The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 24 - March 4, 2009


Counties split on stimulus shortfall

The two-county Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) approved a plan to put federal stimulus funds to work on transportation projects after hearing that the amount of money coming from Washington may be less than expected.

MPO representatives devised the plan for spending the money, which is part of President Obama’s economic recovery plan, at a meeting last month. They based their numbers on the premise that the two counties would split $20 million equally. However, Florida Department of Transportation Regional Director Stan Cann delivered some surprising news Monday.

"At this time, it appears there will be around $15 million for the two counties," He said. "It might be more; it might be less."

Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson, who chairs the MPO Board, said that her county should consider reducing the amount of money for each project, based on the percentage that the total stimulus package ends up being, relative to the $10 million figure. However, Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash said they want the city projects to have priority.

"Cities don’t have the resources that the county has," he said. "The Bradenton Beach project improves the drive to the beach and Bradenton Beach is the smallest city we have, so it’s a project for the county to enjoy."

The way the Manatee County package stands, the three Island cities are slated to receive up to $1,948,000 for their projects, Palmetto $650,000, Bradenton $1 million and the county $5.4 million, for a total of $9.988 million.

McClash said later in the meeting that the amount of money going to Manatee County projects could be lowered, if the stimulus amount is less than $10 million, or it could go the other way.

"The way we set it up, if a city project comes in under budget, the remainder would go to the county."

The MPO voted unanimously to approve the stimulus list, which will be submitted to the Federal Highway Transportation Agency.

Transportation projects targeted by feds

What will the economic stimulus package mean for the Island? That’s a question that no one can answer with total certainty, according to Tim Hochuli, Manatee County’s deputy director of public works.

"We still don’t know all the details, but we expect somewhere between $9 million and $11 million to come directly to the county," Hochuli said.

The money will flow from the federal government into state coffers, and from there it will go to the counties where some will be used for projects and some will flow onward to the cities.

"To qualify for funding, projects have to be ‘shovel ready,’ which means that the design work has already been done," he noted.

The money will go into several different accounts at the state level — some for transportation projects, some for infrastructure projects such as water and sewer.

"On the Island, the cities will mostly get money for transportation projects," Hochuli said. "But since the county supplies the Island with water and sewer, there may very well be further benefit to the Island."

Hochuli said it was too early in the game to say specifically if any county projects of this nature are going to be done.

All three cities are hoping to tap into some of the money that will be available for transportation projects.

"That shovel ready thing is difficult," commented Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford. "Nobody has the money to do the design work, so nobody has shovel ready projects ready to roll."

However, Barford said there might be creative ways to utilize the funding in her city.

"We can maybe piggy back on designs the county already has," she said. "We’re looking at trolley shelters, which are already designed and maybe sidewalks, where most of the survey work was done earlier for drainage projects."

Barford said other possibilities are to do structural improvements for both the North Bay Boulevard and Crescent Street bridges. Problems last year led to complete engineering studies of those bridges. Only the most urgent work was completed, so there is other work that could be done with stimulus dollars.

The city is also looking at the possibility of some road resurfacing.

In Holmes Beach, a list prepared by Supervisor of Public Works Joe Duennes includes some citywide sidewalk replacement work estimated to cost about $205,000; the improvement of the intersection of East Bay Drive and Gulf Drive with an estimated cost of $27,000; a public works maintenance building for $400,000 and several other projects that the city has had on the drawing boards for a while.

Bradenton Beach seems to be in good shape with a shovel ready Gulf Drive corridor project already engineered.

"We actually had a permit for the project that expired in January last year, but we never were able to come up with the funds," said Lisa Marie Phillips, the city’s project manager. "We put in for $700,000, though we may need more, because prices have gone up."

Phillips said she thinks the city’s chances of getting that money are excellent.

The Sarasota/Manatee Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting was set for Monday this week where a list of projects that would be funded was expected to be discussed.

Final bridge hearing scheduled

If you have something to say about the size, location or layout of the next generation Anna Maria Island Bridge, you will have one final opportunity to make yourself known.

The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has set Thursday, March 26, as the date of its final public hearing on a replacement for the 51-year-old drawbridge that is currently undergoing renovation. The hearing on its project development and environmental study will be held at St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach. There will be an open house starting at 6 p.m. followed by a presentation at 7 p.m. on all the data currently collected.

