Tag Archives: News

Support AME, with a healthy run

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Put on your running shoes.

Together with the Bradenton Running Club, Anna Maria Elementary race organizer Kelly Gitt is looking for entries and sponsors for the Anna Maria Island Dolphin Dash and fun run.

The 5-kilometer race and 1-mile run will begin at 8 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 8.

The races kick off in at the school south parking lot, 4700 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

The 5k runners will start at 8 a.m. and the fun run begins at 9 a.m.

Race day registration begins at 7 a.m.

Awards and refreshments will follow the race.

Proceeds support AME and the goal is to raise $25,000 for new school benches.

Sponsorship tiers are available for businesses and individuals.

Race fees cost $25 per adult and $15 per child under 18.

Also, the race organizers are selling sponsorships to businesses and individuals.

Gold sponsorships are available for $500 and silver for $250.

Both sponsorships include promotional material that will be dispersed at the race also, and gold sponsors get a booth at the race site.

Limited space is available for logo placement on T-shirts, flyers and advertising.

For more information, contact Gitt at 941-357-4488 or email kelly@gittsoldit.com

Eyes on the road 01-15-2020

The Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County posted the following for the week of Jan. 13:

  • Cortez Road and 119th Street West in Cortez: Work to reconstruct and reconfigure the intersection of 119th Street West on Cortez Road is beginning. Drivers can expect detours.
  • Multiple locations in Bradenton Beach: A Manatee County pipeline replacement project continues in Bradenton Beach, possibly through the spring. Impacted areas include Bay Drive South to Bridge Street, Church Avenue to Cortez Road. Construction in rights of way is expected, as well as increased truck traffic and heavy equipment operations. People — motorists and pedestrians — can expect detours.
  • Longboat Pass Bridge on Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach/Longboat Key: Work on the Longboat Pass Bridge on Gulf Drive between Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key continue. Southern Road & Bridge, the contractor, is completing final checks and delays are not expected. The new completion target is early 2020, pushed back from the end of 2019.

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

To view traffic conditions, go online to smarttrafficinfo.org.

Hundreds take 2020 Gulf plunge

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People — some in costume — rush Jan. 1, New Year’s Day, into the Gulf of Mexico for Clancy’s 12th annual fundraising event, the Shamrock Shiver New Year’s Day Charity Plunge at Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach. More, page 2. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice
Bradenton residents Paul Halvorsen, left, and Bill Capobianco are outfitted Jan. 1 as Pacific Islanders for the Shamrock Shiver best costume contest. The pair finished as runners up to the “Pac Man family.”
Bradenton resident Dana Rothgery, right, organizes her family, costumed in a Pac Man-theme, for the Shamrock Shiver best costume contest held Jan. 1. The “Pac Man family” won the award for best costumes, having earned the loudest and most applause. Islander Photos: Ryan Paice
Bradenton resident Paul Devine, costumed as a sea turtle, dangles a smaller sea turtle from a string in his hand Jan. 1, during the Shamrock Shiver best costume contest in Bradenton Beach.
Sarasota resident Mike Gustow is dressed as a fisherman with a mermaid, wife Bonnie, as his catch at the Shamrock Shiver costume contest, Jan. 1 in Bradenton Beach.

What better way to start 2020 than to plunge into the Gulf of Mexico?

The air was a crisp 64 degrees when hundreds of people rushed Jan. 1 into the Gulf of Mexico for Clancy’s 12th annual Shamrock Shiver New Year’s Day Charity Plunge at Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach.

About 500 people attended the event, according to Clancy’s Irish Sports Pub employee Daniel Cassidy. Nearly half of the attendees took the plunge.

Before the run to the Gulf, the crowd judged a costume contest.

Participants included Paul Devine, who dressed as a sea turtle. Bill Capobianco and Paul Halvorsen were costumed as Pacific Islanders. Steve Theroux was dressed as Spock from “Star Trek.” And a group arrived costumed in a Pac Man-theme.

The “Pac Man family,” led by Bradenton resident Dana Rothgery, won the top prize.

At the parking lot, volunteers collected donations and sold event T-shirts.

After the plunge at noon, people went to Clancy’s, 6218 Cortez Road W., Bradenton, for an after-party with raffles, live music, food, beverages and awards.

Proceeds benefit Caring for Children Charities, the fundraising arm of the Sarasota-based nonprofit organization, Florida Winefest and Auction.

Clancy’s has helped raised $246,876 since beginning its annual plunge in 2009.

The 2019 plunge raised about $27,000.

The 2020 plunge raised $25,537 as of Jan. 5, according to Rayma Stowe of Clancy’s.

