Tag Archives: Featured Image

County trots out ban on horseback surfing

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A tour on horseback takes riders through the waters on the north side of the Palma Sola Causeway. Islander File Photo: Kathy Prucnell

“We don’t have a problem with regulation, but, of course, we don’t want the horses banned.”

Carmen Hanson, who owns Cponies, a horseback-riding business that operates tours in Palma Sola Bay on the north side of Manatee Avenue, said blaming the bay’s environmental problems on horses is misguided.

Manatee County commissioners voted unanimously Nov. 7 to direct their attorney and staff to research and report about options to regulate horseback riding in sensitive waters.

In supporting the directive, commissioners pointed to seagrass loss and recent no-swim advisories in the bay.

In business for eight years, Hanson disputes that horses are responsible for the fecal matter in the water or that their presence leads to the advisories.

She said the horses aren’t treading on the seagrass beds, where it’s “soft and mucky.”

In addition, she and her 10 employees collect and remove any feces, place it in a muck bucket and dispose of it at their Myakka City farm.

Cponies offers horseback tours, allowing guests to ride on Gypsy horses in the water.

“I’ve done research for the past five years and every time there’s been a no-swim advisory, there’s been sewage-line breaks and spills from sewers,” Hanson said, adding she’s in the process of compiling the data and a graph for public review.

With regulation, Manatee County would follow Pinellas County, which, in October, approved a measure prohibiting horseback riding, walking and training in Tampa Bay, as well as seagrass damages in the county’s preserves.

“They can do it, why can’t we do it?” asked Commissioner Betsy Benac during the Nov. 7 meeting.

Benac suggested county staff reach out to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh agreed: “I think it’s very important to do this because grasses are being trampled on.”

Seagrass helps with the health of the bay and water clarity and feeds the manatees, Baugh said.

Baugh blamed the horseback riding for the seagrass being “almost gone.”

The Florida Department of Health issued no-swim advisories for exceeding EPA guidelines for fecal matter in the bay in July, August and October. The advisories were lifted about a week after testing showed a return to safe swimming standards.

Baugh said, “It’s just a mess,” but acknowledged the DOH’s testing can’t tease out whether it’s due to human or animal waste.

Commissioner Priscilla Trace said there is no proof the problems are caused by the horses.

Fecal matter can spill into the bay through sewer-line breaks, leaching septic systems, lift station failures and stormwater runoff.

The most recent reported sewage spill at Palma Sola Bay was Aug. 19, when 180,000 gallons of treated wastewater spilled into a storm drain on 59th Street West that flows south to Palma Sola Bay, according to Manatee County Utilities spokeswoman Amy Pilson. An unknown portion of the spill eventually made its way to the bay.

Other reported spills occurred December 2017-February 2018, when contractors hit sewer lines and more than 6 million gallons of raw sewage spewed through the adjacent lands, some that emptied in the bay.

Commissioner Carol Whitmore agreed the health of Palma Sola Bay and the beach closings are problems, but noted that people historically have brought horses to recreate in the bay. People also are allowed to bring dogs to the causeway.

Whitmore brought the Palma Sola Bay health issue to the Manatee County Council of Governments in July, where Bradenton Councilman Gene Gallo said the city looked into the possible regulation of horses, but the Florida Department of Transportation nixed the idea with a 2012 letter stating horses are permissible in DOT rights of way as a mode of transportation.

At the Nov. 7 meeting, county attorney Mitchell Palmer dismissed the DOT’s opinion, saying, “There’s little doubt in my mind” the county can regulate for water quality.

Money rolls in to build concrete wave

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Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth, second from left, and Police Chief Bill Tokajer, raise skateboards high in a cheer for reaching the skate bowl goal with code compliance supervisor JT Thomas and former Commissioner David Zaccagnino Nov. 8 at the site of the future skate park on city field, 5801 Marina Drive. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

“Holmes Beach reached its goal to fund the bowl!” Mayor Judy Titsworth said Nov. 8, regarding a last-minute push for donors to build a skate bowl.

The skate bowl and a new skate park are in the works for the city field recreation area adjacent to city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

The commission approved the skate park in February, at a cost not to exceed $150,000 and with an option to include the skate bowl if $100,000 could be raised from grants or donations.