"This is the final hearing on the bridge," said Lauren Hatchell, public information officer for the FDOT regional office. "After this, we will use all the information we gathered from the public and engineers to present a proposal for a new bridge to the U.S. Coast Guard."

The current renovation is expected to add 10 years to the life of the existing drawbridge and FDOT agreed to accelerate work on a replacement after public outcry in November 2007 by those wanting to replace the bridge now, instead of renovate it.

FDOT already held two public hearings on the bridge over the past six months. They surveyed the public regarding how high they want the new bridge to be, whether it would have one or two sidewalks and where it would touch down in relation to where the current structure’s aprons land.

"We will take one final survey," Hatchell said. "We are sending them out now to homeowners, visitors and other interested parties who signed up at previous hearings. We have a list of about 4,000 people who will get the survey."

People who attend the hearing will also have an opportunity to take the survey.

Few clues revealed in FBI probe

BRADENTON BEACH – Doyle Scott Elliott, the Holmes Beach man whose business and home were searched by FBI agents last week, was acquitted in Arizona Federal Court on Friday of selling unregistered securities.

The FBI would not say if that case was related to its search of Elliott’s home in Key Royale and business at 2219 Gulf Drive, in Holmes Beach. Manatee County records indicate Doyle S. Elliott bought the Key Royale house in 2004 for more than $1 million. Calls to the Newark, N.J. FBI office, where the order for the searches was made, were not returned by press time.

It remained unclear what effect Friday’s acquittal would have on the FBI’s investigation here on the Island.

A woman answered a call to Elliott’s office, Elliott & Associates, Monday afternoon. She took a number and said that a man named Scott would call back.

National Association of Securities Dealers records show that in 2004, Elliott was barred from association with any NASD member in any capacity based on findings that he received $35,000 from a customer to purchase a low-priced stock and told the customer that he would sell the stock in 30 days at a profit, which they would split. However, the investigation showed he failed to use the customer’s money and sent him fictitious trade confirmations through his firm, although he did not have an account at the firm and none of the transactions occurred. The report said that he failed to appear for an on-the-record interview at NASD.

The Bradenton Beach Police Department, Holmes Beach Police Department and Manatee County Sheriff’s Office all aided in the search at Elliott’s home and business, according to Bradenton Beach Police Detective Lieutenant Lenard Diaz. He would not comment further.

An FBI spokesman in Tampa would only confirm that they had searched Elliott’s home and business.

Island windsurfer sails on
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Windsurfing master Anna Maria Island resident
Bruce Matlack, 64, wins the
North American Senior Masters
Division at the Island Style
windsurfing contest. Story Page 30.

CITY ISLAND – He’s still got it.

Anna Maria Island resident Bruce Matlack, 64, was the first-ever national windsurfing champion in 1972, and the first-ever world champion the following year, both titles he claimed on Mission Bay in San Diego.

On Saturday, he won the North American Senior Masters at the Island Style Classic regatta at the Sarasota Sailing Squadron on City Island, a nice feat for his 40th year of windsurfing.

"I was one of the first dozen to do the sport," which was invented in 1965, says Matlack, the oldest person still competing, who’s fondly called "geezer" in some windsurfing magazines. The term carries respect, too; he’s ranked among the top 25 boardsailors in the world.

After a lifetime of windsurfing in crowded southern California and Hawaii, where surfers and windsurfers fight for waves, Matlack moved to Anna Maria Island two and half years ago "to be alone," he says. Now he’s just about the only windsurfer on the Gulf, where he sails off Bean Point.

Why don’t more people windsurf along the Gulf beaches?

Not enough sailing skill, discomfort with harnesses and foot straps, too many currents, sharks and other factors, he says, not the least of which is that a longboard is necessary to catch waves here, and longboards are out of style.

"The industry went to short boards. That’s okay if you’re a contortionist, but it should be open to everybody," he says.

Matlack hopes to change the longboard image. He sails a Kona longboard, 11 feet long and 33 pounds. Everyone who competes in the Kona racing class is on an even playing field, he says, with smaller sails assigned to lightweight sailors and larger sails assigned to heavier sailors, like a golf handicap. And in Kona racing, there is no sail pumping - a muscle technique to gain speed - he says proudly; sailing skills, like reading wind changes from ripples on the water, rule.

