Tag Archives: Community

Anna Maria pier work continues, celebration uncertain

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Workers with All Glass Windows haul framing materials March 18 to the T-end of the new Anna Maria City Pier. The ongoing work drew spectators, which attracted the attention of a Manatee County sheriff’s deputy, who ordered bystanders to keep a distance. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Construction on the new Anna Maria City Pier proceeded the week of March 16 amid COVID-19 concerns.

“Coronavirus has not affected our construction progress as of yet,” Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy wrote The Islander March 20.

The original pier opened in 1911, but was closed in September 2017 after it was damaged by Hurricane Irma.

The old pier was demolished and the city began construction on a new pier in 2018.

Murphy wrote that the bathroom buildout continued and the fire-suppression system neared completion.

Onshore utilities were being connected the week of March 16 and, possibly, into the week of March 23.

Power cables were set to be pulled to the end of the pier and meters would be installed later in March.

“When the construction is complete we will open it up for fishing and sightseeing,” Murphy wrote. “We probably won’t have a big party with lots of people due to coronavirus, but that is still under evaluation. None of us seem to know how the virus will progress over the next few weeks. So we are cautious to confirm a celebration date.”

— ChrisAnn Allen


Eyes on the road 03-25-2020

The Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County posted the following notices:

  • Multiple locations in Bradenton Beach: A Manatee County pipeline replacement project continues in Bradenton Beach, possibly into late summer. Impacted areas include Bay Drive South, Bridge Street, Church Avenue and Cortez Road. Construction in rights of way is expected, as well as increased truck traffic and heavy equipment operations. People — motorists and pedestrians — can expect detours.
  • Cortez Road and 119th Street West in Cortez: Work to realign the intersection of 119th Street West on Cortez Road/State Road 684 continues. Ajax Paving Industries of Florida is the contractor on the project, estimated to cost $5 million and continue until fall 2020. The work involves resurfacing the roadway, improving drainage, constructing a sidewalk and installing new highway lighting. Drivers can expect lane closures on Cortez Road from 123rd Street West to 86th Street West 10 p.m.-6 a.m. and on the southside of 119th Street West during the same period. Pedestrians can expect sidewalk closures. Also, detours on 119th Street West will begin after Easter.

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


Did you know?

To view live traffic conditions, including traffic on the Anna Maria Island and Cortez drawbridges, go online to smarttrafficinfo.org and click on a camera icon.

Travel times and incident reports also are posted on the site.

— Lisa Neff

Due to COVID-19, AME remains closed

Anna Maria Elementary staff and students will not return to school until April 15 — at the earliest — due to the continued spread of COVID-19.

As spring break ended March 20, parents and school employees were preparing to teach students remotely using a learning management system, “Schoology,” according to a statement from the Manatee County School District.

“Schoology” allows teachers to create lessons and communicate with students.

The service provides “virtual learning for kindergarten through 12th-grade, allowing users to create, manage and share academic content,” according to schoology.com.

Lessons will be delivered via email or to homes by Monday, March 30, according to the statement.

Families who need access to computers and technology will be provided with learning tools to get lessons.

“Next week, our teachers and schools will be working hard so they can be prepared to begin delivering lessons,” a March 17  district notice read.

“I’m stressed just thinking about how to work from home, cook for my second-grader and managing online school,” parent Sierra Hall wrote March 19 in an email to The Islander.

Private schools in the area also are closed.

Anna Maria resident Ashley Matelau has a son in middle school and a daughter in high school at Bradenton Christian School.

Matelau told The Islander, “The kids are doing online school while I continue to go to work and so far it’s been OK.”

“The thought of spreading coronavirus to someone with a compromised immune system or an elderly person is too much of a risk, so we will stay home for as long as it takes,” she added.

For Danielle Canup, AME parent of two, a job in health care does not give her the opportunity to work from home.

“At first I thought it was a huge inconvenience because I don’t have the option to work from home but I’m optimistic it will work out,” she wrote in a text message to The Islander March 20.

State session ends, home rule retained

Following a short extension, the legislative session in Tallahassee has ended.

And Anna Maria Island officials can rest assured that home rule is safe for another year.

The session was extended to compile the budget, including new Florida Health Department funding for COVID-19 testing and supplies.

Bills that would have preempted regulation of vacation rentals to the state, died in committees before making it to final votes.

Holmes Beach lobbyist Martha Edenfield wrote city commissioners March 16 that of 1,699 bills filed, only 188 bills passed both chambers.

