Tag Archives: Featured Image

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.

Storm stalls pier, planking starts, lease negotiations continue

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Alexander and Elizabeth Barthalis, both of Palmetto, check Sept. 5 on construction progress at the Anna Maria City Pier. A fisher for 10 years at the pier before it was destroyed by Hurricane Irma, Alexander Barthalis told The Islander he’s been keeping an eye on the work so he can return to fish. Islander Photos: Kathy Prucnell
Walkway decking is installed Sept. 5 on the Anna Maria City Pier.

Two more weeks.

Construction work at Anna Maria City Pier was delayed two weeks, until mid-September, by precautionary measures in advance of Hurricane Dorian’s approach in the Atlantic Ocean.

“We’re putting things back together.” Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy said Sept. 5, as workers began installing Ipe planking on the 800-foot-long walkway.

Murphy said Sept. 9 that he expects the walkway will be done by Sept. 13, although some openings will be left for utility access.

I+conSOUTHEAST, the city’s pier contractor, enacted a hurricane preparedness plan Aug. 30 to protect the $5.9 million project, that removed the plywood walkway, covered light posts and secured the Ipe planks and other materials at the site.

The city contracted with I+con in November 2018 to replace and reconstruct the pier after Hurricane Irma damaged it in September 2017.

The path of Dorian spared Southwest Florida, although the storm caused vast destruction in the Bahamas and slammed the Outer Banks in North Carolina before spinning northward along the Atlantic coast.

With the timeline pushed from Sept. 1 to mid-September, January 2020 is the target date for the reopening the pier to the public, although the T-end buildings will be shells.

Construction plans for the restaurant, bait shop and restrooms do not include interior improvements.

The city entered a $967,000 contract in July with Mason Martin of Holmes Beach to rebuild the wood-frame structures — not the interiors.

Mason Martin is expected to deliver materials by barge to the T-end Sept. 13-14, including trusses and beams, and begin work Sept. 16, Murphy said.

Building lease terms, negotiations

Meanwhile, negotiations are ongoing for a new lease for the restaurant operations with Mario Schoenfelder, who holds the current lease through December 2020. His lease payments were suspended after the pier was deemed destroyed.

Schoenfelder extended an offer in July for lease payments of $12,000 a month, beginning in December 2020, and no security deposit, for the T-end, restaurant, bait shop and bathrooms, as well as parking and the boat landing. He stipulated payments would begin after the first six months of operation to offset the costs of getting the business started.

However, the city has new terms in its plans.

In August, the commission determined Schoenfelder’s new lease would exclude bathrooms and other common areas and require a contract for maintenance from a third-party management company.

Schoenfelder proposed to maintain the interiors, while the city would maintain the outside.

Still to be negotiated are the lease terms, insurance requirements and taxes, as well as parking, but a pro-rata allocation based on square footage would be a “logical approach,” Murphy said Sept. 5.

He said he and Schoenfelder have been discussing a 10-year lease with an option for 10 more years.

The city budgeted $500,000 to cover the buildout, but Schoenfelder’s offer was for $250,000 for the buildout and $250,000 to go toward restaurant fixtures and equipment.

In subsequent emails to Murphy, Schoenfelder objected to presenting his investment offer as $250,000, saying the equipment, valued at $250,000, would remain after his lease.

“It’s just hogwash,” Murphy told The Islander Sept. 7.

Preparing for the worst, hoping for the best

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Walter Kramer, an employee of AMI Health and Fitness of Holmes Beach, bags sand Aug. 29 for his residence, as well as the business, in the Holmes Beach city hall parking lot, 5801 Marina Drive, in preparation for Hurricane Dorian. The slow-moving storm was aimed at the East Coast, and most people, including some West Coast emergency managers, stood down over Labor Day weekend. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

Rescuer blames ‘something toxic’ for rash of dead birds

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Jeanette Edwards holds a pelican she freed in July from entanglement in a Palma Sola Bay rookery near her home. Edwards is sounding an alarm about increased numbers of sick and dead shorebirds in the bay.
A great white egret is found dead Aug. 16 in the mangroves of a Palma Sola Bay rookery. Islander Courtesy Photos

Jeanette Edwards has a nickname she loves: “The Pelican Lady.”

Years ago, she took on a mission to care for seabirds, with pelicans by far her favorites.