To pledge or donate to the campaign, contact Jan Crudele of Florida Winefest at 941-952-1109.

For more information, call Stowe at 941-720-4072.

Jacksonville man gets probation for DUI

A Jacksonville Beach man arrested in August 2019 for driving under the influence after leaving a Bradenton Beach bar was sentenced to a year of probation.

Lonson Becker, 32, was arrested Aug. 17 in the parking lot at 116 Bridge St., Bradenton Beach, by a Manatee County sheriff’s deputy called to assist Bradenton Beach police.

Becker appeared Nov. 20, 2019, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, with his attorney Richard Eisenberg and pleaded no contest to the charge of driving under the influence.

As part of a Bridge Street patrol, BBPD Officer Eric Hill checked on The Lighthouse bar, located on the second level of the Hynds Commercial building at 119 Bridge St., and noticed Becker appeared intoxicated, with slurred speech and trouble standing.

A police report states Hill advised Becker to leave but not to drive and that Becker said he would call someone to drive him home.

Hill later observed Becker driving a vehicle at Bridge Street and Bay Drive. The driver ran a stop sign and traveled the wrong way around the traffic circle.

An MCSO deputy arrived, tested Becker for signs of impairment and made the DUI arrest.

Becker refused to provide breath samples on the scene and at the Manatee County jail, where he was booked.

Becker also was ticketed for running a stop sign and traveling the wrong way at the roundabout on Bay Drive. Those charges were dismissed.

County readies for beach renourishment in 2020

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A bulldozer moves sand in on Anna Maria Island in April 2011, near the end of a beach renourishment effort. Islander File Photo: Lisa Neff

Anna Maria Island’s beaches wouldn’t be so impressive without a little bit of help.

The sandy shores people know and love in Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach are the product of a noisy necessity: beach renourishment.

Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Parks and Natural Resources Department, said nothing can be done to abate the noise caused by equipment — which he described as akin to the sound of a waterfall — but the benefits outweigh the costs.

“If we forego our beach renourishment programming because it’s too noisy, we’d end up with no beach at all,” he said in an interview Jan. 2 with The Islander.

Beach renourishment is the practice of replacing sand lost through erosion, often by jetting a slushie of oceanwater and sand from an offshore seabed to the beach via a pipeline.

Renourishment restores beaches and prevents erosion from damaging coastal infrastructure.

Renourishment is intended to save property and property values from damage caused by erosion.

Hunsicker said the island shoreline suffers from 10-12 feet of erosion every year, which must be countered with renourishment.

Three projects are planned this year to rebuild the beaches from 79th Street in Holmes Beach southward to Longboat Pass.

Hunsicker said the Army Corps of Engineers is taking bids for the first stage of their project, which involves putting a small amount of sand at Coquina Beach in Bradenton Beach, to be funded by the county and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Work could begin as early as March, but the timeline is dependent on the Army Corps, according to Hunsicker.

The second project — funded by the county, state and Army Corps — will replenish sand from 79th Street in Holmes Beach to Fifth Street South in Bradenton Beach.

Work will then progress south until reaching Longboat Pass for the third project, which will be funded by the county and state.

More than 700,000 cubic yards of sand for the latter two projects will be excavated and pipelined to the beach from 4,000 feet offshore near Passage Key in the Gulf of Mexico.

The same contractor will be used for both projects to minimize mobilization costs.

Hunsicker said noise from the projects will be the waterfall-like sounds caused by constantly jetting a slushie of oceanwater and sand ashore, as well as mechanical sounds — heavy equipment and operators who move bulldozers to spread sand.

While work is set to stretch across island beaches day and night for months, Hunsicker said any given location along the beach will be within earshot of the projects for only three days — one day as work approaches, another as it reaches the location, and on the third day as it moves south.

“It’s like a slow-moving river of work in front of a property,” Hunsicker said. “It’s a 24/7 operation because it’s near impossible to operate only during the day because the sand has to keep flowing through the pipeline.”

When the projects begin, the county will post a page on its website, mymanatee.org, so people can track where renourishment work is occurring.

While renourishment noise may prove to be an inconvenience for some, local restaurateur Ed Chiles — owner of the Beach House Restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive N., Bradenton Beach — is excited for work to begin.

“It’s music to my ears,” Chiles told The Islander in a Jan. 2 interview. “You’ve got to be willing to take a little bit of inconvenience to have these gorgeous beaches. I don’t think it’s too much to ask. I’d say it’s a pretty great bargain.”

