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Veteran recognized in Bradenton Beach

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John Bacon stands outside his home Nov. 11. Decorations placed by his daughter acknowledging his military service cover the lawn. Islander Photo: Bianca Benedí

In Bradenton Beach, one military veteran’s daughter took the extra step to celebrate her father’s service.

On the evening of Nov. 10, Debbie Bacon had staff from the Bradenton company Flamingos at Large decorate John Bacon’s front yard with U.S. flags and a sign identifying him as a World War II Navy veteran.

When he woke up Nov. 11, which was Veterans Day, John Bacon said he saw the sign on his front yard and cried.

“It feels good to be recognized for your service,” he said. “My daughter is so beautiful to me. …I was very proud.”

More than 70 years ago, John Bacon stepped off the USS LSM(R) 196, a rocket ship used to clear beaches in the South Pacific.

He said he was one of the last crew members still on board the ship when it was brought to Long Beach, California, to be decommissioned.

He had served on the ship for two years after joining the U.S. Navy as an 18-year old because he was finally old enough to apply without his parents’ permission, spurred to action by the events at Pearl Harbor.

At only 107 pounds, he was technically ineligible to serve — one must be 115 pounds to serve in the Navy — but, Debbie Bacon said, he struggled to gain weight for the entrance and begged to let serve, and he was waved through.

Bacon served as a navigator on the ship, steering it by South Pacific beaches to clear them before U.S. soldiers moved in.

Although he never fired a gun, Bacon said he witnessed a lot of action during his service — from soldiers clamoring onto newly-claimed beaches to the bombing of Hiroshima — he said the atomic bomb was dropped 300 miles from his ship.

He was awarded a Bronze Star for his service. Today, he wears the medal pinned to a baseball cap that reads “World War II Navy Combat Veteran.”

After his Navy service, he spent 10 years in the reserves.

Bacon returned to a newspaper career in Flint, Michigan, eventually becoming a circulation director for the Flint Journal.

After years of visiting Anna Maria Island, he purchased property in Bradenton Beach in 1972 and has resided in the community since.

He has held two reunions for shipmates in his Bradenton Beach home — one in 1988 and another in 1998 after friends voted to return to the island again for a second gathering.

John Bacon was married for 68 years to wife Irene before she died in 2015. “She was the most beautiful woman,” he said fondly.

Irene Bacon served as an RN and held the title of Army lieutenant before retiring to marry. They had two children — Debbie and Butch.

 

Military veterans honored, islanders pay respects

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Veteran Alla Hull, of Bradenton, served in the U.S. Air Force from 1955-63. He played taps near the close of The Islander Veterans Salute Nov. 10 at Memorial Park at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive. Islander Photo: Terry O’Connor
Memorial Park at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive, was spruced up by the public works department before the Nov. 10 Veterans Salute presented by The Islander and the city of Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Terry O’Connor

Dawn welcomed an appropriately somber, gray day Nov. 10 at Holmes Beach City Hall.

Nearly 100 people attended a 35-minute morning Veterans Salute in observance of Veterans Day at Memorial Park, 5801 Marina Drive.

The salute, presented by The Islander and the city of Holmes Beach, was highlighted by a flag presentation featuring five military branches — U.S Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard — a rifle salute and a moving rendition of the taps bugle call performed by Allan Hull of Bradenton, who served in the Air Force 1955-63.

Hull informed his stirring solo with memories of three high school classmates killed in action.

“Within two weeks, they were killed by a mine,” Hull said. “It’s very heart-wrenching to think of all the people who didn’t come back.”

City hall was closed in observance of the federal holiday but nearly 100 people were outside, perched on folding chairs for the event, including 10 members of the American Legion Kirby Stewart Post 24 Honor Guard.

Some honor guard members had mixed feelings about the state of U.S. recognition for military veterans, including kneeling during the national anthem at National Football League games.

“This generation has shown a lot of disrespect to veterans, including all those who lost their lives,” said Earl Mattashed, of Palmetto, who served in the Navy 1956-60. “Not only kneeling at NFL games, but even in the school system, where military history is not taught anymore.”

Others said they take it upon themselves to remember their fellow military personnel.

“It’s respectful for the honor guard to remember the veterans who have passed and those who are still here,” said Army vet Charles Magnus of Bradenton, who served 1971-74.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy, sporting an Army hat, lightened the mood with a wisecrack about coming to Holmes Beach.

