The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 7 - November 28, 2012


Weapons cache seized
Carol Whitmore


ANNA MARIA – Acting on a Crimestoppers tip, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office deputies have found several weapons at a home at 107 Pine Ave., #4, belonging to Roberta Lee Conley, 54.

With limited information, the deputies identified Conley, who had been convicted of felony DUI, as being in control of an assault rifle owned by her son, Robert Conley, 18. Knowing Conley was on felony probation, they notified her probation officer, Aaron Lages, and he responded to the home immediately.

Lages found a tactical 12 gauge shotgun and an AR-15 assault rifle in plain view in Robert Conley’s room. As deputies arrived to assist Lages, he was already in the process of arresting Roberta Lee Conley.

Sgt. Dave Turner reportedly stepped on three soft gun cases in the bedroom, and they each had a weapon. In all, they confiscated another AR-15, an AK-47 and a 30/30 rifle. The son admitted to owning the weapons, and he turned over 10 magazines of ammunition, a converter that allows the AR-15 to shoot 22 cal. bullets and 321 rounds of ammunition for all the weapons but the AK-47.

The son was not in violation of any crimes but the mother was charged with violation of parole and possession of firearms by a convicted felon. She was in custody as of press time with a $5,000 bond set.


New officials making changes

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners last week discussed and implemented a number of changes to commission processes and operations that were suggested by Chair Jean Peelen.

The first was to hold weekly work sessions every Thursday until the backlog of issues has been resolved. In the first work session on Nov. 29, commissioners will discuss applicants for the position of public works superintendent/building official. At the second work session on Dec. 6, commissioners will discuss imposing a building moratorium. Both are at 7 p.m.

Commissioners Judy Titsworth and Marvin Grossman agreed on extra work sessions, but Commissioner David Zaccagnino disagreed.

“It’s a slippery slope,” Zaccagnino said. “It will wreak havoc on our budget. A lot of issues we talk about, we have to have the attorney present.

“We may have to have the city planner and department heads, there will be advertising expenses. I’m willing to try it, but it could run up a huge attorney bill.”

Commissioner Pat Morton said they could do it on a short-term basis until the major issues have been resolved, and Mayor Carmel Monti said the attorney does not need to be present for every work session.

They agreed to add work sessions every Thursday at 7 p.m. and continue with their regular schedule of meetings every second and fourth Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Audio and videotaping

Peelen said she wanted to explore the possibility of having audio and videotape of the meetings on the city’s website and said someone is taping the current meeting as a trial.

City Clerk Stacy Johnston said the city has BIS digital software, which is capable of streaming meetings online, and she got a quote from BIS for $5,000 to $6,000 to get it started.

Monti asked about putting meetings on YouTube, and Johnston said there could be an issue with the Government in the Sunshine law.

City Attorney Steve Dye pointed out, “If you do it yourself, you have to do it correctly.”

Monti said he would work with Johnston to get options and costs to bring back to commissioners.

Grossman said the current taping would appear on YouTube, and Johnston advised officials not to respond to anything on YouTube.

Commissioners agreed that each one would spend two hours a day between 10 a.m. and noon in city hall for citizens to visit. They agreed on the following days: Titsworth, Monday; Zaccagnino, Tuesday; Morton, Wednesday; Peelen, Tuesday and Grossman, Friday.

Commissioners also agreed to:

• Dispense with the swearing in of citizens who want to speak at meetings and work sessions;
• Advertise for board positions on the city’s website and have the clerk issue a press release;
• Offer coffee prior to a meeting once a month as a trial;
• Encourage citizens to develop neighborhood groups;
• Create guidelines for groups to make presentations to the board.

Changes in operations

Operations was another area where commissioners differed from their predecessors.

They agreed that commissioners could contact the city attorney any time for answers to questions. Periodically, the policy will be reviewed to see if it is too costly. Previously, they needed the mayor’s approval to call the attorney.

“I’m all for the open communication with the attorney, but you should apprise me if you want to call her, so we can keep the bills down and have a little dialogue,” Monti said.

“Maybe there’s an awareness on my part (about what you want to talk to the attorney about). I think its common courtesy that goes both ways to try to communicate.”

Peelen agreed, but noted, “Sometimes you don’t want to hear things second or third hand, if it’s an issue of particular importance to you.”

Monti emphasized that commissioners should “try to get the answer within first.”

The practice of rewarding employees with gift certificates from local businesses begun by previous Mayor Rich Bohnenberger was scrapped.

Peelen said the practice should stop because “It gives the appearance of impropriety.”

Monti agreed and said rewards should be tied to performance. He suggested they develop an incentive program for employees.

Commissioners also will require department heads to attend commission meetings, so they can be available for comment on issues the commission is discussing.

After the long session, Peelen told the board and audience, “This is the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me in my life – to be able to be the head of this commission.

“People are very strong in their beliefs, and now it’s time to come together and all talk to together. I’m delighted to be here in this time in history and I thank you all.”