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer and others with the city kicked off a fundraiser as the Nov. 8 deadline approached to raise $100,000 for the bowl.

With about 40 donations, ranging from cash to construction materials to giveaways for donors, the community met the goal to fund the bowl just in time.

“It was an amazing response from the community — as soon as we put it out there that we were looking for funds, people started calling and wanting to donate,” Tokajer said.

The city had been seeking funds for the bowl for about eight months, but the big push came the week of Nov. 4.

“It makes me happy that the community is coming together for such an instrumental park for the kids,” the chief said.

Former Commissioner David Zaccagnino — parent to potential young skaters — said Nov. 8 that the bowl is integral to the skate park.

“A good way to understand it is that it would be like having a playground without a slide,” he said. “You need to have that bowl component.”

The Y-shaped skate bowl — called a concrete wave in the surfing culture — will resemble a custom-built swimming pool, about 4 feet deep, but, at 800 square feet, bigger than the average family pool.

Tokajer said people have remarked that they miss the skate park since it closed to make way for park construction in 2017, but the new park will exceed the amenities of the old one.

The old skate park, named for the late Holmes Beach Police Officer Pete Lannon, was built in 2003.

“We get people all the time that say they brought their kids here on vacation because they heard about the skate park and miss the old one,” the chief said. “Our old skate park was nothing compared with this new, state-of-the-art park.”

Titsworth said she was “stoked” to see the enthusiasm of the community to support the skate bowl.

“We all need to give ourselves a pat on the back,” she said, adding that she hasn’t seen the community so excited in a long time.

“Holmes Beach loves our kids.”

Funding and pledges for the skate bowl as of Nov. 8:
A&K Enterprises
Agnelli Pools and Construction
Anna Maria Island Vacation Association
AMI Locals/Bali Hai condominiums
AMI Vacation/Joe Varner
AMI Accommodations
Beach Bums
Blue Marlin restaurant
Bowes Imaging
Hayes Bystrom
Mary Catherine
Rick Cloutier
George DeSear
D.Coy Ducks Bar & Grill
Eat Here
FP Growth Partners
Dan Hardy
HBPD Chief Bill Tokajer
Holmes-Holiday Family
Rick Hurst
Island Animal Clinic
Island Beach Cafe
Island Real Estate
Jessie’s Island Store
Bonner Joy
Greg Kerchner
Lizzie Lu’s Island Retreat
Logan Bystrom Fishing
Mason Martin Homes
Mike Norman Realty
New Concepts Sleep
Jeff Podobnik
Ross Built Custom Homes
Kim Rash
John Rutherford
Sato Real Estate
Mary and Patrick Sheridan
Sherwin Williams
Shoreline Builders
Waste Pro
West Coast Surf Shop

Donations of materials and services were pledged by:
Eat Here
Freckled Fin Irish Pub
Tyler Lancaster
Tom Sanger/ Sanger Pools

Total cash pledges and donations: $104,052.90.
Total in-kind donations: $43,094.

Island mayors unite to ‘Feed the Hungry’

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Mayors Feed the Hungry Program participants gather Nov. 1 at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive, for the kickoff of the 32nd annual Thanksgiving Food Drive. Non-perishable food donations will be collected at city hall and other locations — including The Islander — throughout Manatee and Sarasota counties, through Nov. 22. Supports of the campaign include: Barbara Hempel, far left, and husband Herman, president of the Ellenton Parrish Lions Club; Shirley Pearson, event organizer; Angel Colonneso, Manatee County clerk of court; Joel Swallow, program chairman; Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells; Holmes Beach Mayor Judy Titsworth; and Holmes Beach Police Sgt. Brian Hall. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Engineering-design ‘conflict’ threatens pier progress

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A Mason Martin employee works Oct. 25 on the roof at the T-end of the Anna Maria City Pier. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Construction of the new Anna Maria City Pier restaurant and bait shop is humming along, but a potential wrench in the works might hold up the progress.

Mayor Dan Murphy told city commissioners Oct. 22 there is a conflict between the architectural design and engineering that might delay the pier’s opening date.

In light of some setbacks — including an i+iconSOUTHEAST employee in a barge ramming and damaging the pier walkway — the city had hoped to open the pier in late January or early-February 2020, but the conflict could push that date forward.