Chiles said he has experienced multiple renourishment projects as the work passes by his island restaurants — including the Sandbar Restaurant in Anna Maria — and they have only negligibly impacted the businesses. He credited Hunsicker for his involvement in leading the county renourishment programs.

“I’ll never forget the first time they rolled by,” Chiles said. “You know the old adage about land and how they aren’t making any more of it? Well, this is where you actually see them making land.”

“It’s like the greatest sandbox you’ve ever seen,” he continued. “And you see people become frozen all the time while watching it because it’s just so interesting to see.”

Renourishment funding

Minor repair to Coquina
Total cost: $6,400,000
County funding: $3,750,000
FEMA funding: $2,650,000
Central Beach Project
(79th Street in Holmes Beach to Fifth Street South in Bradenton Beach)
Total cost: $20,500,000
Army Corps of Engineers funding: $11,600,000
County funding: $4,450,000
State funding: $4,450,000
Coquina Beach Project
(Fifth Street South in Bradenton Beach to Longboat Pass)
Total cost: $6,200,000
County funding: $3,100,000
State funding: $3,100,000

Anna Maria to take up city pier lease terms, tenant offer

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Workers on the T-end of the Anna Maria City Pier Jan. 2 address exterior finishes. Islander Photo: Phil Colpas

Two key puzzle pieces may be coming together as Anna Maria takes steps to open a new city pier.

First up, Mario Schoenfelder, pier tenant since 2000, met the city’s deadline extension of Dec. 31, 2019, with his final pier lease proposal.

A special city meeting to discuss Schoenfelder’s offer is slated for 10 a.m. Friday, Jan. 10, at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria.

Second, the vacant position of pier liaison may soon be filled. The responsibility previously fell to Dale Woodland, who served seven two-year terms as a city commissioner but failed to qualify for re-election in November 2019. Woodland erroneously paid the $48 qualifying fee with a personal check instead of the required campaign account.

The commission agreed to accept applications for Woodland’s vacant seat through Jan. 8.

Woodland told The Islander in a Jan. 5 email that he hopes to be appointed to serve another two years.

He wrote: “I am a public servant, always have been and always will be, I have no agenda but to serve. Our residents and visitors alike are welcome and a benefit to our city.”

He also wrote, “I work in our city and am blessed to have people talk to me every day; their input drives me. When we are not always on the same page, our differences are respected and I have to make a decision, that’s my job.”

He thanked everyone who has supported him in his effort to regain his seat on the dais.

Filling the empty commission chair will be discussed by the commission at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 9.

Lease negotiations

Schoenfelder began his final lease proposal to the city commission with this statement: “Before presenting my offer, I would like to address a matter that in my view is critical to every future tenant who is willing to invest considerable funds for the buildout and equipment of the new city pier restaurant and bait shop and is willing to lease the premises. That matter is insurance.”

Schoenfelder said he understands the tenant is responsible for liability and contents insurance, and the city plans to assume casualty coverage.

“I am asking the city to explain how sufficient insurance coverage would be provided and how a sufficient degree of financial safety for the tenant would be established,” Schoenfelder wrote.

According to the terms of the current lease agreement, expiring December 2020, the tenant is responsible for maintaining general liability and property insurance, protecting against personal injury, death or property damage at the leased premises.

The agreement also requires the landlord — the city — to maintain fire and casualty insurance equal to the full insurable value of the improvements to the leased premises.

Rent is abated from the date of a casualty until the premises are substantially restored and the leased property is returned to the tenant.

Schoenfelder’s monthly lease payments, which over time increased to $11,500, were discontinued when the historic pier, originally built in 1911, was closed after damages by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. The pier was demolished in 2018 and the city hired I+iconSOUTHEAST to construct the new pier.

The other major sticking point of the negotiations concerns rent and a down payment, first reported in the Jan. 1 issue of The Islander.

Mayor Dan Murphy had emailed Schoenfelder Sept. 30, 2019, and presented him with two base-payment options for a new lease.

The first option offered by Murphy included a monthly base payment of $21,600, along with either a 3% annual increase after the first year, or an annual adjustment based on the consumer price index.

The second option included a monthly base payment of $18,900, along with either a 3% annual increase to begin after the first year, or an annual adjustment based on the consumer price index.

The second option would require Schoenfelder pay a $250,000 lump sum upon signing the lease.

Schoenfelder countered: A 10-year lease with two five-year options, monthly payments of $8,000 with the first six months rent-free, and CPI-based adjustments kicking in after three years.

If negotiations with Schoenfelder fall through, the city commission has a plan in place to issue a request for proposals seeking a new tenant.

