Tag Archives: Feature

Man charged with sex assault of a minor

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A Bradenton man was arrested Feb. 27 on two counts each of capital sexual battery and molestation following allegations that he assaulted a child.

William Erik Bobo, 35, was arrested Feb. 27 in Holmes Beach on four warrants, two for sexual battery on a child less than 12 years of age and two for lewd or lascivious molestation of a child under 12 years of age following an investigation by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office that began in June 2019.

According to the arrest warrant, the alleged victim, an elementary school-aged child, said that on June 26 she and Bobo were sitting on a couch watching a movie when he touched and penetrated her genital area. The child told investigators that the following day Bobo “did the same thing.”

Bobo was released March 3 on $350,000 cash bond, which was posted March 2 by his father, Allen Bobo, a resident of Key Royale in Holmes Beach.

The bond agreement issued Feb. 28 by 12th Judicial Circuit Judge Gilbert A. Smith Jr. states Bobo resides in Bradenton, but he is to be curfewed 24/7 at his parent’s Key Royale home. He also must wear an electronic monitoring device and have no contact with minors, victims or witnesses.

He is allowed to leave the Key Royale residence only for school, work or medical emergency.

Sarasota attorney Peter Aiken of Aiken, O’Halloran & Associates of Sarasota entered a plea for Bobo of not guilty to the four charges at the first appearance hearing, where Smith set the bond amounts.

Aiken requested arraignment be waived and a jury trial.

Aiken also moved to modify the terms of Bobo’s release but, at press time for The Islander March 9, there was no response to his motions.

He argued that Bobo has a 12-year-old son with whom he shares custody with the child’s mother and, on alternating weeks, the child stays with Bobo at his parents’ residence in Holmes Beach.

Aiken requested Bobo be allowed unsupervised contact with his son at his parents’ home.

Aiken also said that there are other relatives, including children, who frequent the family home and asked that Bobo be allowed to have supervised contact with other family members.

Bobo’s next court date is March 20.

Skate park vandalized in Holmes Beach

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Unknown vandals spray-painted graffiti at the new Holmes Beach Community Skate Park and tagged nearby trash cans. The vandalism occurred overnight Feb. 23. Islander Photos: Courtesy Holmes Beach Police Department

Dude, that’s not cool.

Unknown vandals tagged the new skateboarding facilities in the 5800 block of Marina Drive in Holmes Beach spray-painting graffiti overnight Feb. 23.

The vandals also tagged nearby trash cans and public bathrooms with profanities and other slurs and jargon.

According to the police report, the vandalism was discovered early Feb. 24 by Dave Benton, the city’s public works foreman.

However, other anonymous individuals removed the graffiti the night before, Mayor Judy Titsworth said Feb. 25, during a commission meeting.

“Islanders came and they cleaned it up and I am really proud,” she said.

Titsworth requested that whoever cleaned the park tell the city what they used.

“I just want to know what they used, because it worked,” she said, adding that the good Samaritans didn’t completely clean the graffiti, so the city still has some graffiti to remove — or paint over.

The city has since installed a surveillance camera used at the old skate park and has new cameras on order, according to Police Chief Bill Tokajer.

Manatee County commissioners override TDC recommendation

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An artist’s rendering shows the planned Mote Science and Education Aquarium to be built in Sarasota County at Nathan Benderson Park. Mote currently has an aquarium on City Island in Sarasota. Islander Photo: Courtesy Mote Marine

Mote Marine requested and will receive $5 million in Manatee County tourist tax dollars for marketing.

The Manatee County Tourist Development Council voted to fund a much lesser amount at its Feb. 10 meeting.

During a meeting Feb. 25, the Manatee Board of County Commissioners voted to allocate $5 million for Mote’s marketing from the tourist tax coffers.

Commissioner Misty Servia, TDC chair, pushed for the funding. She was the only no vote when the TDC voted to recommend an allocation of $1.25 million over 25 years.

At the TDC meeting, Elliott Falcione, executive director of the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, presented a list of planned projects in Manatee County — including the expansion of the convention center and funding the World Baseball Championships next year — ready for TDC dollars.