“It’s always a pleasure to come to the low-rent district,” he said.

Turning serious, Murphy said his military experience was life-changing. He advised all veterans to make a humble reply when a civilian thanks them for their service.

“Say thank you for having let us serve,” Murphy said. “It’s more rewarding to serve than to be served.”

Murphy went on to detail the many things he is thankful for as a result of his military service, including free hospital stays for his wife on the birth of their children, a low-interest VA loan, an education on the G.I. Bill that led to a career and more.

Murphy remains grateful for his opportunity to serve.

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Holmes Beach Mayor Bob Johnson issued a Veterans Day proclamation, noting the title of the military holiday signifies it belongs to all Americans.

“It’s not a day that belongs to veterans,” Johnson said. “It’s a day for honoring all veterans.”

Johnson’s proclamation lauded U.S. military veterans as heroes who have saved millions of people from oppression.

“They stepped forward when America needed them the most,” he said. “Our veterans are beacons of liberty and have earned the respect of a grateful nation.”

Developer settles Anna Maria lawsuit for $1 million

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The settlement check paid to Kaleta-Beach to Bay law firm Najmy Thompson of Bradenton and Holmes Beach in October. Islander Courtesy Photo

Shawn Kaleta and the city of Anna Maria have reached a $1 million settlement.

The parties signed off on an agreement and Florida Municipal Insurance Trust delivered a $1 million check Nov. 10 to Kaleta’s law firm, Najmy Thompson PA.

“We are pleased with the settlement, not mainly for its dollar amount,” wrote Louis Najmy, principal with the law firm, in a Nov. 10 text. Najmy confirmed the $1 million payout.

He added his client is “most pleased” with the city’s commitment to work with Kaleta in a fair manner.

City attorney Becky Vose did not return a call for comment Nov. 10 from The Islander.

Kaleta and Beach to Bay Construction LLC alleged the city and its representatives had blackballed him and his development efforts in violation of First and 14th Amendment rights.

The federal case was initially dismissed “without prejudice” in mid-October by U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore, permitting either party 60 days to reopen it “with good cause.”

With the Nov. 10 settlement, the parties agreed to permanently dismiss the case filed by Kaleta-Beach to Bay in February 2016.

On behalf of the city, attorney John T. Conner of Dean, Ringers, Morton and Lawton PA, the law firm assigned under the city’s $1.5 million Florida League of Cities’ insurance policy, filed a notice of settlement in October.

According to the final settlement — included on the Nov. 9 commission consent agenda without stating the dollar amount — the parties released each other from all claims relating to the lawsuit without admitting liability and each side was to pay its own fees.

Najmy said he and his client are bound by a confidentiality agreement and cannot release the final document.

Murphy said Nov. 12 in an email: “I don’t know the amount of the monetary settlement with Mr. Kaleta. I don’t know if the figure quoted (by you) is correct. That was completely between Mr. Kaleta and the insurance company.”

Murphy added,  “no city money (whether from ad valorem taxes or otherwise)” was spent to settle the case. No one from the city, whether myself, the city commissioners or the city attorney, was involved in any way with the negotiation or payment of any monetary settlement with Mr. Kaleta. The city at no time admitted any liability to Mr. Kaleta and continues to deny liability. What the insurance company did was the business of the insurance company.”

The final settlement referenced a city resolution adopted Oct. 12 that retracted statements about banning Kaleta from obtaining permits and accusations of unpermitted work and required the city not to contradict the resolution.

As part of the resolution, the city agreed to relocate gumbo limbo trees and trim Australian pine and seagrape trees at Kaleta’s beachfront property at 101 Willow Ave. and to implement a written city policy for handling permit applications to avoid discrimination.

Kaleta’s lawsuit sought $12.3 million in damages and was scheduled to go to trial in November.

Bradenton man arrested for drugs at Coquina

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Herrera

Bradenton Beach Officer Alex Hurt noticed an unoccupied pickup truck parked after hours Oct. 28 at Coquina Park and stopped to investigate.

He arrested Julian Z. Herrera, 21, of Bradenton, for possessing cocaine after speaking to the driver and passengers, who returned to the vehicle at about 2 a.m. from the beach.

Asked for identification, the group told the officers their IDs were inside the vehicle, where Hurt reported noticing a strong odor of burnt cannabis. The driver turned over the marijuana in the vehicle to the police, according to the BBPD report.