The Kona board is also a stable board for standup paddle surfing, an ancient sport enjoying a surge of popularity, he says.

Because of his long experience in the sport, Matlack can’t help being a windsurfing historian. He appears in “Wind Legends,” a film about the history of windsurfing, shot partly on Anna Maria Island a year ago by Jonathan Weston, whom he tutored in the subject.

But mostly, he enjoys being out on the water.

"I’m most at home in breaking surf, where you hit a wave, then land and hit the next one," he says. "It’s just insane fun."

County considers pier options
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTOS PROVIDED BY MANATEE COUNTY Cracks in the pier structure
can be seen in these recent photos taken by Manatee County’s
consulting engineers. The pier was declared unsafe and closed
until it can be removed and replaced.

HOLMES BEACH – At press time, the Manatee County Commission was holding a special meeting to discuss options for replacing, repairing or rebuilding the pier at Manatee Public Beach.

On Feb. 20, county officials closed the pier for the second time in five months and said it must be removed and replaced because of continued deterioration to the pier structure since the last inspection. Officials recommended Option 4 – removal of the pier followed by replacement at a higher elevation.

Holmes Beach Mayor Rich Bohnenberger reported to his commission last week that he had contacted Manatee County Commission Chair Gwen Brown regarding the pier.

"I said should they reconstruct it, the most viable option is Option 4," Bohnenberger said. "The longer is goes on, the more it will cost. If they build over it (Option 3), a storm could still take out the old part."

Option 4 calls for wood decking, which Bohnenberger said concerns him because of "wear and tear and constant maintenance."

City commissioners also received a letter from resident Bruno Alia asking that the pier be reopened.

"I am one of several hundred (perhaps more) people who use or visit the pier every day. I find it hard to believe that Manatee County had taken this closure action without having prior open and intelligent discussions about the condition of the Manatee Public Beach pier and making timely arrangements for its refurbishment or replacement."

He suggested that work could take place during the next beach renourishment project to minimize adverse ecological effects.

Cumber offered 15 years

William Cumber, the boyfriend of missing Holmes Beach motel owner Sabine Musil-Buehler, has been offered 15 years in prison by prosecutors if he admits to violating his probation.

Cumber will not accept the plea, said his court-appointed attorney, Tom Ostrander. He is scheduled for a hearing on March 17.

Cumber, 39, formerly of Anna Maria Island, was on probation for a 2006 arson conviction for setting fire to a former girlfriend’s house. He was arrested in December for driving with a suspended license in Marion County, and charged with violating his probation for leaving Manatee County without his probation officer’s consent and failing to remain at liberty without violating any law, according to court records.

When investigators questioned Cumber about the missing woman shortly after her Nov. 4 disappearance, he told them that Musil-Buehler, 49, left the home they shared that night after an argument.

On Nov. 16, a fire destroyed a duplex at Haley’s Motel, which Musil-Buehler owns with her husband, Tom Buehler, who had reported her missing on Nov. 6 after deputies arrested another man found driving her car.

Cumber has said that he had nothing to do with Musil-Buehler’s disappearance or the fire.

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office continues to work to solve the case, spokesman Dave Bristow said.

City seeks mooring field committee members
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Above, The floating day dock at the Bridge
Street Pier is often full, according to boaters who attended a
recent mooring field meeting, which is why the city wants to fix
the decaying dinghy dock to allow smaller boats to tie there.

BEACH – Calling all sailors, anglers and anyone who is interested in helping design a mooring field from scratch – Bradenton Beach needs you.

Only two sailors from the area south of the Bridge Street Pier attended the latest mooring field meeting Feb. 18. They were adamant in wanting the city to hurry and clean out the deadbeats in that area.

"My question to you is, when are you going to get rid of the trash out there," Mark Peterson asked.

"I have heard a very strong opinion that people want the vessels anchored there to be able to run," said Bradenton Beach Projects and Programs Manager Lisa Marie Phillips.

"On Saturday, we had nice weather and there was no place at the floating dock because of all the dinghies tied there," said Dr. Wes Waldrope, "and you need to fix the dinghy dock."

