Tag Archives: 11-06-2019

FIRE! FIRE! WMFR open house

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WMFR Chief Ben Rigney smiles before his next dunk in the dunk tank at the district’s Nov. 2 open house.
Open house attendees listen to Clayton Lease, a firefighter/paramedic, Nov. 2 at West Manatee Fire Rescue Station 1, 407 67th St. W., Bradenton. Lease described the firefighter/paramedic’s role in providing advance life support. Islander Photos: Courtesy Rodney Kwiatkowski
Alana Lauricella, 3, of St. Petersburg, sparkles at the Nov. 2 WMFR open house.
Anthony Williams enjoys a custom fire truck ride, courtesy of WMFR, during its Nov. 2 festivities at Station 1 in Bradenton.
Volunteers from Winn-Dixie grill burgers Nov. 2 at the WMFR open house.

Bradenton man in drug court for pot possession

Drug court lies between a postponed sentence and freedom from prosecution for a Bradenton man.

The sentencing of Justin Gargett, 24, for possessing marijuana in Holmes Beach was deferred July 18 by 12th Circuit Judge Janette Dunnigan after Gargett pleaded no contest and agreed to enter an intervention contract. Dunnigan, who retired in 2017, was substituting in Judge Gilbert Smith Jr.’s courtroom.

The drug court contract required Gargett’s plea and that he abstain from alcohol or drugs — including medical marijuana — undergo treatment, attend court dates, pay court fees and costs and report monthly to a probation officer.

Gargett was arrested in May after a Holmes Beach police officer found 35 grams of marijuana in his vehicle. HBPD pulled over Gargett’s vehicle for nearly hitting an officer on Manatee Avenue.

Gargett also was ticketed for violating the move-over law but that case closed when the citation was consolidated into the drug case.

According to the contract, the state will dismiss Gargett’s case if he completes the drug court program. If he fails to complete the program, a judge may sentence him.

Possessing more than 20 grams of marijuana is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

As of Oct. 29, Gargett attended August, September and October court dates and paid $1,080 of $1,768 in court-ordered fines and assessments.

Center looks to green campaign, snowbirds to grow income

The Center of Anna Maria Island is facing an uphill financial battle in fiscal 2019-20.

The center lost $80,118 in net income in the first quarter, which began July 1. The nonprofit made $145,243 more through the same period in 2018, when it was $65,125 in the green.

The deficit includes $48,296 in concession funds received from Manatee County for new vans and fitness equipment, which the nonprofit purchased earlier this year. The center also plans to ask the county for more money to renovate bathrooms and repair the roof.

“It’s slow right now, so we’re not in a rush to start tearing everything out,” executive director Chris Culhane said at the Oct. 28 board of directors meeting.

Without county funding, the difference between the nonprofit’s current and previous fiscal year grows larger.

The center made $149,798 in operating income, including $8,975 in net revenue from fundraising and $12,617 from programs. However, it logged $274,220 in operating expenses, resulting in a $124,422 deficit in operating income and expenditures.

Board chair David Zaccagnino said the first quarter also was slow last year, but the center had received an endowment, as well as city funding. He added that he expects revenues to increase heading into the winter and spring tourist season, with the arrival of snowbirds.

Culhane also said he expects snowbirds to boost the nonprofit’s financial situation.

“Snowbird season will help dramatically, and we have already seen a huge influx of returning members,” Culhane wrote in a Nov. 1 email to The Islander. “In the past couple of weeks, we have had over 80 returning or new members sign up. This will significantly help our financials, and we have budgeted for membership revenue to almost double from last month to this month.”

“We fully budgeted and expect to be in the red through October, but will make a dramatic turn around once season kicks in, just as all other island businesses do,” he continued.

Meanwhile, the center is gearing up for “Ocean of Hope” with Phillippe Cousteau Jr., a host and producer of television nature documentaries, including “Xploration Awesome Planet” on FOX, which was nominated for Emmy awards.

Cousteau will discuss environmental conservation efforts, as well as tell personal stories and offer insights, at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, at the center, 407 Magnolia Ave., Anna Maria.

Suzi Fox, executive director of Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring, also will speak, commenting on her efforts to monitor and support sea turtle nesting on the island.

Zaccagnino said the center received a couple of “large sponsorship commitments” for the event, but declined to provide details.

Development director Jim McDaniel said the center would launch one of the nonprofit’s first green initiative programs at the event.

He said the nonprofit plans to purchase mini-reefs — small structures placed underwater to cultivate sea life and promote clean water — for resale at “Ocean of Hope.”

People also will have the option to purchase a center wish list item alongside a mini-reef.

The center also is working on lining up music groups and sponsors for a second concert series, which will begin in January 2020.

Outside of the series, the center will host Sha Na Na Saturday, Dec. 14, for the group’s 50th anniversary.

