Bradenton Beach police took the first step under a new ordinance.
BBPD Lt. John Cosby and Officer Eric Hill tagged four boats — one derelict and three abandoned vessels — May 8 with florescent orange removal orders while patrolling the city’s jurisdiction in Sarasota Bay.
The city received state authority in June 2006 to exercise police powers in the bay, about 500-800 feet from its mainland borders to the Intracoastal Waterway. The city also was granted 500 feet of jurisdiction into the Gulf of Mexico.
And, under the ordinance adopted by the city commission in April, the BBPD will continue to operate a derelict and abandoned vessel program Cosby has administered for the city since 2011.
With the latest boats tagged, Cosby will have removed 31 abandoned and derelict vessels during his tenure.
“The four we did today were problem childs,” he said May 8, adding the new ordinance will provide hearing opportunities recommended by the state for boats considered derelict.
For derelict boats, where ownership is known, people have 21 days to ask for a hearing and, if no hearing is requested, they will have 45 days to remove the vessel.
Posting in city hall is required if the owner does not reside on the boat, Cosby said.
For the abandoned boats, the new ordinance gives boat owners five days to claim their boats before the city begins the removal process.
Cosby said he’d been waiting for the new ordinance to begin removals under his 2017-18 $20,000 budget and the $9,300 remaining from last year’s allocation.
The cost to remove each vessel runs about $3,000-$5,000. The city contracts with N.E. Taylor Boatworks of Cortez to extract the boats and is reimbursed by the West Coast Inland Navigational District through a partnership with Manatee County.
The Sea Claire, the abandoned vessel tagged May 8, may cost more because it’s taken on water, Cosby said.
State law provides law enforcement with authority to remove derelict and abandoned vessels, which can become threats to navigation, the environment and cause damage to property during storms.
Cosby said none of the four vessels currently pose environmental threats.
The anchorage community includes about 40 vessels.
Police say regular BBPD patrols over the past several years have improved the boaters’ compliance to registration and equipment violations, including improper navigational or anchor lights.
“And that’s all we are asking — to become compliant,” Cosby said.
BBPD Officer Eric Hill, who patrols the anchorage, also noted a reduction in calls for police service.
With the boat removals, Hill said, people who have returned from prison and others looking for living quarters on abandoned or derelict boats “have moved on.”
“You’re not giving them a place to stay,” he added.
Bradenton Beach chalks up court win in derelict vessel case
Enforcement efforts by Bradenton Beach police led to an April 3 ruling in 12th Circuit Court against an owner of a derelict vessel in the anchorage south of the Historic Bridge Street Pier.
Judge Renee Inman found John Avery guilty on misdemeanor counts for failing to register the boat and violating the state law against derelict vessels.
Her judgment states it is unlawful for a person to store, leave or abandon a vessel that is wrecked, junked or dismantled “upon any public waters of the state.”
Avery testified he had no permanent motor, only a portable motor, no sail and no ability to fix the boat, according to Inman’s judgment.
Officer Josh Betts, formerly with the BBPD, told the court he’d cited Avery’s vessel three times and no corrections were made. The boat posed a “potential environmental and navigational hazard,” having faded registration numbers, no sails, no motor and no means of propulsion, the judgment states.
Inman withheld adjudication and assessed $294 in court costs and $100 to the BBPD.
She also ordered Avery to “get his boat in compliance with Florida statutes or have the vessel removed from its current location.”
The judge deferred sentencing to July 20, “at which time the court will consider the status of this vessel.”