Tag Archives: News

City pier engineer, designer face costly kink for T-end flaw

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A blustery wind greets the birds at the Anna Maria City Pier Nov. 10. Islander Photo: Jack Elka

A solution is up in the air for a design conflict at the Anna Maria City Pier.

Anna Maria Mayor Dan Murphy told The Islander in a Nov. 8 email that he met Nov. 6 with representatives of Ayres Engineering and the Schimberg Group, along with Frank Agnelli of Mason Martin Builders and building official Luke Curtis to mull solutions for a design conflict on the pier — with work underway.

An architect might have a plan.

But the cost? $100,000.

The problem involves the differing angles of the pier and the T-end buildings. The pier was planned to allow stormwater to drain from the T-end, but architects from the Schimberg Group designed the restaurant and bait shop buildings for a level surface.

Murphy said the proposed solutions — raising door headers, leveling floors on the T-end by pouring additional concrete, expanding drain holes in the base and adding a curb around the structure — would not be born by the city. Instead, the engineering and architectural firms responsible for the conflict will pay.

Barron Schimberg, however, requested time to draw up alternative solutions at no cost to the city.

Murphy said he couldn’t detail Schimberg’s plan, but “it may provide more timely and detailed solutions in the long run.”

“We can’t be sure (what the plans consist of) ’til we see what he presents,” Murphy wrote. “If it’s a time-saver and doesn’t sacrifice quality if it’s according to building code and doesn’t negatively impact the city’s financials, we are interested.”

Murphy said he expected Schimberg to complete his plan the week of Nov. 11. Then the city would decide which solutions to pursue.

The kink in the plan is causing a delay for the city and the public.

Murphy added that he now expects to open the pier in February 2020.

The city began construction of a new pier Jan. 23, following the demolition of the old pier, which was determined a loss from damages by Hurricane Irma in September 2017.

Kihm, Soustek keep seats, newcomer Schaefer eases in

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Holmes Beach Commissioners Jim Kihm, left, and Terry Schaefer, along with Kihm’s son Greg, Commissioner Carol Soustek, Kihm’s daughter Gretchen Strub and Holmes Beach resident David Cheshire, take a break Nov. 5 from campaigning outside of the city polling station at St. Bernard Catholic Church in Holmes Beach. Islander Photos: Chris Ann Silver Esformes
Ed Upshaw, who chaired the Holmes Beach Charter Review Commission, left, and newly elected Holmes Beach Commissioner Terry Schaefer shake hands Nov. 5 at Vinny’s Italian Kitchen in Holmes Beach, during Schaefer’s celebration following the city election. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes
Manatee County Commissioner and Holmes Beach resident Carol Whitmore, left, poses Nov. 5 with Holmes Beach Commissioner Carol Soustek outside the polling location, St. Bernard Catholic Church.
Newly elected Holmes Beach Commissioner Terry Schaefer and his wife, Vicky, pose following the Nov. 5 vote at a victory celebration at Vinny’s Italian Kitchen, 5337 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

Four people were vying Nov. 5 for three seats on the Holmes Beach dais.

And, when all was said and done on Election Day, Commissioners Jim Kihm and Carol Soustek and political newcomer Terry Schaefer were the top vote-getters.

Rick Hurst lost his bid for re-election.

For the three seats on the commission, 658 voted to re-elect Kihm, 606 voted for Schaefer and 546 voted for Soustek, while 471 voted for Hurst.

“I’m thrilled,” Schaefer said of his win in the nonpartisan race. “The campaign was really all-encompassing and I learned about issues I’d never considered from the variety of people I spoke with.”

Schaefer, a retired senior bank manager, said many people asked him about the city budget during his campaign.

“One of my campaign objectives was to be a steward of the budget and provide financial oversight based on my background,” he said.

Schaefer served as an elected school board member for 16 years in Illinois and also 12 years as a governor’s appointee to the Southwestern Illinois Development Authority.

“From my experience on other boards, I am familiar with the process and realize we all benefit from finding solutions together, instead of finding ways to oppose others’ views.”

Kihm, who received the most votes, said he was “extremely pleased” with the election outcome.

“The vote certainly marked that people recognize I am doing a good job for them and am planning to continue this through my next term,” Kihm said.

After being elected in 2017, Kihm served as commission chair in 2018-19.

