Tag Archives: Community

AMI Bridge construction: Way down the road

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Bradenton resident Tony Rivera tosses his crab trap Aug. 14 near the western side of the Anna Maria Island Bridge. Rivera, who was born in Puerto Rico and also lived in Boston, says crabbing by the bridge is a favorite pastime. Islander Photo: Sarah Brice

Tony Rivera moved to Bradenton just a year ago, but he’s already been crabbing at the Anna Maria Island Bridge at least 15 times.

He likes to go there with his 3-year-old grandson, Andrew Carmona, where they form memorable bonds while taking in the fresh air and the boundless view. In between tosses of his crab trap near the Kingfish Boat Ramp at the western end of the bridge, Rivera will tell you he’s uncertain about plans by the Florida Department of Transportation to replace the 62-year-old drawbridge with a high fixed span.

“Sincerely, I hadn’t heard about it,” he said Aug. 14. “But I think it would make it a bit more difficult to toss the crab traps.”

He needn’t worry yet — or for many years. By the time the new bridge is scheduled to open, young Andrew will be a teenager.

Although the DOT has said the bridge must be replaced, having determined it is “functionally obsolete and structurally deficient,” construction on a new span is not scheduled to begin until fiscal 2029. By the agency’s own accounting, construction could take two to three years or longer to complete.

The bridge, built in 1957, has undergone six structural repairs since 1978 and has exceeded its life span of 50 years, said DOT spokesman Brian R. Rick. Major repairs were undertaken in 2009, and the most recent fixes occurred in 2013.

But a $6.2 million design plan on the 65-foot-clearance fixed-span bridge replacement will not be completed until fiscal year 2022-23, Rick said Aug. 15 in an email to The Islander.

Right-of-way acquisition, the next step, should not take long or cost much because there are no significant structures that must be bought. Nonetheless, right of way has not yet been funded.

Neither has construction.

In addition to the Anna Maria Island Bridge, the DOT also wants to replace the Cortez bascule bridge with a 65-foot-clearance fixed-span. That effort has drawn strong opposition from people who believe a large bridge would destroy the character of the historic fishing village.

The DOT maintains that building new bridges is more economically sound than continued repairs, which would increase in scope but prove less effective because of continued deterioration.

The agency has pegged the cost of the Anna Maria Island Bridge at $76 million and the Cortez Bridge at $72 million. Both cost estimates account for inflation and rising costs, Rick said.

The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration estimated in a report three years ago that construction for the Anna Maria Island Bridge would cost $87 million.

It’s been a long, choppy effort to get both bridges replaced.

The Manatee Avenue/State Road 64 span, linking Holmes Beach and Perico Island, is further along because design work, which began in late 2015, is about 60 percent complete, Rick said.

About $6.4 million for design of the new bridge linking Cortez and Bradenton Beach has been allocated and an engineering firm has been chosen, but that work has not started because a project development and environment study has yet to be made public.

That study, started in 2013, is expected to be released no sooner than the end of this year, Rick said. It will provide analysis of the environmental, economic, social, cultural and physical effects of the new bridge.

In contrast, the PD&E study for the AMI Bridge was completed in 2010 and approved by the Federal Highway Administration in January 2016.

The study determined that construction of the bridge would have no negative effect on air quality, would not add to long-term noise and would not affect natural resources, such as coastal barriers, aquatic preserves and recreation areas.

The study also said the bridge would not harm the golden leather fern and the brown pelican but named 21 types of birds, fish and mammals that the span “may affect, but is not likely to adversely affect.” Among these were 11 kinds of birds, six types of turtles, two kinds of fish and the West Indian manatee and Eastern indigo snake.

In addition, the DOT says the bridge would disturb 1.2 acres of mangroves and 2 acres of seagrass. That disturbance would be mitigated, the DOT says, though the agency has not determined how.

“FDOT will coordinate with the appropriate regulator agencies during the permitting process to identify the viable mitigation alternatives,” Rick wrote in his email to The Islander.

The permitting process has not begun, he said.

Preliminary plans call for the bridge to be 69 feet wide, with each direction having a 12-foot travel lane, an 11-foot shoulder for emergency vehicles to pass and 10 feet of sidewalk.

Total length would be about 3,150 feet, about the same as the current 3,123-foot span.

