Tag Archives: Feature

County invests in beachgoer safety, lifeguard towers

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New beach towers, new lightning tech A new lifeguard tower stands watch Sept. 18 over beachgoers on the sands of Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach. Manatee County built the tower and 10 others on the island’s public beaches earlier this year and equipped each with a lightning suppressor to improve beach safety. The county also is installing a PA system on the towers so the beach patrol supervisor can announce alerts for beachgoers. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice
A diagram for EMP Defense’s lightning suppressor technology, which Manatee County installed along with 11 new lifeguard towers on Anna Maria Island. Islander Courtesy Photo: EMP Defense

Manatee County has spent several months improving safety for lifeguards and beachgoers at the public beaches on Anna Maria Island.

Beach Patrol Chief Joe Westerman said work began in January with the construction of 11 lifeguard towers on county-run beaches, including Coquina and Cortez beaches in Bradenton Beach and Manatee Public Beach in Holmes Beach.

The former beach towers were worn and noncompliant with Florida wind codes and the county replaced them with new structures expected to last at least 30 years.

The county also installed “lightning suppressors” atop each tower.

Unlike lighting rods, which attract lightning, the weather-resistant gear prevents lightning strikes within a 100-meter radius by deionizing the air around the device.

In other words, the suppressors prevent lightning by balancing the surrounding electromagnetic field and providing a safe outlet for any leakage current to the ground.

“I’m not a scientist, so I can’t really get into the brass tacks, but they’ve been shown to prevent lightning within a small area,” Westerman said. “This stops strikes from even happening…. And we’ve had no  strikes so far.”

Westerman said the county’s lifeguards hadn’t stopped their usual practice of closing the beaches when lightning is reported within 5 miles.

He said the goal of installing the lightning suppressors was to protect lifeguards during inclement weather and allow them to remain in their towers to oversee evacuations.

Westerman said the county also was installing new solar-powered PA systems at the towers that allow a beach patrol supervisor to remotely issue announcements to beachgoers.

The system will be used to issue warnings about rip currents, lost children and lightning strikes and other alerts and information.

“I’m super-excited about the addition of the PA system because, instead of blowing a whistle or waiting for someone to realize they’ve lost their child, we can be a bit more aggressive and notify the public of any issues,” Westerman said. “It’s just an extra layer of protection for people when they come to our beaches.”

He said the PA system should be operational by the week of Oct. 5.

Sea turtles not slowed by Sally, season nearly done

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Cuteness factor: X10 A loggerhead hatchling leaves tiny tracks in the sand Sept. 10 as it reaches the water’s edge. The hatchling was found in its nest by turtle watch volunteers during an excavation and released to the Gulf of Mexico.
Birgit Kremer, AMITW volunteer, looks on Sept. 2 while volunteer Hans Duerr reaches into the nest cavity to collect data from a green sea turtle nest at the nest nursery in Anna Maria. Turtle watch volunteers excavate and document sea turtle nests 72 hours after hatching for federal, state and local agencies. Just the one green turtle nest was laid on Anna Maria Island as of Sept. 17, compared with 348 loggerhead nests. The volunteers found 106 hatched and 16 unhatched eggs. Islander Photos: Courtesy AMITW

Sea turtle season is almost over.

Luckily, Sally did not wash out the finish line as the hurricane moved north in the Gulf of Mexico and sent bands of rain over Anna Maria Island.

Thirty-four of 349 sea turtle nests remained to hatch as of Sept. 16 in a beach “nursery” near White Avenue and Peppertree Lane, near the Anna Maria/Holmes Beach boundary, according to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring executive director Suzi Fox.

Fox said Sept. 16 that nests yet to hatch were safe from high tides and flooding that some areas of the island experienced when Hurricane Sally passed AMI Sept. 12-14.

Nests laid in Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach since season started in late April were relocated to Anna Maria to avoid being buried by the $17 million beach renourishment project. The sand replenishment started near 77th Street in Holmes Beach July 8 and will terminate at Longboat Pass sometime near the end of October, paralleling sea turtle season.

The team of sea turtle volunteers, which covers the beach by ATV looking for signs of nesting activity and escorting renourishment workers to ensure the beach construction does not interfere with nesting and hatching, is down to a small crew since nesting and hatching has slowed.

