Tag Archives: News

DEP sues to remove house built in Sarasota Bay

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The Florida Department of Environmental Protection filed suit Feb. 6 to remove a house built without permits over the water in Sarasota Bay near the Cortez docks. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection filed a two-count complaint Feb. 6 asking a judge to order Raymond Guthrie Jr. to take down the house he built in 2017 in Sarasota Bay near Cortez.

The 1,211 square-foot house stands on stilts about 350 feet from the A.P. Bell Fish Co. docks.

In the first count, the DEP seeks to enforce the department’s November 2017 “final order” requiring the structure’s removal and $6,500 in fines.

The second count asks for a court to assess Guthrie an amount “not to exceed $10,000 per day” plus investigative costs and expenses for failing to abide by the DEP order.

Both counts seek attorney fees and costs.

The DEP first inspected the structure in May 2017 and determined it had been built on state-owned submerged lands without a permit.

Guthrie told The Islander that month he planned to conduct seagrass experiments at night from the house in the water.

In October 2017, the DEP issued Guthrie a notice of violation and administrative orders for corrective action, including the structure’s removal, and assessed penalties for Guthrie’s noncompliance.

The final order Nov. 17, 2017, reaffirmed the October orders.

To date, according to the complaint, Guthrie has failed to meet DEP deadlines or demands.

Guthrie’s representative, Joanne Semmer, president of Ostego Bay Environmental Inc. of Fort Myers, claims the structure should be grandfathered because it stands where a net camp once stood.

Net camps and spreads, once a necessity for Cortez fishers, fell out of use. One shed still stands about 200 feet from Guthrie’s structure. It was built before 1960, according to local historians, and renovated by the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage. FISH is a nonprofit watchdog for commercial fishing.

Guthrie was offered a consent order in August, which would have allowed him to apply for a Butler Act disclaimer — a DEP-recognized exception for structures built on state land before 1951 — but he failed to accept some of the DEP terms.

Semmer said Feb. 8 she was pursuing a Butler Act designation, researching and collecting affidavits from people who’ve lived in Cortez for years.

Guthrie will have 20 days to file an answer to the DEP complaint after he is served, according to DEP public information manager Shannon Herbon.

Twelfth Circuit Judge Lon S. Arend is assigned the case.

ALS implementation delayed on the island

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Richard Losek, WMFR battalion chief, demonstrates the rescue truck defibrillator outside the district’s administrative office, 6417 Third Ave. W., Bradenton. Islander Photo: Bianca Benedí

West Manatee Fire Rescue announced Jan. 23 that it could implement advanced life support care by Feb. 1 from Station 3 on Anna Maria Island, but that date has been pushed back to Feb. 20.

Two snags delayed WMFR’s implementation, Chief Tom Sousa said.

The district is finalizing “some minute details” with the county regarding how units will be dispatched, Sousa said.

WMFR administrators have a meeting scheduled with county representatives Feb. 15 to go over the technical arrangements of implementation, Sousa said.

The district also hit a snag when it learned multiple medications required to provide ALS were out of stock.

Medications such as epinephrine, a drug used to treat cardiac arrest, were unavailable until recently, Sousa said. The drug orders started coming in to WMFR Feb. 7.

Three firefighters — Andrew Powers, Alex Flores and Frank Agresta — have received clearance from the county medical director to operate as paramedics for WMFR and five more are in training, Sousa said.

In addition, the rescue truck that WMFR will use to offer ALS services on the island is equipped with a defibrillator and other equipment used for ALS care, Sousa said.

By putting the ALS equipment on a rescue truck instead of a fire engine, the district can minimize sending out the fire engine for medical calls, Sousa said.

The rescue truck is temporary, Battalion Chief Richard Losek said. Over the next three to five years, the district will equip fire engines with ALS equipment in its three other stations.

Bradenton woman arrested for DUI

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Police arrested a Bradenton woman for driving under the influence after following her vehicle from Holmes Beach across the Anna Maria Island Bridge to Perico Island.

Angela Bingham, 40, of Bradenton, was stopped in the 12000 block of Manatee Avenue at about 2:30 a.m. Jan. 20.