Now Edwards is concerned with what she says is transpiring at a small mangrove conservation zone on Flaming Cay, just a stone’s throw from her home on Palma Sola Bay.

The island is a bird rookery, and lately the birds are dying at an alarming rate, according to Edwards.

She wants to know what is killing the birds.

“It has to be something toxic,” Edwards told The Islander Aug. 21. “There is no fishing line entanglement or gear, no blood or wounds. I just find them dead in the branches or floating in the water nearby.”

As of Aug. 21, Edwards had retrieved 21 dead birds from the rookery since January. She found four dead birds Aug. 6-16.

Another 22 birds were rescued and transported to the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary in Indian Shores for care, though some of those birds also died.

Those numbers are considerably higher than past years.

In 2016, Edwards retrieved four dead birds from the rookery and saved another nine that were sickened.

In 2017, eight dead birds were found and 24 were taken to Seabird for rehab.

“I’ve found sick ones on the ground, or up in the branches. The pelicans can’t hold their heads up. All of the birds seem to become paralyzed and their feet curl up,” Edwards said.

She’s found 13 dead great white egrets, as well as pelicans, snowy egrets, herons and one roseate spoonbill.

The dead birds also were taken to the Indian Shores sanctuary to be collected for necropsies by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

As of Aug. 23, only one tissue sampling returned a determination: salmonella, bacteria that sickens birds that take in food or water contaminated by feces from humans, as well as the wildlife.

Veronica Guzman-Bargas works on the wildlife health team at the FWC, which is conducting the necropsies and tests on the dead birds.

She told The Islander that other tissue samples were sent for testing Aug. 5, but it may be a month or more before the FWC has results.

She also said it is not uncommon for young birds to die from salmonella.

Another state agency regularly conducts tests in Palma Sola Bay.

On Aug. 15, the Florida Department of Health issued the second no-swim advisory for Palma Sola Bay in just over 30 days for the south causeway beach after finding an elevated level of a different bacteria, enterococci.

That bacteria also can be associated with the presence of feces from humans or animals.

The no-swim advisory was lifted Aug. 21, after “bacteria counts dropped to acceptable levels,” according to a news release from the health department.

Asked about birds dying in Palma Sola Bay, Department of Health environmental manager Tom Larkin said he was unaware of the problem in an Aug. 21 email to The Islander.

“The FWC investigates mortality events involving wild bird populations,” he wrote. “If the dead shorebirds are found to be impacted by avian influenza or other arbovirus, the health department would be contacted and we would be involved,” Larkin said.

Meanwhile, Edwards worries for the birds she monitors, and for people and pets who go in the bay.

“I see what’s happening to the birds. I see people swimming, fishing, kids, dogs, people eating the fish they catch. It all concerns me,” she said.

Edwards said she was relieved to find no sick or dead birds on a kayak trek to the rookery Aug. 20.

But what will she find on her next outing?

“I thought 2018 was horrific with all the birds that died from the red tide,” Edwards said. “But we only had 11 total and 29 rescued for the year. We’re already ahead of that with four months to go.”

AMI Bridge construction: Way down the road

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Neither has construction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The permitting process has not begun, he said.

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

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

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

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

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

Bridge openings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good news or bad?: Cortez Bridge years from replacement

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The view from the Seafood Shack Marina Bar and Grill includes the draw opening on the Cortez Bridge Aug. 4. The DOT has recommended replacing the drawbridge with a high-fixed span bridge. Islander Photos: Sarah Brice
Tide Tables restaurant owner Bobby Woodson is confident loyal patrons will still find his waterfront restaurant — at the southeast corner of the Cortez Bridge in Cortez — during construction and after the new bridge is built. Islander Photos: Sarah Brice
Kim Shepherd, 26-year owner of Annie’s Bait and Tackle at the base of the Cortez Bridge, is concerned that a megabridge linking Cortez to Bradenton Beach would harm the Cortez community.
Joe Rogers, chief operating officer of the Seafood Shack Marina Bar and Grill, says a new bridge is needed but he believes how big a span should reopen for debate.
Michael Bazzy, whose family has owned the Bradenton Beach Marina since 1981, says although construction may affect his business at the base of the bridge in Bradenton Beach, he’s not concerned. He added, he has good relations with the DOT.
The view looking north across the deck at Annie’s Bait and Tackle in Cortez includes activity at the Seafood Shack Marina Bar and Grill in the fishing village of Cortez. The views from Annie’s and the Seafood Shack include the span of the Cortez Bridge across Sarasota Bay from Cortez.
Annie’s Bait and Tackle offers patrons outdoor seating with a view of the Cortez Bridge.