“We still have a lot of work ahead of us,” he said. “But these last two years have been very busy — we passed a lot of ordinances after good debate and discussion. Hopefully, this will continue for the next two years.”

Soustek also said she is excited to continue her work for the city. She was appointed to the commission for a partial term in 2014, then elected in 2015 and re-elected in 2017.

“I’m very happy that they voted me back in,” Soustek said. “I like what I do and we have so much still going on.”

Hurst, who was elected to his first term in 2017, said he’d hoped to retain his seat but is satisfied with the results.

“As a candidate, I am disappointed that I entered into this election knowing that other ventures I have recently taken on made it impossible to focus on the election, run an effective campaign, and would have possibly hindered my effectiveness if I had been elected,” he wrote in a Nov. 6 statement to The Islander.

Hurst is part owner of the Freckled Fin Irish Pub, 5337 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

He said he considered not running, but wanted an election because campaigning encourages interested candidates to engage with the community.

“In the end, I think it turned out for the best,” he wrote. “I hope future commissions will be as effective as we have been for the last two years.”
Of 2,692 registered voters in Holmes Beach,

490 cast ballots on Election Day, Nov. 5, at precinct No. 305, St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, and 402 voted by mail.

The turnout percentage was 33.14%.

The swearing-in ceremony for the newly elected officials will be at 9 a.m. Monday, Nov. 18, at Holmes Beach City Hall, 5801 Marina Drive.

Holmes Beach approves 8 charter amendments

Some changes are coming to the Holmes Beach charter.

Electors voted “yes” for eight charter amendments placed on the ballot by the city’s charter review commission.

The CRC is elected every five years — or on an ad hoc basis if needed — to review the charter for possible changes.

“I’m very pleased that they all passed. We worked really hard on this,” Ed Upshaw, chair of the now-defunct CRC said Nov. 5, following the election. “I’m also pleased there was a spread of votes. It shows people gave it thought.”

The vote was 767 “yes” and 90 “no” to charter amendment 1, which consolidates and revises the city’s legal description to include the Kingfish Boat Ramp and Grassy Point Preserve — land annexed by the city but not yet included in the city’s boundaries in the charter.

The vote was 704 “yes” and 152 “no” for charter amendment 2, which requires a supermajority vote of the city commission and a referendum in the next general election approved by a majority of voters, for the city to sell, vacate, convey, transfer or abandon real property or rights of way.

“It is so important that we maintain awareness of how city-owned land, like beach accesses, is handled,” Upshaw said. “This will be an interesting one to watch.

The third amendment allows budget transfers up to $100,000 to be approved through a resolution rather than an ordinance. It passed with 638 “yes” and 218 “no” votes.

“This will still require a commission vote,” Upshaw said. “It just means one vote instead of two public hearings. So it is a smoother process.”

Amendment 4, requiring a vote of the commission to terminate a department head, passed with 616 “yes” and 224 “no” votes.

“This was an important one and I’m glad it passed,” Upshaw said. “This amendment is important in conjunction with the removal of charter positions in amendments 6 and 7. This will ensure protection for people in those roles.”

Amendment 5 clarifies language in the charter to state the city treasurer presents the annual audit but doesn’t prepare the audit. A professional auditing firm conducts the audit. The measure received 730 “yes” and 119 “no” votes.

Amendment 6, removing the “building and public works department,” from the charter, including the building official and public works director positions, passed with 493 “yes” and 345 “no” votes.

Amendment 7 removes the human resources department from the charter and passed with 557 “yes” and 282 “no” votes.

The vote was 627 “yes” and 228 “no” for charter amendment 8, which transfers election candidacy filing responsibilities from the city clerk to the Manatee County Supervisor of Elections, as is the case in Anna Maria and Bradenton Beach.

“I think they are all beneficial to the city,” Upshaw said of the amendments. “And I think we will see some changes because of them.”

Of 2,692 registered voters in Holmes Beach,

490 cast ballots on Election Day, Nov. 5, at precinct No. 305, St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, and 402 voted by mail.

BB candidates take auto-win

Voters didn’t go to the polls in Bradenton Beach, but there will be a change on the city dais.

As one of the three city officials who qualified and wound up unopposed, Jan Vosburgh — who term-limited out of office in 2016 — claimed Commissioner Randy White’s post as commissioner from Ward 3.

