The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 13 No. 39 - July 24, 2013


Mayor wants a bigger budget

ANNA MARIA – With two commissioners absent and a proposed budget they got just that day, the city commission briefly discussed Mayor SueLynn’s budget plan last Thursday, and they saw enough to realize the city would be spending more money. million as proposed, but the changes in the way of life in this small city are being felt on both sides of the ledger.

Number one, the income that was estimated at $2.4 million for this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, will more likely be more than $2.5 million due to higher assessments and a trend away from owner occupied, homesteaded homes to rentals where the inflationary forces would be unabated by the Homestead Act.

On the other side, however, SueLynn pointed out that the city will need to spend money on swales that are being ruined by beach-goers who have to park a block east of Gulf Drive due to the crowds that throng to the beaches now.

The mayor also said this is the year they need to throw off the shackles of “bare bones” management.

“In the past, it’s been the squeaky wheel that has been getting the oil and a lot of maintenance issues have been pushed aside,” SueLynn said.

She said she asked Public Works Director George McKay to estimate how many man-hours it would take for maintenance every week, and he came up with 520. She said the city currently has one fulltime employee and three part-timers, and they collectively put in 104 hours a week.

"If we have anything extraordinary happen, it takes away from the time they spend on maintenance," the mayor said.

In addition, she said the city needs to cross train more and plan for a mature staff that will be retiring over the next few years. She said most of them are over 60 years of age.

Third, the influx of new, larger homes is taking away permeable land that soaks up rainwater, and city officials are going to have to think out of the box to address flooding issues.

The attendees agreed that last week’s meeting would be an overview with two commissioners missing, so Anna Maria Finance Director Diane Percycoe talked about the budget in general terms.

She said adding .05 to the millage rate would raise $31,000 more for the city, but assessments might go up as well, as the housing market strengthens and property prices rise.

Percycoe put in $300,000 for a one-time payment from whomever installs the cell phone tower in the parking lot and a $3,000 per month on the tower for rent. She left the expenditure side blank, telling the commissioners they can address what they will spend the money on later. She also added $700 a month automatic raise on the pier rent.

On the expense side, she added 3 percent onto the wages as an across-the-board raise and three full-time positions in public works to address the mayor’s concerns at the start of the meeting. They would also add $3,000 to Diane Sacca’s salary for additional duties she has adopted.

Other expense items include $22,508 more for employee health benefits, two new computers, $20,00 for building department software, a new ATV for the Sheriff’s Office at $16,000 and a new tractor at $20,000. Money for both comes from a fund the city started years ago for those capital outlays.

In addition, officials will have to pay more for the six lots the city bought. In the past, they paid only interest on the loan, but in the coming year, they will have to include paying down the loan.

Commissioner Dale Woodland said they could count the income from the cell tower, but they should not think of where to spend it at this time. He said there might be income from paid parking, if the city chooses that path, and they should plan for income from charging to allow people to park on the rights of way. Finally, he said he does not support an increase in the millage.

The meeting adjourned with another budget work session set for Wednesday, July 24, at 6 p.m.

Boat brigade floats protest
Carol Whitmore

Joe hendricks | submitted

The sign says it all.


SARASOTA BAY – Arriving by sailboat, powerboat, fishing boat, pontoon boat, Jet-Ski, kayak canoe and paddleboard, opponents of the proposed Long Bar Pointe development gathered near Channel Marker 17 in Sarasota Bay Saturday afternoon in a nautical show of solidarity.

Organized by Bay Life Preservers activists Terri Wonder and Suzanna Young, the flotilla protest served as a reminder to Manatee County Commissioners that citizen concern remains high in regard to the controversial 463-acre, mixed-use coastal development proposed by Carlos Beruff and Larry Lieberman.

The developers envision transforming an undeveloped stretch of coastal farmland between El Conquistador Parkway and Sarasota Bay, in southwest Manatee County, into a resort-style residential community that includes a conference center, a waterfront hotel and a marina Beruff described as an 80-slip boat basin.