The mayor had planned a meeting last week to “get to the bottom” of the issue, determine who is responsible and assess the scope of any delay in construction.

“Hopefully it will only be a minor issue,” Murphy said before the meeting planned for Oct. 23 was canceled. He said “it wouldn’t be fair” to address the problem without the facts and declined to elaborate.

Murphy told The Islander in an Oct. 25 email the meeting was pushed to Thursday, Oct. 31, because a “key player” was not available.

Meanwhile, Mason Martin continued construction on the T-end buildings.

But the contractor pulled out of the running to bid the interior work on the restaurant, restrooms and bait shop.

Murphy told the commission that Mason Martin, owned by Frank Agnelli and Jake Martin, withdrew its option to bid on the interior work.

Mason Martin’s decision came a week after Mario Schoenfelder, the pier tenant since 2000, indicated in an Oct. 16 email to Murphy that he felt he was being forced to use the city’s contractor.

Schoenfelder also expressed frustration with Mason Martin because the builder failed to provide a cost estimate for work on the interior — an expense Schoenfelder agreed to shoulder — before an Oct. 11 deadline for a quote set by the Schimburg Group, the firm hired to coordinate the project.

Murphy emailed Schoenfelder Oct. 18, assuring him he could secure other contractors to provide cost estimates, and setting a Dec. 13 deadline for Schoenfelder to submit his final offer for lease payments.

Murphy recently proposed two base payment options to Schoenfelder.

The first option includes a $21,600 monthly base payment, along with either a 3% annual increase — to begin after the first year — or an annual adjustment based on the consumer price index.

The other option includes an $18,900 monthly base payment, subject to the same options for annual increases as the first option. However, this option requires that Schoenfelder pay $250,000 on signing the lease. His lease expires in December 2020.

Schoenfelder told The Islander in an Oct. 17 phone interview that he won’t make an offer until he receives estimates for the buildout.

Schoenfelder, who splits his time between Holmes Beach and Germany, originally signed the city lease in 2000 for 10 years, with two five-year options and a $5,000 monthly lease payment, which was subject to periodic increases of $500.

The monthly payments, which escalated to $11,900, were discontinued when the city closed the pier in September 2017.

In September, Murphy and Schoenfelder tentatively agreed to a 10-year lease, with two five-year extensions — the same as the current lease.

Murphy told commissioners he plans to ask them for authorization to issue an RFP for the interior buildout at a future meeting so the city can move forward in the event they reject Schoenfelder’s final offer.

Angler reels in county’s top ag award

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Capt. Scott Moore aboard his fishing boat. Islander Courtesy Photo

Capt. Scott Moore has been fishing and running the waters around Anna Maria Island for more than half a century.

He farms the Gulf of Mexico.

On Oct. 17, the Manatee County Agriculture Hall of Fame announced Moore is the 2019 hall of fame inductee.

“My ranching friends are telling me I have to come out and pick tomatoes or brand a bull,” Moore told The Islander Oct. 18 in response to the award.

“But seriously, it’s quite a big deal. I’m so glad that they recognized the fishing community and how important it is to our area, tourism and our lives,” Moore said.

A news release from the hall of fame said of the excellent nominations from the community: “The most impressive was someone who doesn’t own a big green tractor or cows or a thousand acres of land to cultivate. Scott Moore owns a charter boat!”

Moore is being honored for his lifetime of dedication and commitment as a skilled captain, an ocean steward, conservationist and educator, the release said.

Moore serves on several fishery committees, both locally and nationally, and has demonstrated how partnerships between scientists and fishers can protect and restore marine ecosystems, the release stated.

Moore moved in 1952 to Bradenton from Cape Cod with his family.

They owned charter and whale-watching boats at the cape, and continued with charters in their new Florida home.

In 1979, Moore moved to Holmes Beach, where he lives today. Following in his father’s fishing lifestyle, son Justin also became a captain. Both run charters for hire. One might say they’re sons of the sons of sailors.

“My wife and my kids put a lot of information together for the nomination,” Moore said. “And a lot of people who have fished with me over the years also wrote letters. It’s phenomenal.”