Tickets can be purchased for $48-$68 from the Manatee Performing Arts Center at 941-749-1111 or tickets.manateeperformingartscenter.com.

Eyes on the road – 11-06-2019

The Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County posted the following for the week of Nov. 4:

• 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.

Bradenton Beach awaits dock repair plans

The wait continues for repairs to Bradenton Beach’s new floating dock at the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

Glenn Warburton, from Delta Engineering, wrote in an Oct. 30 email saying his design for repairs to the gangway — the walkway connecting the pier to the dock — was not finished. In the email sent to public works director Tom Woodard, Warburton said he had expected to complete the plans by the end of the week.

The city closed the dock Oct. 4, which was paid for and is overseen by the community redevelopment agency, because the gangway was pulling away from the pier at the connection. Delta Engineering was hired to design the gangway repair, which Warburton said would involve driving additional pilings to support the walkway.

Warburton had not produced the plans as of Oct. 31.

Meanwhile, wave dispersion and chop in the bay from Tropical Storm Nestor, as well as a dinghy left at the dock during the storm, damaged three rollers, the mechanisms connecting the platform to the support pilings.

So Woodard had Hecker Construction visit the dock Oct. 25 and Oct. 29 to check the dock for loose connections and needed adjustments. Hecker was the contractor the city hired to install the dock earlier this year.

Woodard previously said one of the two types of rollers used for the dock lacks the necessary connection brackets to maintain structural integrity.

To address the issue, Woodard contacted Golden Marine Systems, the contractor hired by the CRA to manufacture a safety ladder for the dock, to get a quote for replacing the rollers.

He will present a quote for CRA consideration at the next meeting, 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

Island turtle watch tracks record season

It is now time for turtle watch volunteers to brush the sand off their feet and pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring closed out another record-breaking season Oct. 31, marking the sixth straight success since 2014.

In May-October of 2019, 535 loggerhead and nine green sea turtle nests were documented on the island, compared with 534 loggerhead nests in 2018.

Did you know?
Sea turtle nesting on island beaches has more than doubled since 2014, when 260 nests were spotted.

Green sea turtles, which are less common to the island than loggerheads, nest every other year, leading to this year’s spike.

However, 2019 saw the most green nests since turtle watch started keeping records in 1982.

Sea turtle nesting on island beaches has more than doubled since 2014, when 260 nests were spotted.

“Our success is a team effort,” Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director, said Oct. 26. “We work with the public and with code enforcement and the changes are obvious in the numbers.”

Mature females only leave the water to nest. Hatchlings, guided by their instincts, emerge from nests and crawl to the Gulf of Mexico. Both follow the reflection of the moon and stars on the water.

Artificial lighting visible from the shoreline, can disorient sea turtles away from the Gulf, leading to exhaustion, starvation and death.

Starting in April, Fox worked with code compliance officers in Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach to attempt to fix beachfront lighting that might not be “turtle-friendly,” so that nesting or hatchling sea turtles would be less likely to be drawn away from the water.

The first nest of the season was spotted May 1 on Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach.

Within a month, there were more than 100 loggerhead nests on island beaches.

By July 1, there were 343 nests on the island. The first nest hatched that day, but most of the hatchlings disoriented due to visible beachfront lighting.

Turtle watch noted 59 instances of mature or hatchling sea turtles being drawn away from the Gulf by lighting visible from the shoreline — the most AMITW has ever documented.

In 2018, there were 50 disorientations.

“It’s a work in progress, but as more people come to the island, we have more work to do,” Fox said. “People must be educated and noticed by code if lights are a danger to turtles.”

Beachfront properties are required to have low, shielded exterior lighting that meets Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission standards and indoor lights must be turned off or shielded by curtains or blinds.

Turtle watch educates the public on best practices for nesting season through educational handouts and weekly informational “Turtle Talks” in season.

People also are invited to some nest excavations throughout the hatching portion of season. AMITW volunteers conduct excavations — dig into hatched nests — 72 hours after hatching to collect data that is shared with county, state and federal agencies. Turtle watch volunteers count the number of hatched and unhatched eggs, and any live hatchlings in the nest are released to the Gulf.

With the assistance of about 90 AMITW volunteers who walk the beach each morning during nesting season looking for signs of nesting or hatching, more than 27,000 hatchlings crawled from nests in the sand to the Gulf of Mexico.

In 2018, turtle watch documented 35,778 hatchlings.

Fox said she is not sure why the hatch rate was lower this year, but it could be due to younger females just starting to nest.

There were no major storms this season, but heavy summer showers and occasional high tides caused some standing water, which also might have contributed to the lower hatch rate.

Fox said, when she attends the state marine wildlife permit holder meeting in January 2020, she will speak with reps from other organizations to find out if they had similar numbers.

By Aug. 30, season had peaked and there were 533 nests on the island.