HBPD Officer Alan Bores observed her tires cross the roadway center lines in the 4000 block of Gulf Drive and in the 700 block of Manatee Avenue, and then almost hit the bridge curb, before he pulled her over.

Bingham told the officer she was coming from work, where she had consumed two glasses of wine, according to the police report.

Bingham agreed to take a field-sobriety test, but it was discontinued after she unable to complete the one-leg stand as instructed.

She refused to provide breath samples and declined an interview after being read her Miranda rights.

In addition to the DUI, Bingham was ticketed for failure to drive in a single lane, provide proof of insurance and display her vehicle registration.

She posted a $500 bond and was released.

Her arraignment is set for 8:25 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Taillights out in Holmes Beach, motorist arrested for DUI

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A woman driving through parking lots in Holmes Beach at about 1:30 a.m. Jan. 27 was arrested for driving under the influence.

Tracy Moore, 47, of Bradenton, was arrested after she was pulled over in the 4500 block of Gulf Drive.

HBPD Officer Adam Desantis reported observing Moore’s vehicle without taillights illuminated and driving in the wrong direction in the 5300 block of Marina Drive before crossing Gulf Drive and stopping in the southbound lane.

Desantis noted the scent of air freshener coming from the vehicle after Moore rolled the window down to speak to him.

Moore told Desantis she’d come from D.Coy Ducks Tavern, where she had consumed a beer and shots, according to the police report.

Field-sobriety tests were stopped when Moore almost fell, and she was transported to the police station. There, she provided breath samples, measuring 0.169 and 0.182 blood-alcohol content. The legal limit is 0.08.

Her vehicle was towed.

Moore posted a $500 bond and was released.

The state attorney filed a formal DUI charge against her Feb. 7 in the 12th Circuit Court.

Her arraignment is set for 8:25 a.m. Monday, Feb. 26, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Vacation rental legislation moves forward in state Senate

Anna Maria Island elected officials have ears in Tallahassee.

And they are staying tuned to the ongoing session of the Floriday Legislature.

Senate Bill 1400, introduced by Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and David Simmons, R-Seminole, passed the second of three committees Feb. 8.

The bill would place vacation rental regulations with the state, including licensing and inspections.

Steube failed to pass a bill in the 2017 session that would have nullified a majority of vacation rental regulations enacted in Anna Maria, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach. All three cities hired lobbyists to fight the measure.

In December 2017, Steube and Simmons introduced a new bill proposing assigning oversight of vacation rental regulations to the Florida Department of Professional Regulation Division of Hotels and Restaurants.

The bill passed the community affairs committee Jan. 30 in a 4-2 vote. It passed the regulated industries committee Feb. 8 with a 9-1 vote.

The bill is now before the appropriations committee. If approved there, it will move to the Senate floor.

Sen. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, chair of the appropriations committee, did not respond Feb. 9 to requests for comment.

Rep. Mike La Rosa, R-Osceola, introduced a companion bill in the House. The bill was introduced Jan. 9, but has not been referred to subcommittees.

Anna Maria Commissioner Carol Carter attended the Senate Community Affairs meeting Jan. 30 in Tallahassee.

Carter said Steube and Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, “had determined how things would go” and prevented Simmons from introducing an amendment that would have weakened state control over vacation rental legislation.

Simmons also sits on the appropriations committee.

Mayor Dan Murphy said Feb. 8 it is important for opponents of the legislation to “continue our blitzing with emails and phone calls.”

“Prayers are needed for our small cities,” Carter said.

36th Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival ready to rock ’n’ roll

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The logo for the 2018 Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival will be printed on T-shirts, posters and other promotional items. Islander Courtesy Photo

Except for one major uncontrollable detail, all is ready for the 36th annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival, according to chair Rose Lipke.

“We’re in the two-week window,” Lipke said. “We just need good weather.”

Lipke, in her fourth year as event chair, said Mother Nature will go a long way toward determining if the Feb. 17-18 festival generates crowds in excess of 20,000.

Lipke projected more than 25,000 will attend over the two-day festival this year — if the weather cooperates.

The festival is the sole fundraiser for the nonprofit Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage, which is dedicated to protecting the environment and preserving the fishing village and commercial fishery.