After the presentation and weighing several options, the TDC voted to fund $50,000 a year for 25 years to total $1.25 million.

Now, based on the commission vote, Mote will receive $1 million over the next five years for marketing its aquarium in Sarasota County. The money will be used for marketing and promotion, as Manatee County’s tourist tax dollars cannot be spent on construction outside county limits.

Tourist tax dollars are the bed taxes collected at a rate of 5% on overnight rentals of six months or less.

The funds may be used for the maintenance of certain tourism-related infrastructure, marketing and tourism-related capital projects.


Anna Maria scooter moratorium allows time-out for regs

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Scooters capable of traveling more than 20 mph are not included Anna Maria’s motorized scooter moratorium. Islander File Photo: ChrisAnn Allen

Fun rides and alternative transportation are on the rise on Anna Maria Island streets and sidewalks.

And Anna Maria’s officials have opted to take a timeout to consider some regulations on some vehicles — mostly small scooters.

City commissioners Jan. 23 unanimously approved the final reading of an ordinance instituting a 180-day moratorium on the rental and operation of motorized scooters and micromobility devices.

The moratorium was enacted on its approval and was set to expire July 22.

According to state statutes, a “motorized scooter” includes any vehicle that is powered by a motor with or without a seat, no more than three wheels, and which is not capable of achieving a speed greater than 20 mph on level ground.

A “micromobility device,” including e-scooters, is a motorized transportation device, most often made available through an online application, website or software for point-to-point trips. They do not travel faster than 20 mph on level ground.

The moratorium does not include larger 49cc scooters, such as Vespas, which are registered vehicles that exceed 20 mph.

It also does not include electric bikes, Segways or ScootCoupes.

A scooter car, trademarked ScootCoupe, is an open-air, two-passenger, three-wheeled vehicle powered by a 49cc engine, and a number of them are available for rent in Anna Maria.

In January, following an extended moratorium on some alternative vehicles and bike- and scooter-share systems, Holmes Beach commissioners unanimously voted to ban ScootCoupes from city streets, essentially prohibiting the vehicles from entering the city via Anna Maria.

But, following a threat of legal action from Robinhood Rentals, the company in Anna Maria that rents the vehicles, and input from Anna Maria city attorney Becky Vose, Holmes Beach lifted the ban and is working on a revised ordinance, which already includes regulations for bike- and scooter-shares, as well as renting and operating motorized scooters and Segways.

House Bill 453, which was enacted in 2019, grants operators of micromobility device and motorized scooters “all of the rights and duties applicable to the rider of a bicycle,” including the right to operate the vehicles on sidewalks, street and trails.

However, local governments have the right to regulate — not prohibit — such vehicles for safety.

Anna Maria plans to hold several workshops to receive public input on the matter before the moratorium ends.

Following the moratorium, the city commission will consider an ordinance regulating the vehicles.

Dangerous bacteria levels dip in BB waters

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Pelicans rest at the Kingfish Boat Ramp in Holmes Beach Feb. 25 where Suncoast Waterkeeper tested for enterococcus, a bacterium commonly found in human and animal feces. The results of the testing showed little effect on water quality at the site. Islander Photo: Andre Mele

There’s improvement in the bay bacteria levels since the count skyrocketed in February.

But something’s stirring in the bay waters.

Suncoast Waterkeeper results from tests Feb. 25 show that high levels of enterococcus — a bacteria commonly found in human and animal feces — have thinned out in Sarasota Bay near Bridge Street and Bay Drive South.

Suncoast is a nonprofit that tests water quality in 11 locations, not including the public beaches monitored by the Florida Department of Health.

Suncoast tested the bay waters over two weeks in mid-February and found more than 24,000 colony-forming units of enterococci per liter in one sample. Other samples reached 1,670 and 4,884 cfu/L.

The DOH regards enterococcus levels exceeding 70 cfu/L as unsafe for human contact and posts no-swim advisories if a public beach it monitors tests higher than the threshold.