The bridge would be built about 14 feet parallel and to the south of the existing bridge, which would be demolished once the new span opened.

But, for now, that’s all a ways off. The Federal Highway Administration estimated three years ago that completion would occur sometime before 2035.

That means little Andrew Carmona, who barely reaches above his grandfather’s waist now and can’t yet toss a crab trap, may be one of the first to drive his car across. Maybe he’ll be taking his grandfather for a ride while they reminisce about the great times they spent there back in the good old days.

Bridge openings

The DOT allows drawbridge openings for the Anna Maria Island Bridge 6 a.m.-7p.m. at 15 minutes and 45 minutes after the hour.

The same schedule applies to the Cortez Bridge. Both open on signal 7 p.m.-6 a.m. The Longboat Pass Bridge opens on demand.

In many instances, the DOT said, between two and seven watercraft pass through the AMI Bridge during each opening.

According to the agency, the AMI Bridge had 2,686 openings in 2017, which averaged about 224 a month.

Prolonged red tide in 2018-19 deceased the number of openings, thus the DOT does not consider it a typical year.

So far this year, the DOT said, openings are on pace with 2017.

Anna Maria City Pier decking on tap, handrail dispute continues

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Workers place decking Aug. 13 on the facia of the concrete platform at the T-end of the Anna Maria City Pier. Islander Photo: Courtesy Dean Jones/Anna Maria Public Works
Workers stage Aug. 14 for construction on the Anna Maria City Pier. Islander Photos: Kathy Prucnell
Boaters fish and sightsee Aug. 14 near the T-end of the Anna Maria City Pier. The end of the pier is expected to become a construction site for a restaurant and bait shop the first week in September.
Sept. 11, 2017, a day after Hurricane Irma damaged the AMCP roof. Islander File Photo: Jack Elka
July 2018: Demolition at the AMCP was underway in earnest. Islander File Photo

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho.

Work on a planned restaurant and bait shop will begin the first week in September and still to be finished is the T-end and walkway planking, as well as electrical conduit work.

That’s the word Aug. 16 from Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy about the Anna Maria City Pier.

He hopes the pier will open to the public in 60-90 days — before the amenities are complete.

At an Aug. 20 meeting, after press time for The Islander, Manatee County commissioners were expected to appropriate an additional $435,000 in tourist development dollars to a $1.5 million contribution to the pier project.

Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau director Elliott Falcione and Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore expected no problems with the approval.

“I’m sure the board will approve it. And if they need more, we could probably do it. We need to get it done,” Whitmore told The Islander Aug. 16.

Anna Maria has budgeted the total cost of the pier demolition, construction and improvements at $5.9 million with financial assistance from the state and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as well as the county tourist development council.

The new pier replaces the historic pier built in 1911. It underwent numerous remodels before Hurricane Irma in September 2017 brought about extensive damage and it was declared destroyed.

Update on railings

Posts where lighting will be placed on the 800-foot-long pier walkway and the lack of handrails on the pier are issues raised by Gene Aubry, a former Anna Maria commissioner and architect.

“I was going to congratulate the mayor for putting up railings,” Aubry said when he recently saw the posts go up on the pier.

Aubry asked the Anna Maria City Commission in January to consider including railings — for safety, U.S. Americans with Disabilities Act and historical reasons — and was turned down.

The ADA was enacted as a federal law in 1990 to give people with disabilities equal rights in public and private places open to the general public.

“If you’re blind, what kind of construction is that?” Aubry asked.

“I was doing ADA designs before the ADA passed,” Aubry said.

The former commissioner also said he doesn’t recall seeing posts in pictorial depictions of the new pier that were made available to the public but, he added the posts could serve as a way to link the proposed railings.

Aubry also suggested using the engraved planks that were removed from the pier before it was demolished for the new handrails.

Asked if the city commission would reconsider handrails for the pier, the mayor said: “I don’t know, and it is not my place to offer predictions one way or the other on how the commission will weigh in on any given issue.

“In this case, they took a vote many months ago to not have handrails. That still stands as my direction in the construction.”

Aubry filed an ADA complaint over the pier railing July 15 with the U.S. Department of Justice.