Many who oppose the development cite the marina as their primary concern because its would require removal of one of the largest remaining tracts of mangrove forest on Sarasota Bay and dredging that would damage the fish-friendly sea grass.

With trunks and roots submerged where land and water meet, the mangroves serve as a natural estuary and breeding ground for many of the fish that populate the bay.

Designed to draw attention to the Long Bar debate, Saturday’s protest also functioned as a celebration of natural resources and as a reminder of why residents love the bay as is.

Many participants swam, treaded water or relaxed on flotation devices while discussing the development’s potential ramifications. At one point, the ever-evolving flotilla consisted of 17 boats, 15 kayaks and more than 50 people.

“It’s wonderful to see all the solidarity out here,” Wonder said, noting that she hopes the movement reminds county commissioners that opposition to the development remains strong, diverse and unified, with political consequences facing those who vote in favor of the project when it comes before the commission on Aug. 6.

“No one talks about what’s moral and ethical, and that’s what really bothers me,” she said, expressing her desire that Beruff do “the right thing” and leave the mangroves intact.

Captained by Wonder’s husband, Ray, the couple’s 35-foot sailboat served as the epicenter of the raft-up gathered west of the Long Bar property and offshore from the El Conquistador and Legends Bay communities.

A natural exception

As Ray navigated the shallow water close to shore during a dinghy tour of the mangroves, mature fish jumped skyward while smaller fish swam through the sea grass below, viewed from above by pelicans perched in mangrove trees and egrets and ospreys flying overhead.

A gaze around the bay revealed a skyline populated by development, with Long Bar as one of the few natural exceptions.

In regard to Beruff’s stated plans to cut the 40 foot-high mangrove trees down to six feet, Ray said, “You trim down the mangroves and those rookeries (bird habitats) will be gone. There will be no place for their young to be raised.”

As the dinghy returned to the flotilla, one kayaker chanted “Save our bay,” while another said, “We just want to preserve what’s left of the coastline and leave old Florida intact.”

Holmes Beach resident and kayak angler Steve Legore said, “I just want these guys to be honest with us,” referring to their claims that damage done to the bay can be mitigated by other actions.

“Anybody that believes that is living in a blue world,” Legore concluded.

Ken Jenkins, a commercial fisherman from Cortez, said, “That shoreline produces more fish than any shoreline in Manatee County. Developers can promise you anything, but the bottom line is once they destroy that it’s gone forever.”

Kayaker and retired environmental manager Jack Merriam pointed out that many years and taxpayer dollars were spent restoring sea grass in that part of the bay, and it would be a shame for those efforts to be undone by one development.

ManaSota-88 member Barbara Hines simply said, “This is the wrong project at the wrong place.”

Commission tour needed

Cortez-based charter captain Kathe Fannon thinks county commissioners should tour the mangroves before making their decision.

“I invite the county commissioners to let me show them the shoreline, what’s in this water – the starfish, sea horses and juvenile grouper – and what the cost would be to develop this shoreline,” she said.

Earlier in the week, Holmes Beach charter captain Scott Moore said, “Be a good steward, businessman and developer. Leave a buffer of mangroves and build what’s already been approved. Build that beautiful hotel, put a circular bar up there and people will sit there with $16 drinks and watch the animals, the birds and the roseate spoonbills. The developer would benefit more in terms of selling it as a natural resource than he would by opening it up for a few boaters.”

Audience likes Robinson expansion plan
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

A Roseate spoonbill sits high on
a branch in Robinson Preserve..


A crowd of up to 40 people listened to representatives of the Manatee County Natural Resources Department explain the latest addition to Robinson Preserve on Monday, July 15, and they appeared to get a big thumbs up on the plans.