All proceeds go to the expansion and restoration of the 95-acre FISH Preserve, which includes environmentally sensitive wetlands along Sarasota Bay on the east side of the village.

The festival cause earned the endorsement of ocean explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau, founder of the Ocean Futures Society, according to FISH member John Stevely.

“It’s economic value cannot be judged in terms of dollars alone,” Stevely said Cousteau wrote to FISH. “Your project is an important reminder of the vital connection between nature and humanity.”

More than 200 volunteers contribute to the festival, according to Stevely.

Lipke said the festival will have as many as 60 art vendors and more than 30 food vendors.

The festival entertainment schedule includes:

Saturday, Feb. 17: 10-11 a.m. Shanty Singers; 11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Doug Deming; 12:45-1:30 p.m. awards and introductions; 2-4 p.m. Eric Von Band; and 4:30-6 p.m. Jason Haram.

Sunday, Feb. 18: 10:30 a.m.-noon Soupy Davis and his Band; 12.30-2 p.m. Manatee River BlueGrass; 2:30-4 p.m. Soul R Coaster; 4:30-6 p.m. Koko Ray; and 1-5 p.m. Eric Von on the Bratton store porch.

Admission is $4. Children under 12 get in free.

For more information, go to cortez-fish.org or call 941-245-4972.

Super win

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Jay Drisbow, an avid horseshoe player at Anna Maria City Hall, turned his attention to another game Feb. 4. He entered The Islander’s annual Super Bowl contest and won $100. Remember to “get in the game” next fall, when the 2018-19 football season begins. Islander Photo: Lisa Williams

Island mom walks for millions of ‘broken’ hearts

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This valentine is all about CHD ...
Susan Timmins arrives at the Anna Maria City Pier Feb. 14, 2017, having completed a 30-kilometer fundraising walk for the Adult Congenital Heart Association. Timmins, who took the walk to celebrate her daughter’s 30th birthday, will repeat the walk this Valentine’s Day, this time covering 31 kilometers. Islander Courtesy Photo

Hearts get broken every day — by love, attack or accident.

Some hearts just come into the world broken and such a case makes for a lifetime of special heart care.

Susan Timmins, wife and partner with Sean Murphy in the Beach Bistro, chose Valentine’s Day once again to highlight a special cause close to her family and her heart — congenital heart disease or CHD.

Last year, the couple’s daughter, Alexandra, turned 30 and Timmins celebrated by walking 30 kilometers on Anna Maria Island, every step to raise funds for the Adult Congenital Heart Association. When Alex was born, doctors told Timmins and Murphy that the chances of seeing her first birthday were slim.

Timmins pledged to walk 31 kilometers on the island this Feb. 14 to celebrate another birthday and again raise funds for ACHA.

Her route is from the northern tip of the island to the Longboat Pass bridge and back until the 31K mark is reached. Timmins says anyone who wants to join her along the way is welcome. She’s also collecting pledge money.

Donors will be treated to a beachside evening reception in April at the Beach Bistro —the couple’s most award-winning of three island eateries —as a thank you for supporting the cause.

The week of Feb. 7-14 was Congenital Heart Awareness Week.

Money raised on the walk will be used to improve care for those living with congenital heart disease. One in every 100 people are born with CHD — more than 40,000 babies a year in the United States. Based on numbers extrapolated from Canadian studies, about 2.4 million people in the United States are living with the condition.

Research into congenital heart defects, the most common of all birth defects, remains underfunded and treatment is lacking, though innovative medicine in recent decades has resulted in 85-95 percent of people born with CHD now living to adulthood according to the ADHA.

Consequently, more adults are living with CHD than children and specialized care is needed.

“The ACHA has new initiatives I am really excited about,” Timmins said. “If only the day would come when we didn’t have to do so much research and treatments were clearly defined.”

Timmins added, “There is still a gap for adult survivors and we have to find the answers.”

Timmins planned to get the walk underway at 8:15 a.m. Feb. 14 at the City Pier in Anna Maria. Last year’s walk took more than 10 hours to complete.

The link to Timmins page about ACHD is 2018achachallenge.causevox.com/susan-timmins.