Fox said the volunteers spotted a false crawl Sept. 14 on the beach near 30th Street in Holmes Beach.

A false crawl happens when a mature female sea turtle crawls ashore to nest, then returns to the water without laying eggs.

“While we haven’t had any nests for a while, there is still sparse nesting going on,” Fox said. “We will still be monitoring until season ends Oct. 31.”

To report sick, injured, entangled or dead sea turtles or shorebirds contact the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922.

For more information on nesting season, contact AMITW executive director Suzi Fox at suzifox@gmail.com or 941-778-5638.

4 HB candidates offer ideas for growth in paradise

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Holmes Beach voters will choose on the Nov. 3 ballot from four names to fill two seats on the city commission.

The candidates are incumbent Commissioners Pat Morton and Kim Rash, former commissioner Rick Hurst and Jayne Christenson.

Judy Titsworth, a former commissioner who was first elected mayor in 2018, was uncontested in the election and will serve another two-year term.

Commissioners also serve two-year terms, starting with a $7,690 annual salary, with $130 added each subsequent year. The race is nonpartisan.

In November 2019, 856 people voted in the municipal election. There are presently 2,784 registered city voters.

The final day to register to vote before the election is Oct. 5.

Holmes Beach voters can cast in-person ballots 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 3, at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, or choose early voting at several mainland locations or vote by mail.

Here’s a look at the candidates:


Jayne Christenson

Jayne Christenson’s parents moved to Holmes Beach in 1989.

“We loved the community and the fact it was a working-class city with an active snowbird component,” she said Sept. 16. “Tourism was a part, but it was not what drove Holmes Beach. It was a small town in paradise with an active, diverse community, supplemented with guests here and there. Despite the rise in tourism, I still see this as a residential community for families, snowbirds and retirees.”

Christenson said she is concerned about the conversion of annual and seasonal rentals to luxury, short-term rentals. “Manatee County’s over-marketing of AMI without county financial support for the infrastructure improvements needed has created a financial burden to our city,” she said.

If elected, Christenson said she would waive the business tax to assist businesses struggling due to the effects of the novel coronavirus.

She also said she does not support the city’s recent decision to charge residents for a parking permit, with decals to park in certain areas.

“The parking problem was not created by residents, the city should not charge for a permit,” she said.

Christenson also pointed to the county’s marketing push as a cause for parking issues on the island.

“We need to more actively engage the county in discussions,” she said. “My experience in corporate America brings effective collaboration to the table.”

When asked about plans to support the city’s ecosystem, Christenson stated she helped city commissioners develop an “adopt-a-reef” concept in partnership with the Center of Anna Maria Island, encouraging waterfront residents to adopt mini reef systems, which clean the water and support marine wildlife.

“The impact to the environment needs to be considered with everything the city does,” Christenson said. “I will continue to advocate for programs that improve local air and water quality. This includes encouraging walking, biking, low-speed electric vehicles and our island trolley.”


Rick Hurst

“Holmes Beach is living in paradise with a community made up of great residents, visitors and businesses,” Rick Hurst said. “I have not been to another place in the world where it’s so easy to meet so many great people.”

When asked by The Islander what he sees as the main threat to island life in Holmes Beach, Hurst replied, “Aside from a direct hit from a Category 3 or above hurricane, it would be the loss of home rule that preempts our ability to regulate vacation rentals. This preemption would include length of stay in residential zones. If we continue making policy intended to restrict or eliminate visitors to our community, we risk being the city that produces the final straw that compels the state government to preempt our ability to control our community.”

Hurst cited a plan to reduce on-street parking, instituted in June with minimal public notice, as an example.

“The commission should roll back the new parking policy and remove the signs that now litter our city, then wait until it is able to get proper input from residents and stakeholders to determine changes,” Hurst said. “What has been done has put a lot of unneeded stress on the majority of residents, businesses and the community who all oppose the plan.”

When asked about the city’s efforts to combat climate change, Hurst said city officials must consider all options.

“There are numerous projects in the pipeline,” Hurst said. “What is concerning is these projects have been underway for a few years and there appears to me even more flooding. We have a lot of eggs in one basket with a single engineering firm managing all of our infrastructure projects.”

