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Anna Maria considers alternatives, cost for pier planks

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People walk and read the pier planks with installation ongoing in April 2011 at the Anna Maria City Pier. Islander File Photo

Anna Maria will look for an alternative use for the 1,000 pier planks on the 800-foot walkway at the Anna Maria City Pier, but it’s possible the planks won’t be repurposed.

At a city commission meeting Nov. 9, Mayor Dan Murphy asked commissioners if they wanted him to get cost estimates for alternatives to preserve the planks instead of just replacing them.

After Murphy announced an estimate the city received for preserving the planks — prying them off the pier, power-washing, de-nailing and storage — came to more than $50,000, commissioners questioned the cost to preserve them.

Commissioner Carol Carter said the city would have other expenses to repair the pier, questioning whether the city wanted to spend funds on preserving the planks.

Plus, Carter added, “when you raise money for capital projects, you don’t promise the donor” that goods constructed from their donation will be there forever.

Murphy also issued a disclaimer to the audience and the public: “The city had nothing to do with (the engraving) program.”

Murphy said the city could not reimburse people for the cost of their planks or identify where someone’s plank is, pointing out the city was not involved in the plank sponsorship and has no information on their location on the pier or the engravings.

The engraving program was a partnership between the tenant, the Anna Maria City Pier Restaurant, and The Islander.

Commissioner Doug Copeland said that based on his experience as a woodworker, he did not see how the planks could easily be refurbished.

“A boardwalk might make sense,” he said, “but if you’re building a boardwalk, why use wood that’s already halfway into its lifespan?”

Commissioner Brian Seymour suggested Murphy look into the option of holding a sort of “open house” event in which people who want a plank could point out their plank. The city then would mark and reserve those planks and destroy the rest.

Murphy asked commissioners to consider the feelings of residents. “There’s a lot of emotion in the emails we receive” about the planks, he said, citing examples of people using the planks to memorialize lost relatives.

“There’s a lot of people looking at us saying, ‘What kind of city are you? Are you compassionate?’” he warned commissioners.

Commissioners concluded that Murphy should pursue options for the pier, particularly for methods of returning planks to those who want them.

Murphy said he would come back in December with more estimates.

In addition, he said, commissioners would meet again with Ayres Associates in December to solidify plans for replacing the pier.

“We’re still in the permitting stage,” he said, pointing out that no details about the physical construction of the pier have been decided on yet.

Vacant Bradenton Beach commission seat opens opportunity

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Bradenton Beach Ward 3 Commissioner Ralph Cole campaigns Nov. 7 for re-election to his seat. Cole lost the election but has applied for appointment to the seat vacated by Mayor-elect John Chappie. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes
Bill Vincent, Ward 4 commission candidate, campaigns for the seat in 2016. Vincent has applied for appointment to the open commission seat. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Results of the recent Bradenton Beach municipal election have set a wave of political posturing in motion.

Ward 4 Commissioner John Chappie resigned his seat effective with the Nov. 7 election, opening his seat to appointment by the commission.

Chappie won his bid to upset Mayor Bill Shearon and will be sworn in Nov. 20.

Now, with the passing of charter amendment 1, which replaces the city’s four-ward representative system with an at-large election, and amendment 2, reducing the pre-election residency for candidates to 12 months, almost anyone who has resided in the city for the past year can apply for the seat.

Ward 3 Commissioner Ralph Cole, who lost his bid to retain his seat in the Nov. 7 election to Randy White, submitted his application for the empty commission seat Nov. 9.

Cole also serves as chair of the community redevelopment agency, which oversees spending of incremental tax revenue for projects to enhance the historic district.

Cole has made CRA proposals for underground utilities for Bridge Street and finger docks along the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

“I’ve been here for 33 years,” Cole said. “I’ve seen where it started and where it is now, and I would like to continue to be a part of this as it keeps getting better. I love Bradenton Beach.”

Former Ward 4 commission candidate Bill Vincent also filed an application with the city clerk.