Moore will be inducted into the hall of fame during a Nov. 21 luncheon at the Palmetto Women’s Club, 910 Sixth St. W., Palmetto.

The Manatee County Agricultural Museum and the Palmetto Historical Commission will host the luncheon.

There is no charge to attend, but reservations are required. Call Jordan Chancey at 941-545-8816 or email palmettofcw@yahoo.com to make a reservation.

Opponents lack plans, manpower to battle DOT on Cortez Bridge

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The Cortez Bridge spans the Intracoastal Waterway, connecting Anna Maria Sound to Sarasota Bay, and the city of Bradenton Beach to Cortez and mainland Manatee County. Islander Courtesy Graphic
The “typical section: of the proposed 65-foot high-level fixed-bridge.” The graphic is from the “final preliminary engineering report” released Oct. 10 by the DOT. Islander Courtesy Images
A chart in the newly released analysis on the Cortez Bridge shows a 2013 summary of mast heights for boats at the Cortez Bridge.
Nancy Deal, standing, speaks Aug. 13, 2017, to DOT representatives among a full house of people, many of whom rose to give public comment against the DOT’s options to replace the Cortez Bridge. The hearing was held at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church in Bradenton. It was the last public meeting before the DOT plans were finalized to replace the bridge that opened in 1957. Islander File Photo: Bonner Joy

Get ready for a shock.

The Florida Department of Transportation announced 17 months ago it planned to replace the aging Cortez Bridge with a 65-foot-clearance fixed-span bridge, but opponents of the bridge were mostly unprepared for a fight when the agency announced Oct. 10 it is moving forward with the megabridge.

Why weren’t they ready?

“I don’t think there’s a good answer for that,” said Nancy Deal, a Holmes Beach resident who has been fighting DOT efforts to build big bridges to Anna Maria Island since moving to Holmes Beach in 2001.

“The bottom line is we didn’t think they’d do it,” Deal told The Islander, hours after the DOT announced its final plans.

“We’re going to fight like hell,” bridge antagonist Joe Kane of Cortez said shortly after the DOT announcement.


“I’m not really sure,” he said.

Linda Molto, a Cortez activist who has been battling DOT efforts to build a big bridge to Cortez since the late 1980s, also didn’t offer any concrete solutions.

“We will talk with them about other options,” she said shortly after the announcement.

The DOT said Oct. 10 it had approved the project development and environment study, clearing the way for design work to begin on the 65-foot-clearance fixed bridge. The DOT had announced on April 23, 2018, that it had chosen the high-bridge option.

The other two options were to repair the existing bridge or build a 35-foot-clearance drawbridge.

Right-of-way acquisition is funded in fiscal years 2021, 2024 and 2025, the DOT said.

Construction is not funded.

Critics of the mile-long bridge say it will destroy the character of the historic fishing village of Cortez and that the DOT is ramrodding the project through over the vehement objections of local residents.

Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, the city commission and many of their constituents on the islandside of the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway linking the island to Cortez also are opposed.

The DOT counters that the high bridge is the most cost-effective option and that the agency would not do anything to harm the character of a community.

The Cortez drawbridge was completed in 1957 and has a boating clearance of 21 feet.

The DOT says inspections done in 2008 show that the bridge is “functionally obsolete and structurally deficient” and will need further repairs if not replaced. Major repairs were done in 1996, 2010 and 2015.

The new bridge would have two lanes, the same as the current span, but would include two 10-foot-wide shoulders and 10-foot-wide sidewalks, the DOT says.

Molto and Deal discounted filing a lawsuit, an avenue the Save Anna Maria citizens’ group used in the 1990s to temporarily stop the DOT from building a 65-foot-clearance fixed span to replace the Anna Maria Island Bridge on Manatee Avenue.

The DOT eventually redesigned the bridge to disway environmental impacts, which prevailed. The design work on the new Anna Maria Island megabridge is well underway.

“I doubt it, simply because we don’t have as many people as before,” Deal said about a possible lawsuit.

“We aren’t there yet,” Molto said.

In another possible setback, Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who has been advocating for the construction of a 45-foot-clearance drawbridge, told The Islander on Oct. 11 she would not support the 35-foot alternative the DOT included in the PD&E.