He said it has “become critical to start asking questions” and consider other opinions.

“About a month ago, I inquired with the city regarding the increased flooding and was told the cause is stronger storms and higher tides,” Hurst said. “What this means is we are investing tax revenue in projects to mitigate stormwater because global warming may bring stronger storms and sea level rise. However, the current plan is failing. It’s time to ensure we are investing our tax revenue wisely with solutions that provide systemic improvements we know will work.”


Pat Morton

Pat Morton has seen progress in 18 years on the city commission.

“I think Holmes Beach can be both laid-back and fast-paced,” Morton said. “It has gotten more fast-paced than it used to be, lately, and some people have a hard time with that. But I work to try and listen to everyone, work with them and find a common ground.”

He said he is concerned with growth.

“I’ve seen some of the nice old homes get taken down and vacation rentals go up,” he said. “It kind of destroyed some of what we had here. But there is only so much we can do. We do what we must, as a city, to try to preserve balance.”

He credited the city’s face mask mandate, approved by the commission in June, as helping keep coronavirus case numbers lower.

“Some people get it and some people don’t,” Morton said. “But it does work. It’s a serious issue and as a city we have taken it seriously. As a city we must do things to protect our citizens proactively.”

Morton said he is impressed with the stormwater infiltration systems to help with flooding in the city.

“I’ve seen it change drastically,” he said. “When we used to get heavy rains there were times I could kayak (in the streets) through Holmes Beach. That was bad.”

Morton said he worked with the mayor to help implement resident suggestions for the latest round of stormwater improvements, including the addition of sod instead of rock over infiltration areas in yards.

He said he joined the commission in 2003 “with no agenda but to serve the citizens of Holmes Beach.”

“I’ve always strived to do the right thing. That’s never changed and it’s not going to change,” Morton said. “We are here to serve our citizens the best way we can. And that’s what I’ve done.”


Kim Rash

“Holmes Beach is a unique coastal community with a quiet, time-honored character,” Rash said Sept. 15. “Many are drawn here because of the laid-back lifestyle with a combination of residential and resort features. We are a community with neighborhoods, a school and social activities while providing for visitors to enjoy a resort lifestyle.”

But Rash is concerned about the “balance” between the community and visitors.

“The greatest threat is maintaining the balance between residential and resort lifestyles,” he said. “If we follow our charter, comprehensive plan and codes, and proactively communicate clear expectations to visitors, I think we can achieve this balance.”

Regarding the city’s actions during the pandemic and moving forward, Rash said enforcement of the city’s mask mandate and social distancing, as well as all city codes, is necessary.

“Enforcement in general will help to achieve a desirable quality of life,” he said.

When asked about ways to protect the city against the effects of climate change, Rash said emissions reduction is key.

“We are already trying to make it safer and more convenient for people to walk and bike more and drive less. We are creating more bike paths, bike routes, sidewalks and special parking spaces for golf carts,” Rash said, adding that expansion of the county bus service to the island could help.

“I feel the city is already addressing this issue,” Rash said. “But we can do more by trying to work with the county and state to express the needs of Holmes Beach.”


For the record…

Do you have a question you’d like The Islander to ask the candidates? Email the newspaper with details at news@islander.org before Oct. 7.


Jayne Christenson

        Years living in Holmes Beach: 13

        City involvement: Planning commissioner, regularly participates in commission meetings, Anna Maria Elementary and the Center of Anna Maria Island volunteer.

        Top issue in a nutshell: Manatee County yearly population growth and impact to the island.

        Occupation/experience: A working mother and wife with a 24-plus year career in biopharmaceutical management.

        Contact: jayneC4HBcommission@gmail.com, jayne4holmesbeach.com, facebook.com/jaynec4hbcommission/


Rick Hurst

        Years living in Holmes Beach: Seven

        City involvement: Youth sports coach at Center of Anna Maria Island, Holmes Beach commissioner 2017-19, Holmes Beach restaurant owner.

        Top issue in a nutshell: Commissioners must think outside the box to tackle complex issues.

        Occupation/experience: Degree in engineering, developed a software system, focused on a start-up automation company in Michigan, works from home as IT director for a food distributor.

