A flagger manages early morning traffic July 9 on Gulf Drive/State Road 789 in Bradenton Beach as Florida Department of Transportation repair work continues on the Longboat Pass Bridge. Overnight repairs conclude into August. Islander Photo: Lisa Neff
Eyes on the road
The Florida Department of Transportation and Manatee County posted the following for the week of July 15:
Longboat Pass Bridge: Major repairs on the Longboat Pass Bridge on Gulf Drive between Bradenton Beach and Longboat Key take place through the summer.
Overnight work requires decreasing lane sizes, flagging operations and occasional lane closures. Work is to end in August.
State Road 684/Cortez Road: Crews are installing new lighting at various locations along State Road 684/Cortez Road from Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach to Ninth Street West in Bradenton. Expect nighttime/overnight lane closures. PowerCore Inc. is the contractor.
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.
A Bradenton man pleaded no contest to driving under the influence in Holmes Beach after he petitioned the court to exclude evidence from a roadside sobriety test.
Fortunato Salvietti, 54, pleaded April 26 to an elevated DUI charge and Judge Mark Singer sentenced him to 12 months on probation. With his no-contest plea, Salvietti abandoned a motion to exclude evidence gathered by Holmes Beach police during a roadside sobriety test.
HBPD stopped Salvietti for a traffic violation in March in the 4100 block of Gulf Drive, where an officer observed signs of impairment. Salvietti provided breath samples measuring 0.178 and 0.175 blood-alcohol.
The blood-alcohol limit for drivers is 0.08. Cases involving repeat offenders and levels exceeding 0.15 BAC call for stiffer penalties.
With Salvietti’s probation, the judge ordered a 120-day house arrest, a 30-day treatment program, an advanced DUI school, a victim-impact panel, 100 hours of public service and an alcohol-detection ignition device in his vehicle for two years.
The judge also suspended his driver’s license for one year, with an exception for a business trip to New York in May.
The judge assessed Salvietti $2,631 in fines and costs. As of July 9, he paid $805.
A new skate park is ramping up Holmes Beach.
And could include an expansion if the city can raise the funds.
In February, the city commission approved an amended contract with American Ramp Co. to replace the skate park in the recreational complex at city field, adjacent to city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.
At a July 9 meeting, city engineer Lynn Burnett and ARC’s lead designer, Tito Porrata, presented conceptual renderings for the park.
Burnett said construction documents should be ready for the next city commission meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 23, at city hall, 5801 Marina Drive.
Porrata said the concept for the design is a “beginner-intermediate, very user-friendly street course,” including rails, steps, pyramids and pipes as props for skaters.
He said there will be a buffer about 16 feet from Marina Drive for the park, which will be about 5,000 square feet.
“All the basics, within a modest size,” Porrata said.
He said ARC recently built a similar skate park in Gulfport and received positive reviews.
“It’s just a really positive enhancement for the community,” Porrata said. “So we expect this kind of facility to get the same response.”
Porrata also provided renderings of a Y-shaped skate bowl — similar to an above-ground swimming pool, about four feet deep, custom-built, but about three times the size of an average swimming pool at 800 square feet. It also would be reinforced with steel.
The commission previously approved the skate park, not to exceed $150,000, with an option to include the skate bowl if $100,000 could be raised from grants or donations before constructions commences.
Porrata said the bowl would complete the park. He said it would draw more advanced skaters, and that might keep the younger skaters on good behavior.
“It would make your job easier,” he said to Police Chief Bill Tokajer.
Commissioner Rick Hurst asked Tokajer if he had any possible donors.
“I have reached out to multiple different areas for donations,” Tokajer said. “So, hopefully, somebody will pony-up.”
In February, Burnett said the city had about six months to raise grant money for the skate bowl, which would add about four weeks to the project, which is expected to be completed in March 2020.
A man sent to state prison in 2012 for multiple burglaries was arrested July 8 in Flamingo Cay — a community located between Perico Island and the mainland — for similar crimes.
Kyle Dale, 32, of Bradenton Beach, was arrested by Manatee County sheriff’s deputies for burglary of an unoccupied dwelling and conveyances, motor vehicle theft and possessing identification belonging to another person without consent.
Dale allegedly confessed to MCSO investigators, saying he knew the homeowner, who also owned the boat on the canal behind the house.