“Too low,” she said. “It’s only 15 feet taller than the current one, thus many more bridge openings (than a 45-foot-clearance bridge).

The DOT announced in July 2016 it had dropped the 45-foot-clearance bridge in favor of a 35-foot version, but Whitmore told The Islander on Oct. 12 she had seen plans after that date that included the 45-foot option.

Nevertheless, she said, DOT District 1 Secretary LK Nandam informed her Oct. 10 that the 45-foot version had been removed from consideration.

“I’m disappointed that the state took out the 45-foot option, and I’m sure they did it so they could eventually get to the 65-foot bridge,” she told The Islander.

Whitmore is the only Manatee County commissioner who opposes the 65-foot-clearance bridge. Efforts by local governments to battle the bridge didn’t seem to come together until after Whitmore asked fellow board members at an Aug. 20 meeting to join her in fighting the megabridge. They declined.

The Island Transportation Planning Organization, comprising the mayors of the three Anna Maria Island cities, voted Sept. 16 to support her efforts to build a 45-foot bridge.

The three AMI cities also have voted individually to oppose the 65-foot-clearance fixed span.

Whitmore said in an Oct. 10 interview she will lobby members of the local delegation in the Senate and House of Representatives when she goes to Tallahassee later this month, particularly Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton.

Galvano said in a Sept. 26 interview with The Islander he supports the 65-foot-clearance bridge. Whitmore said she is aware of Galvano’s position. She knows it will be a tough sell.

“I’m going to talk with him so he can see where we’re coming from, from the people who actually live there,” she said. “I respect his opinion, and I know he respects mine.”

Chappie also said he will work with the local delegation.

“There’s not really a whole lot we can do,” he told The Islander Oct. 3. “I’ll let them know once again.”

In the meantime, the DOT says design work has begun under a $6.4 million contract with the H.W. Lochner engineering firm.



Galvano: Big bridge points to future

Florida Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, offered thoughts on the Cortez Bridge in a Sept. 26 interview with The Islander:

  • “I must give deference to the DOT. When you’re spending that type of money, you need to think way into the future.”
  • “Growth changes everything. When we’re talking about taxpayer dollars, all of these things have to come into play to maximize the effectiveness of those dollars.”
  • “It’s unfortunate that transportation in this state has been planned in remedial fashion rather than proactive fashion. You have to start somewhere. The bridge fits into a modern transportation plan.”
  • “At some point, you have to recognize the nature of our communities continues to change. We have to look at the greater good.”

— Arthur Brice

Flying high with the HBPD

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The Holmes Beach Police Department-sponsored National Night Out fills city field Oct. 1 with free fun and games for kids, along with plenty of giveaways, food and music. HBPD and city staff mingled with the crowd and a large crew of volunteers, promoting police-community partnerships. Islander Photo: Jack Elka
Children race to hand off their sacks to adults and cross the finish line Oct. 1 at one of several National Night Out games. The event, sponsored by the Holmes Beach Police Department and the city of Holmes Beach at city field, featured giveaways, food, music, games, bounce houses and slides. HBPD staff mingled with the crowd, promoting police-community partnerships. Islander Photos: Sarah Brice
A child raises his arms up at the top of the giant inflatable slide, here he has a bird’s eye view of the turnout for National Night Out.
With elbows out and arms flapping, enthusiasm abounds among kids of all ages as they follow Denise Johnson in the “Chicken Dance.”
Bella Raines, 9, takes center stage Oct. 1 at HBPD Night Out to sing “Let it Go” from the Disney movie “Frozen.” She was awarded a new bike and helmet for her performance.
Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer hands out prize tickets to a sea of hopeful hands. Islander Photo: Sarah Brice
Holmes Beach Commissioner Pat Morton takes a dunking in stride for HBPD Night Out.
Paul Fowler, 6, and brother Nolan, 3, land in a fun tumble at the bottom of the giant inflatable slide at HBPD’s Night Out Oct. 1 at city field.