Vincent, a former Scenic Waves Partnership Committee member and former planning and zoning board member, has been actively involved in the city since becoming a resident in 2007. He is chair of Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach — the group that put the charter amendments on the ballot — and is being sued by the city and ex-Mayor Jack Clarke for alleged Sunshine Law violations.

When asked if he is concerned the civil suit could impact his chances for an appointment, Vincent said, “Innocent until proven guilty.”

Vincent was planning this week to address the CNOBB membership with a request to dissolve the grass-roots group he founded in view of election complaints filed by Clarke.

As of Nov. 9, no other applications were filed with the city clerk’s office.

If the vote for the appointment is split between the mayor and commissioners, the city again will be subject to the luck of the draw for the third time in three years.

Chappie was elected Ward 4 commissioner in November 2016. The election resulted in an open Ward 2 commission seat, ending in a tie among the three commissioners and mayor. The winner was determined by a card draw.

The commission appointment to fill Ward 2 was tied — not the public vote.

It was the second city election in recent history that ended with a card draw, the first being the election between current Mayor Bill Shearon and Jack Clarke, who took the mayor’s seat in May 2015 in a recall election, and lost in a card draw after a tied vote of the electorate in a repeat faceoff between the two in November 2015.

The city is accepting applications for appointment to the open commission seat at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

CNOBB faces election complaints from ex-mayor …

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Bill Vincent, founder and chair of Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach, leads the group’s first meeting, held July 10 at Annie Silver Community Center. Islander File Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Residents whose efforts saw success in the Nov. 7 election should be cheering.

Three charter amendments placed on the ballot by Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach were approved by voters.

However, the group is facing a new challenge.

“Some members are concerned about future litigation as a result of our victories,” CNOBB chair Bill Vincent said Nov. 10.

Former Bradenton Beach Mayor Jack Clarke has filed two complaints against CNOBB and some of its members with the Florida Elections Commission.

The complaints come on the heels of a lawsuit filed in August by Clarke against six city board members alleging Sunshine Law violations.

In an Oct. 18 letter to the elections commission, Clarke alleges the group violated state statute by not registering as a political action committee before seeking signatures for the initiatives.

Clarke filed a second complaint against the group Oct. 19 for accepting and disbursing funds exceeding $500 before filing as an organization.

When asked Nov. 11 about the election complaints, Clarke refused to comment on the matter. When asked if he planned to challenge the amendments approved by voters Nov. 7, Clarke responded, “It’s too soon to tell.”

Mayor-elect John Chappie said the city does not plan to challenge the amendments, which are set to be discussed at the Nov. 16 commission meeting.

“The voters have spoken. It’s passed. As far as I’m concerned, it’s part of the charter,” Chappie said. “Now we need to figure out the enabling legislation.”

CNOBB member Tjet Martin, named by Clarke in the complaints, received official notice in letters dated Oct. 27 and Nov. 2 from Erin Riley, FEC deputy clerk.

In a Nov. 8 email response to Riley, Martin wrote she was not aware the group needed to register as a PAC when she was serving as interim co-chair during an absence of chairman Bill Vincent.

In her letter to Riley, Martin writes that she “basically ran meetings” during Vincent’s absence and “had no knowledge nor responsibility that we were required to form as a political committee.”

In previous discussions, the group opted to remain an “educational” organization instead of filing as a PAC, because it did not endorse candidates in the November election.

However, because the group collected signatures from registered electors in support of an initiative, Vincent determined that, according to Florida statutes, they were required to register. The appropriate PAC forms were signed by Vincent and treasurer John Metz and filed with the city Oct. 24.

The city has since cited insufficiencies with the forms as filed, including Martin’s signature as interim chair on the group’s finance report.

“Chair Vincent has now returned, and I am no longer interim co-chair,” Martin wrote Riley in response to this allegation.

Additionally, part of the complaint cites Martin as a “respondent on behalf of CNOBB.”

