Tag Archives: News

Holmes Beach man arrested for DUI

thumb image
Lucas Andrews, 36

Pulled over for speeding, a man who told police he was on his way to a liquor store was arrested Feb. 24 for driving under the influence.

Lucas Andrews, 36, of Holmes Beach, was stopped at 1:43 a.m. in the 9900 block of Gulf Drive in Anna Maria by Holmes Beach Police Officer Alan Desantis.

The officer clocked Andrews’ vehicle at 44 mph in a 25-mph zone while it traveled north in the 8000 block of Palm Drive in Holmes Beach, according to the HBPD report.

After he was pulled over, Andrews told police he was going home and believed he was on Cortez Road in Bradenton on his way to a liquor store.

Asked about consuming alcohol, Andrews said he had “a couple drinks of whiskey” and should not have been driving, the HBPD report stated.

Desantis reported Andrews was cooperative, took a road sobriety test, performed poorly and was taken into custody.

At the HBPD station, he provided breath samples measuring 0.218 and 0.223 blood-alcohol content. Drunk driving laws prohibit a BAC of 0.08 or higher.

Andrews was transported and booked at the Manatee County jail.

A $120 bond was posted and Andrews was released, pending an 8:30 a.m. Monday, April 1, arraignment at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Spring break brings biz to AMI

thumb image
People spend time with friends, relax and dine with the Gulf of Mexico over their shoulder in June 2018 at Manatee Public Beach, 4000 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach. An all-time high of 126.1 million people visited Florida in 2018. Islander File Photo: Sandy Ambrogi

The digital sign near the Kingfish Boat Ramp on Manatee Avenue west of the Anna Maria Island Bridge flashes an alert: “No fires, dogs, camping or alcohol allowed on beach.”

It’s time for spring break, and people arriving to the island are ready to celebrate with a few days of fun in the sun.

“We’re just giving people a bit of education as they enter,” Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer told The Islander March 5. “It’s the same rules we always have.”

“And,” he added. “pack your patience and leave early.”

Officials at Tampa International Airport announced March 4 they expect 3.6 million passengers to arrive at the airport in the next six weeks.

Spring break is typically the six-week period spanning March and the first two weeks of April, when some colleges and K-12 schools are on spring vacation. Some schools break later in April, depending on Easter’s date. Officials expect the 2019 spring break to be the largest ever in the Tampa Bay area, according to a news release from TIA.

Accommodations on the island are filling up, according to rental agencies polled by The Islander.

“Our 250 vacation rental properties are 99 percent full for March and about 75 percent full for April,” Joe Varner of Anna Maria Vacations told The Islander March 6.

“Love spring breakers!” he said. “And, summer is filling up very nicely, too.”

Varner was scrambling to finish renovations at the former Blue Water Beach Club, 6306 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach, now the Anna Maria Beach Resort.

Barbara Baker, general manager of Anna Maria Island Resorts — Tortuga, Tropic Isle, Seaside and Tradewinds resorts — said starting the week of March 11, the properties are “pretty much booked completely” through the end of March.

“We are looking good,” she said, adding that some scattered dates are available in the first two weeks of April.

In Anna Maria, Suzette Buchan said her Rod and Reel Motel is 98 percent booked for March and 77 percent booked the first weeks of April.

In 2018, 93.2 percent of lodging rooms on Anna Maria Island were booked in March, with an average room rate of $242.40 per night.

People calling or stopping by the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce in Holmes Beach have not only been inquiring about island activities. Sometimes they are searching for immediate lodging.

Such was the case March 6, when a couple arriving in the area stopped for help.

“They were looking for a two-week stay on the island. No reservations. They were on vacation, heard about Anna Maria, drove down and decided they wanted to stay,” chamber president Terri Kinder told The Islander.

Kinder found them a room. A chamber business member had called earlier in the day with a cancellation alert, and Kinder sent the couple over.

“We got them set up for two weeks,” Kinder said. “From all we are seeing, it’s going to be a great spring season here.”

Kinder said the majority of inquiries to the chamber have come from couples, followed by families.

Full lodgings benefit many businesses
Vacation rental companies aren’t the businesses that profit from the spring break influx. Island eateries and bars fill up, live music venues are hot stops for breakers and paddleboards, kayaks and other “island” rental items are popular commodities.

