Tag Archives: 10-09-2019

Streetlife – 10-09-2019

Anna Maria

        Oct. 4, Bayfront Park, 316 N. Bay Blvd., trespass warning. A Manatee County sheriff’s deputy on patrol at 2:45 a.m. observed a person covered with a sheet, seated next to several bags of clothes. As the deputy approached, the woman lifted the sheet from her head. The deputy explained she was in the park after hours, issued her a trespass warning and asked her to leave. She complied.

Oct. 7, 200 block of Palmetto Avenue, burglary to unoccupied structure. A man called MCSO and reported two sheds on his property were ransacked while he was out of town for two weeks. Nothing was stolen.

Anna Maria is policed by MCSO.

Bradenton Beach

No reports.

Bradenton Beach is policed by the Bradenton Beach Police Department.


No reports.

        Cortez is policed by MCSO.

Holmes Beach

        Oct. 3, 4900 block of Gulf Drive, battery. Holmes Beach police were flagged down by witnesses to a fight between a man and his girlfriend in a carport. Witnesses told police the man headbutted the woman, placed her into a headlock and threw her on the ground. Another man, who tried to intervene, was punched in the face. The argument apparently started when the girlfriend objected to how the boyfriend spoke to her children. The man denied the allegations. Officers arrested the man for domestic battery. Due to children being present, police notified an abuse hotline.

Oct. 8, Beach Bistro, 6600 Gulf Drive, forgery. A check issued by the restaurant’s accountant for $46.40 was altered, changing the check amount to $4,850 as well as the payee’s name. The bank was notified and HBPD is investigating.

Oct. 8, Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, warrant. A woman was arrested on a warrant for a probation violation out of Sarasota County.

Holmes Beach is policed by the HBPD.

        Streetlife is based on incident reports and narratives from the Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach police departments and the MCSO.

Record season, challenges

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A green sea turtle hatchling takes a close-up Sept. 30 before being transported by turtle watch volunteers to Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota where it will be evaluated and released to the Gulf of Mexico. Turtle watch volunteers discovered the hatchling during a nest excavation at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach. Islander Photos: Courtesy AMITW
People pause to observe Sept. 30 as turtle watch volunteers Lena Whitesell, left, and Jennifer Scott, excavate a green sea turtle nest. The nest hatched Sept. 27 at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach and contained 80 hatched and six unhatched eggs, as well as two dead and two live hatchlings.

Three cheers for volunteers!

It has been another record-breaking sea turtle nesting season for Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring.

With 544 nests spotted on island beaches as of Oct. 4, the season broke the 2018 record of 534 nests. Nine nests were laid by green sea turtles, a less frequent visitor to the island when compared with loggerheads.

And the season officially ends Oct. 31, so volunteers still could come across a green turtle nest or two, as greens nest later in the year.

However, Suzi Fox, who, as AMITW executive director, is paid staff, said Oct. 3 the organization noted another record-breaker that it hopes not to best.

She said turtle watch volunteers documented 59 instances of mature or hatchling sea turtles being drawn away from the Gulf of Mexico by lighting visible from the shoreline — the most AMITW has documented since record-keeping began in the 1990s.

Disorientations were not included in the records maintained by volunteers in the ’90s.

In 2018, there were 50 disorientations.

After nesting or hatching, adult and hatchling sea turtles follow their instincts to the Gulf by the reflection of the moon and stars on the water’s surface. Disorientations can occur when lights visible from the shoreline draw turtles away from the water, making them vulnerable to predators, exhaustion or dehydration.

Early in the season, which officially began May 1, nine nesting females disoriented upon emerging from the water to nest. Through Oct. 4, as hatchlings scurried up from nests in the sand by the hundreds, 50 nests on Anna Maria Island saw 11-50 hatchlings disorientated, turning away from the Gulf of Mexico upon emergence.

Fox said many hatchlings from nests north of 80th Street in Holmes Beach traveled south down the beach for several blocks, depending on the brightness of the moon the night they hatched. In one case, hatchlings crawled more than 10 blocks.

Streetlights could be to blame, according to Fox, who is working with Florida Power and Light to install amber-colored lights not visible to sea turtles and safe for humans.