“Legislation on sovereign immunity, the preemption of local licenses, the preemption of vacation rentals, legislation amending the Bert Harris Act and the reduction of the communications services tax all failed passage,” Edenfield wrote.

Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach have developed regulations for trash, noise, parking and occupancy issues at vacation rentals that would have been eliminated if the bills had been passed.

Holmes Beach Commissioner Terry Schaefer, who followed bills of concern during the session, said March 18 that he was pleased with the outcome and grateful to island residents for writing and speaking with their state representatives.

“I think we all feel, as we have in the past two or three years, that we dodged a bullet, but I think it’s largely attributable to all the pressure put on state legislators hearing from communities, the public and their beliefs on cities governing themselves on issues,” he said. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation, nor should it ever be.”

Manatee public beaches to close March 20

County and municipal officials announced March 19 that the beaches of Anna Maria Island will close Friday, March 20, at 6 a.m.

Beach closure signs and barricades will alert drivers to the closure.

“Each day as our local situation has changed and new advisories have been sent, Manatee County residents have heeded warnings and taken official advice seriously,” county administrator Cheri Coryea said in a news release issued shortly after 3 p.m. “We’re hoping for more of the same with our beach announcement.”

Manatee County lifeguards will remain on duty at Coquina and Manatee public beaches 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily to ensure the safety of those who disregard the closure, the release stated.

A double red flag — indicating no swimming — will fly from lifeguard stands.

Coryea said the decision to close beaches was made with input from the island mayors and after speaking with Sarasota County officials to coordinate a response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“This is not a step we take lightly to close our beaches, but together with the advice of the public health officials we believe it is a step that’s in the public’s best interest,” Coryea said.

“Our primary concern is the health and safety of our residents and visitors and the people they return home to.”

She said leaders in Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach, Anna Maria and Longboat Key “brainstormed” the decision and will “manage the impacts in their community.”

County code enforcement officers will assist the island communities in enforcing the beach closure.

More details were to be announced at a news conference at 2 p.m. March 20 at the county administration building, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Manatee County public safety director Jacob Saur made the March 19 announcement with Sarasota County officials at a 3 p.m. news conference at the Sarasota County Emergency Operations Center.

Sarasota public beaches will close Saturday, March 21 at 6 a.m.

Also announced March 19, the county-owned Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe and Coquina Beach Cafe will be closed during beach closures.

AMI voters cast ballots on presidential preferences

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People line up March 17 in the polling place in the activity center at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Holmes Beach. They were Holmes Beach voters casting ballots in Florida’s Presidential Preference Primaries. At island polling locations, sanitizers were provided for door handles and ballot stations as a COVID-19 precaution. And some voters appeared to maintain “social distancing.” Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

​Anna Maria Island voters went to the polls March 17, casting ballots in the Florida Presidential Preference Primaries.

​The in-person voting took place amid concerns for the spread of COVID-19, the new coronavirus. Illinois and Arizona also held primaries, but Ohio postponed its election.

On the Democratic ballot

​In Florida, the Democratic primary ballot contained 18 candidates, but the list was much narrower by primary day to a contest between former Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders.

​In Anna Maria’s precinct 301, 68.21% of the vote was for Biden and 18.50% for Sanders.

​In Bradenton Beach’s precinct 307, 51.89% of the vote was for Biden and 25.47% for Sanders.

​In Holmes Beach’s precinct 303, 67.27% of the vote was for Biden and 15.76% for Sanders.

​In Holmes Beach’s precinct 305, 71.74% of the vote was for Biden and 11.41% for Sanders.

On the GOP Ballot

​The Republican primary ballot contained four candidates.
​In Anna Maria’s precinct 301, 90.79% of the vote was for President Donald J. Trump and the next highest candidate was Bill Weld with 4.61%.

​In Bradenton Beach precinct 307, 95.1% of the vote was for Trump and 3.88% for Weld.
​For Holmes Beach voters in precinct 303, 91.87% of the vote was for Trump and 5.74% for Weld.

​In Holmes Beach’s precinct 305, 95.43% of the vote was for Trump and 2.54 for Weld.


​In Anna Maria, 159 people voted by mail, eight voted at an early polling location and 169 cast ballots in the precinct. Turnout was 41.3%.

​In Holmes Beach’s precinct 303, 241 people voted by mail, 16 voted at an early polling location and 139 cast ballots in the precinct. Turnout was 40.7%.

