Vol 6 No. 20 - February 08, 2006


No action yet on beach dilemma

Sign up now for Little League baseball

Drainage project a step closer

Noisy signal bothers neighbors

Anna Maria/Austria sister city contemplated

Murphy to renovate Beach Inn

City to get second legal opinion on coastal overlay district

Commissioner fined over ethics violation




No action yet on beach dilemma

ByTom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – A greatly anticipated conference call between federal and local officials came and went Monday with no solutions offered to the beach renourishment dilemma.

The mayors of the two cities being affected by the long renourishment pipeline left on the beach since Thanksgiving spoke via telephone with the project manager for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Both had expressed hope that the manager, Charles Stevens, would say what the Corps was planning to do and when they would do it.

However, Stevens said only that he is aware of the situation and is working on a solution.

"He wrote down all our concerns and said he would be meeting with his supervisor," said Holmes Beach Mayor Carol Whitmore. "I asked him to please remove the pipes and he said he is very aware of our problem and finding a solution is number one on his list."

The equipment that the contractor, Goodloe Marine, left parked on the beach when it suspended the renourishment due to heavy seas is apparently responsible for some damage to the dune system and plantings at Katie Pierola Park, where the pipeline ends.

"I presented him with a letter from our projects director, Dottie Poindexter, along with pictures of the beach showing the damage done to our dunes, the erosion and the difficulty people are having climbing over the pipes," said Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie. "He said this is top priority with the Corps and they want to work with the DEP (Department of Environmental Protection), Turtle Watch, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and the residents."

Manatee County Ecosystems Administrator Charlie Hunsicker met with Stevens, who was attending a conference in Sarasota last Wednesday, and they toured the beach.

"I showed him (The Sun’s) articles and those from other newspapers," he said. "I used the importance of those articles to stress the urgency of the situation."

Goodloe stopped work on the renourishment after the end of hurricane season because the tidal and weather patterns during the winter make for high waves. They requested a delay in finishing the project until spring.

The pipeline, which runs from north of Manatee County Beach to Katie Pierola Park in Bradenton Beach, has caused residents, resort owners and tourists to complain because it blocks their view of the Gulf and it is hard to walk over to get to the water. Whitmore and Chappie arranged for the conference call to Stevens to make sure he was aware of the situation and to ask that the pipeline be removed until Goodloe restarts the project.

Hunsicker said he wanted to stress two things – Goodloe was the right contractor for the job and we cannot compare this project with the one in Longboat Key, which is underway despite the waves.

"The Corps made the right call to allow the contractor to stand down the project during the high wave season," he said. "People have been saying Goodloe took a lot of weather delays and that they don’t believe all of them are necessary, but I say to them, believe it."
Hunsicker said the hopper dredge used in the Longboat renourishment is a sea-worthy ship while the suction dredge Goodloe has is a flat-bottomed vessel that does not cope with waves well. An official from the Longboat Key Public Works department said that hopper dredges sit deep in the water, too deep to work where Goodloe’s dredge is operating.

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Sign up now for Little League baseball

By Mike Field
sun staff writer

It’s time to break out the bats, balls and gloves and PLAY BALL once again, as Little League baseball returns to the Island at the Community Center.

Registration is going on now at the Center, located at 407 Magnolia Ave. in Anna Maria.

The league is for boys and girls from ages 5 to 17, and everyone who signs up by Feb. 10 will receive a free ticket to the Devil Rays-Pirates game on Sunday, March 12.

That also is the league’s official opening weekend , which will include the traditional parade of players and coaches, plus team pictures and baseball games.

The cost will be $55 per player for tee ball, $65 per player for the live pitch and pitching machine divisions, and $75 for the junior division ages 13-15. There is a $5 discount for each additional sibling that plays. Assistance from the Bill Ogden Scholarship Fund also is available for those who can’t afford the signup fee.

The last day to register is Saturday, Feb. 10.

Everyone who signs up will be placed on a team but for parity in the divisions there also will be mandatory tryouts.

The tryout schedule is as follows:

• Saturday, Feb. 11, 10:30 a.m. – 10-12 year olds;
• Saturday, Feb. 11, noon – 7-9 year olds;
• Saturday, Feb. 11, 1:30 p.m. – 5-6 year olds;
• Monday, Feb. 13, 6:30 p.m. – 7-9 year olds;
• Wednesday, Feb. 15, 6:30 p.m. – 7-9 year olds.
Some of the games this season will be played at the Bayfront Recreation Center in Longboat Key due to the renovation of the Community Center.
Coaches also are needed this year.
For more information, call 778-1908 and speak with Andy Jonatzke.<< Top

Drainage project a step closer

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – Residents along North Shore Drive, North Bay Boulevard and Gladiolus can expect to see a drainage system in place by the end of June.