        Contact: electrickhurst@gmail.com, https://www.facebook.com/rickhurstforhb/


Pat Morton

        Years living in Holmes Beach: 23

        City involvement: Holmes Beach commissioner 2003-20.

Top issue in a nutshell: To fully support directives that provide safety and resiliency for residents and businesses.

        Occupation/experience: Holmes Beach commission liaison to WastePro and the Manatee County Emergency Operations Center, as well as the city police pension board.

        Contact: cpsalt@aol.com or 941-920-4061.


Kim Rash

        Years living in Holmes Beach: 19

        City involvement: Holmes Beach commissioner 2018-20, organized first July 5 beach cleanup, helped constructed fences at City Field and beach accesses, member of St. Bernard Catholic Church.

        Top issue in a nutshell: Balance between meeting the needs of our residents and visitors.

        Occupation/experience: Holmes Beach commission liaison to public works, owned and operated a business and professionally consulted for more than 40 years in fencing and construction.

        Contact: kimrashforhbcommission@gmail.com, facebook.com/kimrashforholmesbeachcommission/

Airbnb suspends Bradenton Beach ‘party houses’

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A screenshot of the Airbnb rental platform shows listings available in Bradenton Beach. The site recently suspended at least one listing in Bradenton Beach for violating a company policy banning “party houses.” Islander Screenshot

By Amy V.T. Moriarty

Islander Reporter

At least one island property listing is among 40 statewide vacation homes that have been removed from the Airbnb platform.

The Sept. 10 move came as part of a statewide effort to ban “party houses,” as concerns over large gatherings remain tied to the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, according to a statement from the short-term lodging service.

Airbnb is an online forum connecting those who want to rent properties to those seeking accommodations. The site lists properties in more than 81,000 cities across 191 countries.

Airbnb did not specify in a news release how many Manatee County listings were removed from the platform, but said all were in Bradenton Beach.

The company did not respond to requests for additional information.

An Airbnb ban on the occupancy of more than 16 people predated by more than six months the outbreak of the coronavirus and subsequent bans on large gatherings. The company first began limiting occupancy in August 2019 in a crackdown on “party houses.”

When the occupancy limitations were first implemented, the company launched a 24/7 neighborhood support hotline for complaints.

In addition, Airbnb staff began manually reviewing reservations deemed “high-risk,” as well as restricting guests younger than 25 from making “entire home” reservations.

Bradenton Beach officials could not say how many vacation rental properties in the city are listed on Airbnb.

Bradenton Beach deputy clerk Ruth Stief said property owners who want to rent their homes must obtain a city license, but the city does not track which companies or services the homeowners use to manage their rentals.

Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby said Sept. 17 that a lot of companies managing short-term rentals have a motel/hotel license, providing more leeway to remove people from a property should they be in violation of a rental agreement.

Cosby also said the majority of rental-related complaints to police are about parking, large gatherings and excessive noise.

In most cases, after officers speak with renters, “we haven’t been called back,” he said.

Cosby said there had not been more complaint calls than usual since the virus outbreak in March.

Airbnb’s suspensions do not extend beyond its platform and do not prevent property owners from renting their homes.

Also, the company release said most property owners on the platform follow the rules.

“It’s critical that we take steps to reduce the number of large parties and events and we support the efforts of local officials to put a stop to irresponsible behavior,” Viviana Jordan, Airbnb manager of public policy in Florida, stated.

Other Florida counties with property listings suspended by Airbnb include:

  • Alachua;
  • Broward; Duval;
  • Lake;
  • Lee;
  • Miami-Dade;
  • Okaloosa;
  • Orange
  • Palm Beach;
  • St. Johns;
  • Walton.

More information about Airbnb’s global party ban and other policies is available on its website at www.airbnb.com.

Holmes Beach extends mask mandate to 2021

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Jeanine Scharpf of Orlando wears a mask Sept. 11 while shopping at Sun and Surf Beach Shop, 5418 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach. The city requires people to wear masks inside businesses.

Holmes Beach wants people to mask up against the novel coronavirus through the end of 2020.

At a Sept. 10 meeting, commissioners unanimously approved an emergency ordinance extending the city’s face covering mandate until the first regular meeting in 2021, which is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 12, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

The commission can vote at any time to repeal the order before that date.