White initially planned to run for re-election, but withdrew from the race after Vosburgh qualified.

Mayor John Chappie and Commissioner Jake Spooner, also unopposed, were automatically returned to two-year terms in the 2019 election.

Chappie, termed out in his former service as mayor and commissioner in Bradenton Beach, also served as a county commissioner. He now will serve his second consecutive term as mayor.

Spooner, who owns the Bridge Street Bazaar, Fish Hole Miniature Golf and a building under construction on Bridge Street that will house the bazaar and a leased Daiquiri Deck restaurant and bar, will begin his third consecutive term as commissioner.

The three also will serve as on the board of the city community redevelopment agency, which promotes restoration, growth and tourism by funding capital improvement projects with incremental tax revenue from the county coffers.

Chappie, Spooner and Vosburgh will be sworn into office at 3:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18, at city hall, 107 Gulf Drive N.

Anna Maria votes in charter changes, 1 commissioner short

The Anna Maria electorate overwhelmingly voted Nov. 5 to approve three changes to the city charter.

The mayor appoints a commission of five people every five years to review the charter and propose any updates and changes. This year, all three of the review commission’s proposals were approved.

The first amendment, which requires elected officials to resign if the Florida Commission on Ethics finds them to have violated the state’s code of ethics, was approved by 91.32%, with 242 votes in favor.

Voters approved the second amendment, requiring the city commission to confirm mayoral appointments to the city treasurer position, by 86.36%, with 228 votes.

They also voted 89.02% for the third amendment, making grammatical and typographical corrections, as well as clarifying language to improve readability.

The third amendment gained 235 votes in favor.

While the election lacked competition for seats on the city commission, a chair remains up for grabs.

Commission Chair Carol Carter automatically retained her seat for another two-year term when the qualifying window closed in August, while Jonathan Crane, former chair of the planning and zoning board, qualified for a commission seat without opposition.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Dale Woodland, who planned to run for re-election, failed to qualify because he paid the required fee to the Manatee Supervisor of Elections Office from a personal bank account.

Despite his mistake, nobody qualified to fill his seat, so the commission will appoint a member later this month.

Woodland has previously told The Islander that he plans to apply for reappointment. If he is appointed by his peers, he will begin his eighth two-year term as commissioner.

Crane and Carter will be sworn in at 6 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5, at city hall, 10005 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria.

Woodland’s term ends the same day.

The commission will operate with four members until it appoints a new member in early January, according to city clerk Leanne Addy, who added, a date had not been set for the appointment.

Eyes on the road – 11-13-2019

The Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County posted the following for the week of Nov. 11:

• Bay Drive South in Bradenton Beach: Manatee County’s AMI Pipeline Replacement project involves work on Bay Drive South continuing north to Bridge Street, shifting to Church Avenue and continuing on Church to Cortez Road. Construction is expected to conclude in December.

• Longboat Pass Bridge: Repairs on the Longboat Pass Bridge on Gulf Drive between Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key continue. Overnight work requires decreasing lane sizes, flagging operations and occasional lane closures.

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.

Traffic study, solutions wend through agencies, island cities

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DOT engineer Nathan Kautz presents results of the Barrier Islands Traffic Study to members of the Island Transportation Planning Organization at their Nov. 4 meeting at Bradenton Beach City Hall. Islander Photos: Sarah Brice

The wheels of traffic move slowly on Anna Maria Island.

So do the wheels of transportation projects.

It’s all part of a journey through a twisted path of agencies and their acronyms.

The Island Transportation Planning Organization completed the latest leg Nov. 4 when it named six projects for possible state funding.

Those six projects came from a list of 76 recommendations the Florida Department of Transportation unveiled Sept. 27 in the final phase of the three-part Sarasota/Manatee Barrier Islands Traffic Study.

The DOT next will present the study to the Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization on Nov. 18.

The MPO, in turn, will publicly review the BITS project priorities Jan. 27, 2020, and submit a final list to the DOT March 15.

But once the DOT adopts the recommendations, it’s still a long road ahead.

The top two projects on the ITPO priority list won’t be completed for at least 8-10 years.

This latest journey started in early 2017, when the DOT launched BITS at the request of the MPO, a 17-member board of elected officials and a professional planning staff.

