Tag Archives: Featured Image

County invests in beachgoer safety, lifeguard towers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Island ‘Super Market’ allegedly skirts face mask mandate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mahi wowie

thumb image
Mahi wowie Capt. David White, right, and angler Spencer Dienes, a radiologist in Miami, show off what White termed “a respectable little mahi-mahi” caught Sept. 2 on a live shiner in about 120 feet of water off Anna Maria Island. Dolphinfish, Coryphaena hippurus, also known as mahi-mahi or dorado, can run up to 63 inches and 88 pounds, but it’s common to find fish of 30 pounds. The fish is capable of flashing purple, chartreuse and a wide range of other colors.

Bradenton Beach officials, friends remember former mayor Shearon

thumb image
Bradenton Beach flew its flags at half-mast Aug. 21 outside the city’s police department to honor former Mayor Bill Shearon, who died Aug. 20. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice
Former Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon and his service dog, Reece, promote Election Day 2017. Please, see obituary, page 14. Islander File Photo

Former Bradenton Beach Mayor Bill Shearon’s passing brought sorrow to many in his city and beyond.

Flags at city hall and the Bradenton Beach Police Department were lowered to half-mast Aug. 21 in respect for Shearon, who died Aug. 20. He was diagnosed with cancer in May.

Shearon became a Bradenton Beach resident in 2003. He then became a member of the city planning and zoning board, then the city commission 2004-07, before serving as mayor 2013-17.

As mayor, Shearon balanced the budget, advocated for hiring a city manager and worked with Police Chief Sam Speciale, the city’s pier team facilitator, to guide the reconstruction of the Historic Bridge Street Pier.

“I worked with him for quite a few years and I had great respect for the man,” Speciale told The Islander Aug. 21. “The thing with the man was that he had his idea on how things should be done and sometimes that was tough. But when you sat down with him, he was willing to bend his ideas if you had better options.”

“I thought as a mayor he did a very good job,” Speciale continued. “I have the utmost respect for him, and he’ll be missed.”

Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby said, “Bill was different, and we didn’t always see eye to eye, but he would always listen to what you had to say — but it may not be convincing. But he had a great sense of humor … he was a good guy.”

Former planning and zoning board member John Metz worked with Shearon and described him as dedicated, “true to himself and the people around him. He was my neighbor, a good friend, and someone I deeply miss.”

Metz said Shearon “made a lot of progress in the city, and I don’t believe he’s ever received enough accolades for what he’s done.”

Another former P&Z member, Rick Bisio, said, “He was never a politician, and that was obvious. But he was truly devoted to his city.”

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh worked with Shearon during her first round of service on the board.

“He had a great attitude,” she said. “He always called me his favorite commissioner even though we butted heads quite frequently. He will be missed.”

Former City Commissioner Randy White credited Shearon for bringing him into city government.

“I learned much from Bill about city affairs,” he wrote to The Islander. “He was a teacher and a mentor. It was he who inspired me to become a city commissioner in 2017.”

White continued, “What impressed me most about Bill, the man, was his integrity, his dedication and the unwavering fight in him to go the distance, with a smile, his big laugh and a joke to boot.”

“For me, Bill Shearon stepped up to bring honesty, integrity and a hands-on, strong managerial administration to the city of Bradenton Beach. And he faced battles on every advance he made,” said Islander publisher Bonner Joy.

“But Bill kept his nose to the grindstone and forged ahead to improve the city however and whenever he could. He became the best sort of political official, a true public servant.”

Most AME students return to brick-and-mortar

thumb image
Anna Maria Elementary fourth-grader Kirra Quimby heads into school Aug. 17 — the first day of the 2020-21 school year. Islander Photo: Brook Morrison
AME fourth-grader Jackson Kennedy, left, kindergartner Luke Plummer, and his sister, fourth-grader Lily, pose Aug. 17 in front of the AME sign moments before their first day of class in the new year. Islander Photo: Courtesy Kari Kennedy
Anna Maria Elementary first-grade teacher Sandra Fisher wears a face shield, face covering and eyeglasses Aug. 13 during her virtual back-to-school message to students. Fisher compared her look to that of an owl. Islander Photo: Courtesy AME

Anna Maria Elementary cares.