Natural Resources Department Director Charlie Hunsicker, Education Director Melissa Nell, Administrative Assistant Kay Rogers and Division Manager of Environmental Resources Max Dersch represented the county. The Natural Resources Department oversees 30,000 acres of land in the form of preserves, eight boat ramps and artificial reefs in the county.

Hunsicker said Robinson Preserve, in northwest Bradenton, is the most popular of the county’s preserves.

“Last year, we drew 300,000 cars to the preserve,” Hunsicker said. “We only count the cars, so we don’t know how many people that translates to.”

Hunsicker said the expansion began as serious talks with the Robinson family y after they held back 200 acres for a future housing and golf development. The family agreed to sell 150 acres of the land when the economy halted plans to develop the land.

The project got a boost when the Mosaic Foundation agreed to donate the money for the land. It had never given that kind of money for one project before, according to Hunsicker.

“That happened in December, and we began planning immediately,” he said.

Hunsicker went back in time and talked about when the county built State Road 64 out to the end of the mainland, where the Anna Maria Island Bridge was to be built in 1957, they had to stabilize the land. In doing so, they stopped the natural saltwater tidal flow that came over the land regularly to clean the water.

“The effects from that on the groundwater were immediate,” he said, adding their plans for the new land would be to try to bring back that salt water tidal flow.

Nell addressed the educational aspects of the new addition, especially the new educational center, named the Mosaic Center for Nature, Science and Technology after the company whose foundation paid for the land purchase.

Nell said the education center would be modeled after a building in Georgia that would give visitors a tree house experience. She said it would be octagonal and made of wood. Another amenity will be a natural playground. She said the existing playground in the preserve is usually busy, and she feels this new one, which would be larger, would also be popular. There will also be a 1.6-mile long walking trail and a second kayak launch. There will be a tree canopy trail.

“We will use trees on site, even exotics,” she said.

Dersch talked about the restoration of the land. He said they would extend the saltwater marsh for birds to use and he talked about long leaf pines.

“They were native and very popular with boat builders, and they are scarce now,” Dersch said. “We want to start a new crop.”

He said they would also plant native seeds to try to reclaim the land that is being ravaged by exotic plants and tree.

Dersch said they would build a 30-foot-tall mound to make a bird island.

The expansion project has already been ranked number one in the nine-county area by the Estuary Council, which would indicate how vital it would be to reclaiming the natural land.

Hunsicker said they would start on the expansion immediately. That portion would be financed by BP Gulf Restoration money. He said they have other funds to pay for parts of it in case the BP money is slow in coming.

The crowd appeared pleased and during the question and answer session, there were no negative comments. One audience member urged Hunsicker to take the Robinson family to lunch and talk with them until the county could get the remaining land to add to the preserve.

Hunsicker estimated the project would be done sometime in 2015.

“Thank you for Robinson Preserve,” Kim Fabre, of Bradenton, said. “We go every week, and there’s always something new. Thank you for all that you do.”


Fire chief presents $5.65 million budget

BRADENTON – West Manatee Fire Chief Andy Price presented his $5.65 million 2013-14 budget to fire commissioners last week.

“This year was the seventh year in which the district’s income was limited to the five-year personal income growth (PIG) factor,” Price said in his budget message to the board. “This has only allowed us to maintain the staffing and service levels in place since the 2002-03 budget.”

The fire district charges an assessment rate based on the type of parcel and the number of square feet. It can only raise the rate as much as the PIG factor, which is 1.91 this year.

Price said employees would receive a 1 percent cost of living increase (COLA), but no salary adjustments. The COLA in this area is 2.4 percent.

Other increases in expenses include health insurance and worker’s compensation, and interest income will be reduced by 55 percent, Price said.

Price said one goal for this fiscal year is to complete the remodeling of Station 2 in Cortez, which began this month, by March 2014. Next year’s goal is to replace Station 4 in Bradenton.

Commissioner comments

Commissioner Larry Tyler said he has no problem with the budget.