Stagnant Holmes Beach lake sparks concerns, stirs action

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Dead fish float Sept. 22 in the murky water in Holmes Beach’s Spring Lake, which is undergoing aeration intended to improve water quality. Islander Photo: Chris-Ann Silver Esformes
Stagnant water and dead fish surround an outlet that runs from the southwest corner of Spring Lake under Palm Drive to the grand canal — 66th Street — along Marina Drive in Holmes Beach — but saltwater from the canal no longer flushes the lake. Islander Photos: Chris-Ann Silver Esformes

People who live on Spring Lake in Holmes Beach are concerned about their health and property values.

The lake is suffering.

At a Sept. 24 city commission meeting, Eran Wasserman, project manager for LTA engineers, the engineering firm contracted by the city, reviewed the status of the lake following resident complaints of a stench and numerous dead fish after the Sept. 17 activation of an aeration system.

The city commission approved the installation of the system to clean the brackish lake between 68th and 70th streets, which accumulated 3 feet of muck after a sewage spill in 2015. About 22,000 gallons of waste poured from a ruptured Manatee County sewer line into the lake.

Following testing in March that indicated poor water quality, the city decided to install a system that would generate millions of small air bubbles to circulate and blend the murky, salt- and freshwater mixture and vent harmful gases, allowing more oxygen absorption.

Wasserman said Sept. 24 that organic matter in the lake — dead fish and vegetation — breaks down without oxygen, resulting in muck. He said infusing the water with oxygen can break down and release gases and improve the lake water quality.

Consultant perspective

Wasserman introduced Chris Byrne, a consultant with Vertex Water Features, the company that installed the aeration system, to explain why the condition of the lake worsened after the system was activated, and what to expect as the lake aerates.

Byrne said his company took water samples from the lake that showed levels of phosphorus, nitrogen and ammonia at the bottom were 10 times higher than those at the surface.

“That’s a clear indicator that this pond is stratified and needs to be circulated,” he said. Water stratification happens when water of varied salinity, density and temperature form layers that act as barriers.

“Every now and then we come across a pond that is so bad, that even though we establish a protocol to minimize attrition of the fish, there is still some attrition,” he added.

Byrne said as the lake water circulates, the water quality readings at the surface will worsen.

“It’s just one of the growing pains you have to go through to properly circulate the lake,” he said.

Commissioner Rick Hurst asked how long it would take for the lake to recover.

Byrne said, “Every pond is different.” It could take months, he said, but the worst effects probably already occurred.

Commissioner Carol Soustek asked if running the system more frequently would speed up the process.

Byrne said that would kill more fish, but the gases would vent more quickly, leading to better water quality.

Residents speak

“Water at my house right now is greenish-brown and it looks like a sewer,” said Carol Grayson, who, along with her husband Boyd, has owned a home on the lake for six years. “The reason I’m hoarse right now is because I have asthma. The quality of the air is awful and I’m afraid I’m not even going to be able to stay here.”

Boyd Grayson also addressed the commission. He said two WaStop tidal valves installed in storm drains in 2017 between the lake and an adjacent canal to prevent tidal flow further disrupted the balance of the lake.

The drain pipes, which run under Palm Drive, allowed the lake to fill and flush saltwater from the canal.

“I just can’t imagine a better solution we could offer this lake than to let the tide back in and let 2 million gallons of water, twice a day, come through that lake and go back out,” he said. “Eventually, in the shortest period of time, that lake would be clean.”

“We all purchased our properties with a healthy, active lake as part of our value,” said Phil McDonald, also a lakefront homeowner. “Now we have a dead drainage pond as a viewshed.”

He added that the city did not send notices to people who live on the lake indicating there would be detrimental effects when the aeration system was turned on.

Tim Gibson purchased property on the lake 19 years ago. He said he chose the location above other spots on the island so he could fish for the mangrove snapper, redfish and juvenile tarpon that were present before the sewage spill.

“The fish are gone,” he said. “Manatee County killed that lake and turned it into a septic hole.”

Commission takes action

“We all want to make it right,” Mayor Judy Titsworth said. “But we can’t be wasteful of tax dollars based on fearmongering, or based on anything other than the facts. We have to rely on the professionals telling us what to do.”

She said the valves are needed to prevent flooding, and there are many lakes in the state that do not get tidal flow. They require aeration, like Spring Lake.

Titsworth said the recovery process would take time, but if the city determines the system is insufficient, the commission will consider other options, such as reopening the tidal valves.