She also said lights on the roof of the Walgreens store on East Bay Drive in Holmes Beach emit sky-glow that could draw hatchlings from the beach.

Fox said she doesn’t anticipate a problem when asked Oct. 3 by The Islander about lighting at the Compass Hotel, a six-story building under construction at 12340 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, on Perico Island.

“I believe it will be too far from the beach to have any effect on the turtles,” she said, but added she would review a lighting plan for the building to be sure.

Fox said she purchased an instrument that reads sky-glow and will be learning to use the new tool and taking readings this month.

As of Oct. 4, 11 nests remained to hatch on the island and about 26,868 hatchlings had made their way to the Gulf.

Cortez megabridge opponents face tick, tick, ticking clock

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The DOT plan for the 65-foot fixed bridge landing area in Cortez. Islander Courtesy Graphic
Longtime Cortez resident Plum Taylor believes a big bridge would destroy the character of the fishing village. Islander Photo: Sarah Brice
DOT District 1 Secretary LK Nandam says the transportation agency would not do anything to harm the character of a community. Islander Photo: Sarah Brice
Kaye Bell, president of the Cortez Cultural Center, says Cortez has been able to maintain its character because no large developments have been able to come in. Islander Photo: Sarah Brice

Opponents of the Cortez Road megabridge proposed by the Florida Department of Transportation may be running out of time.

The DOT has said it expects to release results of its Cortez Bridge Project Development and Environment Study by the end of the year. One transportation authority told The Islander it could be much sooner.

Once the PD&E study is released, the DOT can move ahead with a $6.4 million design contract with the engineering firm H.W. Lochner Inc.

And once design work begins, it may be difficult for opponents to stop the momentum toward construction of the 65-foot-clearance fixed span the DOT said it wants to replace the 62-year-old Cortez Bridge.

“Once they get so far down a road, it’s harder to make changes,” David Hutchinson, executive director of the Sarasota/Manatee Planning Organization, said Sept. 26.

Still, some megabridge opponents believe they have time.

“Our hands are not tied to determine the height,” Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore told fellow board members at an Aug. 20 meeting. “It’s not too late to meet with the DOT to determine the height.”

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, who also opposes the big bridge, is not so sure.

“That’s a good question,” he told The Islander Oct. 3 when asked if there is sufficient time to change the plans. “I don’t know. They could say let’s stop and reconsider. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

Despite DOT public hearings in 2014, 2016 and 2017 and the agency’s announcement in April 2018 that the high fixed span would replace the bascule bridge, official opposition didn’t begin to solidify until Whitmore spoke to the other six commissioners at their board meeting and asked for support.

She did not get it.

But she did get support in mid-September from the Island Transportation Planning Organization, which consists of the three mayors on Anna Maria Island. The ITPO passed a measure to support Whitmore’s proposed compromise of a 45-foot drawbridge.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie and Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth voted in favor of the motion. Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy, who did not attend the ITPO meeting, followed up a week later with a letter to DOT District Secretary L.K. Nandam saying his city also opposes the high bridge.

“This project will not only negatively impact residents and property owners in Cortez village, but on our island community as well,” Murphy wrote.

The Bradenton Beach City Commission passed a resolution Oct. 3 supporting Chappie’s efforts to work toward alternatives to the 65-foot-clearance bridge.

The mayor said he will pass along the city’s opposition to local legislators in Tallahassee.

“There’s really not a whole lot we can do,” he said.  “I’ll let them know once again.”

The Holmes Beach City Commission has voted to draft a letter in support of Whitmore’s compromise.

The strongest opposition, though, comes from Cortez residents, who have spent decades fighting DOT efforts to build a high bridge. These opponents maintain a big bridge would permanently damage the character of Cortez, which was designated a U.S. historic district in 1995, largely due to the grass-roots efforts of longtime residents Linda Molto and Mary Fulford Green.

“Oh, my Lord, if that big old bridge comes in here, it would destroy Cortez,” said Plum Taylor, 85, who has lived in the fishing village since 1952. Her late husband’s family was one of the original five families to settle Cortez in the 1890s.