If you’ve been looking forward to — or dreading — the proposed replacement of the Cortez drawbridge with a 65-foot-clearance fixed-span bridge, you’re going to have to wait a while. Quite a while.

“It’s not going to happen immediately,” said Florida Department of Transportation spokesman Brian R. Rick.

Most likely, if it happens, it won’t be for another 10 years or so.

The DOT is expected to release results of its Cortez Bridge Project Development and Environment Study by the end of the year. The study, started in 2013, determines what environmental, economic, social, cultural and physical effects the new bridge would have on the area, particularly the historic fishing village of Cortez.

After that would come the design phase, then right-of-way acquisition, then finally construction.

About $6.4 million has been allocated for design, which has been awarded to the engineering firm H.W. Lochner Inc., but design work has not started, the DOT’s Rick said in a phone interview Aug. 5.

Once design begins, it will take about two years to complete. The DOT likely will hold public meetings during that time period, Rick said.

Right-of-way acquisition is expected to be funded for fiscal years 2024-27, beyond the scope of the DOT’s current five-year work program, which ends in 2023-24. So that aspect of the new bridge is not funded.

Construction is not funded either.

An April 23, 2018, announcement by DOT communications manager Zachary Burch said the agency recommended the fixed span and design was scheduled to begin later that year and right-of-way acquisition was funded for fiscal 2020 and 2021. But Rick told The Islander additional work needed on the project development and environment study delayed the timetable.

Some Cortez merchants are in no hurry to see the new bridge built. Count Kim Shepherd among them.

“They’re dissecting the village,” said Shepherd, owner of Annie’s Bait and Tackle Shop for the past 26 years. “I don’t agree with that. They’re dissecting a town.”

Annie’s is situated on the waterfront in Cortez at the northeast corner of the bridge.

Preliminary plans call for the eastern part of the bridge to ramp up on Cortez Road at 123rd Street West. Parts of the village on either side of Cortez Road between 123rd Street and Sarasota Bay would be connected under the bridge. Service roads would deliver vehicular traffic to that area, which is home to several businesses.

But Shepherd is not sure that would be enough.

“I think it’s going to be hard for people to get to us even with the access road,” she said in an interview in her vintage bait shop. “It’s going to affect the whole village.”

Disruption during construction would be even worse, she said, pointing to what happened during repair work to the bridge in 2015.

“Even with signs, we took a hit,” she said.

Some other Cortez merchants take a more wait-and-see attitude.

“I’ve been told by the DOT it’s at least eight years up the road,” said Bobby Woodson, owner of Tide Tables Restaurant and Marina on the waterfront at the base of the bridge in Cortez.

The DOT will have to keep a pathway open to his restaurant during construction, Woodson said. And he’s counting on his customers.

“We’ve built a clientele during the past 5 1/2 years,” he said. “They’ll find us.”

And by the time construction starts, Woodson said, the restaurant will have built an even larger clientele.

“We’re going to be just fine,” he said during an interview at the restaurant.

Joe Rogers, chief operating officer at the Seafood Shack Marina Bar and Grill, also expressed optimism that the Shack will thrive.

“Hopefully, people will still find us,” he said from the marina behind the restaurant. “People seek out waterfront restaurants. It’s just going to take them a while longer.

“We’ll have a ton of signage.”

On the western side of the bridge, Michael Bazzy, owner of the Bradenton Beach Marina, said he doesn’t expect to see a new span any time soon.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Bazzy, whose family has owned the marina since 1981.

Regardless, he expects to come out fine.

“I’m not really concerned,” he said. “We’ve always had real good relations with the DOT.”

Rogers agrees that a new bridge is needed. He’s just not sure that it has to be the 65-foot-clearance fixed span, as recommended by the DOT last year.

“We need a bridge,” he said. “What size is debatable.”

The DOT notes that the bridge, which was built in 1956, has already had three major repair projects — in 1996, 2010 and 2015 — and needs to be replaced.

“Future repair projects would likely increase in scope, traffic disruptions and cost, and yet decrease in effectiveness due to continued deterioration of the bridge,” the agency said in the April 2018 announcement.