Martin claims, as shown in a news report included as an exhibit, she was contacted by a reporter regarding CNOBB’s PAC status, but never responded.

“Is there a law that states I have to respond to a reporter? I don’t think so,” Martin wrote.

Martin closed her email to Riley, writing, “Jack Clarke is nothing but a bitter old man with nothing to do but harass citizens that are trying to make a difference in their community as they see the wrongs going on in their city with a crooked attorney. Mr. Clarke also has a lawsuit against six volunteer board members that the city is funding. He doesn’t even know the proper spelling of my name.”

… prompting CNOBB chair to consider dissolution

By ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Islander Reporter

“This is not the organization I envisioned,” Bill Vincent, Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach founder and chair, said Nov. 10. “Radically differing opinions have become very clear.”

Three charter amendments placed on the Nov. 7 ballot by the grass-roots group passed, though not without effort.

Several members of CNOBB pooled money to pay $3,000 for legal assistance in October to ensure the initiatives made it to the ballot as they contended with obstacles from the city.

Even so, the group currently is facing complaints made to the Florida Elections Commission by ex-mayor Jack Clarke alleging CNOBB actions violated state election laws.

According to Vincent, issues encountered since the group’s formation in June may lead to its dissolution.

Vincent said under his direction CNOBB steering committee members reached consensus Nov. 9 for a motion at the Nov. 14 general membership meeting to dissolve the organization. That meeting was to occur after The Islander went to press.

CNOBB’s bylaws state it can be dissolved by a two-thirds majority vote of the membership.

Vincent said he thinks some members of the group are taking it in a direction that he did not intend.

“There are elements here that are very happy being litigious,” Vincent said. “And these unexpected and extraordinary expenses become a very big problem.”

In August, Vincent and five other members of CNOBB, who at the time also were on city boards, found themselves facing allegations that they had violated Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Laws. The allegations resulted from claims that discussions at CNOBB meetings and emails exchanged pertained to city matters.

According to Vincent, the controversy surrounding the group is a cause for concern. He said he questions whether the group is “salvageable.”

He said CNOBB must decide how — and if — it will move forward in the face of “philosophical differences” between some members.

“There are some members who think this very nice victory is a green light to go hammer and tongs on a host of other initiatives I don’t support because I feel they are personal in nature,” Vincent said.

Vincent said the result could be to dissolve the group and, in the future, operate as a different organization.

“I envisioned a neighborhood advocacy group working for the people of Bradenton Beach to provide a voice at the podium,” Vincent said. “Not militancy.”

He said he hopes members will take time to consider the future of the organization at its next — and perhaps final — meeting, which was set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14, at the Annie Silver Community Center, 103 23rd St. N., Bradenton Beach.

 

Newcomer tops all vote-getters in Holmes Beach race

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Commissioner Carol Soustek, left, former Commissioner Jean Peelen and Jim Kihm, third from left, celebrate along with an unidentified partygoer at the post-election bash at Kihm’s home. Kihm collected the most votes Nov. 7 in the Holmes Beach municipal election to earn a seat on the commission. Incumbent Soustek keeps her seat with the second-most votes. Islander Photo: Terry O’Connor

Holmes Beach voters elected two new commissioners in the Nov. 7 municipal election. They also returned two of three incumbents to office.

Polling was at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 6608 Marina Drive, and by mail-in balloting.

First-time candidates Jim Kihm and Rick Hurst swept into the commission with Kihm collecting the most votes of all five candidates, including the incumbents.

Kihm collected 698 votes, according to the unofficial election results reported by city clerk Stacey Johnston.

Incumbent Carol Soustek collected 572 votes to finish No. 2 in the balloting.

Hurst picked up 556 votes or the third-most of all candidates.

The three top vote-getters won two-year terms.

Pat Morton finished fourth with 532 votes and will serve a one-year term.

Marvin Grossman finished fifth with 496 votes and was eliminated.

Holmes Beach had 2,780 registered voters as of Nov. 7, according to Michael Bennett, Manatee County supervisor of elections.