​In Holmes Beach’s precinct 305, 254 people voted by mail, 14x voted at an early polling location and 137 cast ballots in the precinct. Turnout was 38.8%.

​In Bradenton Beach, 122 people voted by mail, 11 at an early polling location and 84 cast ballots in the precinct. Turnout was 40.3%.

​These are early results for Anna Maria Island precincts, including mail-in and vote-by-mail ballots.

​Manatee County turnout, with 69 of 70 precincts counted, was 33.76%.

​For statewide results in the presidential primaries, go online to floridaelectionwatch.gov after 8 p.m.

​For Manatee County results, go to votemanatee.com.
​For additional coverage, read the March 25 issue of The Islander.

COVID-19 closings and cancellations on Anna Maria Island

The following is a list of closings and cancellations on the island or nearby:


  • CrossPointe Fellowship services and programs. CANCELED
  • Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island golf tournament. CANCELED
  • Gloria Dei Lutheran Church services, programming, activities. CANCELED
  • Kiwanis Club of Anna Maria Island meetings. CANCELED
  • Kiwanis Club of Anna Maria Island Easter Sunrise Service, April 12. CANCELED
  • Sarasota/Manatee MPO meeting, March 23. CANCELED
  • Senior Adventures activities. CANCELED
  • Anna Maria Tuesday Farmers’ Markets. CANCELED
  • Keep Manatee Beautiful Earth Day celebration. CANCELED
  • Keep Manatee Beautiful Great American Cleanup. CANCELED
  • School District of Manatee County classes, including AME. CANCELED
  • Major League Baseball spring training. CANCELED
  • Longboat Key Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours, March 24. CANCELED
  • St. Bernard Catholic Church events, programs. CANCELED
  • Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce business card exchange, March 26. CANCELED
  • West Manatee Fire Rescue meeting, March 24. CANCELED
  • Center of Anna Maria Island tour of homes, March 21. CANCELED
  • Friends of the Island Library book sale, March 20-21. CANCELED
  • Island Players “Leading Ladies.” CANCELED


  • DeSoto Bottle Boat Regatta, April 11. POSTPONED
  • Center of Anna Maria Island the Grass Roots concert, March 19. POSTPONED
  • Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce Beach’N Food Truck and Music Festival, April 11. POSTPONED
  • Anna Maria Island Privateers One Night in Tortuga, March 21. POSTPONED
  • St. Patrick’s Day Parade, March 15. POSTPONED
  • Anna Maria Island Privateers Thieves Market, March 14. POSTPONED


  • Bealls. CLOSED
  • Island Gallery West. CLOSED
  • Anna Maria City Hall lobby. CLOSED
  • Anna Maria Island Historical Society. CLOSED
  • Bradenton City Hall, public works, fire department buildings. CLOSED
  • Bars and nightclubs (not restaurants that serve alcohol). CLOSED
  • Manatee County library buildings. CLOSED
  • Manatee County government buildings. CLOSED
  • Anna Maria Island Moose Lodge. CLOSED
  • John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. CLOSED
  • Mote Marine Aquarium. CLOSED
  • Florida Maritime Museum. CLOSED
  • Annie Silver Community Center. CLOSED
  • Bishop Museum of Science and Nature. CLOSED
  • Roser Memorial Community Church building. CLOSED
  • Roser Church’s Thrift Store. CLOSED
  • French Table restaurant. CLOSED
  • Tide and Moon Jewelry on the Historic Bridge Street Pier. CLOSED
  • Salon Salon of AMI. CLOSED
  • Restaurant dining areas. CLOSED
  • Bridge Street Bistro. CLOSED
  • Waterfront Restaurant. CLOSED
  • Old Hamburg Schnitzelhaus. CLOSED
  • Blue Marlin AMI. CLOSED
  • Cremesh European Restaurant. CLOSED


  • Manatee County public beaches. CLOSED until further notice.
  • Center of Anna Maria Island fitness classes, group fitness classes, sports and all wellness programs/activities. SUSPENDED
  • Episcopal Church of the Annunciation operations. SUSPENDED

Editor’s note: Updated at 8 a.m. March 21.

       Listings will be added. So please check back.

       Also, please send notices of cancellations or closings to calendar@islander.org.