In an Aug. 15 email to The Islander, DOJ spokeswoman Kelly Laco said, “DOJ does not comment on investigations.”

No-swim advisory returns to south side of causeway beach

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A sign warns of high bacteria levels Aug. 17 on the south side of the Palma Sola Causeway, where a boy dips a net and a man plays with his dog.
A group of eight riders leave the shore on the north side of Palma Sola Bay Aug. 17 for a surf-riding experience. The guest riders are accompanied by tour guides who walk the horses on leads. Islander Photos: Bonner Joy

Caution: Swimming is not advised in Palma Sola Bay — again.

The Florida Department of Health advised Aug. 15 that people should stay out of Palma Sola Bay on the south side of the Palma Sola Causeway where the bay is divided by traffic, due to high levels of fecal matter.

A posted sign on the causeway alerts swimmers to an “increased risk of illness” and refers inquiries to a state website.

The causeway beach is about 1,000 feet west of 81st Street on Manatee Avenue West.

The trigger for the advisory, according to Tom Larkin, director of Manatee County Environmental Health, was an Aug. 13 test of 96 colony-forming units of enterococci bacteria in 100 milliliters of water in a sample after a test the day before registered 767 colony-forming units.

The health department’s threshold for safe swimming is 70 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters of sample based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency epidemiological studies.

Contact with the water may cause gastrointestinal issues, including vomiting and diarrhea, and increase the risk for infectious diseases.

Asked why the bay twice exceeded the EPA standard in as many months, Larkin wrote in an Aug. 16 email: “We don’t have any thoughts on the cause for the recent test results.”

He said the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will investigate wastewater treatment facilities within a mile “to determine if a facility experienced an incident that may have contributed to the contamination.”

Human and animal intestinal bacteria can spill into the bay through sewer-line breaks, leaching septic systems, lift station failures and stormwater runoff.

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore voiced her concerns for the health of Palma Sola Bay at a July 30 Council of Governments meeting and in an Aug. 16 interview with The Islander.

Whitmore pointed to septic systems in Northwest Bradenton and horses — tourist attractions that provide “surf-riding” on horseback in the bay that are apparently authorized by the city of Bradenton and state of Florida — that could be associated with what she sees as a longstanding problem with the bay having a limited tidal flow.

The south side of Palma Sola Bay is one of seven beach locations in Manatee County tested weekly for the bacteria. The others are Bayfront Park in Anna Maria, Coquina north and south beaches and Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach and Whitney Beach in Longboat Key.

As of the last week in July, the department began testing for enterococci once a week as new funding from the state became available, Larkin said. The testing previously was biweekly.

“Our sampling results this week indicate the other Manatee beach sites meet the guidelines for swimming,” he wrote.

In July, the DOH issued the no-swim advisory for the bay site after testing showed 24,196 and 422 colony-forming units of enterococci in 100 milliliters of water. The advisory was lifted after retesting indicated the presence of 30 colony-forming units of enterococci.

No line break, lift station or other utility-related incident is to blame for the recent surge in bacteria in Palma Sola Bay, according to Manatee County Utilities Department spokeswoman Amy Pilson.

The last reported sewage spills in the bay occurred between December 2017 and February 2018 when contractors ruptured sewer lines and more than 6 million gallons of raw sewage spewed through the adjacent land and tributaries, according to county and state records.

The advisory will be in effect until the DOH testing shows the federal guidelines are met.

Larkin said the department will be testing next during the week of Aug. 19.

For more information, the advisory lists the website, www.doh.state.fl.us, and says to select “Beach Water Quality” from the A-Z topics list.

County staff recommends user fees at boat ramps

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A boater puts in at the Kingfish Boat Ramp, which is maintained by Manatee County and located in Holmes Beach, west of the Anna Maria Island Bridge on the north side of Manatee Avenue.
The Palma Sola Boat Ramp, maintained by Manatee County and located on the south side of the Palma Sola Causeway, is closed for repairs. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Manatee County staff think boaters will pay a little to play, or work.

But Manatee County commissioners are divided over whether to ask boaters for user fees at the nine county-maintained boat ramps.

The idea of instituting paid-parking at the boat ramps was floated during a commission workshop in January.

At a commission workshop Aug. 15 at the administration building in Bradenton, county staff recommended going with paid parking at the boat ramps, possibly $5 a day.