The report also stated the officers searched the vehicle, finding a wallet with $220 and a small bag of cocaine.

Herrera allegedly admitted the wallet belonged to him, but initially denied owning the cocaine, although later asked why he was the only one arrested when the drug belonged to others as well.

He was taken into custody and transported to the Manatee County jail.

Herrera posted $1,500 bond and was released.

His arraignment is set for 9 a.m. Friday, Dec. 1, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Anna Maria Island Bridge to bear Florida motif

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The Anna Maria Island Bridge aesthetics committee chose features including sun-shaped infills and blue hammerhead piers with turtle impressions. Islander Courtesy Graphic

In deciding to replace the drawbridge constructed in 1957 on Manatee Avenue, the Florida Department of Transportation wanted to make sure the structure appears to belong in the Sunshine State.

To ensure the new fixed span with 65 feet of vertical clearance sports the right look, the DOT formed an Anna Maria Island Bridge aesthetics advisory committee with representatives from Anna Maria, Bradenton, Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, Manatee County, the Palma Sola Scenic highway committee and the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The committee has spoken.

Bridge features were chosen to look good, have as little ecological impact as possible and be easy to maintain, said Ingrid McClellan, who chaired the Nov. 8 meeting of the Palma Sola Scenic Highway Corridor Management Entity, despite nursing a broken kneecap.

The committee sought community input on decorative features and amenities for the project on State Road 789 between Kingfish Boat Ramp in Holmes Beach and Martinique Drive on Perico Island, McClellan reported.

Recommended bridge features include mudline footings, panel railings with sun-shaped infills and blue hammerhead piers with turtle impressions, according to the committee.

“It’s a cleaner look,” McClellan said.

The committee suggested the wall impressions include manatees, turtles and pelicans on gray, fractured granite.

Landscaping suggestions for the landings include a combination of trees, such as royal and sabal palms, silver buttonwoods and geigers.

The committee’s recommendations were sent to the DOT, according to McClellan.

Speaking on other matters, McClellan noted the Holmes Beach public works employees have been exemplary in maintaining the city’s area of Palma Sola Scenic Highway corridor.

“Holmes Beach has an A-plus on maintaining their side of the causeway,” said McClellan.

Holmes Beach is responsible for property maintenance east of the welcome sign on Manatee Avenue West to the bridge.

Also, Holmes Beach is bringing its navigational day markers up to code to allow law enforcement.

“If someone is traveling too fast through the waterway, they could be cited for doing it,” said James McGuinness, Holmes Beach building official. “It’s also a great aid for boaters for us to replace those markers.”

Improved parking to provide “soft access” for Grassy Point Preserve is being developed, too, McGuinness said.

Holmes Beach has acquired two lots immediately south of Grassy Point to be used for parking, he said. He said the new lots are expected to increase attendance and enjoyment of the park.

“It’s something we’ve been working on for a long, long time,” McGuinness said. “We were concerned about those lots because, right at the gateway, we don’t want commercial development.”

The island has two scenic highway groups — the Palma Sola committee and the Bradenton Beach Scenic Waves advisory committee that focuses on Gulf Drive in the city.

The Palma Sola Scenic Highway group’s next meeting will take place at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 14,  in a training room at the Bradenton public works facility at 114 Ninth St. W.

AM commissioner raises concerns about event security

Not everyone is pleased with the impact Bayfest has on local businesses.

At a city commission meeting Oct. 26, Anna Maria Commissioner Brian Seymour raised concerns about instructions to private security officers and how the annual Bayfest event impacts businesses on Pine Avenue.

Bayfest, presented by the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, took place Oct. 21 on Pine Avenue. Parts of the street were closed for the duration of the festival and vendors, including beverage sales, lined the street.

Seymour said security officers hired this year by the chamber discouraged people from entering businesses on Pine Avenue or bringing merchandise outdoors to the street from those stores.

Specifically, Seymour had issues when customers who purchased alcohol at his store, Anna Maria General Store, were directed by officers to drink the alcohol on the store property before returning to the festival.

Seymour said the store has a license to sell alcohol “to go” and the license prohibits him from allowing customers to drink on the premises.

“What they were telling my customers could cost me my license,” Seymour said. “I had a real problem with that.”

He also said he had an issue with the fact the event appeared to discourage attendees from visiting his store because he was not part of the festival.