Rogers said whatever is built needs to last.

“They have to think long term,” he said. “It’s got to be good for another 50 years.”

The DOT says a new fixed-span bridge would have a 75-year life span.

“A fixed bridge is resoundingly the best financial investment for taxpayers,” the announcement said.

Other options were drawbridges with vertical clearances of 21 or 35 feet.

The DOT said the high span would cost $72 million to build and maintains that “construction costs, including design and construction, saves approximately $23.9 million compared to a new mid-level drawbridge.”

The high bridge, the DOT said, would save $11.2 million in maintenance and construction costs compared to a new drawbridge.

Indications six years ago were that most local residents opposed any new bridge, no matter the height.

A DOT mail survey answered by nearly 850 local residents in spring 2013 showed 51% of respondents were in favor of rehabilitating the Cortez Bridge, while 43% favored replacement.

Of those in favor of bridge replacement, 56 percent were opposed to a high-level fixed span and 38 percent were in favor of a mega-bridge.

Of those opposed to a high bridge, 19% wanted a mid-level drawbridge and 33% wanted a low-level drawbridge.

Among local communities, Cortez had the highest level of opposition to a replacement bridge. Sixty-two percent of respondents favored rehabilitation and 33% wanted a replacement.

Anna Maria respondents wanted rehabilitation over replacement 54-43. Bradenton Beach was 52-39.

Holmes Beach and Longboat Key respondents favored replacement.

Holmes Beach came in at 50-45 in favor of a new bridge and Longboat Key answered 86-14 in favor of a replacement

But the DOT decided in 2016 not to rehabilitate the bridge.

Longboat Key town manager Tom Harmer said he has been talking with the DOT about making it easier for motorists to get on and off the Key. But he said in a phone interview Aug. 6 that he realizes a new Cortez Bridge is only part of the solution.

Longboat Key residents driving off the island to the north still have traffic chokepoints at the Longboat Pass drawbridge and the intersection at Gulf Drive and Cortez Road in Bradenton Beach.

And the initial plans for the high-level bridge call for only two lanes of vehicular traffic, same as the current span.

“Our issue really is traffic congestion,” Harmer said. “We do think they should consider additional lanes [on the bridge] and intersection improvements.”

Harmer said he has made those suggestions to the DOT.

DOT officials note that a high-clearance fixed bridge would allow boat traffic to pass unimpeded, which would result in less traffic disruption.

According to the DOT, the Cortez Bridge had 3,101 openings in 2017, averaging about 258 a month. They attributed fewer openings in 2018 to the extended red tide outbreak, so it’s not representative of a typical year. Bridge openings so far this year are comparable to 2017 levels, the agency said.

Over at Annie’s, where you can almost reach out and touch the bridge, Shepherd says the DOT’s construction delay is great news. She wants her small spot in paradise to stay just like it is.

“It’s a little village that’s been here forever,” she said. “It’s one of the last working fishing villages still around.”

Bradenton Beach on deck for floating dock launch

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Bradenton Beach CRA Chair Ralph Cole, center, cuts the ribbon Aug. 2. He was joined by Manatee County deputy administrator John Osborne, left, County Commissioner Betsy Benac, Gary Tibbetts of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan’s office, County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, Cole, County Commissioner Steve Jonsson, Mayor John Chappie, city attorney Ricinda Perry, treasurer Shayne Thompson, City Commissioner Jake Spooner and Anna Maria Oyster Bar owner John Horne at an opening ceremony for the new floating dock at the Historic Bridge Street Pier.
Hecker Construction works from a barge July 30 on the installation of the floating dock at the Historic Bridge Street Pier.
Elected officials from Bradenton Beach and Manatee County as well as some members of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce step Aug. 2 onto the new floating dock at the Historic Bridge Street Pier. Islander Photos: Ryan Paice

Good things come to those who wait.

Gibsonton-based contractor Hecker Construction finished construction of a floating dock for the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach Aug. 1 after two-and-a-half years of turbulence generated by Technomarine Construction, the company originally contracted to build and install the dock.

CRA Chair Ralph Cole, a city commissioner, led a ribbon-cutting ceremony alongside other elected officials Aug. 2 to open the dock for public use.