While some restaurants maintain the status quo, others feature drink and food specials to draw spring breakers.

Shawn Culhane, manager of the Ugly Grouper, 5704 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, said the restaurant is serving breakfast and morning beverage specials. The outdoor eatery also will feature live music during lunch and early afternoons and at dinner.

Tanner Enoch and crew at the Anna Maria Island Beach Cafe at Manatee Public Beach are no strangers to high volume.

“It’s what we live for,” he told The Islander.

Enoch said business ticked up in March and he is seeing more families on vacation than college students on spring break.

“We increase our staff and our orders,” he said. “We love it.”

Anyone out and about on Anna Maria Island will probably notice an uptick in cyclists and golf carts, along with scooters and Segways. Some visitors try their hand at kayaking and paddleboarding. All these items are for rent from local businesses.

Kelly Crawford teaches kindergarten at Anna Maria Elementary, and her husband, Shawn, owns Florida Sportfishing Outfitters. While Crawford is looking forward to her own spring break from teaching, she admits she won’t see much of her husband during her time off.

“He is booked every day that week,” Crawford told The Islander. “But this is a wonderful thing, considering what the red tide did to the charter captain businesses in the fall and winter. I’ll just hang out.”

Just how many of the 3.6 million passengers traveling into TIA between now and mid-April will make their way to Anna Maria Island?

Time will tell, but islanders are ready and waiting for them.

Record numbers soak up Florida sunshine
Yes, lots of people are here.

Not just on Anna Maria Island, but all over Florida.

A record number of out-of-state visitors — 126.1 million — traveled to Florida in 2018, according to statistics from Visit Florida, the tourism marketing corporation for the state.

For the eighth consecutive year, visitation set a record.

Visitors had an economic impact in Manatee County of $973,798,000.

Domestic visits numbered 111.8 million in the state. Overseas travelers made 10.8 million visits and 3.5 million Canadians came south.

Visit Florida estimates 30.3 million visitors traveled to the state in the fourth quarter of 2018, an increase of 4.6 percent over the same period in 2017.

The highest percentage of domestic visitors came from Georgia, with 9.6 percent; followed by New York, 8.5 percent. Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania rounded out the top five states providing the most visitors.

The most popular activities for domestic visitors were the beach and waterfront activities, visiting friends and relatives and culinary experiences.

Overseas travelers to Florida, on the other hand, cited shopping as the top draw.

Bradenton man arrested for drugs at BB roundabout

thumb image
Jose Eduardo Barajas,18

Stopped for speeding in Bradenton Beach, a Bradenton man was arrested by police for possessing 24 grams of marijuana with an intent to sell the drug.

Jose Eduardo Barajas,18, also was arrested for possessing paraphernalia and driving without a license in the 700 block of Gulf Drive South after he sped around the Bridge Street roundabout at Gulf Drive South in a Mazda SUV.

BBPD Officer Steve Masi pulled Barajas over at 11:34 p.m. Feb. 28, according to the police report.

Barajas told Masi he had “about an ounce” of marijuana, no driver’s license and no firearm.

In a vehicle search, however, police found a loaded handgun in the glove box.

Barajas told Masi a friend put the gun in the vehicle, but must have forgotten the weapon.

In addition to the gun and marijuana, police found and seized plastic bags and a digital scale.

Masi interviewed a passenger, who told police Barajas was known to sell marijuana.

BBPD took the handgun for safekeeping. The SUV was towed.

In addition to the drug charges, Barajas was arrested for driving without a valid license and ticketed for speeding.

He was transported and booked at the Manatee County jail, where he posted a $2,500 bond and was released.

His arraignment is set for 9 a.m. Friday, April 5 at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

Second batch of clams seeded

thumb image
A second batch of clams purchased by the Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency line the dock at the South Coquina Boat Ramp March 9 ready to be loaded onto a boat for seeding in Sarasota Bay near the Historic Bridge Street Pier. Purchased for for $36,000, the 200,000 clams, which each filter several gallons of water a day, are the first phase in the CRA’s plans for a living shoreline, complete with oysters and reef balls. Islander Photos: Ryan Paice
State Rep. William Robinson Jr., R-Bradenton, left, and Bradenton Beach City Commissioner Ralph Cole get ready to participate March 9 in seeding the second batch of clams in the water near the Historic Bridge Street Pier.
Rusty Chinnis from Sarasota Bay Watch and his crew, along with participants state Rep. William Robinson Jr., R-Bradenton, and Bradenton Beach Commissioner Ralph Cole, right, drop clams into the water near the Historic Bridge Street Pier March 9.
William Robinson Jr. drops clams purchased by the Bradenton Beach CRA into the water near the Historic Bridge Street Pier March 9. Each of the clams will filter gallons of water a day.

