a-kind finds and antiques. Islander Photo: Sandy Ambrogi

Scavengers Marketplace has been drawing treasure hunters to Palmetto to find antiques, art and one-of-a-kind finds.

Now Scavengers has expanded to a new location in the Island Shopping Center at 5402 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

Scavengers Marketplace AMI moved into the former home of SunCoast Real Estate, mingling nautical and beach-themed wares with antiques.

Scavengers also added incentive to browse and find a decorating gem. The shop supports Moonracer No Kill Animal Rescue, the rescue organization headed up by Islander staff members Lisa Williams and Toni Lyon. Look for donation buckets and Moonracer T-shirts at the new location.

Scavengers Marketplace AMI is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and noon- 5p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 941-900-1552.

New team buys Freckled Fin

Seven months ago, Scott Lubore opened the doors to the second reincarnation of the Freckled Fin. The original eatery closed in Bradenton Beach after problems with the noise ordinance and a lost lease.

The second incarnation — Freckled Fin Irish Pub — opened March 1 in the old Lobstah’s location at 5337 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

Now, round three.

Holmes Beach Commissioner Rick Hurst, Guy Yatros, Rick Cloutier and Sean McCarthy purchased the restaurant Oct. 1.

Plans call for McCarthy to take over the daily operations of the eatery.

The quartet promised to enact table service — a changes patrons were requesting. Under Lubore, orders were placed at the bar.

The Freckled Fin is open 3 p.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Thursday-Saturday. For more information call 941-251-3930 or visit the website at freckledfin.com.


Bridge Street building signing tenants

      It’s been a while since Mike and Debbie Hynds broke ground on the new retail-restaurant building at 119 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach.

Now the first tenant is settled in and others are lining up.

Beach Life AMI moved from 5337 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, to the new digs on the ground floor, becoming the first tenants. The shop specializes in island lifestyle merchandise and coastal decor.

Debbie Hynds said howluckyami, currently inside Restless Natives at 5416 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, will follow, and several other lease negotiations are underway. Hynds also said several spaces are still available

For more information about Beach Life AMI, call 941-243-3836.

Eat, drink and be merry!

      October is restaurant month and big savings can be found. Check out the 30 Day Deals at bradentongulfislands.com/restaurant, brought to you by the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, before stopping by your favorite local eatery to enjoy.

Stay busy islanders.

HB commission pushes for fix to polluted Spring Lake

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A recent drone view of Spring Lake shows its dark waters between Holmes Boulevard and Marina Drive in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Jack Elka

Holmes Beach commissioners want to remediate the highly toxic Spring Lake.

But whether the water body between 68th and 70th streets should return to fresh water origins or a subsequently transformed saltwater ecosystem will be studied next.

At an Oct. 9 work session, city engineer Lynn Burnett called the ammonia levels “highly toxic” and agreed with a Sept. 5 report from city consultant Aquatic Systems Lake & Wetland Services of Pompano to reclaim a fresh water ecosystem.

But after a neighbor spoke of the lake’s past saltwater success, Burnett called for a second study from the consultant.

Burnett had first agreed with ASLWS findings and recommended the city dredge “the junk off the bottom,” add aeration, monitor and let a fresh water lake return to “function and thrive.”

A counterpoint came from resident Melissa Williams of Palm Drive.

“I’m totally against making Spring Lake a fresh lake,” Williams told the commissioners, adding the lake was saltwater at least since the 1960s.

She recalled the fish nursery regenerating in the lake after a 2005 fish kill due to red tide.

“I’ve pulled tarpon out of it. I’ve pulled snook, drum, red fish… .It’s a little nursery. It’s a habitat. It’s a breeding nursery … Albeit it was a fluke, it became vital to the island,” Williams said.

Williams, who moved to Palm Drive in 2004, also said the lake provided relief from flooding.

Commissioners Carol Soustek, Pat Morton, Rick Hurst and Commission Chair Judy Titsworth provided a consensus for the second report.

Titsworth agreed with Burnett’s opinion on dredging but noted the expense involved in sending dredged materials to Lake Okeechobee.

Titsworth said she’s on the fence about a fresh water or saltwater lake and asked Burnett: “Why do you feel the saltwater is the wrong decision? Saltwater, I actually think would be an easier maintenance issue.”

The city engineer said her reasoning stems from science, engineering and classification — a saltwater system needs a constant flow and is subject to king tide flooding and sea level rise.

“It was an accident and mistake that went unnoticed,” Burnett said of the lake’s Southwest Florida Water Management District fresh water classification.

“The district never changed it. We’d need to formally put that in the place,” Burnett said.


The first test results

Aquatic Systems Lake & Wetland Services took samples of Spring Lake between 68th and 70th streets in August and September and reported algae blooms, decreased oxygen levels and toxic ammonia levels.

Phosphorus and nitrogen counts — indicators of excess nutrients and fertilizer runoff — also were high.

The Aug. 20 and Sept. 5 samples showed “severely elevated readings” for chloride salt conductivity, total dissolved solids and total suspended solids, the report states.

For several years, residents have complained about the once-pristine saltwater lake becoming a smelly dumping ground for sewage and development, most recently after a sewage spill at Clark and Palm drives in August. “We need to find a way to fix it. We can’t just ignore it,” said Soustek, adding she would favor less expensive and less destructive methods.

To help alleviate the problem, the city added Wastop valves in 2018 and, in 2017, installed an infiltration system, which, according to Burnett, filters 90-100 percent of the nitrogen, phosphorus and suspended solids from the lake.

In an Oct. 11 email, Burnett said she’s contacted the ASLWS for a saltwater/fresh water analysis, but there’s no date set for the next commission presentation.

The commission’s next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23, at city hall.

Wave riders

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A surfer takes a ride Oct. 9 near the White Avenue beach in Holmes Beach. Hurricane Michael, churning offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, brought wind, rain, surf and surfers to Anna Maria Island Oct. 9-11. Islander Photo: Dennis Knowles Photography