Commissioner Scott Ricci concurred and noted, “You put together as lean a budget as I would expect. You are constantly trying to keep our salaries in line with other districts” and asked if many firefighters leave to go other districts.

Price said some do, but firefighter salaries among the districts are relatively close in number, and added, “My philosophy has always been to try to provide a reasonable wage, a reasonable level of benefits, reasonable living conditions and good equipment, and I think that works.”

Commissioner Randy Cooper said he is concerned about the $1.2 million indebtedness on the administration building, plus the renovation and replacement of buildings and said, “I don’t want to get in over our heads.”

Chair David Bishop pointed out, “We’re going into debt to improve the conditions, and it will be done over four years.”

Fire commissioners plan to vote on the budget at their next meeting on Thursday, Aug. 15, at 6 p.m.

Historic preservation concerns aired

ANNA MARIA – Work continues on getting the mechanics for declaring old houses historic so their owners can rehabilitate them without elevating them.

On Thursday, July 11, City Attorney Jim Dye presented a draft of the ordinance that would allow that, and he said he still had some changes to make so it would be compatible with state law.

Before voting to delay consideration until Aug. 22, at 6 p.m., Commissioner Doug Copeland said he was concerned about homeowners getting the designation, rehabbing their home without having to comply with the 50-percent rule and then dropping the designation when they finish. The 50-percent rule requires homeowners to elevate homes where rehabilitation would cost more than 50 percent of the home’s value.

Commissioner Dale Woodland asked if that was a bad thing.

“I think the reason we’re losing residences is (having to comply with) FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) rules so if someone can get around them, I say good for them,” he said.

Woodland suggested some kind of penalty for homeowners who get the designation and then drop it.

In other news, the commission passed an ordinance that combined all the changes to the city charter as recommended by the charter review commission. The changes were mostly technical in nature and don’t affect the way the city is run currently. There was still language in the charter referring to commissioners as councilmen and councilwomen, for instance.

The commission also approved a resolution adopting new standards for sidewalks to include permeable materials such as 250 sand, which allows rainwater drainage, but also holds up to narrow wheels, like those on some baby buggies and wheelchairs.


Tower plans move forward

BRADENTON BEACH – The city commission took another step toward the construction of a proposed telecommunications tower on Thursday, unanimously approving a city-initiated rezoning of its selected site, a city-owned parking lot near the public works building.

But a recently-discovered obstacle remains – the site once contained three buried gasoline tanks – one 1,000-gallon leaded gas tank, one 1,000-gallon unleaded gas tank and one 500-gallon diesel gas tank – and a hydraulic lift and concrete stained by unknown chemicals, according to Kevin Barile, of Ridan Industries and Florida Tower Partners.

Barile advised City Attorney Ricinda Perry in a July 15 e-mail that the company would do environmental contamination testing at the site for $28,700, then deduct the amount from the $350,000 payment it would owe the city when it begins the tower’s construction.

If the soil is contaminated, the city would have to pay cleanup costs.

City staff told surprised commissioners earlier this month about the existence of the tanks, used for city vehicles and removed years ago.

But their existence was not disclosed to Ridan, and should have been, according to Perry, who said that she also had not been made aware of the gas tanks and should have been informed.

The lease for the construction of the telecommunications tower states that the “owner represents that owner has no actual knowledge of any substance, chemical or waste on the owner’s property that is identified as hazardous, toxic or dangerous,” she advised Mayor John Shaughnessy in a July 12 e-mail.

Drama campers to give two free performances

pat copeland |sun

The Fairy Tale Council – Sanibel Silenzi as Cinderella,
Kayla Betts as Humpty Dumpty, and Alexandra Adams
as Rapunzel – rehearse their lines with Ryann Price,
Rain Cooper and Gabriella Gilbert



ANNA MARIA – The Island Community Center Drama Campers will give two performances of their play, “Character Matters 2” at the Island Players on Thursday, July 25, at 1 and 7 p.m.