Celebrate at the park
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Georgia Gibbons with Zach Etheridge,
a boyfriend when the photo was taken.

File photo


HOLMES BEACH – Come on out to the Holmes Beach City Hall park this Friday, Nov. 30, from 5 to 10 p.m. for another Concert in the Park.

A portion of the proceeds this month goes to Island native Georgia Gibbons, who was hit by a car in Tallahassee this spring and sustained a brain injury. Her family is trying to get her into a facility that could give her the attention she needs, but it’s expensive.

This month’s concert is the last one of the year until Jan. 25 and it’s going to feature some great music. Island DJ Chris Grumley starts things off at 5 p.m. followed by Rick Quimby and Friends. Quimby will play with Brian Spainhower from 5:30 to 6:05 p.m. and with John Dewey on bass from 6:15 to 6:50 p.m. Dewey will play "Georgia" in honor of Gibbons at 6:45 p.m. Dean Johanesen will play from 6:55 to 7:30. Lipbone Redding takes over at 8 p.m.

Don’t forget the vendors who will be selling items of all kinds. No need purchasing something from a department store for a loved one when you can find a unique holiday gift with Island style to give.

No need to cook Friday evening as local food outlets will have facilities to serve you plus refreshments to quench your thirst. There will be a G-rated movie playing for the kids,.

So take a break from holiday shopping and come on out for some Friday evening fun, a great way to chill out from your week of work and get into a weekend state of mind. There’s plenty of parking and admission is free.

Sponsors for Concerts in the Park are The Anna Maria Island Sun, Bullseye Indoor Pistol Range, SteamDesigns and Wash Family Construction and the movie Sponsor, Thompson Academy. For more information, call organizer Cindy Thompson at 941-536-4257 or e-mail

Hunsicker updates elected officials
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

tom vaught | sun
This is one of three groins that Manatee County
Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker said
would be replaced as the county deals with this
summer’s storm erosion and the natural erosion
that takes place on the Island.


BRADENTON BEACH – Manatee County could see some big money for environmental projects if it gets a fair share of a settlement with BP Oil following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

That was the message from Manatee County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker who addressed the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials meeting Nov. 21.

Two of the three newly elected Holmes Beach officials, Commissioner Marvin Grossman and Mayor Carmel Monti, were in attendance along with Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen, Bradenton Beach Mayor John Shaughnessy and Bradenton Beach Commissioners Richard Gatehouse, Ed Straight and Jan Vosburgh.

“The Restore Act of 2012 makes sure funds are paid to governments in affected areas for the damage to the environment,” Hunsicker said. “The money in this area goes through three agencies, the Bay Estuary Programs for Sarasota, Tampa Bay and Charlotte County.”

Hunsicker said money from BP for loss of business after the oil spill was for a lack of confidence by the tourist industry, even though tourism continued to rise after the accident.

Hunsicker said the amount of the Restore Act money is yet to be determined, but Manatee County could see a substantial amount.

“If the settlement is $5 billion, we could get $5 million,” he said. “The settlement could be as high as $15 billion.”

Hunsicker said the money might be used for an enormous wastewater project or it could go toward a number of projects.

“The question we’ll have to ask ourselves is, ‘Are we dealing with needs or are we dealing with wants,’” he said.

From there, Hunsicker talked about the county’s beach renourishment plans, which were altered when Tropical Storm Debby’s waves and wind eroded beaches on the southern half of the Island. The county had originally wanted to renourish some of the beaches next year, but he said it would happen in 2014.

Hunsicker said following Hurricane Sandy’s damage to the northeast portion of the country, federal renourishment funds might not be available.

But Manatee County is at the top of the list for state funds, due to the high rate of beach erosion under normal conditions, he said.

Hunsicker also said they would rebuild all three groins that are located along Cortez Beach.

“It is funded and will be done next year,” he said, adding the long jetty at the southern tip of the Island would also be rebuilt.

Board to discuss replacing building official

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners set a work session at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 29, to discuss applications received by Mayor Carmel Monti for the position of building official.

Joe Duennes, the city’s building official and superintendent of public works, retired under fire on Nov. 16. Monti said he has received applications from three candidates and expects more before the work session.

Prior to setting the work session, Monti asked recently hired Building Inspector David Greene about the backlog of building permits.

“We’re still moving forward with processing” Greene replied. “The backlog is less than it was when I started with the city. Five permit applications came in today.”

Greene is being aided by former city Building Official John Fernandez, who began contracting with the city after Building Inspector Bob Shaffer was fired.

Commissioner David Zaccagnino said the city needs a building official and that Duennes also headed public works. He made a motion to name Greene interim public works director.

“Are you making a recommendation to the mayor because it’s the mayor’s responsibility to appoint department heads?” Chair Jean Peelen asked.