As of Oct. 31, two nests remained and were expected to have hatched by press time for The Islander.

“It has been another great year,” Fox said. “The key is to continue working together and educating people, so that we can protect the wildlife that is so sacred to our island.”

Election approaches, campaign funding slows

As of the Nov. 1 Manatee County Supervisor of Elections reporting deadline, Holmes Beach commission candidate Terry Schafer reported an additional $965 in contributions and $243.81 in in-kind contributions totaling $3,765.

Incumbent Jim Kihm reported an additional $350, for a total of $2,495.

Carol Soustek, also an incumbent, received an additional $520 for a total of $1,770 in campaign funding as of Oct. 31.

Incumbent Rick Hurst did not report additional funds as of Oct. 31.

The Nov. 1 report was the final campaign expense report. Termination reports are due Dec. 2.

Time to vote in Holmes Beach

The day to vote has arrived in Holmes Beach.

The electorate was to cast ballots 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive.

The candidates for three seats include incumbents Rick Hurst, Jim Kihm and Carol Soustek and former ad hoc form-of-government committee member Terry Schaefer.

Additionally, voters will decide eight proposed amendments to the city charter.

The races are nonpartisan.

Visit islander.org for results after 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5, and find full coverage in the Nov. 13 issue of The Islander.

Pirates ticket sales begin Nov. 11

The Pittsburgh Pirates will begin selling season tickets Monday, Nov. 11, for the team’s 2020 Grapefruit League games.

Past season ticketholders began reserve their seats Oct. 28.

Season tickets will cost $437-$245 and six-game weekend packages will sell for $174-$108.

Single-game tickets will go on sale in January, with early-bird pricing at $34-$23 and game day pricing at $29-$18.

The Pirates will play 33 games, including 16 at home at LECOM Park, the homefield for the Pirates at 1611 Ninth St. W., Bradenton.

Opening day will be Saturday, Feb. 22, when the team will host the Minnesota Twins at LECOM Park.

The Pirates will follow that up with a pair of games Feb. 23 — a home game against the Detroit Tigers and a road game against the Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater.

Additional highlights of the schedule at LECOM Park include:
• Feb. 25-26: The Pirates will host the Phillies and Boston Red Sox on consecutive days, which will be the only time the Pirates will host the Red Sox in Bradenton in 2020.
• March 7: The Pirates will take on the New York Yankees, in the Yankees’ only visit to Bradenton in 2020.
• March 9-12: The Toronto Blue Jays will travel to Bradenton to play the Pirates twice in four days.
• March 13: A night game against the Minnesota Twins.
• March 17: In a St. Patrick’s Day matchup, the Pirates will take on the Phillies.
• March 23: The Pirates will close out the home portion of the Grapefruit League season against the Tigers.

The final game of the Pirates’ Grapefruit League season will come against the Tigers in Lakeland March 24.

For more information, call the box office at 941-747-3031.

Sparce season for shorebirds on Anna Maria Island

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A scoop of black skimmers takes flight in late May on the beach in Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Courtesy Pete Gross

“Our shorebird program is almost nonexistent at this point,” Suzi Fox, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director, said Oct. 26.

Fox said black skimmers, which usually nest early summer and depart for their summer migration in September, did not nest in 2019, but remain in colonies on Anna Maria Island beaches.

She said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is concerned with the unusual behavior and plans to investigate the matter.

The species is protected by the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act, but is not on the federal endangered species list.  It also is protected as “threatened” under Florida’s endangered and threatened species rule.

The black-and-white birds that wear a touch of orange on their beaks can be seen flying low over the Gulf of Mexico, skimming for food in the water along the shoreline.

As of Oct. 31, about 200 skimmers remained in several colonies, moving between Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach.

Fox said the problem is not just with skimmers. Other migratory birds, including least terns and American oystercatchers, also have not nested on island beaches in 2019.

“We’re just not seeing them anymore,” she said.

She said she is concerned that people are disrupting the birds, by chasing them or otherwise interfering with their habitat.

“We need to educate people about the birds so they understand it is not OK to mess with them,” Fox said. “And with a little help from FWC, hopefully, our birds will be back and nesting next year.”

Islander reporter recognized at press club awards

The Florida Press Club honored newspaper journalists from around the state Nov. 2 at its annual gala at the Waterstone Resort & Marina in Boca Raton.

Islander reporter ChrisAnn Silver Esformes garnered third place in the environmental writing category in Class C — competing with large daily newspapers across the state, including the top winner, Palm Beach Post — with her article, “‘Bortie’ nests on Anna Maria Island, aids in sea turtle research,” about a sea turtle that was satellite tagged on Anna Maria Island in 2018 and competed in an annual “race” to track migration.

For nearly 70 years, the Florida Press Club, originally called the Florida Women’s Press Club, has recognized the best in Florida journalism.