Phase 1 of the $675,000 BITS examined prior studies, and Phase 2 listed potential improvements and recommendations.

The third part listed recommendations ranging from new megabridges to alternative modes of transportation to better sidewalks and improved signage.

The top two items on the ITPO list are the replacements of the Anna Maria Island and Cortez bridges.

The size of the replacement span for the Cortez Bridge has been a point of contention between the ITPO and the three AMI cities on one side and the DOT on the other.

The DOT announced Oct. 10 it will replace the 62-year-old Cortez drawbridge with a 65-foot-clearance fixed span. Opponents say such a bridge would destroy the character of the historic fishing village of Cortez and the ambiance of Bradenton Beach.

The ITPO and the AMI cities have passed resolutions against the megabridge.

John Chappie, chair of the ITPO and mayor of Bradenton Beach, said Nov. 8 the organization’s priority list will stipulate that the replacement Cortez Bridge must be midsized, not the high-clearance span.

“I’m happy with the priorities with the exception of the big bridge,” Chappie told The Islander.

Other projects on the ITPO list are:

  • Drainage improvements in Bradenton Beach on Gulf Drive from Ninth Street North to the Avenue C intersection with Gulf Drive.
  • Complete street improvements in Bradenton Beach from the Longboat Pass Bridge to the northern city limits.
  • A right turn lane extension from East Bay Drive to Manatee Avenue in Holmes Beach.
  • Establishing multimodal capacity from 27th Street North to the Palm Drive/Gulf Drive intersection in Holmes Beach.

DOT engineer Nathan Kautz, who has been presenting BITS to local governments and agencies since its release, said the plan aims to reduce the number of vehicles on AMI and Longboat Key.

“We deal with people rather than cars, specifically, how we can move people a lot easier,” he said.

The ITPO was created to provide representation of the three island cities on the MPO, where the cities share one seat. The island mayors constitute the ITPO and rotate in the seat on the MPO. Chappie is the current seated representative on the MPO board.

City motion to dismiss treehouse case gets hearing

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The two-story 400-foot structure built in 2011 in an Australian pine tree.

Finally, a date is set for a 2013 case.

Judge Edward Nicholas decided Nov. 4 the next treehouse hearing — set for 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 15 — will address a motion to dismiss filed by the city of Holmes Beach in a 2013 case from the treehouse owners’ attorney.

Sarasota attorney David Levin of Icard Merrill filed the case seeking a declaratory judgment for treehouse owners Lynn Tran and Richard Hazen.

Levin’s case seeks to declare city ordinances unconstitutional, claiming the ordinance that created a 50-foot setback from the erosion control line on the beachfront took the owners’ property without proper notice and just compensation.

The two-story 400-foot structure built in 2011 in an Australian pine tree by Hazen and Tran, where they live and operate four rental units, next to the 29th Street beach access in Holmes Beach.

An anonymous complaint to the city code enforcement officer led to six years of litigation between the owners, city and Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

No-swim advisory lifted for Bayfront park

Beachgoers in Anna Maria can enjoy the waters of Bayfront Park North once more after a bout of infectious bacteria in the water.

The Florida Department of Health lifted a no-swim advisory Nov. 5 for Bayfront Park North after levels of enterococci bacteria — which can be found in human and animal feces and can pose a risk of infectious disease — dropped within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards.

The DOH issued the advisory Oct. 26 after tests conducted Oct. 21 and Oct. 23. Lifting the advisory means subsequent test results showed it is safe for beachgoers to enjoy the tides once more.

The last no-swim advisory for the beach had been issued Aug. 30 and lifted Sept. 5, also for enterococci bacteria.

Fecal matter from animal or human waste can spill into the bayfront waters through sewer-line breaks, leaching septic systems, lift station failures, stormwater runoff and other events.

Around the time the advisory was issued, Manatee County employees were replacing a force main sewer line at the lift station at the park.

Anna Maria public works manager Dean Jones told The Islander Nov. 4 that drainage from the work was pumped into the bay, but it was not sewage.

He said the water table is high, so work involving excavations requires groundwater to be pumped off-site in order for workers to dig deeper.

Jones said the groundwater pumped from the worksite into the bay was filtered through a silt bag to remove sediments, such as dirt and minerals. He said the practice was in line with EPA standards.