She can be reached for more information at 941-730-4751 or susan@beachbistro.com.

“I want my daughter and everyone born with congenital heart defects to have a long lifetime of birthdays to celebrate,” Timmins said about the cause that is so close to her heart.

And what better way to draw attention to that cause than Valentine’s Day, when hearts and heartfelt love leave us with a sweeter taste for life?

Eyes on the road

The Florida Department of Transportation posted the following notice for the week of Feb. 12:

  • State Road 789/Gulf Drive from SR 64/Manatee Avenue to SR 684/Cortez Road: Manatee County crews are replacing force mains and water mains. For more information about the project, go online to amipipereplacement.com.

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

Turtle watch request: Wish upon a star, not a lantern

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Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director, displays the unburnt remains of a wish lantern found at Tortuga Inn Resort in Bradenton Beach in 2014. She said the lantern was one of about 14 she and code enforcement officers found partially burnt following a nighttime launch. Islander Photo: Courtesy AMITW

“When you wish upon a star…” so the 1940s song goes.

It was written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington for Walt Disney’s 1940 adaptation of the movie “Pinocchio.”

Wishing upon a star is harmless, but a wish lantern could harm wildlife and the environment.

Similar to balloon and dove releases, lantern releases have grown in popularity in recent years as a memorial at celebrations, but, like balloons, lanterns are known to be dangerous and wasteful, with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reporting wildlife injuries around the state due to lantern litter.

Usually made of paper or cloth with a flame supported by a wire, floating into the sky when lit, the lantern debris falls to the ground when the flame burns out.

“They are trash,” said Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director. “They are frequently advertised as biodegradable when they are not.”

Fox said, as Anna Maria Island becomes more and more popular for family reunions and weddings, lantern launches have become a problem.

Additionally, a wish lantern — also referred to as a sky lantern, sky candle or sky balloon — is prohibited by Florida law as a “firework.” Public use is prohibited, though permits can be issued by local fire districts for controlled releases in low-wind conditions.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said use of the lanterns escalated several years ago, but decreased for a time after firefighters with West Manatee Fire Rescue frequented the beach and warned people who were launching lanterns.

According to Fox, the wire support hoop in some lanterns is a hazard for sea turtles, shorebirds and other marine life and wildlife, which can become entangled in the debris.

“They can float over a mile away from where they were launched and frequently land in trees and on rooftops,” Fox said. “Not to mention what can happen to wildlife.”

To report use of wish lanterns or other fireworks, call code enforcement in the appropriate city:

  • Anna Maria code enforcement — 941-708-6130, ext. 139 or ext. 129.
  • Bradenton Beach code enforcement — 941-778-1005, ext. 280.
  • Holmes Beach code enforcement — 941-708-5800, ext. 247.

Report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles or shorebirds to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline, at 1-888-404-3922, #FWC or *FWC on a cellphone or text Tip@MyFWC.com.


Cold stun fatal for green sea turtle, another on the mend

ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Islander Reporter

“In this big world, you can try, but you can’t save them all,” said Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director, regarding a cold-stunned green sea turtle rescued Jan. 19 after it washed ashore near the Rod & Reel Pier in Anna Maria.

The turtle — named Molly by rescuers — was transported Jan. 20 to Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota for rehabilitation, but died several days later.

The juvenile turtle was suffering the effects of a rapid drop in water temperature, known as “cold-stunning,” but also had contracted fibropapillomatosis, a disease specific to sea turtles. The condition is a Herpes virus characterized by benign but crippling tumors on the skin and occasionally the carapace.

“It is important to know that this little one will be studied and help us conduct more research to help bring this virus to an end,” Fox said.

Another cold-stunned green turtle was rescued a day later, Jan. 20, when it was found stuck in a crab trap in Tampa Bay near the north end of Anna Maria Island.

The sub-adult green turtle — named Reel by rescuers —was transported to Mote for rehabilitation and is improving.

According to Fox, Reel should soon be ready for release.

“Green turtles are still struggling on the endangered list,” Fox said. “The life of each of these turtles is precious to preserving the species.”

To report a cold-stunned or stranded turtle, contact Fox at 941-778-5638, or call the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.