The city applied for a grant to fix the dinghy dock, which is missing some boards and in bad shape, but the awarding agency picked another applicant. Members of the boating community tried to fix it themselves, but the building department said it was not safe.

"One problem with the dinghy dock is that people are leaving floating objects tied to it," Phillips said. "These are boats that are not seaworthy and the city will soon deal with that."

Phillips said that the city is still considering building a sewage pump-out station for the boaters and might also hire a service that comes to the boats to pump them out.

She was urged to make sure that service is not so expensive that it would make some people just dump their sewage into the water or somewhere else.

As the meeting ended, Phillips and project facilitator Dianne Rosensweig, of Scheda Ecological Associates, urged the two boaters to sign up for a steering committee being formed to help plan the mooring field and enlist others.

The group will meet again next month at Herb Dolan Park to discuss a non-motorized boat launch there.

Artists’ Guild celebrates 20 beautiful years
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Pictured in the back row from left are Marsha Bard, Woody Candish, Carl Voyles,
Joan Voyles and Gloria Hall Cropper; in front are Ruth Burkhead and founder
Genevieve Alban. Their art is on exhibit at the gallery through March 7.

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Standing from left, Peggy Potter, Nancy Sullivan, Shirley O’Day and
Jacquie Clark, and seated from left, current President Joan Voyles
and founding President Genevieve Alban.

HOLMES BEACH – For 20 years, the Artists' Guild of Anna Maria Island has been woven like a tapestry into the lives of area artists, who celebrated the milestone anniversary on Monday night.

Genevieve Alban, who turns 90 this week, was honored as the founding president of the creative clan. She recalls hatching the idea while sitting with a few artist friends at the Anna Maria Island Community Center, some of whom were responsible for naming a room in the gallery after her earlier this year.

Several of the founders celebrated memories with her on Monday, including Marsha Bard, Woody Candish, Carl Voyles, Joan Voyles, Gloria Hall Cropper and Ruth Burkhead, who are being honored with an exhibit of their work at the gallery through March 7.

Past guild presidents also were honored with a display of their art at the celebration, held at the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation.

“Genevieve started the guild because we used to have to go to Bradenton to meet,” recalled Peggy Potter, one of the early members and a former president. “We decided we needed one on the Island.”

With a stated purpose to promote and support visual artists, performers and writers and to develop an artistic community on the Island, the guild’s first juried art show premiered on May 21, 1989 at Pete Reynard’s restaurant, now the site of TideMark. In December 1989, the First Annual Fine Arts and Crafts Festival drew 113 exhibitors at the former airstrip behind the Holmes Beach City Hall. Due to an election dispute at the end of the first year, some members of the guild formed a new group, the Anna Maria Island Art League, which now sponsors the festival.

The guild’s gallery opened in 1990 due to the efforts of Bud Coate and Woody Candish, and relocated nearby to its present site, 5414 Marina Drive in Holmes Beach, the following year. Marsha Bard, the gallery’s first director, designed a system of movable panels still used in the gallery; 19 years later, she designed the guild’s website,

Now with about 50 participating artists, the guild is run entirely by volunteers who display and sell their paintings, sculpture, pottery, baskets, jewelry, cards and books at the gallery. During the winter season, free art demonstrations are offered, and free monthly receptions for the featured artist of the month sometimes include poetry readings and musical entertainment.

The guild also exhibits a talented high school student’s work once a year in the gallery and provides art scholarships, in addition to sponsoring all the children in one grade at Anna Maria Elementary School to tour the Ringling Museum in Sarasota and the Artists’ Guild Gallery each year.

Monthly meetings are open to the public and provide informative programs and a social network.

Under the leadership of current President Joan Voyles, the guild continues to pursue its mission of developing the Island’s artistic community as part of the new Cultural Connections program, designed to promote the visibility of the Island’s nine arts organizations.

Twentieth Anniversary Poem

By Peter and Marilyn Hawkins

Twenty years on
Growing older and older
Weaker in limbs,
But in memory strong.

Old members we’ve lost
are still close to our heart.
But new ones have joined us,
some were kids at our start.

We’ve talent and savvy
with paintbrush and mouse.
And use them with pride
Cheers for all in this house!


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