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Date of Issue: July 30, 2008

Life is good

It must be. It’s on a T-shirt.

But we sense there’s fear in the air. And it’s not for hurricanes, gangs or crime. It’s about what will happen when the Anna Maria Island Bridge is closed for 45 days, starting Sept. 29.

The Florida Department of Transportation says that date can’t be changed, but it won’t pay the price for their ill-conceived plan. We will.

We, meaning Islanders. Business owners, accommodations and small rental owners, residents and, even visitors, who may delay their winter retreat to our shores.

The DOT does not understand Islanders, Island lifestyles or the Island economy. It wouldn’t have conceived this plan if it did.

And to say we should have spoken earlier is an insult. We e-mailed. We went to meetings. Even our elected officials joined the pleadings. Sept. 29 is too late. October and November begin our winter season.

April - the DOT’s first plan for a 75-day closure - was unbelievably bad timing, but now the bridge will close on the heels of summer and the indisputable worst month of the year for the Island economy, September.

Those who came forward at a recent meeting tried to impress the DOT of our dire situation, saying they know “snowbirds” who won’t come back until the bridge work is done.

More woe for our economy.

Yes, we will have to patronize Island business even more than we already do. As the community newspaper, we’re looking for ways we can help our businesses, readers, residents and visitors through what promises to be tough times.

We hope to have incentives in place for Islanders to do business with Islanders and to remind people of the possible hardships of maintaining a north-end business and for owners to support their families.

As if rising gas prices, home foreclosures and the ghastly economy weren’t bad enough, some businesses will suffer and some won’t survive summer, let alone the bridge closure.

Even charter fishing guides fear the startup of their season will be hindered by the bridge closure.

And there is reduced enrollment and limited numbers of “choice” students whose parents can’t make the long drive to our elementary school - and the resulting cuts in staff.

It’s a shame we can’t convince the DOT to plan the bridge work around us.

Maybe we should take a step back and relook at the one-lane closure option. It could lessen the burden for businesses.

But will the DOT hear us now?