“We’re all very excited about the floating dock finally coming to fruition,” Mayor John Chappie said in a July 31 interview. “It’s been a struggle, but we’re there, and that’s a good thing.”

The floating dock replaces a dock damaged by a storm and removed in 2017 for public safety. The city also plans to install finger docks at the pier and a boat lift to hold the city’s marine patrol boat for the exclusive use of the Bradenton Beach Police Department.

“It’s been something where we’ve waited and waited almost two-and-a-half years,” Sherman Baldwin, owner of the Paradise Boat Tours that operates from a storefront at the foot of the pier, said in an Aug. 2 interview. “Both as a business owner and as well as the vice president of the Bridge Street Merchants group, this is unquestionably a good day for all of Bridge Street.

Baldwin, who has planned for years to launch a 149-passenger water taxi between the new floating dock, Sarasota and Bradenton, declined to comment on the progress of the water taxi venture.

Eric Shaffer, a project manager from Hecker, said in a July 30 interview with The Islander that workers only had to install the gangway attaching the dock to the pier and put the finishing touches, such as capping piles, on the dock.

Installation of the gangway involved reinforcing the pier before placing sections of the gangway with a crane.

Shaffer said installing the gangway wasn’t included in the scope of services of their contract with the Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency — which funded the dock project — but Hecker installed it at no additional cost to the CRA.

“I’m not going to do a change order or something like that, that’s not how our company operates,” he said.

 

Problems with drift vessels

Boats that break anchor and drift and unattended boars have been a problem in the past despite the efforts of Bradenton Beach Police Officer Eric Hill, who patrols the navigable waters near the pier.

“Just while we’ve been building there have been three or four that have gotten loose and ended up getting stuck on the side of the floating dock,” Shaffer said. “They need to look into that.”

“The floating dock isn’t meant for that, it’s for unloading and loading people onto vessels, not boats smashing up against it,” he continued.

City commissioners met July 31 to discuss repealing and replacing the current city ordinance to allow for more comprehensive regulations, including those for loose vessels that damage the dock.

Lt. John Cosby said BBPD is doing all it can do to regulate the waters, but lacks the ability to enforce the law for derelict vessels on boats that people use as a residence. He said the city should meet with the county to discuss legislative changes to allow the police more enforcement powers.

Other changes the city is pursuing include rewording the definition of a dinghy, limiting the amount of watercraft that can be attached to a main vessel and prohibiting beaching of vessels on public property.

Chappie directed city attorney Ricinda Perry to work with lobbyist David Ramba, and for Perry and Cosby to attend the next Manasota League of Cities meeting to push for legislative changes.

“It’s part of our ongoing effort to improve and clean up the city anchorage area that we have,” Chappie said Aug. 1. “It’s all about any kind of regulations that we may be able to have and use to improve and clean the area, and to make sure rules and regulations are being followed.”

39 Years Ago: Killing spree at Kingfish

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Emergency personnel respond Aug. 1, 1980, in Holmes Beach, where four people were fatally shot and one person was injured. The case remains unsolved. Islander Photo: Manatee County Public Library System
“I saw a car and boat trailer jackknifed near a power pole,” reporter June Alder wrote about her arrival to the scene of a quadruple murder Aug. 1, 1980, on Manatee Avenue at East Bay Drive in Holmes Beach. The vehicle and boat belonged to Dr. Juan Dumois, 47, of Tampa. He and his sons Eric Dumois, 13, and Mark Dumois, 9, were murdered that day, as was islander Robert Matzke, 60. Islander Photo: Manatee County Public Library System
Emergency personnel attend to a victim of a shooting Aug. 1, 1980, in Holmes Beach at the Kingfish Boat Ramp and at the Foodway grocery store, now the Publix Super Market. Islander Photo: Manatee County Public Library System
A Fiat that had been driven by Robert Matzke crashed into another vehicle at Foodway. Bystanders thought an accident had occurred, but Matzke, an Air Force veteran, had unknowingly confronted a killer and was fatally shot. Islander Photo: Manatee County Public Library System
Emergency personnel place a man on a stretcher near the Kingfish Boat Ramp in Holmes Beach Aug. 1, 1980. The killings at Kingfish remain unsolved. The Manatee County Crime Stoppers takes tips at 866-634-TIPS. Islander Photo: Manatee County Public Library System
Cold case evidence Holmes Beach Detective Sgt. Brian Hall holds an evidence bag July 11 containing a 22-caliber bullet gathered Aug. 1, 1980, and still in storage at the HBPD. The bullet is evidence from the shooting at the Foodway grocery store, now the Publix Super Market, 3900 E. Bay Drive. Retired Lt. Col. Robert Matzke was working in his yard near the Kingfish Boat Ramp Aug. 1, 1980, and followed a bicyclist to Foodway, where Matzke was shot and killed by the bicyclist-turned-gunman. Islander Photos: Kathy Prucnell
HBPD Detective Sgt. Brian Hall handles a plastic bag July 11 containing items found in the left rear seat of a station wagon driven Aug. 1, 1980, by Juan Dumois. A man killed Dumois and his two sons in the vehicle. Dumois’ brother-in-law, Raymond Barrows, seated in the front seat, survived the shooting, but died two years later. The evidence is kept in bins at the police department, 5801 Marina Drive.