Other counties collect such fees: 75 cents per hour in Charlotte, $6 a day in Pinellas and $5 a day in Pasco and Hillsborough. Hillsborough County collected more than $250,000 in fiscal 2017 from user fees at its ramps.

Manatee County staff estimated a gross revenue of $146,500 per year from paid-parking at its ramps. The county could generate about $500 a year per space based on a $5 daily rate. And there are 273 trailer spaces in the county.

Staff estimated the installation cost of the parking equipment at $65,000 — 10 solar-powered electronic machines at nine ramps. With the monthly data plan for each machine at $45, county staff calculated a return on investment at six months.

Ramp revenue would go toward the installation of navigation aids, construction of artificial reefs, maintenance and upgrades at the ramps and possibly new ramps.

But commissioners were divided on the recommendation, some in favor, some opposed.

“I have no problem with the parking,” said Commissioner Priscilla Whisenant Trace, endorsing the user fee and taking the opportunity to stress the need for more facilities, especially north of the Manatee River.

Commissioner Betsy Benac said, “User fees, to me, makes sense as we continue to grow.”

And Commission Chair Stephen Jonsson, who represents west Manatee and the islands, said, “I’m a big user-fee person — $5 a day, that’s barely 2 gallons of gas.”

But, said Commissioner Carol Whitmore, “When you look at the amount of money you get, that’s nothing compared to what our budget is.”

“I just don’t support charging to park our boats,” she said during the work meeting, where no vote took place.

Charlie Hunsicker, director of the parks and natural resources department, recommended the user fee, but also acknowledged, “Paid parking is not a silver bullet.”

He and his staff reviewed the expense of building, upgrading and maintaining the ramps, as well as artificial reefs and navigational aids using a pot of county, regional, state and federal money.

 

Ramp repairs and rebuilds

Three county ramps are on Anna Maria Island — Kingfish on Manatee Avenue in Holmes Beach and Coquina North and Coquina South in Bradenton Beach.

A fourth ramp is nearby, on the south side of the Palma Sola Causeway.

During the workshop, commissioners and staff reviewed planned improvements at three of those ramps — Palma Sola, Kingfish and Coquina South. The Coquina North ramp was improved in 2018.

The county plans interim repairs at the Kingfish ramp in 2020, as a structural engineering inspection in April determined the seawall is near the end of its lifespan. Additionally, the wooden docks need replacing and the cable system at the launch is showing signs of settling.

“Kingfish is the busiest boat ramp in the county,” said Alan Lai Hipp, environmental program manager for marine resources, part of the natural resources department. “But it is aged.”

For 2023, the county plans a renovation of Kingfish, with design and permitting planned in fiscal year 2020-21 and construction in fiscal 2021-22 using funds under the RESTORE Act, which put the civil penalties paid for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill into a trust fund to restore and protect the Gulf coast’s natural resources, fisheries, beaches and economy of the Gulf Coast region.

“We jumpstarted Kingfish in our schedule,” said Hunsicker.

The department also shifted funding priorities to use the RESTORE money.

Work at the Coquina South Ramp includes a renovation in 2028 and, in 2021, interim repairs, including a dock replacement.

“It’s a very popular ramp,” Lai Hipp said.

The Palma Sola Ramp improvements, delayed for months after the facility’s closure in January, will take place in 2020, with a full renovation planned in 2022.

The county assumed maintenance responsibility for the ramp in January, taking over for the city of Bradenton, and closed the facility for repairs.

The 2020 work will involve lowering the docks, grading and smoothing the parking lot, landscaping and dredging.

Referring to a recent discussion about relocating the ramp, Lai Hipp said that is not the plan due to the impact such a project would have on seagrass in the bay.

So the renovation, he said, will be in the footprint of the existing ramp.

Treehouse case dismissed in federal court

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A treehouse built by Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen remains Aug. 14 on the beachfront in an Australian pine at their 103 29th St. property in Holmes Beach, despite six years of litigation aimed at having it removed. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

Three strikes at a treehouse complaint and the case was thrown out of federal court.

U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Aug. 6 dismissed treehouse owners’ Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen case against the city of Holmes Beach and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection after three tries. Moody called the owners’ attempts “impermissibly unclear.”