The latest round of tests resulted in 10 cfu/L along the shore at Bay Drive South, 10 cfu/L 100 feet into the water from the first location and 10 cfu/L at the floating dock at the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

However, a test taken at the shore along the base of the pier resulted in 131 cfu/L, which is higher than the DOH safety level. The location is the only one of the four test spots in the city that tested for unsafe enterococcus levels.

“These results indicate that the extreme water quality problem in the cove formed by Bay Drive and the Bridge Street Pier was the result of an event or condition that has apparently passed,” Suncoast executive director Andre Mele wrote in a March 1 email to The Islander. Mele said Suncoast will continue to monitor the site, and keep the DOH and Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie informed.

Bradenton Beach commissioners reached consensus Feb. 20 to conduct water quality tests for the area to identify the source of the high enterococcus levels.

The DOH also began discussions about funding and organizing an effort to counter the high bacteria.

Mele urged both entities to continue their investigations despite the lower test results.

Mele previously said pelican feces could have caused the elevated bacteria levels, and noted that several pelicans were present at the Kingfish Boat Ramp in Holmes Beach, where levels tested slightly higher than the DOH threshold for safety at 85 cfu/L.

“So, with all due respect, we cannot endorse or affirm the credibility of the Pelican Theory,” Mele wrote.

Mele also pointed to the latest results from tests on Palma Sola Creek in Bradenton, which is another of Suncoast’s test locations, that came back at 6,867 cfu/L. He said Suncoast will expand its monitoring of the area, and noted the creek has received sewage spills from a variety of sources in the past.

HBPD sign draws chuckles, creates awareness

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Holmes Beach Police Sgt. Tom Fraser stands Feb. 21 next to the entry sign to the city on Manatee Avenue. Fraser and other HBPD supervisors have been adding a touch of humor to the roadside electronic sign. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Allen

“Slow down or we’re calling your mom” is one humorous — yet cautionary — message posted by the Holmes Beach Police Department on the electronic sign at the entrance to the city via Manatee Avenue.

Police Chief Bill Tokajer said Feb. 19 that several months ago the dynamic message sign was upgraded to wireless technology, allowing changes from a remote device. Previously, officers had to open the sign to add text or change the message.

Tokajer also said the modification allows the HBPD to post emergency traffic warnings, as well as national campaigns, including “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” with less hassle.

So Sgt. Tom Fraser, one of four supervisors with access to the sign, decided to pepper the roadside warnings with his touch of humor.

“We wanted something on there that didn’t just say, ‘slow down,’” Fraser said. “We wanted something that people would actually look at and think about. Maybe have a chuckle.”

He added that he gleaned inspiration from similar signs he’s seen on trips across the United States.

Fraser asked co-workers for ideas and occasionally turned to Google searches to develop quips.

His first unconventional message read, “Slow down. We’re on island time.”

“The chief thought it was catchy and told me to run with it,” Fraser said.

Since then, the sign has hosted such messages as “A cat has nine lives. You don’t. Slow down,” and “Everyone who hates speeding tickets, raise your right foot.” Fraser even included a reference to the movie “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” with the statement, “Cousin Eddie says, ‘Slow down.’”

Another message warns about cellphone use while driving: “Twitter is full, put the phone down.”

Tokajer said the public response is positive.

“People seem to really like it,” Tokajer said. “I was in a meeting today and someone pulled me aside to say they appreciate the education with a touch of humor.”


120 days: DEP pushes for stilt house demolition

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A judge has had the final say in the three-year legal battle to remove a house built over the water on pilings in Cortez.

Raymond Guthrie Jr. was ordered to remove the 1,200-square-foot structure from Sarasota Bay within 120 days.

Circuit Court Judge Edward Nicholas enforced a consent order Feb. 4 that followed a settlement agreement between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the board of trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, and AP Bell Fish Co., which intervened on Guthrie’s behalf.

Guthrie has until June 4 to remove the unauthorized structure, according to the order.

If he removes the structure within 120 days, he can forego a $6,500 civil penalty.