Commission Chair Jim Kihm asked Wasserman and Byrne for recommendations.

Wasserman said he could respond to tidal flow questions, as that is city engineer Lynn Burnett’s area of expertise, and she was not in attendance.

Byrne, speaking to the aeration system, suggested running the system for seven or eight hours a night for two weeks to produce faster results.

After two weeks, he said it might be best to run the system around the clock.

The commission unanimously reached consensus to direct Wasserman to run the system throughout the night for two weeks, with water samples taken each week, before running it full-time.

Titsworth also asked Wasserman to provide the city with daily updates on the status of the lake, including visual water quality and fish kill numbers, until the lake begins to recover.

“I don’t want to solve it here, but I want a focused effort on this,” Kihm said. “And by the end of the week, I want a broader recommendation about what we are going to do in light of some of the comments we received this evening.”

Former island resident charged with murder

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Two hooded men enter the Green Galaxy Smoke Shop in Bradenton where the clerk was killed Sept. 17. Amado Zeppi, left, was arrested Sept. 18 on Longboat Key. Islander Photo: Courtesy MCSO
Law enforcement was still looking for a fourth man as of Sept. 23 in the Sept 17 murder of Mohammed Hamed at the smoke and vape shop in Bradenton. Islander Photo: Courtesy MCSO
A makeshift memorial for murder victim Mohammed Hamed greets customers Sept. 18 at the Green Galaxy Smoke Shop where he worked at 3212 First St. W., Bradenton. Islander Courtesy Photo

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office arrested a man with Anna Maria Island-Longboat Key ties for the Sept. 17 murder of a 23-year-old Bradenton smoke shop clerk.

Amado Zeppi, 20, of Bradenton, the alleged shooter, was arrested after his shift at 10:45 p.m. Sept. 18 in the parking lot where he works, the Shore restaurant, 800 Broadway St., Longboat Key, less than 24 hours after the fatal shooting and robbery at the smoke shop.

Zeppi, formerly of Bradenton Beach, is charged in connection with the murder of Mohammed Hamed, who was operating the Green Galaxy Smoke and Vape Shop at 3212 First St. W., Bradenton, when Zeppi and the other suspects arrived at the store.

Zeppi is shown in store video shouldering an SKS — Soviet semi-automatic carbine — rifle fitted with a bayonet.

Two other men were arrested Sept. 20 for the robbery-turned-murder and investigators are looking for a fourth suspect.

Sheriff’s deputies arrested James L. Brewer, 19, of Bradenton, and Michael C. Hepner, 21, of Palmetto, Sept. 20 on the same charge as Zeppi.

MCSO was alerted to the incident by Hamed’s brother, who was monitoring store surveillance cameras from a remote location in Tampa, watched and called law enforcement.

MCSO alleges that Hepner drove Brewer, Zeppi and the fourth man to the shop. Brewer was first to enter, apparently in an attempt to distract the clerk. Brewer ran back and waited in the vehicle as Zeppi — armed with the rifle and bayonet — and the fourth man, with their faces covered, entered the shop.

Hamed’s brother watched as Hamed was forced to the back room to open a safe. The men filled a bag with items, according to the sheriff’s office reports.

While in the back room, Zeppi allegedly struck Hamed with the bayonet and the gun discharged, killing Hamed. The men then returned to the vehicle, which left the scene with Hepner behind the wheel.

The three suspects are being held at the Manatee County jail without bond.

Zeppi previously lived in the 2400 block of Avenue B in Bradenton Beach, according to police and court records.

He faces a second-degree murder charge and probation violations. His bond was revoked for alleged probation violations, according to MCSO and 12th Circuit Court records.

Public information officer Randy Warren said the robbery attempt and homicide involved a fourth man who wore a blue jacket with an “Aero 87” insignia, as shown in a video and photographs released by the department after the killing.

Holmes Beach and Longboat Key police assisted in the investigation after cameras at the smoke shop helped identify Zeppi. MCSO tracked his whereabouts on the HBPD and LBK license recognition cameras.

Zeppi, a repeat offender, pleaded no contest in April 2018 to charges relating to an October 2017 break-in at a Holmes Beach residence.