Nonpartisan commission seats represent the citywide electorate.

Election results will be certified Monday, Nov. 13, and a swearing-in of the newly elected officials will be held Nov. 20 at city hall.

 

Holmes Beach City Commission election tally

Candidate Term Polls Mail Total Percent
Jim Kihm 2 years 419 279 698 24.46
Carol Soustek 2 years 324 248 572 20.04
Rick Hurst 2 years 328 228 556 19.48
Pat Morton 1 year 300 232 532 18.64
Marvin Grossman 265 231 496 17.38

Bradenton Beach voters switch mayor’s seat, approve amendments

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Outgoing Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon, left, shakes hands Nov. 7 with newly elected Ward 3 Commissioner Randy White. Bill Vincent, Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach chair and previous Ward 4 commission candidate, congratulates White on his win. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Voters in Bradenton Beach have cast their ballots, heading back to the future in the mayor’s race.

The city also is taking a few steps forward.

Commissioner John Chappie will switch chairs on the dias to the mayor’s seat. He defeated Mayor Bill Shearon with 232 votes to Shearon’s 155 to win the mayor’s post. Chappie has served in the past as mayor and commissioner in Bradenton Beach, and more recently as a Manatee County commissioner.

“I’m excited for the opportunities and challenges we have,” Chappie said. “We’re a community divided and I’m excited for an opportunity to bring people together.”

For the Ward 3 seat on the city commission, 205 votes were cast to elect newcomer Randy White, while 169 backed Commissioner Ralph Cole.

“It’s going to be on-the-job learning,” White said. “I might be the opposition for certain issues, but I’m hoping we can come together as a commission for the city.”

Ward 1 Commissioner Jake Spooner returned to his seat with no challenger.

Electors voted “yes” for the three charter amendments placed on the ballot by Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach.

The vote was 207 “yes” and 171 “no” to charter amendment 1, which replaces the city’s four-ward representative system with an at-large election.

The vote was 212 “yes” and 174 “no” for charter amendment 2, which reduces residency requirements for elected officials from 24 months to 12 months.

The third charter amendment, prohibiting changes to the city charter by a resolution of the commission, received 243 “yes” and 134 “no” votes.

Of 732 registered voters in Bradenton Beach, 387 cast votes in the election.

Early voters numbered 145 and 242 people cast ballots on Election Day at precinct No. 307, the Bradenton Beach Volunteer Fire Hall, 201 Second St. N.

The swearing-in ceremony for the newly elected officials will be at 1 p.m. Monday, Nov. 20, at Bradenton Beach City Hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

Anna Maria voters re-elect 3 to commission

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Commissioner Carol Carter campaigns early Nov. 7 across the street from Anna Maria’s polling location at Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave. Islander Photo: Bianca Benedí

The polls are closed and the votes are tallied in Anna Maria.

Carol Carter, Doug Copeland and Dale Woodland retained their seats on the city commission. Newcomer Laurie Jo Higgins lost her bid for a spot behind the dais.

Carter, whose campaign activities outpaced other candidates, received 332 votes — the most of the four candidates.

Woodland placed second with 318 votes and Copeland received 305 votes, according to official returns.

Higgins received 172 votes.

“I’m really excited,” Carter said late Nov. 7.

Carter, who has served since 2014, said she was happy her campaigning paid off. She said her decision to wait outside the polls from 7 a.m. until just before they closed seemed to help voters choose her.

Voters cast their ballots at Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., the voting location for precinct 301, which encompasses all of Anna Maria.

Commissioners earn a $400 monthly stipend for serving.

All three commissioners will be sworn into office later this month.

The voters in the island cities have spoken

All three cities reported the results of the municipal elections Nov. 7 with an average 37.75 percent voter turnout, including vote-by-mail and poll results.

In Anna Maria it’s status quo.

But Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach are facing leadership changes.

The polls closed at 7 p.m. and, unexpectedly for candidates and pundits, the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections Office posted results within 20 minutes— at 7:20:18 p.m.