The owners, who filed the case in March without an attorney, fired back Aug. 8 with a motion asking the judge to reconsider the ruling.

The motion said a court rule gave Tran and Hazen until Aug. 11 to respond to a DEP dismissal motion, calling the judge’s oversight “clearly an ‘extraordinary circumstance.’”

In an Aug. 14 email to The Islander, Tran added, “I don’t know what to expect, but pray that we have given the court good reasons to consider.”

The judge dismissed the treehouse owners’ case with prejudice — meaning the owners are precluded from re-filing the same claim — agreeing with city and DEP motions that the complaint made it difficult to understand “what facts relate to what legal claims.”

In his order, Moody found Tran and Hazen had “numerous opportunities to raise their claims in prior litigation” in state courts and the U.S. Supreme Court and “absent any new factual developments” there was no legal basis to revive the litigation.

Asked about the owners’ motion to reconsider, attorney Jay Daigneault of Trask Daigneault — the Clearwater law firm assigned the treehouse cases alleging money damage by the city’s insurer — was unconcerned.

“The treehouse cases are being defended aggressively, as they should be. We’re looking to bring them to a conclusion as quickly as we can,” Daigneault said.

Tran and Hazen reside at 103 29th St., where they operate four short-term rental units and built a beachfront structure — the two-story elevated treehouse — in an Australian pine tree, without city or state permits in 2011.

An anonymous complaint to the city triggered a trail of litigation, including the dismissed federal case. No other litigation is pending in federal court.

Three treehouse cases are pending in circuit court, as of Aug. 19.

In one case, a September hearing is set for city and DEP motions to dismiss a complaint by the owners alleging negligence and violation of rights and seeking injunctive relief and unspecified money damages.

Another case, in which the owners are represented by Sarasota attorney David Levin, of Icard Merrill, challenges a city ordinance requiring a 50-foot setback from the erosion control line. First filed in circuit court in 2013, the owners claim the setback is an unconstitutional taking.

The city contends the issue was decided already and cannot be relitigated.

Another pending case involves the city’s petition to enforce a special magistrate order requiring the treehouse be removed and assessing a $50 per day fine since July 2015 — now at more than $74,200.

Earlier this year, Circuit Court Judge Edward Nicholas ruled he would hear the state constitutional challenge prior to the city-initiated case.

The city and DEP’s motions to dismiss the owners’ pro-se complaint are set for hearing at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 10, in the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Bradenton Beach dock brings back boaters, business

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Paradise Boat Tours passengers board a vessel for an Aug. 18 tour to see dolphins, manatees, stingrays and more in the Intracoastal Waterway. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

A steady stream of people are using the newly opened floating dock at the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach.

John Horne, owner of Anna Maria Oyster Bar and a former community redevelopment agency member, said in an Aug. 14 interview with The Islander that the dock has brought his restaurant a wave of business since it opened.

Bradenton Beach officials opened the dock for public use Aug. 2, after two-and-a-half years of turbulence due to Technomarine Construction, the company originally contracted to build and install the dock.

The dock replaced a dock damaged by storms — and crashing boats that broke anchor — and was removed in 2017 for public safety.

“It’s getting great usage already,” Horne said. “We’re seeing lots and lots of boats there every day, and it’s great to see people back on Bridge Street — coming by water.

“We’ve had a lot of our guests come by boats, and you can’t wipe the smile off the face of people arriving by boat, let me tell you.”

Horne added that one group of people from Sarasota came in 11 boats in a trip to Bradenton Beach and his restaurant.

The city also plans to install finger docks at the pier and a boat lift to hold the marine patrol boat for the exclusive use of the Bradenton Beach Police Department.

CRA Chair Ralph Cole, a city commissioner, said the city awaits permitting for the projects.

In the meantime, docking comes on a first-come, first-serve basis for private and commercial vessels. Commercial vessels can dock for 10 minutes to load and offload passengers, as no business can be conducted at the dock. Private vessels can dock without a time restriction during the day.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale said in an Aug. 14 interview with The Islander that the dock is intended to bring people to Bridge Street during business hours, so overnight docking is not permitted. The dock should be clear 3-9 a.m., but Speciale said the police department doesn’t follow a strict timeframe for its closure.