Construction progress

Murphy provided an update on pier construction in a Jan. 2 email to The Islander:

“Siding is being placed on the building. The fireline is complete and pending final inspection,” Murphy wrote. “The final platform inspection is scheduled for Jan. 9.”

While the new pier remains on track for a February opening for fishing, the dates for the opening of the restaurant and bait shop are not yet set.

The commission in December delayed voting on a city pier ordinance that would clarify the rights and jurisdiction of the pier lessee.

Meet 2019’s Islanders of the year, but the real winner is wildlife

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Devon Straight, with a rescued eagle. Islander File Photos
Ed Straight, left, holds a sick gull. Islander File Photos
Gail Straight feeds a juvenile raccoon. Islander File Photos

Ask just about anyone who has lived on Anna Maria Island more than a few months, a student at Anna Maria Elementary School, a cop, the volunteers who take calls at the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce. Ask an animal-, bird-, wildlife-lover, and the answer comes readily.

Who you gonna call with a wildlife emergency? Wildlife Inc.

When you call the Wildlife rescue number, you likely reach either Gail or Ed Straight, founders and directors of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, based in their home in Bradenton Beach since 1987.

Ed Straight, president and former Bradenton Beach city commissioner and law enforcement officer, started rescuing and rehabbing animals in need as a hobby after finding a duckling alone in a lake, rejected by its mother.

They now manage thousands of rescued birds and animals yearly, from laughing gulls and owls to Key deer and otters and many more, caring for their injuries or nursing them when they’re abandoned, and returning them to the wild when possible.

They also raised their grandson, Devon, who continues to help while serving in law enforcement in Bradenton Beach.

They had a slow start, but the number of animals the nonprofit cared for grew as development encroached on habitat, according to Ed Straight. He told The Islander that Wildlife Inc. cared for around 2,500 injured or abandoned animals in 2018 and received many more rescue calls.

Ed Straight and Wildlife Inc. volunteers take screech owl Odie and other animals to local schools and island events to teach people about wildlife.

It is the only wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center in Manatee County.

They answer calls at all hours and they don’t ask for much, just help feeding the thousands of critters in their care.

It’s a big feed bill.

They are Islanders of the Year.

And they deserve our help.

Call Wildlife Inc. at 941-778-6324.

And thank them for all they do.

Anyone recognize this boat?

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A double-masted sailboat is grounded on a sandbar Jan. 2 near South Bay Boulevard and Loquat Drive in Anna Maria. Residents reported the stranded and abandoned vessel to The Islander Dec. 31. “We have reached out to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and our Marine Patrol Unit,” said Sgt. Mike Jones of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Anna Maria substation. “They are investigating and trying to locate an owner. I hope to have an update soon on a time frame for removal.” Islander Photo: Phil Colpas

Businesses thankful for November tax collections

Giving thanks is a November theme that extended to those who benefit from the tourist tax coffers in Manatee County.

Bed tax collections continue upward climb
• November 2014, $534,624.23.
• November 2015, $594,078.77.
• November 2016, $660,565,44.
• November 2017, $698,988.44.
• November 2018, $761,498.76.
• November 2019, $831,688.02.
Source: Manatee County Tax Collector’s Office

The November collections increased more than $70,000 over those for the same month in 2018.

The Manatee County Tax Collector’s Office reported $831,688.02 in tourism development taxes were collected in November 2019, up from $761,498.76 in 2018, after the 3% tax office collection fee is deducted.

The tax rate is 5% and the tax, also known as the bed tax or resort tax, is collected on overnight rentals of six months or less.

The rise follows a November trend in increases over the past six years.

On Anna Maria Island, Holmes Beach led the pack with collections of $183,437.50 or 22.06% of the total tourist tax collected.

Anna Maria followed with $99,528.50, with 11.97% of the county total.

Bradenton Beach rang in at $50,057.30, or 6.02% of tourist taxes for the month.

Overall, unincorporated Manatee County led the way with 39.65% collected and a $329,767.01 total.

Bradenton’s collections totaled $77,400.32 — 9.31% — and Palmetto rounded out the list with $1,755.43 or .21% of the county’s total tourist tax.

Fiscal year-to-date totals increased by $179,393.96, from $1,435,429.58 to $1,614,823.54.

Tourist tax money is collected by the state and then funded back to the county.

State law requires using resort tax funds for tourism-related projects only.

Expenditures of the tourist tax dollars are set by the Manatee County Board of Commissioners as recommended by the tourist development council, a group of nine individuals, including business people and local officials, appointed to four-year terms.

Tourist tax collections are reported in arrears and November numbers were released Jan. 3.

The fiscal year runs Oct. 1-Sept. 30.