Holmes Beach approved an emergency order June 25 mandating face coverings when social distancing cannot be maintained, with exceptions.

Mayor Judy Titsworth signed an executive order Sept. 8 extending the emergency ordinance until Sept. 15.

She said Sept. 10 that she could keep extending the order weekly until the commission is comfortable with the decline in COVID-19 cases. Another option would be for commissioners to approve an emergency ordinance to expire on a date certain.

Commission Chair Jim Kihm, who placed the matter on the agenda, said he favored the emergency ordinance.

“If we do it, we can set it up longer-term,” Kihm said. “If coronavirus, by some miracle, goes away, we could always cancel it.”

City attorney Patricia Petruff said she wrote the ordinance with the intent that it be extended 90 days to be close to the end of the year.

Kihm asked for a motion for an emergency ordinance to extend the face-covering requirement through Dec. 31.

Commissioner Terry Schaefer suggested the ordinance expire at the first meeting in January 2021, so there is no lapse between the end of the year and the first meeting.

Petruff agreed with Schaefer’s recommendation.

Kihm asked Police Chief Bill Tokajer to weigh in on any enforcement issues and Tokajer said there was one incident where a person was trespassed from a business for refusing to wear a mask, but no other problems.

“Everybody is doing the right thing and telling people when they go into businesses to mask up,” he said.

The motion to approve the emergency ordinance extending the face-covering mandate, expiring Jan. 12, 2021, passed unanimously.

“I think this is a practical approach that takes the onus off the mayor,” Schaefer said. “If the coast is clear, and lets all hope that is maybe a remote possibility, we can rescind this prior to it’s expiration, if we’re so fortunate.”

Prepping for Peace Day

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Fifth-grade students at Anna Maria Elementary rehearse a flag processional Sept. 9 for the annual Peace Day celebration. Due to the pandemic, components of this year’s event are being recorded for a video presentation. Students will view the video in school Monday, Sept. 21, and it will be available to view on the school’s website at manateeschools.net/annamaria. Islander Photo: Courtesy Susan Tabicman/AME
Michele Redeker’s third-grade students rehearse the Olympic flag portion of the annual Peace Day celebration at AME. The 2020 celebration involves creating a video for presentation in classrooms Sept. 21.
Students from two AME fifth-grade classes rehearse the flag processional for the annual Peace Day celebration, which will be observed Sept. 21.

Cortez megabridge challengers offer settlement to DOT

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Bridge Battle
A settlement offer proposing the DOT build a 35-foot-clearance drawbridge in place of a fixed-span bridge spanning the Intracoastal Waterway on Cortez Road includes the image of a new and old bridge at Tierra Verde in Pinellas County. Islander Courtesy Photo
Looking west from Cortez at the Cortez Bridge. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff

Opponents of the planned megabridge on Cortez Road extended a 35-foot olive branch to the Florida Department of Transportation.

The DOT has not grasped the offer from the concerned citizens, who have legal challenges to the DOT plans pending in state and federal courts. The citizens’ proposal, in the form of a settlement offer, would swap the DOT’s 65-foot-clearance fixed span for a 35-foot-clearance drawbridge.

Joe McClash, at the forefront of the challenge to the megabridge between Cortez and Bradenton Beach, said the offer was presented July 21 to a DOT attorney as part of a filing in the U.S. District Court in Tampa.

The challengers also have a filing pending before the Florida 2nd District Court of Appeal prompted by the DOT’s October 2019 release of a project development and environment study.

The study recommended a 65-foot fixed bridge to replace the 17-foot-clearance drawbridge built six decades ago. A DOT announcement Oct. 10 said, “Design is now underway and right of way is funded in fiscal years 2021, 2024 and 2025.”

The DOT, which also sought to build — and withdrew — a high bridge in the 1980s, maintains the current bridge is obsolete.

By the end of 2019, McClash, a former Manatee County commissioner, along with Cortezians Joe Kane, Linda Molto and former county commissioner Jane von Hahmann had petitioned the DOT for an administrative hearing, listing 25 objections to the DOT recommendation.

Their objections include arguments the high span will negatively impact business, harm the environment and destroy the character of the Cortez fishing village, a federal historic district since 1995.