MCSO deputies were called to the scene at about 1 p.m. after one of the victims and a witness detained Dale at the victim’s home in the 10400 block of Spoonbill Road West.
Dale told deputies he entered a private dwelling, vessel and vehicle midday July 6 and stole multiple items, including personal paperwork, passports, nautical charts, infrared guns, flares, boat manuals, books and men’s clothing. He took some of the stolen items to his home in Bradenton Beach, according to the MCSO report.
The report also states Dale stayed at the residence and drove the homeowner’s vehicles for two days without permission.
Dale was transported to the Manatee County jail, where he was released after posting $13,500 bond.
In four combined 2011 cases, Dale was sentenced to 59.175 months in prison after convictions for possessing drugs, dealing in stolen property and burglaries from vehicles in the 200 block of 17th Street North of Bradenton Beach and the 5400 block of Marina Drive in Holmes Beach.
Dale was released from prison in November 2015, according to online records.
His arraignment for the July arrest is set for 9 a.m. Friday, Aug. 2, in the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.
Sea turtle season is in full swing on Anna Maria Island.
Loggerheads are nesting and hatchlings are emerging by the hundreds from nests on island beaches.
If nesting numbers continue to escalate, Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring could observe a new record for sea turtle nests on the island, as it has for the past three years.
As of July 14, AMITW reported 18 hatched nests with 1,025 hatchlings to the Gulf of Mexico, compared with three hatched nests and 88 hatchlings on the same date in 2018.
Also, as of July 14, 442 loggerhead nests were documented on AMI, as compared with 430 in 2018.
The turtles nesting on Anna Maria Island’s shore mostly are loggerheads, a protected species. They nest on the beach through October, usually at night, digging a small pit, about a foot wide and 18-24 inches deep, and leaving behind about 100 eggs in the clutch to the care of Mother Nature before returning to the water.
Suzi Fox, AMITW executive director, said there is a problem with people on the beach at night when sea turtles emerge to nest.
“I know people are excited to see the turtles on the beach at night,” Fox said. “However, if people keep disturbing their nesting attempts, they are going to love these creatures to death.”
She said people need to maintain a distance of at least 100 feet from nesting turtles and should not use their cellphones to take photo or video of sea turtles on the beach, as it could disrupt a nesting attempt, causing the turtle to return to the water without laying eggs.
The morning of July 9, volunteers walking the beach looking for signs of nesting, spotted a circle of chairs surrounding a nest laid the night before, according to Fox.
She said when turtle watch volunteers identified the nest, the man who had placed the chairs said he used them to mark the nest because he wanted to ensure people knew it was there.
“I know he meant well, but what he didn’t realize is that by doing that he destroyed the evidence we use to determine if the turtle nested or returned to the water without laying eggs,” Fox said.
She said she is concerned that resort and rental managers are not providing guests with turtle watch materials at check-in, or talking with them about turtle nesting.
“Visitors need to see the materials that we give to island resorts and rental agencies, but they also should be told what the rules are,” Fox said.
Hatchlings, like nesting female sea turtles, emerge and follow their instincts toward the reflection of the moon and stars on the Gulf of Mexico. Light visible from the shoreline can disorient nesting turtles and hatchlings, leading to predation, dehydration, exhaustion and death.
Beachfront properties need low, shielded exterior lighting with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission-compliant bulbs and indoor lights must be either turned off or concealed by curtains or blinds.
The first hatchlings of the season emerged overnight July 3, with about 25 of the turtles disorienting toward the dunes, allegedly due to lighting visible from the beach.
As of July 14, of 18 hatched nests, four have had disorientations.
Fox said property owners by law must fix noncompliant lighting, which should have been addressed before nesting season began May 1.
“Here we are in July and any lighting concerns should have been handled in April,” she said, adding that most of the problems are related to properties that have been out of compliance for years.
However, she also said new construction, including the recently renovated Anna Maria Beach Resort, on the Gulf at 6306 Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach, formerly the Blue Water Beach Club, was the alleged source of one of the disorientations.
Fox is working with code enforcement in Anna Maria, Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach to address the issues.
“For the most part, things are going well, as evidenced by our numbers,” she said. “Now it is up to code enforcement, property owners and people who love our turtles to get us in tiptop shape.”