Students were returning to classes Aug. 17, with teachers and kids embarking on the 2020-21 school year at AME either in-person or remotely.

There are 195 AME students in kindergarten through fifth-grade.

A virtual back-to-school night was Aug. 13, shared online and including recorded messages from principal Jackie Featherston, 14 teachers, media specialist Lynne McDonough and guidance counselor Susan Tabicman.

“Please, make sure your student has their mask on when they get out of the car and our staff will direct them inside to have a wonderful free breakfast, or if they had breakfast already they can go to the quiet area to start their day before the first bell rings,” Featherston said in her video.

The night traditionally provides a chance for students to meet their teachers and become familiar with classrooms, but with the coronavirus pandemic, the event went online for the safety of staff, students and parents.

Each teacher will be responsible for daily e-learning hours, which will be communicated to students via Schoology.

On campus, students will enter classrooms at 8:25 a.m. and dismissal is at 3:15 p.m.

Featherston, in her welcome video, wore a face shield.

She explained how students should arrive to the campus and what they can expect during the day.

She also thanked families looking “forward to a wonderful school year.”

The district requires face coverings throughout the school day, except for during P.E. and recess, where an effort to social distance will continue.

Kindergarten teacher Kelly Crawford, in her video, introduced herself with and without a face mask, showing a smile.

A colorful board in the titled “look who’s popping into kindergarten” displayed popcorn boxes containing the names of Crawford’s new students.

STEM teacher Jacque Jordan, in a video statement, said she missed her students and her class would focus on the four C’s of engineering: communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking.

Her classroom is arranged for two children per table. Fourth- and fifth-grade students will learn to 3D print and students at every grade level will learn snap circuits.

“We will not be having fifth-grade Technology Student Association and we will not be having our fourth- and fifth-grade robotics, and I’m very sorry about that,” Jordan said.

Due to restrictions on large gatherings, TSA and robotics competitions are not permitted.

For AME students who opted to begin the school year learning at home, the Manatee County School District website at mysdmc.manateeschools.net contains a link to the Schoology platform.

Schoology also offered AME students welcome messages from its teachers and introductions to grading and communication, as well as tutorials and materials for lessons.

Weekly folders will provide new directions and lessons. Students will receive at least one lesson per week recorded in class.

E-learners also will have access to teachers and staff through Schoology, as well as the Remind app, email and telephone.

“I’m super excited that we will be together and I will also have a microphone so that you’ll be able to hear me better and I just wanted to say I can’t wait to see you guys or talk to you online,” first-grade teacher Sandra Fisher said in her orientation video.

She put on a cloth face mask, face shield and then glasses.

“To me, I kind of look like an owl, a master of disguise, that’s me — just kidding,” Fisher said while holding up a placard of a book cover titled “Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise” and written by Sean Taylor.

Anna Maria Elementary is at 4700 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

For more information, call AME at 941-708-5525.

Tornado tears path through Coquina Beach

thumb image
No one was injured when a late afternoon storm Aug. 9 brought a waterspout ashore and toppled one of the Coquina Beach lifeguard towers.
A tiki hut was thrown by a tornado across the concession area Aug. 9 at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach. Manatee County information outreach manager Nicholas Azzara said the damage from the evening storm’s has yet to be determined.
The roof of a demolished changing room at Coquina Beach lies awash Aug. 9 after a waterspout on the Gulf of Mexico came ashore and the tornado-strength winds tossed buildings and tree branches into the parking area. Waves also washed over the dunes into the parking lot. Islander Courtesy Photos

Top Notch Week 4: Catching the sunset and surf

thumb image
Week 4: Catching the sunset and surf Joe McClash of Holmes Beach and Bradenton took this Top Notch photo July 13 at sunset near 52nd Street in Holmes Beach. The photographer won an Islander “More-than-a-mullet wrapper” T-shirt and entry into the finals, which offers a grand prize of $100 from The Islander and gift certificates from Islander advertisers, including Slim’s Place, Island Coffee Haus, Restless Natives, Mr. Bones BBQ and Cremesh European Restaurant, Cupcake Delights, The Feast and Minnie’s Beach Cafe.