A second batch of clams purchased by the Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency line the dock at the South Coquina Boat Ramp March 9 ready to be loaded onto a boat for seeding in Sarasota Bay near the Historic Bridge Street Pier. Purchased for for $36,000, the 200,000 clams, which each filter several gallons of water a day, are the first phase in the CRA’s plans for a living shoreline, complete with oysters and reef balls. Islander Photos: Ryan Paice

Ousted code officer alleges toxic workplace in Anna Maria

An employee ousted from the city of Anna Maria earlier this year is alleging she endured a toxic work environment.

Angela Albrecht, who worked as code and parking officer and administrative assistant, was fired Jan. 24.

In an interview with The Islander in January, Albrecht shared a list of grievances, some recently corroborated by another former employee.

Her claims point to misconduct in the city, alleging again March 8 that toxicity thrives in the city’s pattern of forcing employees out of their jobs.

Albrecht alleged Mayor Dan Murphy forced several city employees out of their positions, including herself, former building, code and parking manager Pamela Gibbs, and others.

Albrecht alleges Murphy called himself the “Grim Reaper,” claiming he was adept at getting employees to leave their jobs on their own volition.

“I had a job once, years ago, that I kind of felt that way about,” Murphy said in a Feb. 1 interview with The Islander. “So that might have been why somebody would have said that. But that was years ago, when I was a young man in my 30s.”

Albrecht said, in her situation, the city pressured her to leave by reducing her responsibilities and ostracizing her from other employees.

“They removed me from the building department so I wouldn’t see anything more, and they put me in some closet (a small workspace) in the back,” Albrecht said in an interview Jan. 29. “Then, they tried to change my schedule and told people not to speak with me.”

Gibbs, hired as code manager in May 2015, said Jan. 31 that she was forced to retire. She said Murphy informed her in November 2017 that he had hired David Greenbaum as building official and that she would be laid off.

Gibbs added she was given no reason for being forced out of her job, and Murphy insisted on hosting a retirement party despite her unwillingness.

Another former employee, who corroborates Albrecht’s and Gibb’s claims about the toxic work place and the mayor’s moniker, only agreed to speak anonymously due to fear of retribution from the city.

Yet another former employee refused to speak for fear of retribution.

The mayor declined to comment on Albrecht’s claim that he forced people from their jobs, calling the allegation “ridiculous.”

He also dismissed Albrecht’s characterization of city government as a toxic workplace.

“It’s just disgruntled employees,” Murphy said. “For them, they might have perceived it as toxic, but they never ever brought that to my attention at the time.”

Holmes Beach golf cart limits confuse, anger drivers

thumb image
Eric Irons, manager at AMI Beach Fun Rentals at the Anna Maria Island Centre shopping plaza in Holmes Beach, poses March 8 with two low-speed vehicles available for rent at his shop. Both are street legal — allowed on all island roads. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

People have strong feelings about golf carts in Holmes Beach.

However, what they consider a golf cart may be a street-legal low-speed vehicle.

It seems “golf cart” has become a generic term for the fun, small, electric-powered vehicles that formerly found use only at the golf course.

Holmes Beach commissioners voted Feb. 26 to approve on first reading an amended ordinance requiring seat belts and age-appropriate child restraint devices — such as car seats — for golf carts.

Also, golf carts are prohibited on roads with a speed limit higher than 25 mph, including East Bay, Gulf, Marina and Palm drives and Manatee Avenue.

The speed limit requirement remains the same as the current ordinance, but the new wording in the proposed ordinance removes specific streets by name.

Currently, golf carts — as defined by the state and not to be confused with LSVs — are restricted by state law from roads with speed limits of 35 mph or higher.

LSVs can operate on any city road on Anna Maria Island. They require a title, registration, insurance and are equipped by the manufacturer with seat belts.

Both golf carts and LSVs must be operated by a licensed driver.