The three incumbents have been returned to office in Anna Maria, where Carol Carter, Doug Copeland and Dale Woodland won a challenge from political newcomer Laurie Higgins.

Political newcomer Jim Kihm was the top vote-getter in Holmes Beach with incumbent Carol Sustek coming in second. They have won two-year seats on the Holmes Beach commission. Also new to the political scene, Rick Hurst won a two-year term.

Incumbent Pat Morton — a top vote-getter in past elections — came in fourth and will retain his seat for a one-year term. Incumbent Marvin Grossman was defeated in his quest for another term.

In Bradenton Beach, John Chappie challenged for the mayor’s seat and won. He bested incumbent Bill Shearon 207-171.

For Bradenton Beach commissioner, newcomer Randy White came in first with 205 votes, as compared to 169 votes for incumbent Ralph Cole. White and Chappie will take their seats later this month in a swearing-in ceremony with Jake Spooner, who had no opposition for his seat.

For the Bradenton Beach charter amendment vote, all three proposals passed. The ward seats are a thing of the past and all future elections will be for candidates who live anywhere in the city and represent voters citywide. The required residency for candidates for city commission is reduced to 12 months, and no longer will the commission be allowed to make changes to the city charter by resolution. That task will fall ultimately to the electorate.

Stay tuned for final vote tallies in all the races.

Holmes Beach clerks maintain calm during city crises

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Holmes Beach city clerk Stacey Johnston trains assistant deputy clerk Nick Lewis at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive. Islander Photo: Terry O’Connor

Hundreds of Holmes Beach residents streamed into city hall during the hours leading up to Hurricane Irma’s island introduction.

Irma was expected to pass over Holmes Beach as a Category 2 storm with sustained winds of more than 75 mph and a destructive storm surge from the Gulf of Mexico.

Most residents wanted city-supplied sandbags to protect their homes and passes to return after the mandatory evacuation.

“They weren’t frantic. They were concerned,” said assistant deputy clerk Nick Lewis. “W could help them be prepared and inform them where they need to go. We issued a lot of sandbags.”

What does a city clerk do?
Maintains records of all official actions and is the city election official.
Authenticates city documents with the official seal.
Attests to city ordinances, resolutions, bonds, contracts and other instruments.
Administers city records and information management, including records, indexing, digitizing and archiving.
Supervises and trains employees in the office.
Issues business and rental tax receipts, T-end and sunrise dock rentals and temporary use permits.

Holmes Beach exhausted its supply of more than 2,000 sandbags during the prelude to Irma.

After the storm, residents peppered city hall with calls about power restoration and debris cleanup, said city clerk Stacey Johnston.

“A lot of people were scared and some of them were angry both before and after the storm,” Johnston said. “Our department helped put people more at ease.”

Another wave of phone calls was precipitated by a vaguely worded letter from the city to homeowners regarding Bert Harris claims, Johnston said.

“The phones went crazy,” Johnston said. “They still are.

We’re still getting phone calls on it.”

As city clerk, Johnston leads the nerve center at city hall, and after more than a decade on the job, she knows the next crisis is as inevitable as it is unpredictable.

So, she and her co-workers prepare.

Johnston and Lewis, hired in July, just returned from the Florida Association of City Clerks 45th fall academy held Oct. 15-19 at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota.

“It provides an excellent education and I have lifetime friends from the networking,” said Johnston, a Coffeyville, Kansas, native.

Johnston was city clerk for 10 of 18 years in Coffeyville City Hall, having started her career at age 18.

“I was the youngest city clerk in Kansas for a couple years,” she said with a laugh.

Johnston attended Coffeyville Community College and went on to continuing education at Kansas University and Wichita State University.

Lewis was participating in his first FACC fall academy while Johnston, the Southwest district director and FACC board member in 2016-17, has been attending since 1981.

“This academy is focused on leadership and how to be a person of influence to lead your staff,” said Johnston, who is certified as a master municipal clerk through the International Institute of Municipal Clerks.