For an island reporter, the story unfolded, but the mystery remained

 

Editor’s note: The Islander first published the following report in 1999. June Alder then worked as a copy editor for The Islander and also wrote a history column. The Islander edited this report for style, length and historical perspective.

 

 

By June Alder

From The Islander archive

You know how it is in the dog days of August. Not much to do. Putter around the yard in the morning. Have a nap after lunch. Watch the sunset after supper. Watch re-runs on TV with the air conditioner humming.

No, nothing much happens on the island in the summertime. It’s murder for a newspaper reporter trying to make a decent story out of notes from a boring city meeting.

But it wasn’t that way Aug. 1, 1980.

As I recall that Friday, I was the only reporter in The Islander newspaper office when someone yelled at me to pick up my phone. It was my mother calling.

“Oh, hi Mom, what’s up?” I said, or something like that. She rarely called me at the office, so I figured she had some little problem, like when we could meet for lunch.

But her voice was odd, whispery but urgent.

“I’m down here at Foodway (now the Publix Super Market). There’s been an accident or something — a man’s been hurt.”

There was a hubbub in the background.

I could barely hear her.

“What did you say? An accident? In the grocery store?”

She seemed impatient, and I got the idea whatever had happened, it was something serious.

“No, in the parking lot. I was at the checkout counter. A woman burst in, yelling to call the police, get a doctor.” She paused. “I can see a lot of folks running around outside. You’d better get down here, June!”

I grabbed my camera and jumped in my car. Traffic on Gulf Drive was light going south. It took me less than five minutes to round the bend at the Manatee Public Beach. That’s when I saw a bunch of people milling around just east of the stoplight toward Kingfish Boat Ramp.

I wondered if I should drive on to the grocery, but then I saw a car and boat trailer jackknifed near a power pole. There had been an accident and, from the looks of things, it was a bad one. I parked my car on the side of the road and raced over to a scene of chaos.

I didn’t ask any questions, just began taking photographs.

There seemed to be bodies all over the place. Sheets had been draped over two figures being lifted onto stretchers. They appeared to be children. I couldn’t tell if they were dead or alive.

A few feet away from the car, medics were bent over a man on the ground. One emergency technician was holding an oxygen mask to the man’s mouth. Another was wiping the blood from the patient’s forehead. A third was massaging his chest.

Close by lay a deeply tanned man in red-and-white striped trunks. He was barely breathing. His bare chest was streaked with blood trickling from his nose and mouth. A tube had been stuck in his right arm. I could tell by the look on the face of a woman in a nurse’s uniform holding his head that he was close to death.

I moved in a bit closer with my camera. Through the viewfinder, I could see a small hole — about the size of a dime — in the man’s forehead.

My heart froze. The man had been shot in the head.

By now, another reporter from my newspaper had arrived, as well as reporters and photographers from the daily papers.

And there must have been 40 people scurrying around. I’ll never forget the faces of the bystanders as the word got around of the nature of the tragedy. They had the look of people confronting a situation too horrible to comprehend. The car had gone out of control because the driver had a bullet in his head. Everyone in the car had been shot.

I glanced across the street toward the Foodway. An ambulance was pulling out of the lot. I hurried over. I learned from a cop that a man had been shot there, too.

By now, like everyone else, I was beginning to realize the enormity of the crime that had shattered the pleasant afternoon.

The headlines in the newspapers the next day shocked islanders out of their summer lethargy.