The legal dispute began in June 2017 when the DEP discovered the structure and determined the submerged land under the stilt house was owned by the state.

Guthrie built the structure with a metal roof, air conditioning and other amenities between February 2017 and May 2017 without permits.

On Feb. 6, 2018, the DEP sued Guthrie, asking for enforcement and compliance

The DEP also requested assessed fines of $10,000 per day against Guthrie.

Karen Bell of A.P. Bell filed a motion May 4, 2018, to intervene, claiming it owned the land under Guthrie’s stilt house.

Guthrie, speaking at a February 2019 hearing, said he had rebuilt the stilt house three times.

Commercial fishers used structures called net houses or camps to store, dry and mend nets in the late-1800s to1920s. The practice ended with the advent of monofilament nets in 1938.

Nicholas entered a summary judgment Feb. 25, 2019, in favor of the DEP, but stayed its execution pending the outcome of Bell’s motion.

But Bell withdrew, saying Jan. 17 her attorney said she lacked evidence to prevail.

Guthrie and Bell were unavailable for comment Feb. 20.

Engine 131 to the rescue

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A Feb. 19 fire in the downstairs unoccupied apartment of a two-story residence at 849 N. Shore Drive, Anna Maria, caused about $30,000 in damages, according to West Manatee Fire Rescue. An incident report by investigator Keith Miller said the cause of the fire remained “undetermined.” WMFR documented moderate smoke damage from the fire, which started in the kitchen area behind a small refrigerator and continued up the wall. A construction crew working next door to the building broke some windows to pour water inside in an attempt to extinguish the fire. A call to 911 brought WMFR’s Engine 131 and crew within 5 minutes, resident Deborah Beazley said in a statement. The electricity to the building was turned off and the occupants of the upstairs unit were told to leave. Islander Photo: Courtesy WMFR

Cortez Fish Festival 2020

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People take to the dance floor as the Eric Von Band performs Feb. 15 at the 38th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival in Cortez. Festival proceeds will go to the expansion and care of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage Preserve, about 95 acres of environmentally sensitive land that buffers Cortez from development and fronts Sarasota Bay. Islander Photos: Sarah Brice
People take to the dance floor as the Eric Von Band performs Feb. 15 at the 38th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival in Cortez. Festival proceeds will go to the expansion and care of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage Preserve, about 95 acres of environmentally sensitive land that buffers Cortez from development and fronts Sarasota Bay. Islander Photos: Sarah Brice
Festivalgoers get comfortable as the Eric Von Band sets up for their afternoon show Feb. 15 at the two-day 38th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival in Cortez. The festival featured fresh seafood, live music, arts and crafts, dock talks and kids’ activities.
As part of the 38th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival marine life dock talks, Dr. Theresa Bert describes the proper method for holding a live crab. Bert, a recent Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission retiree, told the crowd at the dock that a crab can tighten its claws without letting go.
Jalee Harnish, 7, meets the challenge of the rock wall in her cowboy boots Feb. 15 in the fishing festival kids’ zone. She made it to the top to ring the buzzer, her first climb all the way up climbing wall.
Austin Bustilos, 10, flies and flips through the air Feb. 15 on a Vertical Adventure’s bungee trampoline in the kids’ fun zone at the 38th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival.
Brenna Miller, 11, examines crabs and other live sea life on display in a tank during the fishing festival’s dock talks Feb. 15.
Linda Randlett and her husband, Rod, of New Hampshire, shop for crafts at the Coconut Fish booth Feb. 15 while at the 38th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival in Cortez.
Festivalgoers also perused crafts, including some with personality at Sasnu’s Bizarre Bazaar.
Marlin Ellis of the Blue Marlin Seafood Restaurant in Bradenton Beach weighs an order of stone crab claws for a customer in the restaurant’s booth Feb. 15 at the 38th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival in Cortez.
Fresh seafood is the main attraction at the two-day 38th Annual Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival in Cortez. Florida Cracker Seafood offered large, colorful platters of tempting choices. Islander Photo: Sarah Brice