In that incident, HBPD arrested Zeppi as he loaded an SUV with TVs and kayaks on Palm Harbor Drive, carrying Mace and a knife. He swore and spit at police and was arrested on numerous charges, including armed burglary, grand theft, battery to a law enforcement officer, possessing burglary tools and criminal mischief.

The judge sentenced Zeppi to five years of drug offender probation for the October 2017 burglary and ordered a concurrent sentence for a separate case against him stemming from a July 2017 HBPD drug and paraphernalia arrest.

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call the MCSO at 941-747-3011 or Manatee County Crime Stoppers at 866-634-8477 (TIPS).

Anna Maria pier rammed by barge

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I+iconSOUTHEAST workers were installing planks on the Anna Maria City Pier the morning of Sept. 10 before the contractor’s barge, shown here at the T-end, rammed the pier and pushed a row of pilings and about 15-20 feet of walkway out of kilter. Islander Photos: Jack Elka
Before … I+iconSOUTH-EAST workers install planks on the Anna Maria City Pier the morning of Sept. 10 — before the contractor’s barge rammed the walkway. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
… and after crash A diver waves from the water Sept. 14 on the north side of the Anna Maria City Pier, where he surveys underwater damage to the pier after the contractor’s barge crashed Sept. 10 and pushed pilings and about 20 feet of walkway framing out of alignment. At the T-end, rafters and other materials for the restaurant, bait shop and restrooms are piled up, awaiting the start of construction. Islander Photo: Courtesy Anna Maria
i+iconSoutHeaSt worker michael Butz, right, and a co-worker prepare Sept. 11 to deliver a load of building materials from the Kingfish Boat ramp in Holmes Beach to the anna maria city Pier on the barge that rammed the pier a day earlier. the materials are for the t-end buildings on the pier. islander Photo: ryan Paice

Hurricane Irma damaged the Anna Maria City Pier beyond repair in 2017, but the impact when the contractor’s barge crashed into the partially completed walkway Sept. 10 is only a minor setback for the ongoing project.

Work on the Anna Maria City Pier is proceeding — including an assessment by divers of the submerged pilings — despite the damage to a 15- to 20-foot section of the walkway.

The planking and T-end restaurant, bait shop and bathroom work will continue, according to Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy.

“The barge came in too fast,” he said of the crash into the pier.

The barge slammed into the 800-foot-long walkway about two thirds of the way out to the T-end of the pier.

Michael Butz, was operating the barge and lost control as he was attempting to dock for the night, Murphy said.

Butz, who works for I+iconSOUTHEAST, told The Islander Sept. 12, as he was preparing to move materials on the barge from Kingfish Boat Ramp in Holmes Beach to the pier, “Tell the people, I’m really sorry.”

The city contracted with I+icon in November 2018 to construct the 800-foot pier structure, walkway and T-end.

Work on the T-end buildings by Mason Martin construction is set to begin the week of Sept. 16, as previously scheduled.

“It’s still a go,” Murphy said Sept. 12.

The Coast Guard investigation

Chief Zachary Gray of the U.S. Coast Guard-Station Cortez said a crew from Cortez was on scene after the crash Sept. 10 to ensure no one was hurt.

There were no reports of injuries.

He added the Coast Guard’s investigations’ division, headed by Chief Warrant Officer Ronald Jensen of Sector St. Petersburg, is in charge of the crash investigation.

St. Petersburg Sector Petty Officer First Class Ayla Kelley said Sept. 12 there have been no charges as a result of the incident and that one investigator visited the scene.

She also said the division was looking to determine why the collision occurred, interviewing the captain and any other witnesses, but had no further comment on the pending investigation.

What’s next for the damaged pier?

“I+icon needs to develop a plan to fix it. The engineer has to sign off,” Murphy said.

“And I will review any plan before the work starts,” he added.

The crash destroyed two pilings, beams, stringers and utility conduits, he said.

Murphy didn’t have an estimate of the repair costs, but said I+icon is responsible for the damages caused by the barge, “whatever it is.”

Before the crash, Murphy hoped for a January reopening of the pier, but the bathrooms and restaurant are not expected to open at that time.

After the crash, the mayor said he didn’t know if that timeline would be affected.

The 1911 pier is being rebuilt due to damages sustained during Hurricane Irma in September 2017.