Monti said he does not know enough about the three candidates to appoint anyone at this time, and Zaccagnino replied, “There’s a lot of day to day calls. We need somebody to run the department.”

Commissioner Pat Morton said several of the public works employees have been with the department for many years and can make those decisions, and Commissioner Marvin Grossman said Greene has enough work.

Monti said he thought they could decide on one of the candidates quickly or they could hire an interim director.

Site plan ordinance approved on first reading

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners last week approved on first reading an ordinance requiring a building permit to be issued subsequent to site plan approval and establishing a sunset for site plans.

The ordinance came about recently when previous Mayor Rich Bohnenberger sought to revoke the site plan for the Mainsail Development Company project at the corner of Marina and Gulf drives. Mainsail President Joe Collier said the company was moving ahead on the project.

Commissioners invited Collier to make a presentation at the Nov. 19 meeting, however, Collier had a previous commitment, but sent the following schedule for the project:

Phase 1, Building A

• Site and civil design, Nov. 1;
• Permit submission and review, Dec. 1;
• Architectural design, Nov. 26;
• Permit submission and review, Jan. 15;
• Mechanical and structural design, Nov. 26
• Permit submission and review, Jan. 15.

Phase 2, Building B

• Site and civil design, Nov. 1;
• Permit submission and review, Dec. 1;
• Architectural design, Dec. 15;
• Permit submission and review, Feb. 15;
• Mechanical and structural design, Dec. 15;
• Permit submission and review, Feb. 15. Phase 1, Building A
• Site clean up and model center, Nov. 1;
• Site paving, utilities and landscaping, Jan. 15;
• Construction commencement, April 1.

Commissioners also held the first reading of an ordinance requiring owners to submit stormwater management plans for construction of single-family and duplex structures. Zaccagnino questioned whether it would apply to owners doing a remodeling project. City Attorney Steve Dye said he would get an answer.

Park management to go to dogs’ owners

HOLMES BEACH – The city’s dog park will continue to be managed by volunteers, commissioners agreed last week.

“There has been a flap about the best use of donors’ money, and it led to some not-so-good personal interactions,” Chair Jean Peelen told the board. “My thought is that this is city land that the dog park is on and that decisions about expenditures for the dog park, whether there are benches or trees or fountains or fences, should be moved from an ad hoc committee to the parks and beautification board.”

Commissioner David Zaccagnino, the commission’s liaison to the beautification board, said the board makes recommendations to the mayor, who can accept or reject them, and also works with the public works department.

Peelen said she talked to the chair of the beautification board, who said the board would be happy to make decisions for the dog park and that members have issues about how decisions currently are being made.

Commissioner Marvin Grossman disagreed and said the people that use the dog park take care of the park, and he felt they should make the decisions.

Mayor Carmel Monti agreed with Grossman and said he had dialogue with people who use that park, “When it comes to the budget, it makes sense to come to us, but when it comes to maintaining it, let the volunteers do the job.”

Peelen said the mayor should make the decision.

“This property where the dog park is was deeded by the Holmes family for recreational purposes,” Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore told the board. “My feeling is the parks and recreation board is where it should fit, but I think the citizens (who use the dog park) should have a representative on the board.”

Peelen also said the question has been raised regarding whether dogs would be allowed in Grassy Point, and Whitmore said they are allowed in county preserves. Peelen asked the city attorney to look into the issue.

Cortez loses an icon

A young Walter Bell at home.


Walter Thomas Bell was born Aug. 25, 1923, in Cortez Village to Aaron Parx Bell and Jessie Blanche Fulford Bell. He died on Nov. 20, 2012, at the age of 89.

Bell served in the Merchant Marines in WWII. He often said that he saw enough of the world during those years to know that he was happy to be back in Cortez.

Bell was part owner and manager of A.P. Bell Fish Company and a proud supporter of Florida's seafood industry. In his younger years, Bell loved to gill net mullet, pompano and mackerel. Had he ever retired, he wanted to return to the water to catch pompano.

Even though Bell probably would have preferred to fish, in the early 60s he began working at the fish house. He adapted well to buying and selling local catches from commercial fishers. He had a laid back personality that earned him the respect of fishermen and customers alike.

Some of his rules were to pay fair prices, pay on correct weights, always pay the fishermen promptly (“If you're in the fish business and you can't pay for the fish, you shouldn't be in the fish business!”) and spend money locally whenever possible.

He always had a smile, listened more than he spoke and was generous even when he knew better. All of these qualities and beliefs were important to Bell and contributed to his success in business and happiness in life.

Bell is survived by two brothers, Chester and Doug, and two daughters, Karen and Lisa. He is predeceased by his mother and father, sister Betty, brothers Warren, Jesse and Calvin, wife Sandra and son Jeff.

A graveside service will be held at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, at Palma Sola Community Church, 8604 Ninth Ave. N.W. in Bradenton. Friends may gather at A.P. Bell Fish Company to share memories and fishing stories following the service.

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