State, cities take measures against COVID-19

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Holmes Beach resident Terry Dunsford uses a sanitizer March 13 provided by Holmes Beach at the entrance to city hall to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Islander Photo: Courtesy Holmes Beach
The notice from Beach Bistro owner Sean Murphy canceling the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

From the NBA to Anna Maria Island, the impact of COVID-19 is being felt almost everywhere.

The state, county and all three cities on Anna Maria Island are taking precautions to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, which had infected 136 Florida residents and resulted in four deaths in the state as of March 16, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Four confirmed cases of the coronavirus had been reported in Manatee County as of March 16.

And, with 514 pending test results in the state on that date, the race to counter the virus was underway.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended nonessential travel March 12 for 30 days for state employees.

He also recommended local municipalities cancel mass gatherings. Some health agencies have described mass gatherings as 1,000 or more but others have said 50 or more people.

DeSantis, who declared a state of emergency for COVID-19 by executive order March 9, said in a news release the state ordered an additional 2,500 test kits for the virus, allowing the health department to test up to 625,000 people.

Manatee County commissioners also were set to consider declaring a state of emergency by executive order March 16, after The Islander’s press deadline.

The county canceled workshops set for March 17 but said other events would be held and buildings would be open. That could have changed with a state of emergency.

Meanwhile, island officials instituted some precautions.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy said March 12 that the city installed hand-sanitizer stations at entrances to city hall, as well as at the public works department and the base of the Anna Maria City Pier.

He informed the commission at a March 12 meeting of a possible need to cancel public events, including a Memorial Day parade and celebration at City Pier Park. The mayor said he plans to compile a list of possible event cancellations and recommendations.

The city also announced March 16 that it canceled the farmers’ market scheduled for Tuesdays at City Pier Park. The weekly market was supposed to run through May 12.

In Holmes Beach, Mayor Judy Titsworth told The Islander March 13 that the city placed a hand-sanitizer in the lobby of city hall, along with signs instructing visitors to use it.

Titsworth was meeting with staff March 16.

She observed the Beach Bistro St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Holmes Beach was canceled, heeding the advice against mass gatherings.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said March 13 the police department is taking precautions and officers are not responding to calls from people experiencing flu symptoms.

“In the past, we responded to all medical calls with the ambulance to assist,” the chief said. But he’s halting the HBPD respond to flu calls unless it determines law enforcement is needed. “It’s safest to let the medical professionals handle it.”

In Bradenton Beach, Police Lt. John Cosby said city staff discussed the COVID-19 situation at a March 13 meeting.

He said the city ordered sanitation stations for city hall entrances, the police department and Tingley Memorial Library.

Cosby said disinfectants were placed in city offices and employees were directed to frequently wash their hands.

Additionally, public works employees disinfected door handles at city buildings.

“We’re doing what everybody else is doing,” Diaz said. “We went over the county emergency operations list and what they’re advising their employees, and we’re in the same line they are.”

Cosby said as of March 12 the city had no plans to suspend city activities, including public meetings.

The police department, he said, had no new policy or procedures to prevent the spread of the virus to officers, but the risk is almost unavoidable.

“Obviously, in our line of work it’s hard,” he said. “Contact with people is what we do.”

He added that he expected contact with people to increase because, he said, coronavirus won’t slow spring tourism.

“It’s getting worse,” he said of traffic in the city. “It’s a concern. It’s such a transient population.”

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie did not respond to two calls March 11-12 from The Islander.


Reducing risk

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based sanitizer;
  • Cover nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or elbow;
  • Avoid close contact with people, according to the World Health Organization website at ww.who.int.

For more information on coronavirus in the state, visit the health department’s COVID-19 webpage at www.floridahealth.gov/covid-19.

If you suspect you have COVID-19, call 941-242-6649 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and email covid-19@flhealth.gov.

COVID-19 challenges local, state tourism

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Cedar Cove Resort and Cottages, 2710 Gulf Drive N., Holmes Beach, had no vacancies March 13, as spring breakers continued to arrive on Anna Maria Island. Islander Courtesy Photo: Alan Sneed

It seems if it’s not one thing it’s another.

Tourism on Anna Maria Island bounced back after the red tide siege of 2018 and outperformed previous years of resort tax collections, but now businesses are facing the coronavirus crisis — COVID-19.

Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, has weathered hurricanes, red tides and other disruptions to the flow of business in Manatee County. Now he is negotiating messages dealing with a novel virus with no precedent.