“The work that was being done out there was completely safe,” Jones said. “There was never any question of sewage being spilled into the bay and the work was permitted and completely legal.”

Bird rescuer contracts saltwater bacteria

By Sandy Ambrogi and Kathy Prucnell, Islander Reporters

“OMG, this could have been me. I feel so bad for this lady here in Bradenton who is fighting for her life.”

Jeanette Edwards posted her message Nov. 6 about Kelli Brown Whitehead — infected with necrotizing fasciitis — on Facebook.

Whitehead’s plight — hospitalized for a severe case of necrotizing fasciitis, a flesh-eating disease that spread fast, causing her to lose a leg and kidney failure, resulting in dialysis — came after she walked in the waters of Cortez Beach in Bradenton Beach in late October, according to Facebook reports from her mother. Reports also indicate Whitehead is a Type 1 diabetic.

Messages left for Whitehead and her family were not returned.

Edwards, known as the Pelican Lady for her work with Friends for the Pelicans, a nonprofit that rescues sick and dying birds from Palma Sola Bay and the coastal waters of Anna Maria Island.

Her brush with a form of saltwater-borne bacteria — Vibrio vulnificus —was mild in comparison, and she credits that to prompt medical care.

As a rescuer, Edwards was called to help a pelican that was hooked by a fisher Oct. 26 at the Rod & Reel Pier, 875 N. Shore Drive, Anna Maria.

As she attempted to free the bird near a seawall, Edwards fell and cut her hand. Although she washed her hands promptly, her hand became more blistered, swollen and painful the next day.

She went to urgent care and doctors prescribed strong antibiotics and a CT scan to determine if the bacteria had spread.

According to the Florida Department of Health, Vibrio vulnificus is a naturally occurring bacterium in warm brackish seawater. Infections are rare, but people who are immune-compromised are more susceptible.

If present in coastal waters, the Vibrio bacteria will attack open cuts and wounds, causing infection, swelling and blistering and, if not promptly treated, can result in loss of limbs.

The DOH warns beachgoers to wear proper gear to prevent cuts and injuries.

In addition to the bacteria she suffered, Edwards points to another concern in Anna Maria waters — enterococci bacteria, an indicator of fecal matter in the water.

The DOH issued a no-swim advisory Oct. 26 due to high enterococci levels at Bayfront Park North, about 0.4 miles from the Rod & Reel Pier, following testing Oct. 21 and Oct. 23. The advisory was lifted Nov. 5.

“It’s ironic. I want people to check and see if the beach is closed” due to the presence of bacteria.

Instead, thinking the bird couldn’t wait, she added, “I didn’t waste any time.”

Health care partners are required to report certain Vibrio sub-species, including the flesh-eating type, to the DOH.

No such reports have come in on the Edwards and Whitehead cases, Christopher Tittel, DOH Manatee County, director of communications, said in a Nov. 10 email.

Tittel also said he would update The Islander after the Veterans Day holiday, adding:

“Anyone with open cuts or wounds and/or immune systems weakened by diabetes, HIV or other conditions to stay out of the water to avoid any chance of infection from any of the myriad types of bacteria out there.”

About necrotizing fasciitis

Necrotizing fasciitis — commonly called “flesh-eating bacteria” — is a rare condition caused by more than one type of bacteria.

Several bacteria common to the Florida environment can cause the condition, but the most common cause of necrotizing fasciitis is Group A strep.

Vibrio vulnificus is sometimes called “flesh-eating bacteria.” It is a naturally occurring bacteria found in the warm salty waters such as the Gulf of Mexico and surrounding bays.

Concentrations of this bacteria are higher when the water is warmer.

Necrotizing fasciitis and severe infections of Vibrio vulnificus are rare, but can be treated with antibiotics and sometimes require surgery to remove damaged tissue.

People do not “catch” necrotizing fasciitis; it is a complication or symptom of a bacterial infection that has not been promptly or properly treated.

Rapid diagnosis is key to treatment.

Seek medical treatment immediately if you develop signs or symptoms of an infection — redness, swelling, fever, severe pain in the area near or around a wound.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages people to avoid open bodies of water, pools and hot tubs with breaks in the skin. These can include cuts and scrapes, burns, insect bites, puncture wounds, or surgical wounds.

Sources: CDC, Florida Department of Health