“Cortez remains quaint because nothing big has been able to come in,” said Kaye Bell, 78, president of the Cortez Cultural Center.

Nandam told The Islander Sept. 23 that community input is part of the PD&E process.

“We would not pick a design of a bridge that would be damaging to any community,” he said. “Our mission is community success.”

The fight over the Cortez Bridge dates to 1989, when the DOT announced it would build a 65-foot-clearance fixed span to replace the 1957 drawbridge.

Public outcry led the DOT to abandon its plans to replace the bridge in the early1990s.

The agency instead turned its attention to the Anna Maria Island Bridge, with plans for a 65-foot-clearance fixed span, same as it had wanted for Cortez.

More than 70 opponents formed a grass-roots organization called Save Anna Maria Inc. in 1993 and won a lawsuit in 1997 that halted plans for the bridge over environmental concerns, including seagrass destruction.

All was quiet for a few years, but the DOT came back with a study in 2010 that determined the Anna Maria Island Bridge would have no significant impact on such factors as natural resources and wildlife. The Federal Highway Administration approved the study in 2016.

SAM disbanded in October 2017.

The prevailing belief among local officials and some activists was that the DOT would build a high span to replace the Anna Maria Island Bridge and retain the Cortez Bridge or replace it with a similar bascule bridge.

That belief turned out to be wrong.

The DOT began its PD&E study for the Cortez Bridge in 2013 and announced five years later it would build the 65-foot-clearance bridge.

Longtime Cortez resident Molto said she was not surprised.

“We had a feeling it would come back,” she told The Islander in August. “We know the DOT. We just know them. Because we dealt with them before, we know who they are.”

Molto said the anti-bridge efforts are just getting started, haltingly. Many of the old-timers have died, she said, and many of the young people from that era have moved away.

Opponents now face a ticking clock.

Once design begins, it will take at least two years to complete, DOT spokesman Brian R. Rick told The Islander in August. The DOT likely will hold public meetings during that period, Rick said.

After that would come right-of-way acquisition, then construction.

Rick said right-of-way acquisition is expected to be funded for fiscal years 2024-27, beyond the scope of the DOT’s current five-year work program, which ends in 2024.

Construction also is not funded.

That timetable gives opponents hope that it’s not too late.

“I have nothing against the DOT,” Whitmore told the ITPO at its Sept. 16 meeting, “but I know we can still change it.

“This is our last chance, truthfully, in my lifetime and your lifetime that we can protect the village of Cortez.”


Young artists at work

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Jacob Winstead, 6, works on his pumpkin’s design Oct. 5 with an abundant choice of crafting supplies at the Island Library’s pumpkin decorating contest. At the end of the table is library volunteer Cheryl Unruh helping Andrew Huefner, 10, with his pumpkin’s decorations. Islander Photo: Sarah Brice
The Island Library activity room was full of young artists and their parents as they expressed their artistic talents and were rewarded with prizes. Islander Photo: Sarah Brice
Jonathan Bachman, 8, considers his next decorating step as his father’s decorated pumpkin seems to look worried that the purple glitter in Jonathan’s hands might be intended for him. Islander Photo: Sarah Brice
Three-year-old Juliette Sato is the picture of concentration as she starts painting her pumpkin at the Oct. 5 Island Library’s pumpkin decorating contest. Islander Photo: Sarah Brice
Aria Roadman, 9, ponders where she wants to glue embellishments onto her pumpkin while at the Island Library’s pumpkin make-and-take decorating contest Oct. 5. Islander Photo: Sarah Brice

Anna Maria mayor outlines options for pier lease payments

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I+iconSOUTHEAST employees work Oct. 2 to repair the new Anna Maria City Pier walkway following damages that resulted when an employee erred and steered the construction barge into the structure. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Lease negotiations for the new Anna Maria City Pier are progressing.

Mayor Dan Murphy Sept. 30 emailed Mario Schoenfelder, the pier tenant since 2000, proposing two base payment options. The current lease will expire in December 2020.

One option includes a monthly base payment of $21,600, along with either a 3% annual increase — to begin after the first year — or an annual adjustment based on the consumer price index.