He added there is no size limit for docking vessels other than what is dictated by the channel that leads from the Intracoastal Waterway to the dock.

Capt. Sherman Baldwin, owner of Paradise Boat Tours, operating from a storefront at the foot of the pier, told The Islander Aug. 14 that his tour business, along with Bradenton Beach Parasailing and several charter fishers, is using the dock for loading and offloading passengers.

Baldwin also used the previous dock and relied on the city-owned dinghy dock at the foot of the pier in its absence.

Baldwin, who serves as vice president of the Bridge Street Merchants, also has planned for years to launch a 149-passenger water taxi between Bradenton Beach, Sarasota and Bradenton. Installation of the dock was the last obstacle in the way of the water taxi, but he said the venture was tabled after more than two years of waiting.

Baldwin Aug. 14 declined to comment on future plans for a water taxi.

Capt. Mark Hubbard, the owner of Madeira Beach-based Tampa Bay Ferry & Taxi, said he is interested in partnering with Baldwin on linking routes if he can get a water taxi location approved in Anna Maria or Holmes Beach.

Hubbard has pursued the launch of a service in the two cities since 2015, but said both city commissions rejected permits for the business.

He said he remains interested in launching a service in either city, but would only apply again if officials would reconsider their decisions.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy, however, said he is not interested in a water taxi service because it would bring more tourists.

Eyes on the road

The Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County posted the following for the week of Aug. 19:

  • Longboat Pass Bridge through September: Major repairs on the Longboat Pass Bridge on Gulf Drive between Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key take place through the summer. Overnight work requires decreasing lane sizes, flagging operations and occasional lane closures. Also, the DOT cautioned boaters to watch for equipment in the water.

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.

Anna Maria mayor updates county tourism officials on pier

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Bicycling, Brendan Sweetman and son Rangi Sweetman, 14, of Nashville, Tennessee, wait for relatives at the Anna Maria City Pier, which remained closed to the public Aug. 7. Islander Photos: Kathy Prucnell

August and September hold promise for progress on the Anna Maria City Pier.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy updated county tourism officials Aug. 1 on the status of the pier construction, as well as the planned construction of a restaurant and bait shop at the T-end.

Contributions from Manatee County, totaling $1.935 million after an expected $435,000 addition in August, will be “100 percent from tourist development tax,” said Bradenton Area Convention and Visitor Bureau director Elliott Falcione.

The project — from the commission’s decision to replace and not repair the pier to letting contracts for the walkway and understructure as well as the restaurant and bait shop — has been ongoing for two years, since Hurricane Irma damaged the pier and its amenities in September 2017.

Falcione said the county reimburses Anna Maria after the city facilitates and pays contractors, and he expects county commissioners will vote for the increase in funding Aug. 20 because “he meets one-on-one with them” prior to his budget recommendations.

In an email to Monica Luff, assistant to Falcione, Murphy reported the status of the pier.

  • Piles, supports and stringers for the walkway are covered with plywood, awaiting the permanent hardwood ipe decking, so workers can access the end of the pier.
  • A concrete platform at the T-end is complete.
  • Conduits for utilities are partially in place.

Looking forward, Murphy anticipated:

  • Electrical lines were to be installed the week of Aug. 5 for light posts on the walkway.
  • Throughout August, weather permitting, a small boat landing will be framed. Pier planks and T-end fascia also will be installed in August.

According to the mayor, there is an open issue about a fire suppression line.

“We will follow the code. But, as far as its location, material and size, the engineers are wrestling with that,” Murphy told The Islander Aug. 8, adding there should be a resolution in the next couple of months.

In July, Anna Maria commissioners approved a $967,000 contract with Mason Martin of Holmes Beach to construct the restaurant and bait shop. The contract has a Feb. 10, 2020, completion date.

Still undecided is who will be responsible for some of the improvements.

Mario Schoenfelder holds the lease for the restaurant until December 2020, and rent payments have been abated since Hurricane Irma caused much of the pier damage in September 2017.

In November 2018, the city engaged i+conSOUTHEAST with a $3.3 million contract for pier understructure and walkway improvements. The contract completion date, adjusted by change orders, is now Sept. 16, according to Murphy.

The total cost of the pier — demolition, construction and improvements — is budgeted at $5.9 million.