“Nothing has changed for LSVs,” Police Chief Bill Tokajer said March 7. “LSVs are street-legal golf carts. And that includes all the rentals and most of what you see now on the road.”

Residents and visitors have responded to the city commission’s decision with comments on social media both for and against an updated ordinance, with some people threatening to halt vacations on the island or sell their property and move if the ordinance passes.

Other people posted comments on The Islander website and social media that golf carts loaded with kids on the main road are a safety concern.

Eric Irons, a manager at AMI Beach Fun Rentals, said he tries to inform customers that what people rent at his shop and call a golf cart is an LSV, and is fully compliant with state and local laws.

“I let them know that all our golf carts are street legal,” Irons said. “They all have license plates, they’re registered and have seat belts, mirrors and headlights.”

Commissioner Carol Soustek said she was driving behind a golf cart when the driver took a turn too fast and a child tumbled out. The incident contributed to her concerns about golf carts and public safety.

“He wasn’t hurt badly, but it is still scary and could’ve been worse,” Soustek said. “That is why we want safety measures for golf carts.”

Holmes Beach is the only city on the island that allows golf carts its roads.

The final hearing for the ordinance and vote will be held at the city commission meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 26, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

Sunshine suit defendants offer ‘compromise’

The clock is ticking.

Two settlement offers are on the table in the Bradenton Beach versus citizens lawsuit, but it remains to be seen which — if any — will be accepted.

At a March 7 Bradenton Beach commission meeting, the mayor and commissioners unanimously voted to set a March 18 deadline for the defendants to respond to a settlement offer by the city in the lawsuit initiated by ex-Mayor Jack Clarke and joined by the city against six former city board members.

The city’s settlement offer would require the six defendants — Reed Mapes, Tjet Martin, John Metz, Patty Shay and Bill and Rose Vincent — to each pay fines of $500 and admit they violated Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law.

The offer also requires the defendants produce additional records that were requested by the city but not provided.

But the defendants responded March 8 with an “offer to compromise,” that would eliminate any admission of guilt, provides no fine and no further records.

The defendants’ offer stipulates that the parties would be responsible for their own legal fees.

The compromise also provides for a $10,000 donation from the defendants to the Annie Silver Community Center, 103 23rd St. N., Bradenton Beach, and suggests — but does not require — the city do the same.

The deadline for the city to respond to the compromise is March 15, three days prior to the city’s deadline.

City attorney Ricinda Perry said March 7 that starting with her March 20 deposition, considerable costs will be added to the suit, which has cost taxpayers $168,294 as of March 7.

“We’re probably facing close to $10,000 just for that day,” she said of her deposition.

Perry also said some records requested by the defendants were allegedly destroyed or not provided, and that the defendants filed several motions March 6 and March 7 to block the requests.

The defendants’ compromise states that further production of records would “open the possibility of an endless dispute over this issue and is counter to everyone’s primary goal to end all disputes among the parties. The defendants have provided all public records in their possession and this issue is not part of the lawsuit.”

The defense’s primary legal stance for the case disputes the claims that four of the defendants, who met as members of the Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach grass-roots group and discussed citizen’s petitions to amend the charter, but the subjects were never brought before the planning and zoning board, of which Mapes, Metz, Shay and Bill Vincent were members.

Also, the defendants can ask the city and Clarke to pay their costs if they win, a claim that was made in the pleadings.

Tjet Martin said March 8 that on Jan. 9, during his deposition, Clarke, who accused Rose Vincent and Martin of ex parte communications, stated he could not distinguish Rose Vincent from Carol Harrington at the time he made his claim.

Martin said Rose Vincent was not at the meeting where she was accused of violating the Sunshine Law. Instead, Harrington, who did not belong to a board or any other city committee, was present.

Martin asks now, why didn’t Clarke tell his attorneys he erred in his accusation?

“It’s just one of my reasons for not agreeing to the city’s terms,” Martin said.

Additionally, the defendants claim there may be problems with the Sunshine Law as it pertains to the First Amendment, based on a Texas court ruling.

The Texas Supreme Court ruled Feb. 27 in State of Texas v. Craig Doyal, a similar matter involving open meetings laws. The ruling in favor of the defendant was on the basis that “more clarity is required of a criminal law when that law implicates First Amendment freedoms.”