A second option includes a monthly base payment of $18,900, subject to the same options for annual increases as the first option. However, the lessee would pay $250,000 upon signing the lease.

Schoenfelder, who splits his time between Holmes Beach and Germany, originally signed a lease with the city for 10 years, with two five-year options and a $5,000 monthly lease payment, which was subject to periodic increases of $500.

The monthly payments, which escalated to $11,900, were discontinued after the city closed the pier in September 2017. That year, the original 1911-built pier was deemed destroyed due to damages sustained in Hurricane Irma. Later, the pier was torn down and the city contracted i+icon to construct the new pier structure, including the T-end.

In September, Murphy and Schoenfelder tentatively agreed to a 10-year lease length, with two five-year extensions — the same length of the current lease.

Schoenfelder had not responded to Murphy’s lease payment proposals as of Oct. 4.


Flying high with the HBPD

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The Holmes Beach Police Department-sponsored National Night Out fills city field Oct. 1 with free fun and games for kids, along with plenty of giveaways, food and music. HBPD and city staff mingled with the crowd and a large crew of volunteers, promoting police-community partnerships. Islander Photo: Jack Elka
Children race to hand off their sacks to adults and cross the finish line Oct. 1 at one of several National Night Out games. The event, sponsored by the Holmes Beach Police Department and the city of Holmes Beach at city field, featured giveaways, food, music, games, bounce houses and slides. HBPD staff mingled with the crowd, promoting police-community partnerships. Islander Photos: Sarah Brice
A child raises his arms up at the top of the giant inflatable slide, here he has a bird’s eye view of the turnout for National Night Out.
With elbows out and arms flapping, enthusiasm abounds among kids of all ages as they follow Denise Johnson in the “Chicken Dance.”
Bella Raines, 9, takes center stage Oct. 1 at HBPD Night Out to sing “Let it Go” from the Disney movie “Frozen.” She was awarded a new bike and helmet for her performance.
Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer hands out prize tickets to a sea of hopeful hands. Islander Photo: Sarah Brice
Holmes Beach Commissioner Pat Morton takes a dunking in stride for HBPD Night Out.
Paul Fowler, 6, and brother Nolan, 3, land in a fun tumble at the bottom of the giant inflatable slide at HBPD’s Night Out Oct. 1 at city field.

Sarasota man sentenced to 1-year probation

An unruly bar patron was sentenced to 12 months of probation and five days in a Manatee County work program for failing to pay his bar tab and fighting with Bradenton Beach police.

Bret Hoffman, 34, of Sarasota, pleaded no contest Sept. 3 to fraud of an innkeeper and resisting arrest.

Twelfth Circuit Judge Robert Farrance ordered the probation and work program, credit for time served and 50 hours of public service with a buy-out option.

Hoffman’s sentence stems from his May 27 arrest at the Sports Lounge, 118 Bridge St., where he failed to pay his bill and became combative with a Bradenton Beach police officer.

Hoffman was assessed $1,226.25, including an $88.50 restitution to the Sports Lounge.

Community center drops to $51K in the red, 2 months into FY

Nonprofit plans to fundraise by growing green initiatives

The Center of Anna Maria Island’s 2019-20 fiscal year is off to a slow start.

The center is $51,706 in the red after two months of its fiscal year, which began July 1. The center was $82,328 in the black after the same period in 2018-19 — a $134,034 difference.

Almost three-quarters of the center’s shortfall compared with last year can be attributed to a lack of fundraising. In 2018-19, the center collected $124,913 in donations, sponsorships, tickets and merchandise sales through August, but only raised $31,461 in July-August 2019.

Treasurer Christine Hicks said the main reason for the shortfall is because the nonprofit received estate money that “carried (the center) through” the first two months of 2018.

Also, in 2018, the city of Anna Maria contributed $18,500 to the center. The center has not requested city funding this year.

Expenditures also increased from $134,147 in July-August 2018 to $192,289 this year. The increase partly is due to the hiring of Jim McDaniel in July as development director.

“Don’t be shocked,” board chair David Zaccagnino said at a Sept. 30 meeting. “This is normal. We’re fully staffed, and this is our slow, slow, slow time of the year. We budgeted for this.”