Seymour added that for last year’s Bayfest, he closed his store early due to loss of business resulting from the festival, adding that an intoxicated festival attendee attempted to take him on in a fist fight.

Permit requirements for Bayfest stipulate that alcohol from outside the event may not be brought into the event, while alcohol purchased at the event must be consumed within the event boundaries.

Security officers may be required for events if Sgt.  Russell Schnering, head of the Anna Maria substation, determines there is a need, but permit holders currently have the option to hire MCSO or private security.

The commissioner asked Mayor Dan Murphy to limit security for the event to the city’s Manatee County sheriff’s patrol deputies.

Murphy said Nov. 9 he planned to arrange a meeting between himself, Seymour, Schnering and Deb Wing, president of the chamber to discuss the events at Bayfest.

Murphy also said the city would rely on MCSO for future events.

But Wing disputes the narrative Seymour shared about Bayfest.

“Nearly every word that Seymour said was untrue and lies,” she wrote in an email Nov. 10.

Wing said Seymour had his employees contact the chamber on his behalf and they did not convey his claims.

In addition, she said, she visited his establishment during Bayfest “as an issue was unfolding” in order to address the situation and set the rules.

AMITW outreach thrives despite sea turtle season ending

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Suzi Fox, AMITW executive director, speaks to students during an upper-school marine science club meeting at Saint Stephens Episcopal School, 315 41st St. W., Bradenton. Islander Photo: Courtesy AMITW

Sea turtle season on Anna Maria Island ended Oct. 31, but educational outreach is year-round for Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring.

A record-breaking number of loggerhead sea turtle nests were spotted on island beaches this season and AMITW executive director Suzi Fox says public awareness is one of the reasons nesting numbers increased.

Educating children in Manatee County is a focal point of AMITW outreach, according to Fox.

Throughout the school year, Fox and AMITW volunteers work with students at Anna Maria Elementary School. AME and AMITW are longtime partners.

They teach students about sea turtles and nesting shorebirds. Students are enlisted for artwork that is used for printed materials, including AMITW notecards, with money from the sales going to the school.

Additionally, art produced by the students will be used for “Keep Off the Dunes” signs at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach.

“It’s a great way for the kids to express themselves,” Fox said. “They get to learn about ecology, have fun and help out the school and turtle watch.”

This year, turtle watch is taking its educational program to town.

Fox spoke Nov. 2 to upper-school students in the marine science club at Saint Stephen’s Episcopal School in Bradenton about AMITW.

According to Christiane Skey, an upper school science teacher and co-sponsor of the club, students will create a plan to work on projects, including beach cleanups and shorebird stewarding.

“We think what they do is wonderful and we can’t wait to work with them,” Skey said of AMITW. “We look for rewarding citizen science opportunities for the students and this fits right in.”

Fox also said she is meeting with her volunteers for a “think tank” ­on presentations and materials.

Throughout the year, AMITW provides turtle-safety information to the public through door-hangers, booklets and stickers.

The materials especially provide beachfront residents and visitors on the importance of turtle-friendly lighting and practices during sea turtle nesting and hatching season — May 1-Oct. 31.

As part of its outreach, AMITW is distributing “Turtle SafeLight” cards with a small, blue filter that, when held up to a light-source, allows a person to see what lights are visible to sea turtles.

Fox said the cards are free and available at the three island city halls and at AMITW events.

“They aren’t purely scientific,” Fox said. “But, they are fun for people to use and do help us to see if a light is in compliance.”

Turtle watch will start up its free, informational “Turtle Talks” in early 2018 at the Waterline Marina Resort and Beach Club in Holmes Beach.

“It’s nice to show the winter people everything we do in the summer,” Fox said. “But, we truly do work year-round to protect our turtles.”

For more information about AMITW, contact Fox at suzilfox@gmail.com or 941-778-5638.

Bradenton woman arrested for DUI in Anna Maria

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Foulds

A witness saw a motorist nearly strike several vehicles and bicyclists in Anna Maria and called 911 — leading to a woman’s arrest for driving while intoxicated.

Barbara Boyd Foulds, 68, of Bradenton, was taken into custody at 6:49 p.m. Nov. 11 at 125 Crescent Drive, where she stopped her vehicle and blocked traffic flow, according to a Manatee County sheriff’s report.