The DOT rejected the petition for a hearing, saying it lacks jurisdiction as the state agency is acting for the federal government on the bridge project.

The rejection nudged the challengers to file with the state appeals court in February and also in federal court in March.

“The four challengers refused to accept the decision they believe is inconsistent with Florida statutes and federal rules that govern the process,” read a statement released to The Islander Sept. 10 by Kane, McClash, Molto and von Hahmann.

They cited a state law providing citizens an opportunity to challenge government actions.

The challengers now are offering a settlement that states in part: “The 35-foot bascule (draw) bridge would provide the relief plaintiffs seek” and thus they “would no longer object to the replacement bridge or bring subsequent challenge to any of the permits required for construction.”

The offer, presented to the DOT in late July, included photographs of the DOT bridge in Tierra Verde in Pinellas County to show “the validity of the complaint, the impacts to Cortez” of a high bridge.

A new and taller drawbridge, meanwhile, “would maintain the historical ambiance of the village of Cortez,” fit the location, provide access when closed to 78% of boat traffic and access to all boats with the bascule open, according to the challengers.

“Another advantage of the 35-foot bridge — it is not as steep, allowing better use by pedestrians and bikers,” the challengers stated.

McClash told The Islander Sept. 10 that he’s “waiting for administrative record, for which FDOT indicated would be the time to discuss the case and possible settlement.”

Construction of the DOT-proposed new bridge would cost an estimated $70 million and wouldn’t be completed for at least 10 years.

The DOT did not respond to questions from The Islander as of press time Sept. 14.

To read more about the Cortez Bridge, visit islander.org and search Cortez Bridge. To review the DOT project, go online to www.cortezbridge.com.


Meanwhile, DOT seeks Cortez Bridge design committee members

The Florida Department of Transportation is recruiting for a committee to help design a proposed megabridge between Cortez and Bradenton Beach.

The proposed 65-foot-clearance fixed-span bridge, recommended last October by the DOT, would replace the drawbridge on Cortez Road/State Road 684.

Spokesman Brian Rick told The Islander the DOT seeks to establish a 10-12 member committee. The design process is expected to cost $6.2 million.

“We have reached out to several people in the community,” Rick said, including Cortez businesspeople Karen Bell and Joe Rogers, Bradenton Beach businessman Mike Bazzy, Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie and Bradenton Beach resident Connie Morrow.

“We are still at an early stage in this process,” Rick said of the committee formation.

He said the DOT would recruit members in an email blast, calling out to local businesspeople and with announcements at transportation meetings.

The Island Transportation Planning Organization was set to meet in Bradenton Beach Sept. 14, as The Islander went to press.

The Sarasota-Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization will meet at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Sept. 21 at the convention center in Palmetto.

The Cortez drawbridge underwent major repairs in 1996, 2010 and 2015 and has outlived its lifespan, according to the DOT.

But the proposed replacement faces opposition in Cortez village and legal challenges brought by community and environmental advocates.

The DOT also is studying options for the Longboat Pass Bridge connecting Longboat Key and Bradenton Beach and is pursuing a planned replacement — already approved and still in the design phase — for the Anna Maria Island Bridge with a 65-foot-clearance fixed-span structure.

— Lisa Neff

Island ‘Super Market’ allegedly skirts face mask mandate

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People approach Publix Super Market, 3900 E. Bay Drive, Holmes Beach, where enforcement of the city face mask mandate has come into question. Islander Photos: Ryan Paice
Publix Super Market, 3900 E. Bay Drive, Holmes Beach, has signage posted in the store indicating masks are required but, store management apparently has recieved instructions to the contrary from its corporate office.

Holmes Beach’s Publix may not be doing its part to uphold the city face mask mandate.

According to two Publix Super Market employees who requested anonymity out of fear of retribution from their employer, corporate policy prohibits staff from removing or reporting individuals who refuse to wear face masks.

“We can’t kick anyone out,” one employee said. “We can offer a mask, but that’s it.”

The other employee said workers were told not to report people who refuse to wear masks unless they cause a disturbance for other shoppers.