The discovery has ended.
John Metz, former Bradenton Beach Planning and Zoning Board member, was deposed July 2 in a lawsuit filed in August 2017 by ex-Mayor Jack Clarke and joined by the city against six former city board members alleging violations of Florida’s Government-in-the-Sunshine Law.
Metz, the only defendant with an attorney, was the last of nearly 20 depositions taken since the suit’s inception.
The lawsuit alleges violations of state statutes governing open meetings and public records laws by former board members Metz, Reed Mapes, Tjet Martin, Patty Shay, and Bill and wife Rose Vincent, who were then members of the now-defunct grass-roots group Concerned Neighbors of Bradenton Beach.
When the lawsuit was initiated, city attorney Ricinda Perry claimed recordings of CNOBB meetings indicated the defendants discussed matters that could come before them as board members.
Discussions allegedly were held July 25, 2017, at a CNOBB steering committee meeting, about a citizen-initiated referendum to prohibit parking garages in the city charter.
The city claims parking garages were a reasonably foreseeable topic of discussion for the P&Z board and, at a June 20 pretrial hearing, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs’ summary judgment on the matter.
However, Metz claimed July 2 that the Sunshine Law is a violation of his First Amendment right to free speech.
The Sunshine Law states that members of the same government agency cannot discuss matters that might come before them outside of public meetings. This includes emails, text messages and phone calls.
When asked by the city’s attorney, Robert Watrous, if he believes the Sunshine Law is unconstitutional, Metz responded, “Yes.”
Watrous expanded his question to ask if Metz deemed the law “uniquely unconstitutional to you in this setting,” or, generally unconstitutional.
“To me, it’s based on the situation I’m in, given that the allegations that I understand in this lawsuit charge me with a civil penalty for petitioning the government, which is one of my fundamental rights to do, through the initiative process we were using.”
Metz was referring to the defendants’ claim that mention of the parking garage only was made about a possible charter amendment to prohibit parking garages by CNOBB, but removed from the organization’s list of proposed amendments.
CNOBB used the state referendum process to put three initiatives on the ballot in 2017 — and the electorate approved the charter amendments.
Metz said July 2 that the statute does not require review of petitions by the P&Z board. Therefore, he says, the CNOBB/P&Z members did not violate the law at their July 25 meeting.
“I think it’s extremely vague. It gives you no guidance into what you are supposed to do,” Metz said July 2 of the Sunshine Law. “I think we find ourselves in this quagmire because of that. There is no clear guidance where reasonable people can try to figure out what they can and can’t do. And I believe that it certainly chills free speech and a right to assemble and petition.”
Watrous asked Metz if he is aware that certain constitutional rights can be waived by voluntary agreement, including the oath Metz signed upon joining the P&Z board in 2014, which stipulates he would “support, protect and defend the Constitution and government of the United States and the state of Florida.”
Metz responded, “I swore to defend the Constitution of the United States and I think that’s part of this case.”
Watrous then asked, “And the state of Florida, too, correct?” to which Metz responded, “Yes.”
“I believe in the Florida Constitution there is a right to petition your government,” Metz said. “Certainly, in the First Amendment there is a right to free association and there is a right to free speech. And I think all of those, under the facts of this particular case, are being infringed.”
Discovery ended July 5.
A trial is planned for the week of July 15.
A Bradenton Beach man arrested for driving impaired pleaded no contest April 1 and was sentenced to 12 months of probation.
Twelfth Circuit Judge Mark Singer found Robert A. Simpson, 51, guilty and ordered the probation, including a counterattack program, victim impact panel and medical evaluation and, if necessary, treatment.
The judge also ordered Simpson’s vehicle impounded for 10 days and driver’s license suspended for six months with a business purposes exception.
A Manatee County sheriff’s deputy arrested Simpson for driving under the influence following a road sobriety test after police determined he caused a two-vehicle crash Jan. 2 in the 2200 block of Gulf Drive in Bradenton Beach.
Simpson exhibited signs of impairment but breath tests measured no blood-alcohol content. Florida law prohibits driving under the influence of drugs, not detected in the breath test, as well as drivers with blood-alcohol content exceeding 0.08 percent.
Simpson was assessed court costs and fines of $1,971, of which he paid $696 as of July 2.