MCSO Deputy Amy Leach responded initially and Deputy Benjamin Quick arrived to conduct a DUI investigation, including a field-sobriety test, which was discontinued after Foulds lost her balance.

An open bottle of chardonnay, more than two-thirds empty, and an unopened bottle of wine allegedly were found in Foulds’ vehicle.

Foulds was transported to the Manatee County jail, where she remained in custody Nov. 8.

Her arraignment is set for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Manatee County plans $4.9M Longboat Pass jetty upgrade

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A Manatee County Marine Rescue division worker orders two people walking in the water near the 60-year-old Longboat Pass Inlet jetty to leave the water. The jetty juts from the bridge into the Gulf of Mexico at the southern tip of Anna Maria Island and the current in the pass creates dangerous conditions for people. Islander Photo: Terry O’Connor
Longboat Pass and the jetty in Bradenton Beach, looking northeast toward Cortez. Islander File Photo: Jack Elka

The weathered 60-year-old jetty that runs from the base of the Longboat Pass Bridge to the Gulf of Mexico at the southern tip of Anna Maria Island is showing its age.

It looks like an old railroad track, but the rotted wood on the jetty gives the metal spikes less purchase to hold the 500-foot concrete-and-lumber structure together.

The jetty needs fortification, said Charlie Hunsicker, director of Manatee County parks and natural resources, in applying for funding from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Hunsicker said it’s time to rejuvenate the jetty. It is failing to prevent sand from Coquina Beach at the south end of Bradenton Beach from entering Longboat Pass.

The jetty’s primary purpose is to prevent sand from sifting into the navigational path at the pass, which results in limited inlet access to boaters from shoaling and increases the need for costly dredging.

The project will cost an estimated $4,875,000 and take six months to complete sometime in 2019, according to the funding request.

Outgoing Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon said he learned of the jetty funding request from a TV newscast.

“I need to know more about it before I know whether I’d be for or against it,” Shearon said. “It hasn’t been brought up in any meeting I’ve attended.”

The request estimates construction will cost $4.6 million and designs will cost $275,000.

The state would pay $3,656,250 and the county would pay $1,218,750, according to the request. Manatee County will use tourist development tax revenues to pay its share, Hunsicker said.

Shearon said he has concerns about who’s footing the multimillion-dollar bill for the jetty upgrade and how communication about the project is being handled.

“They’d have a whole lot more support if the officials were advised about it rather than hearing it on the news,” Shearon said. “Also, assuming that figure is right, $5 million is a lot of money.”

Shearon said the pass can be dangerous.

“When the current goes through there, it really goes through there,” Shearon said. “There’s been a couple of deaths there.”

Permitting could take a couple of years. In the meantime, Longboat Key is talking about becoming an all-Sarasota County isle, Shearon said.

“I would hate to see Manatee County pay for all of that if Longboat Key goes Sarasota County,” Shearon said. “That’s another factor.”

An example of the proposed jetty upgrade can be found about 50 miles south at the Venice jetties, where the rebuild comprises large rocks with a wide path on top, a popular vantage point for sunbathers and anglers alike.

By contrast, signs on the Longboat Pass jetty warn against walking on the rickety structure.

The Anna Maria Island shoreline extends between Florida Department of Environmental Protection monument R-1 at the north end of the island and R-41 at the south end. The entire AMI shoreline has been classified by the DEP as “critically eroded.”

Estimated costs have held steady since it was anticipated in the 2015-16 Manatee County fiscal budget that repair or replacement of the jetty would occur in 2017-18 with the state providing nearly $3.5 million.

Eyes on the road

The Florida Department of Transportation posted the following advisories for the week of Nov. 13:

  • SR 789/Gulf Drive from SR 64/Manatee Avenue to SR 684/Cortez Road: Manatee County is installing new force mains and water mains. For more information, visit amipipereplacement.com.
  • SR 789/Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach: Crews are installing a sidewalk along Gulf Drive from south of 13th Street South to the North Coquina Beach Boat Ramp. Crews are working on sidewalk installation and drainage. Lane closures will occur during the day. Watch for flaggers. The expected completion is late 2017.
  • SR 684/Cortez Road at 119th Street West: Crews are constructing safety improvements, including median, pedestrian signal and lane-striping. Motorists should expect daytime and nighttime lane closures. The expected completion is late 2017.

For the latest road watch information, go online to www.fl511.com or dial 511.