In the weeks and months to come, the story unfolded, but the mystery remained.

 

The killing at Kingfish

Early Aug. 1, 1980, Juan Dumois, a 47-year-old Tampa physician, his sons Eric, 13, and Mark, 9, and their uncle, Raymond Barrows, visiting from Miami, left Kingfish Boat Ramp for a fishing trip in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the last day of the family’s vacation in Holmes Beach.

Returning about 5 p.m., looking forward to getting home to supper, they loaded their boat onto a trailer and hitched it up to their station wagon. Dumois and Barrows got into the front seat, and the boys took seats in the back. Just as Dumois was about to drive off, a dark-haired man in his middle 30s, wearing a white tennis outfit and pushing a bike, stuck his head in the car window.

He had sprained his ankle, he told Dumois and would appreciate a lift.

Sure, no problem, Dumois said.

The man hoisted his bike into the boat and got into the back with the boys.

Dumois waited for a gap in the heavy traffic, then pulled away. The station wagon had gone only a few yards toward the intersection of Manatee Avenue and East Bay Drive when the man pulled a gun. He held the muzzle against the back of Dumois’ head and pulled the trigger.

Dumois slumped over, mortally wounded. Three more shots rang out in quick succession. The gunman had pumped the second bullet into Barrow’s head and the third and fourth into the heads of the boys.

The man reached over Dumois and turned off the ignition, steering the car to the side of the road. When it stopped, he jumped out, pulled his bike out of the boat and rode off toward Foodway.

But there was a witness.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Matzke, working in the yard of his condominium unit in Westbay Cove North, had observed the man’s exit from the accident site. Suspicious, he pursued him to the Foodway store in his sports car. There, while still in his car, he argued briefly with the bicyclist. Again, a shot rang out, and Matzke became the hitchhiker’s fifth victim.

Shoppers watched unknowingly as the gunman got into a waiting car, which disappeared into traffic. None of the onlookers had witnessed the killing. They thought Matzke had crashed his car.

All the police had to go on was what Raymond Barrows was able to tell them. He had recovered but died of a heart attack a couple of years later.

The investigation, involving the sheriff’s office and federal agents, as well as the Holmes Beach police, dragged on for months. Dumois’ car was examined for fingerprints. Four artist’s concepts of the killer were circulated and a reward was offered.

More than 100 suspects were questioned, but no solid evidence pointing to the killer was found and no plausible motive for the slayings identified.

Was the killer a madman?

Someone with a grudge against the physician?

Was he a contract killer?

Were the murders mob- or mafia-related?

Though police found nothing to connect Dumois with the underworld, the massacre had all the earmarks of a hit job.

The weapon was a 22-caliber pistol, the type of gun often used in professional killings. The killer was an expert with a gun. He did not fire wildly. He shot to kill.

The crime was well planned. The gunman was seen loitering in the boat ramp parking lot. He had marked his victims. He knew Dumois was a doctor, as he feigned an injury.

He chose a crowded area for the shootings, where he could melt into the crowd. True, it was risky business to execute his mission in a moving car, but he knew it would be going slowly, approaching the intersection only a short distance away from the boat ramp.

He had a confederate waiting in a getaway car at a spot where they could easily join the traffic going north or south.

Police were criticized for immediately directing traffic off the island and failing to cordon off the crime scene quickly. But they didn’t know at first that it was a murder case.

 

Perfect crime?

The Kingfish killings appear to have been the perfect crime — one that will never be solved.

Investigators say that in such crimes, the only chance for a solution is when someone talks — someone to whom the killer bragged or who was involved somehow in the crime.

But that hasn’t happened.

Perhaps the killer, well paid for his afternoon’s work, is living on his earnings on the French Riviera or in South America.

Or, he may have met a violent death, too.

Will we ever know his identity or the reason for the massacre on that bloody Friday?

Top Notch Week 5: ‘Dolphin Gymnastics’

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Whitley Southard, of Henderson, Kentucky, wins the fifth week of The Islander’s Top Notch photo contest with this photograph a dolphin executing a full twist. The photographer won an Islander “More-than-a-mullet wrapper” T-shirt and entry into the finals, which offer one grand prize of $100 from The Islander and an assortment of gift certificates from participating advertisers. The last entry deadline for the six-week contest will be noon, Friday, July 26. Photographers can find rules and deadlines online at islander.org.