“We are communicating daily with the county emergency management, the state health department and the Centers for Disease Control so we can effectively and accurately communicate to our tourists,” Falcione wrote to The Islander March 12.

“Like all adverse occurrences, we will always be transparent and honest with the marketplace,” he continued.

On March 11, President Donald Trump announced a 30-day travel ban for most European countries. It began March 13 at midnight and applies to all foreign-born people who have been in Europe within the past 14 days.

Trump also announced on March 14 the extension of the travel ban to the United Kingdom and Ireland beginning March 16. The ban does not apply to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents and their families.

Mark Stuckey, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the Sarasota-Manatee International Airport told The Islander in an email the travel ban will only have a “slight impact on SRQ as the majority of international passengers using SRQ are domestic.”


Vacation rentals on AMI

Jen Bowman of Keller Williams on the Water, with offices in Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach, deals in rentals, as well as homes for sale.

Bowman told The Islander March 13 they saw some cancellations on rentals due to coronavirus.

“I think some people are afraid to travel and we have had at least one cancel due to the European travel ban. We are refunding because we feel it’s the right thing to do,” she said.

Bowman said some travel insurance policies apparently do not cover losses for virus cancellations.

“It will only be covered if they took the full insurance and not just medical, which does not cover it,” she said.

Bowman said she’s confident the cancellations would be booked by other vacationers..

“I see people on Facebook still looking for lodging for spring break on Anna Maria Island,” she said. “We are optimistic.”

Meanwhile, Falcione said the BACVB had a third-party organization monitoring short-term rental cancellations and she expected a report in a few weeks.

“We have a steady business coming into our community and we believe that our statewide business will remain strong,” Falcione said.


Business on AMI

On AMI, Sherman Baldwin of the Bradenton Beach Area Merchants sent a news release March XX saying the members are open for business.

“You just need to take a short ride to Bradenton Beach. Add to it our pristine beaches, parasailing, boat tours, boat rentals to putt-putt golf, we have it all,” Baldwin stated.

In an effort to reassure locals and travelers, Publix Super Market chief executive officer Todd Jones issued a statement March 12 concerning actions the stores are taking to safeguard grocery shoppers, including a heightened disinfection program in all stores, keeping supplies on shelves and using alternative shopping methods, such as delivery for those people who need such measures.

On March 13, Publix announced stores would close nightly at 8 p.m. to allow for sanitation and restocking, but toilet paper, bleach, hand-sanitizer and wipes remained scarce on the shelves.

As for tourism promotions, Falcione said the BACVB “will evaluate all other markets outside of Florida weekly so we know whether or not to continue to advertise our destination at this point in time.”

The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce continues to issue updates concerning the coronavirus outbreak. The latest update March 13 announced the activation of a business damage assessment, with a link to the survey for local businesses.

“We continue to reach out to our businesses,” chamber president Terri Kinder said March 16, adding that the Beach ‘N Food Truck Festival was postponed indefinitely and the chamber’s tourism at the Manatee Public Beach was closed to “protect our workers.”


AME spring break extended due to COVID-19

The School District of Manatee County heeded COVID-19 instruction from Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran and March 13 announced schools would be closed until March 30.

The decision extended spring break, which began March 16 to end March 30.

Before the closure, Anna Maria Elementary followed district instruction to ensure students and staff would be as hygienic as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Hand sanitizer was made available at the entrance to the front office, cafeteria and all classrooms.

In an email to the Islander March 10, principal Jackie Featherston said students who felt sick with symptoms, such as fever, cough, shortness of breath or vomiting were sent home.

“The school district is implementing enhanced cleaning and disinfecting measures at all schools and during spring break,” Featherston said.

“This includes disinfecting all restrooms and breakrooms daily, disinfecting all common touch areas, door handles, light switches, faucets, water fountains and in addition, playgrounds and other outdoor touch surfaces.”

When classes resume, students will be given more time to wash hands and school nurse Vicki Dunning will conduct hand-washing classes.

Staff were sent a video about hand washing.

Many AME students and staff changed spring break plans due to the pandemic.

“My daughter Ava and I had to cancel our trip to Las Vegas,” AME administrator Sheila Zinks wrote in an email March 15.

Some district students were spending break at home, including second-grader Rusty Dilley, who spent part of March 15 building a sandcastle on the beach near 52nd Street in Holmes Beach.

“My mom said we are lucky to live near the beach and she’s right,” said Rusty.

Rusty said he hopes to go to the beach every day.