Looking back: Killing spree at Kingfish

thumb image
Emergency personnel and bystanders respond Aug. 1, 1980, in Holmes Beach, to a crash where three people were fatally shot and one person was injured. The case remains unsolved. Islander Photo: Collection of June Alder
“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.
A Fiat that had been driven by Robert Matzke crashed into another vehicle at Foodway. Bystanders thought an accident had occurred, but Matzke, a retired Air Force colonel, had unknowingly confronted a killer and was fatally shot.
Emergency personnel place a man on a stretcher at the scene of a crash near the Kingfish Boat Ramp Aug. 1, 1980. The four murders that occurred that day remain unsolved.
Good Samaritans and emergency workers respond Aug. 1, 1980, in Holmes Beach, to the fourth gunshot victim in the parking lot of the grocery store. The case — the Kingfish Boat Ramp killings — remains unsolved. Do you remember that day? Please, share your recollections with The Islander online or by email to news@islander.org. Islander Photos: June Alder, The Islander, Manatee County Public Library

By June Alder

From The Islander archive, circa 1999

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

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.”

I grabbed my camera and jumped in my car. It took me less than five minutes to round the bend at the Manatee Public Beach. That’s when I saw people milling around just east near Kingfish Boat Ramp.

I saw a car and boat trailer jackknifed near a pole. I parked my car and raced over to a scene of chaos.

Sheets were draped over two figures being lifted onto stretchers. They appeared to be children.

A few feet away from the car, medics bent over a man stretched out on the ground.

Close by lay a deeply tanned man in red-and-white striped (swim) trunks. He was barely breathing. 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.

Across the street at the Foodway, an ambulance was pulling out. A man had been shot there, too.

I was beginning to realize the enormity of the crime that had shattered the pleasant afternoon.

The details:

Early Aug. 1, 1980, Juan Dumois, a Tampa physician, his sons Eric, 13, and Mark, 9, and their uncle, Raymond Barrows, vacationing from Miami, left the boat ramp for a fishing trip.

Returning about 5 p.m., they loaded their boat onto a trailer that was hitched 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 man stuck his head in the car window. He had sprained his ankle and asked for a lift.

The man hoisted his bike into the boat and got into the back with the boys before Dumois pulled away. The station wagon had gone only a few yards when the man pulled a gun. He shot Dumois, then Barrows, then the boys.

The man turned off the ignition, steered the car to the side of the road and then rode his bike toward Foodway.

Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Matzke, working in the yard at his Westbay Cove North condo, had observed the man leaving what appeared to be a crash.

He pursued him to the Foodway in his sports car. There, Matzke argued with the bicyclist. Again, a shot rang out, and Matzke became the hitchhiker’s fifth victim.

Shoppers were unaware as the gunman got into a waiting car that disappeared into traffic.

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

The investigation dragged on for months. artist’s conceptions of the killer were circulated, a reward was offered and more than 100 suspects were questioned, but no solid evidence pointed to a killer.

Was he a contract killer?

He shot to kill and had a confederate waiting in a getaway car.

Investigators over the years have said the only chance for a solution is that someone will talk.

Will we ever know the killer’s identity or the reason for the massacre on that bloody Friday?

        Editor’s note: This story about the slaying of four people in Holmes Beach on Aug. 1, 1980, published in The Islander in 1999. June Alder worked for both papers, the old and new Islanders, including the time when the murders occurred.



Top Notch Week 2: Bright night

thumb image
Katy Roadman of Holmes Beach won the second week of The Islander’s 2020 Top Notch photo contest with this photograph of cousins Elijah Roadman, Jeremiah Raulerson, Isaac Roadman, Sam Raulerson and Obadiah Roadman lighting sparklers July 4 on the beach near 73rd Street in Holmes Beach. The photographer won an Islander “More-than-a-mullet wrapper” T-shirt and entry into the finals, which offers a grand prize of $100 from The Islander and gift certificates from Islander advertisers, including Slim’s Place, Island Coffee Haus, Restless Natives, Mr. Bones BBQ and Cremesh European Restaurant.