“The play is concentrated on decisions you make and shows that character matters,” Director Pamela Sikkema explained and added that character traits featured in the play include respect, consideration, gratitude, not seeking revenge, being a helpful neighbor and taking care of the environment.

The play begins with the Fairy Tale Council – Rapunzel, Cinderella and Humpty Dumpty – hearing a complaint from the Seven Dwarfs that Snow White has not shown any gratitude for what they did for her.

Other character complaints include the Billy Goats Gruff with the troll, Hansel and Gretel with the witch and the king and queen with the Princess and the Pea.

Sikkema and Stage Manager Emily Burns have been working with the group of children, who range in age from 5 through 13, each morning for the past two weeks during the Center's specialty camp at the Island Players. The Center’s Teen Counselors in Training are helping back stage.

For more information, contact Program Director Lindsey Weaver at 941-778-1908, ext. 9206, or

Pier team to take the helm

BRADENTON BEACH – The city commission wants to get as much money as it can from leasing out the Bridge Street Pier restaurant, but not so much that the franchisee can’t make a go of it.

That was the attitude of three commissioners who attended a work session on Tuesday, July 9, on a request for proposals (RFP) from the city. Commissioner Rick Gatehouse was absent due to illness and Jan Vosburgh was in Utah, attending via the Internet.

They agreed to a base rent plus a percentage of the restaurant’s gross receipts, like they did since 1995. The commission was 12 percent then, and they discussed keeping it the same. In addition, the city is looking to lease the bait shop and the harbormaster’s office, which could be used as an office for the restaurant. The city is required to advertise the RFP four times, so Mayor John Shaughnessy suggested they advertise all three entities.

Someone can bid on one, two or all three,” he said.

In addition, City Attorney Ricinda Perry said she wants the square footage of the three entities, an aerial photo showing the boundaries of each and the parking lot and some photos of the pier and surroundings to be included in the RFP to attract more bidders.

As for the rent, Shaughnessy said he would prefer a flat rate plus percentage, like they used to have.

“Make it easier on the vendor so he’ll know what to expect,” he said.

Commissioner Gay Breuler asked what the expense incurred by the city on a monthly basis, so they would know the minimum amount of money needed from the pier.

“The base should be the break-even amount,” she said.

The commissioners agreed on a cost per square foot of $30, and when Perry gets the square footage, she will apply it to the $30 to come up with the base rent.

Police Chief Sam Speciale, who chairs the city’s pier team, supplied some figures. There are 22 parking space assigned to the pier (not the restaurant alone). Four of them are east of the Bridge Tender Inn at the bayside and the others are at the entrance to the pier. The restaurant capacity is 60 people inside with several tables available outside.

Commissioner Ed Straight asked about times when the restaurant might not be able to open, like after a storm, and if they would they still be charged for the rent.

“If it’s a day or two, the city would just collect the base figure, not any percentage of the receipts since there would not be any,” Breuler said.

They talked about who would be responsible for the restaurant inside and out.

“The restaurant before used to wash the mats by the dumpsters and it left a lot of grease,” said Public Works Director Tom Woodard. “They should use special shelves built near the dumpsters for the mats. We need to spell that out.”

They also talked about the length of a contract. They came up with two years with an automatic renewal after the franchisee gets settled. They started out considering a one-year contract, but an onlooker, Baskaran Jey, who attended for a possible unnamed bidder, said that could inhibit bidders.

“If I figure I’m going to spend $54,000 to open with new equipment, there is no way I will recoup that in one year,’ he said. “If you don’t pay back that amount the first year, it gives you incentive to work harder. Whoever goes in there will make money anyway.”

Perry said she would draft a maintenance agreement and an RFP for them to look over at a work meeting on Thursday, July 25, at 10 a.m. Speciale said since the work on replacing pilings on the pier is beginning, he would reinstate twice monthly pier team meetings to include that project and getting a new franchisee.

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