“We have money in the bank to cover this shortfall,” he continued. “It happens.”

The center finished $166,000 in the black for the 2018-19 fiscal year, which ended June 30.


Turning green

A slow start to fundraising hasn’t slowed the center’s work on green initiatives.

McDaniel introduced to the board of directors new aspects of the center’s green initiatives — a series of projects designed to make the center and the community more environmentally friendly.

He said the center plans to purchase mini-reefs — small structures placed underwater to cultivate sea life that in turn, cleans the water — for resale starting Nov. 16. People also will have the option to pay for a center wish list item alongside the mini-reef.

The wish list will include technology items, as well as fitness and sports equipment.

The proceeds will benefit the center’s community wellness programs and a set of green initiatives, which executive director Chris Culhane said began with replacing the center’s halogen light bulbs with LED bulbs.

He added that staff also are working on phasing out single-use plastic water bottles at the center.

“This is just the beginning,” said Culhane.

He said another green initiative, a composting program, will be launched soon.

The nonprofit partnered with Sunshine Community Compost to train staff and oversee the program. SCC will work with the center and its community volunteers to maintain the program.

Certain green-themed merchandise sales also will support the effort, including T-shirts and water bottles, with proceeds earmarked for the annual fund.


Other news

In other news, the nonprofit is planning repairs, maintenance and renovation projects for the 12-year-old building, including the bathrooms, spending $15,000 allocated and approved by the island cities from the county concession funds, as well as repairing or replacing 14 AC units.

Culhane wrote in an Oct. 3 email to The Islander that the center is taking bids for the bathroom-plumbing remodeling.


Bed tax collections surpass August 2018 totals

The dog days of summer brought in a flock of visitors to Anna Maria Island, producing an uptick in August tourist tax collections.

The 2019 bed tax collection of $882,349.76 was more than $100,000 higher than the August 2018 total of $768.904.44, after deducting a 3% tax office collection fee.

The county tourist tax rate is 5%. The tax, also known as the bed tax or resort tax, is collected on overnight rentals of six months or less.

Year-to-date collections also were well above 2018’s $13,544,573.70, ringing in at $14,787,910.30 for Oct.1-Aug.31.

The arrival of red tide in Aug. 2018 may have contributed to lower numbers last year, and the 2019 total lagged behind August collections for other years, with the exception of 2014.

Holmes Beach continued to lead the three island cities in tourist tax collections with $206,561.03 or 23.41% of the August collections.

Anna Maria collected $128,828.47 or 14.60% of bed tax totals.

Bradenton Beach pulled in $49,520.51 or 5.61% of the total collected.

Other numbers of interest:

  • The city of Bradenton, with 8.04% of money collected at $70,978.28.
  • Longboat Key, with 8.33% of collections.
  • Palmetto, with $1,353.40 or 0.15% of collected bed tax.
  • Unincorporated Manatee County areas accounted for $351,607.13 or 39.85% of bed tax collections.

The money is collected by the state and is then funded back to the county. State law requires using resort tax funds for tourism-related projects only.

The money funds the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Bradenton Area Convention Center, as well as ongoing tourist-related entities such as Realize Bradenton and the Pittsburgh Pirates, and beach renourishment on Anna Maria Island, it partially funds.

Tourist tax collections are reported in arrears and August numbers were released Oct.1.


Bed tax collections:

  • August 2014, $838,256.80.
  • August 2015, $940,044.17.
  • August 2016, $1,141,394.30.
  • August 2017, $1,208,085.18.
  • August 2018, $917,836.85.
  • August 2019,

Eyes on the road

The Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County posted the following for the week of Oct. 7:

  • Bay Drive South in Bradenton Beach: Manatee County’s AMI Pipeline Replacement project involves work on Bay Drive South continuing north to Bridge Street, shifting to Church Avenue and continuing on Church to Cortez Road. Construction is expected to conclude in December.
  • Longboat Pass Bridge: Repairs on the Longboat Pass Bridge on Gulf Drive between Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key continue. Overnight work requires decreasing lane sizes, flagging operations and occasional lane closures.

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

To view traffic conditions, go online to smarttrafficinfo.org.