The Islander publisher, Bonner Joy, pointed out two unmasked shoppers at the Beachway Publix, 7310 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

“The manager had just provided a mask to another customer when we spoke and I was told the policy is to advise customers of the rules and offer a mask, but no enforcement of the county mask mandate would be carried out at the store — according to corporate directions,” Joy said. “I found it ironic for a clerk at the entrance to clean carts while people pass through the doors into the store with no mask, putting everyone in the store at risk of possible exposure to COVID-19.”

“I wrote to customer service the same day but, as of Sept. 11, I have no reply,” Joy continued. “I won’t be going back to Publix.”

To slow the spread of the coronavirus, the county and Holmes Beach mandates require people wear masks within businesses — with few exceptions — and places the onus on the businesses.

Establishments that fail to enforce the mandate in Holmes Beach can receive a verbal warning for a first offense, a $250 fine for a second offense and $500 fines for any subsequent offenses.

To date, the city has not issued any businesses citations for offenses or collected any fines.

Publix media relations contact Maria Brous did not confirm nor deny the allegations about corporate directives in a Sept. 8 email to The Islander.

“If a customer does not have a mask with them, we will gladly offer them one to wear while shopping in our stores,” Brous wrote. “Our management teams are handling situations as they arise, so I cannot give you a more in-depth perspective.”

“We recognize that there will be exceptions to our mask policy due to age and medical restrictions, and we will handle these on a case-by-case basis,” Brous added in a Sept. 11 email.

Brous did not respond to The Islander’s question asking if an individual not exempt from the mandate but refusing to wear a mask would be removed from a store or reported to local authorities.

Holmes Beach manager Chris Smith declined to comment Sept. 11.

Also, Smith and Brous both denied permission to The Islander to take photographs on Publix property.

“Unfortunately, since the start of the pandemic, to be fair and consistent with all our media partners, we have not allowed videography/photography in our stores,” Brous wrote.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said the HBPD wouldn’t act on the allegations until it received a complaint from an individual about mask enforcement.

“If Publix has their own rules that violate the city’s rules, we would handle that on a case-by-case basis should we find that’s the truth,” Tokajer said. “But that’s not something we’d go and discuss with Publix unless this is a problem brought to our attention.”

“My officers can’t be at every business at once,” the chief said. “There are a lot of things going on in the city that require police attention.”

He suggested the police department has had a good relationship with the store’s management team, which he said may handle things differently from the corporate directive.

“We’ve never had a problem that we have discussed with our Publix local management team that they have not addressed immediately,” Tokajer said. “Their corporate rules and local rules are between Publix and the local management team.”

Mask orders meet some resistance, bad attitudes to blame

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A sign reminding customers to wear face masks is posted Sept. 4 at the stairwell leading up to the Daiquiri Deck, 107 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach. A guest was recently trespassed from the restaurant for refusing to wear a mask. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Face mask mandates to slow the spread of Covid-19 may remain on Anna Maria Island for a while longer.

But how well are people following the mandates intended to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus?

So far, one case of noncompliance requiring police intervention has occurred in each of the three island cities.

A Bradenton Beach police officer trespassed a man Aug. 29 from the Daiquiri Deck, 107 Bridge St., for refusing to wear a face mask despite the Manatee County mandate, according to a Bradenton Beach Police Department report.

The county mandate requires people to wear face masks inside business establishments unless they are exempted or can socially distance.

The mandate also requires restaurant customers to wear face coverings from the entrance to their table, as well as when moving within the establishment.

The mandate remained in effect as of Sept. 7.

Holmes Beach and Anna Maria enacted mask orders prior to the county action. Bradenton Beach did not, but commissioners agreed to come under the county’s coverage.

The BBPD report states a man swore and displayed “a very nasty attitude” toward the restaurant staff, who had asked him to don a face covering.

Shaun Gileno, a manager at the restaurant, told The Islander Sept. 4 the incident was not isolated.

“It has been repeated,” he said. “A lot of people are coming in and they’re actually being a little rude about it.”

Gileno estimated one in five restaurant guests enter without face masks but said most comply after employees approach to offer a face covering or advise them that they must wear their own to comply with the county mandate.

“We try to be very reasonable with everybody,” Gileno said. “But a lot of people aren’t reasonable with us, and that’s what hurts.”