In the cover letter with the defendants’ offer, submitted by Metz’s attorney, Thomas Shults of Sarasota, wrote, “Compromise by both sides is necessary, with everyone respecting each other’s dignity and recognizing the need to begin healing the deep wounds caused to not only the parties, but also the community, by this lawsuit.”

Bradenton Beach offers Sunshine suit settlement

thumb image
Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie, left, Commissioners Marilyn Maro and Ralph Cole, city attorney Ricinda Perry and Commissioner Jake Spooner meet Feb. 28 to discuss settling a lawsuit. Commissioner Randy White attended by phone. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

Mediation resulted in an impasse.

Still, Bradenton Beach extended a settlement offer.

At a Feb. 28 special meeting, city attorney Ricinda Perry informed the Bradenton Beach commission that the Feb. 25 mediation for a lawsuit, initiated by ex-Mayor Jack Clarke and joined by the city against six former board members, resulted in a stalemate.

However, she said the city has indicated it would settle the lawsuit, which deals with alleged Government-in-the-Sunshine Law violations, if the six defendants each paid fines of $500 and collectively admitted guilt.

Perry said that “on a number of occasions” at commission meetings, the mayor and commissioners indicated they would prefer to settle but, until now, no offer was made to defendants Reed Mapes, Tjet Martin, John Metz, Patty Shay and Rose and Bill Vincent.

According to Metz, none of the defendants were notified of the special meeting and, therefore, none of them attended.

As of Feb. 28, the suit had cost the city $168,294 and, according to Perry, the cost likely will increase to $250,000, not including appeals, if the case goes to trial.

Perry said some records requested by the defendants were allegedly destroyed or not provided, which could result in additional counts against the defendants, further escalating the cost for the suit.

The attorney presented a one-sheet summary of the lawsuit to the mayor and commissioners and reminded them “this was a case of sue or be sued.”

She said when the suit began in August 2017, the city had been warned that if it did not join Clarke’s suit against the board members, it could also be sued for violating the Sunshine Law.

“Let’s come together, set our differences aside, and if you are willing to acknowledge that you have made the mistakes, pay a $500 fine to the city and you can truly all walk away,” Perry rhetorically said to the defendants. “We will walk away.”

“We’ve been very consistent throughout this whole thing,” Mayor John Chappie said. “I’m in total agreement we need to move forward. Let’s stop this madness.”
Commissioner Marilyn Maro agreed.

“I think the taxpayers would like to see this happen,” she said.

The mayor and commissioners unanimously approved a motion to offer the defendants the agreed settlement terms.

Additionally, Commissioner Jake Spooner motioned for Perry to draft the settlement document and provide it to the defendants and their counsel, as well as disseminate the offer to the public “so the community can see the commission is making an effort to resolve the cost in an efficient manner,” which also passed with a unanimous vote.

As of March 1, the defendants had not said whether they would accept the offer.

Bradenton Beach-Cortez area offenders register addresses

A Feb. 27 email from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement shows a 45-year-old former Bradenton Beach man — convicted in Manatee County of promoting sexual performance of a child, child sex porn, lewd and lascivious exhibition and battery against a child under age 16 in October 2014 — registered an address east of Cortez in the 4200 block of La Costa Cove in Bradenton.

Another male sex offender registered a temporary address in the 100 block of Sixth Street South in Bradenton Beach.

Convicted of sexual offenses in Machias, Maine, in 2005, the 56-year-old reported his visit to the FDLE, according to a Feb. 12 email from the agency.

The FDLE registry shows other sex offenders in the area as of Feb. 28:
• A 49-year-old male offender in the 2900 block of Avenue C in Holmes Beach.
• A 57-year-old male offender in the 4200 block of the 129th Street West in Cortez.
• A 54-year-old male offender in the 100 block of Crescent Avenue in Anna Maria.
• A 60-year-old male offender in the 100 block of Ninth Street North in Bradenton Beach.

Sex offenders must register permanent and temporary addresses unless otherwise ordered by the court.

Eyes on the road – 03-06-2019

The Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County posted the following notices for the week of March 4:

Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach: Crews are milling and paving Gulf Drive from 39th Street North to 28th Street North. The work is during daytime hours.

Avenue C: Right-of-way restoration continues along Avenue C. Activities include installation of a stormwater infiltration system and driveway restoration.

For more information about the pipeline replacement projects on the island, go online to amipipereplacement.com.

For the latest road watch information, go online to www.fl511.com or dial 511.