In addition to the county tourist development dollars, the city expects reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state.

The new pier replaces the historic pier built in 1911, which underwent numerous remodels before it was declared destroyed in 2017.

Students, parents, PTO begin ‘exceptional’ school year

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AME kindergarten teacher Kelly Crawford welcomes student Jack Palmer and his mother, Lauren, Aug. 12 on the first day of school. With her left hand in a cast, says Crawford, “I’m going to show my brand new students who sometimes tell me how they can’t write or read, that we are in this together and, for once, this lefty will be right.” Islander Photo: Nenita Gollamudi
AME fifth-grader Kaiyla Mitchell, left, with mother Chawntel Mackey and fourth-grade daughter Tah Alieya hug at the Holmes Beach school. Islander Photo: Nenita Gollamudi
AME art teacher Gary Wooten leads a group of bus-riding students from the bus to the reception area on the first day of the 2019-20 school year. Classes began Aug. 12. Islander Photo: Brook Morrison
Anna Maria Elementary welcomes students Aug. 12 for the 2019-20 school year. Islander Photo: Brook Morrison
AME third-grade students Colin Bankert and John Monetti walk towards the school entrance ahead of Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer, Aug. 12 on the first day of school. Islander Photo: Brook Morrison
Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer opens the door and welcomes students and parents on the first day of school. Islander Photo: Brook Morrison
Anna Maria Elementary’s staff in the front office serve parents, new and returning students and staff, especially with questions about the new year, at the start of the first day of school, Aug. 12. Islander Photo: Brook Morrison
AME students line up to check out for breakfast Aug. 12. Islander Photo: Nenita Gollamudi
AME children sit in a line with books before the first class begins on the first day of school. Islander Photo: Nenita Gollamudi
Students reunite Aug. 12 at Anna Maria Elementary, ready to start a new school year. Islander Photo: Brook Morrison
The Anna Maria Elementary school cafeteria bustles Aug. 12 with students, staff and parents on the first day of the 2019-20 school year. Islander Photo: Brook Morrison

By Brook Morrison

Islander Reporter

There is no question the A-grade “little school by the bay” is a tight community.

Anna Maria Elementary principal Jackie Featherston said Aug. 9 that she is “looking forward to seeing all of our students motivated to learn and grow in a positive learning environment, creating waves of great island memories.”

AME fifth-grader Heidi Querrard said she was happy to go back to school for her last year as she greeted third-grade students and parents in her mother Bridget’s classroom Aug. 8 during back-to-school night.

Bridget Querrard taught kindergarten for eight years at AME before being moved to the third-grade this year due to low kindergarten enrollment.

Querrard’s experience teaching fourth-grade for 10 years, as well as receiving National Board Certification in literacy, reading and language arts for early and middle childhood, prepared her for a “great third-grade year,” she said.

Several of Querrard’s former kindergarten students will be in her third-grade class.

Ceegan Cusack is one such boy. He said he is “very lucky to have” Querrard as his teacher again.

All 2018-2019 staff and teachers returned to AME for 2019-20, according to Featherston.

The 2019-20 school year will be filled with new memories and a focus on academic achievement.

New in 2020, there will be a time capsule with artifacts and drawings buried on the school grounds, similar to the capsule buried in 1994 and opened in May.

AME students will benefit from the “small classroom sizes, high standards and caring community feel,” said parent Meghann Bankert who has first- and third-grade students enrolled at AME.

Life is good when you’re an AME student.

And also when you are an AME parent, teacher or principal.

Sex offender registers Holmes Beach address

A 33-year-old male sex offender has registered a Holmes Beach address.

The man reported a temporary residence in the 100 block of 66th Street, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement Aug. 8 report.

He was convicted in March 2007 of endangering a child in Mercer County, New Jersey.

The FDLE registry shows other sex offenders in the area as of Aug. 8:

  • A 57-year-old male offender in the 4200 block of the 129th Street West in Cortez.
  • A 54-year-old male offender in the 100 block of Crescent Drive in Anna Maria.
  • A 61-year-old male offender in the 100 block of Ninth Street North in Bradenton Beach.

Sex offenders must register permanent and temporary addresses with the sheriff in the county where he or she resides as well as transient locations unless otherwise ordered by a court.