Lt. John Cosby said Sept. 4 businesses in the city have reported numerous cases of individuals that enter an establishment without a mask but most comply after being approached by staff.

However, he said the call to the Daiquiri Deck was the first time a police officer got involved due to the refusal to comply with the mask mandate.

“We haven’t really had any problems at all. That was our first,” Cosby said. “Everybody seems to be complying. I haven’t heard any other complaints from business owners in the city.”

“As life starts to return a little bit more to normal, I think people are honestly just forgetting,” he said.

Under the county mask mandate, only individuals who refuse to wear masks are penalized. Businesses are not responsible for gaining compliance from customers under the county rules.

Violators cited for a first offense receive written warnings. A violator would be fined $50 for a second offense, $125 for a third offense and $250 for subsequent offenses.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer said HBPD recently trespassed someone for refusing to wear a mask in a Holmes Beach convenience store.

“He was asked to leave, and he did,” he said. “That was the only call we’ve received.”

Tokajer said the mandate enacted in late June puts the onus for enforcing its requirements on business owners.

Businesses that fail to enforce the city mandate would receive a verbal warning for a first offense, a $250 fine for a second offense and $500 fines for any subsequent offenses.

“Instead of us having to worry about 10,000 people a day, we have to monitor 50-60 businesses that are handling their own establishments,” he said. “It’s working fine.”

Holmes Beach code compliance supervisor JT Thomas said Sept. 4 that he had received numerous anonymous complaints about noncompliance with the city mandate, with many coming from customers at Publix, 3900 E. Bay Drive.

He said that, in an effort to increase compliance, code enforcement officers visited the store to educate staff about the mandate.

“Everybody goes there, so it could just be a population thing,” Thomas said. “But we gave them our ordinance. So it’s their responsibility to engage people about wearing masks… .I hope they’re good partners, like all of the others.”

Thomas said several businesses were slow to comply with the city mandate when it was issued. However, he said businesses have since come around.

“In the very beginning, it was kind of hard trying to get everyone to understand that they need to wear masks,” Thomas said. “I can honestly say that all of our businesses are on board with protecting their customers. I haven’t had one business tell me it’s a problem.”

No fines had been issued for violating the mask mandate in Holmes Beach as of Sept. 4.

In Anna Maria, a Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputy was dispatched to Two Scoops, 101 N. Bay Blvd., in late July in response to calls regarding a customer who refused to comply with the city mandate.

The city regulation makes individuals — not businesses — responsible for wearing face coverings in any indoor locations other than within a residence.

The mandate includes a $50 fine for violating the policy.

The order went into effect June 27 and has been renewed each week since by Mayor Dan Murphy.

Murphy wrote in a Sept. 4 email to The Islander that the city has had “no issues” with enforcing compliance with the mandate.

He added that the city hasn’t issued any fines for violations of the policy.

Tiny hatchlings make tracks in Anna Maria sands

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Barbara Riskay, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch volunteer, counts remains Aug. 29 from a hatched sea turtle nest in the nursery near Peppertree Lane in Anna Maria, where hatching occurs daily. Volunteers wait 72 hours after a hatch and dig into the nest to determine how many eggs hatched, didn’t hatch or if dead or live hatchlings remain. The live hatchlings are released to the Gulf of Mexico and the data is shared with the state and Manatee County. For more, see pages 20, 22. Islander Photo: Courtesy AMITW
Tiny tracks in the sand Aug. 29 indicate a sea turtle nest hatched the night before. As of Sept. 2, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch had reported 349 hatched nests, with about 15,179 hatchlings had made their way to the Gulf of Mexico. Nesting season runs May-October.
A depression in the sand Aug. 29 over a sea turtle nest marked by a red flag indicates a recent hatch. Nests often contain about 100 hatchlings, which emerge in unison and scamper across the sand to the Gulf of Mexico, usually at night. Females return to the beach to nest upon reaching maturity in about 35 years. Males do not venture from the water.
AMITW volunteers Linda Oneal, left, Barbara Riskay and Oneal’s sister, Carla Boehme, take a break Aug. 29 from their work with the sea turtle nests in the nursery near Peppertree Lane in Anna Maria. The team is collecting data and tabulating hatch rates from the nests as they perform excavations. Islander Photos: Courtesy AMITW