Johnston hired Lewis after receiving more than 100 applications for an opening created by the transfer of Brenda Wynn to the building department.

“Nick stood out because he had experience in the clerk’s office and city government in the city of Madeira Beach,” Johnston said. “When we interviewed him, he related well to us.”

Lewis, who grew up in Seminole and went to St. Petersburg College, said he envisions a career as a city clerk.

The computer-savvy Lewis is helping Johnston upgrade city hall technology.

“I genuinely want to do this job and learn as much as I can from someone who knows as much as (Johnston).” he said. “It just felt like the right place.”

Johnston said Lewis is a good fit for her department and will help attain her No 1 goal.

“My goal for my department and myself is when someone comes in angry, upset or worried, they go out with a smile,” Johnston said.

AMITW’s loggerhead wins marathon race, Tour de Turtles

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A screenshot from the Sea Turtle Conservancy website for the Tour de Turtles declares Eliza Ann the 2017 race winner.
• Following nesting and placement of a satellite tracking device atop her carapace June 20, Eliza Ann, a 300-pound-plus loggerhead, crawls back to the Gulf of Mexico. The device, placed by Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and the Sea Turtle Conservancy, tracked Eliza Ann’s travels for the Tour de Turtles — a marathon for sea turtles. See page 26 for more. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

It may not have been the fastest race in history, but Anna Maria Island won the marathon with loggerhead Eliza Ann.

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring and the Sea Turtle Conservancy placed a tracking device on a sea turtle June 19 after it nested at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach, then released the turtle to the Gulf of Mexico early June 20. That tracker showed the path taken by the sea turtle as she nested twice more and journeyed on her three-month migration.

This was the first confirmation of multiple nesting by a mature female loggerhead on the island.

The turtle was named Eliza Ann for the Sea Turtle Conservancy event, Tour de Turtles, which ended Nov. 1. The Waterline Resort and Marina, in Holmes Beach, featuring Eliza Ann’s Coastal Kitchen restaurant, sponsored AMITW in the event.

As part of the tour, 20 sea turtles were tagged and released from beaches in Costa Rica, Panama, Nevis and Florida. The turtles then competed in a “marathon,” a competition for which turtle swims the most miles during the three-month “race.”

Eliza Ann traveled 1,693 miles to win first place in the marathon, which tracked distance covered through Nov. 1 by the tagged sea turtles. The runner-up, a loggerhead named Cruz, traveled 1,583 miles after it was tagged July 29 near the Disney Vero Beach Resort, south of the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge in Melbourne Beach.

The migration was tracked using satellite telemetry. Every time Eliza Ann raised her head above water, the antenna on her tracker sent a signal, letting conservancy research scientists know her location.

The tracking device showed Eliza Ann coming ashore four times and nesting three times during the season, which runs through Oct. 31.

Following nesting, the tracker showed the turtle traveled to the Bahamas to forage and, as of Nov. 1, was in the water north of Cuba.

Additionally, the data received from the turtles’ transmitters allowed researchers to determine the number of dives taken during a 24-hour period, the duration of the most recent dive, and the water temperature of the location, according to Lexie Beach, Sea Turtle Conservancy communications coordinator.

“To adequately protect sea turtles in all their habitats, we must learn more about their migratory patterns, their behavior at sea, where their marine habitats are located, how the turtles use these different habitats and the migration routes turtles travel between habitats,” Beach said.

Since the tour is over, this data becomes available to researchers around the world and also is being used as part of Sea Turtle Conservancy research scientist Dan Evans’ doctoral thesis.

Turtle watch participated in the tour in 2015 with a loggerhead named Amie, but the turtle’s satellite tag fell off shortly after the race began and it was disqualified.

  • “What a gift this whole research project has been for AMITW and for the state of Florida to be able to collect data from her satellite tag,” AMITW executive director Suzi Fox said. “The best is yet to come as the data collected from her tag is analyzed.”