A pre-bid conference for the joint project the city plans with Swiftmud was held at city hall on Feb. 2, and six contractors turned out to pick up packets and to hear from City Engineer Tom Wilcox. Most indicated informally that they plan to submit bids.

"What we are basically doing is trying to do something about water quality impact and flooding in the drainage basin," Wilcox said at the conference. "There will be a lot of very shallow, open swales running down an alley to the east of South Bay and North Shore."

There also are a lot of encroachments in the alley that will have to be removed, according to Wilcox.

"A notice will be sent to property owners telling them they have to remove fences, sheds and shrubbery from the project area, or the contractor will remove it for them and dispose of it," he said. "Those notices will go out closer to the start of the work."

Wilcox said the swales would only be a foot deep at the bottom. They’ll be 10-feet wide with a gentle slope to a two-foot wide flat bottom.

"Homeowners will be able to mow it easily," he added. "The outflow will be to the existing
canals through filter boxes, which will clean out the heavy metals, oil and other pollutants."

Wilcox works for Baskerville-Donovan, Inc., and he told the contractors that after a series of meetings with property owners in the Gladiolus drainage basin, the decision was made to keep several large trees in the swales, and there will be places where residents can drive to their property over the swales.

Several contractors asked about inspections.

"BDI will be in charge of all inspections," Wilcox said. "But we won’t be on the job full time."
When asked who the local contact person would be, Wilcox said it would be Anna Maria Public Works Director George McKay.

"Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to be here today," Wilcox told the contractors. "He had a meeting with the DEP in Tampa."

(McKay had sent e-mail to the staff saying he’d be out of town from early morning until late afternoon.)

The project is expected to cost between $175,000 and $225,000. Half will be paid by the city, and half will be picked up by a Swiftmud grant.

Bids are due on Feb 16.

Wilcox said he expects the project to be under way by late March or early April, and it should be "substantially complete after 90 days with some additional days to do the final and cleanup work."


Noisy signal bothers neighbors

ByTom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – It has been described as something akin to prison camp torture, a constant ticking noise, and the people who live near it are asking for a solution.

The noise is coming from an audible pedestrian signal (APS) installed at the intersection of Gulf Drive and Cortez Road and the complaints are coming from residents of Bridgeport condominiums, on the northeast corner of the intersection.

"It’s very irritating," said Jim Graham, who lives at Bridgeport and wrote a letter to Bradenton Beach Mayor John Chappie. "At night, it’s impossible to sleep."

Graham said other residents there have complained about the noise, especially this time of the year when many Floridians open their homes because of cooler temperatures.

Graham said the noise is constant and he feels that there might be something wrong with the device at that intersection.

"I’ve been in other cities where they have these and the noise usually last about 10 seconds after the light changes," he said. "Here, it’s a constant tick, tick, tick."

Graham said during the day, traffic drowns out the ticking sound but at night, when there is less traffic, the signal’s ticking dominates.

Bradenton Beach officials said, however, that there may be nothing they can do about it.

"It needs to make noise for the seeing impared pedestrians to find it," said Public Works Director Dotty Poindexter. "The county has another signal like this at 43rd and Cortez Road, near WalMart, and it is even louder because it is located next to a six-lane road. The wider the road, the louder it has to be and the one in Bradenton Beach is set at its lowest level."

The city may not be able to remove the signal, according to Assistant Public Works Director Tom Woodard.

"Once it’s in there, it’s there," he said. "It would take a higher level of government to remove it."

Woodard worked for the signs and traffic marking division of the Manatee County Public Works Department and is well-versed with the Federal Manual for uniform Traffic Control Devices, which covers street crossing lights.

Bradenton Beach Vice Mayor Bill Shearon, who is legally blind, spent a better part of two years trying to get the signal at that intersection. He said the state approved the installation of the APS and Manatee County installed it and that Bradenton Beach has no control over it. He said he sympathizes with the nearby residents who find the beeping an annoyance.

"I’m not completely blind and can see the button on the signal, so for me, it is not that much of a concern to have the signal, but someone who is completely blind might have different feelings about it," he said. "I think if anything was altered, they might have ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) issues."

Graham’s letter compared the signal’s constant beeping to torture.

"The constant 24/7 knocking noise is causing great mental anguish and sleep deprivation," the letter said. "It is the equivalent of torture that is used in prison camps."
Tom Vaught may be reached by e-mail at tvaught@amisun.com.

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Anna Maria/Austria sister city contemplated

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – High school students in Mooskirchen, Austria, are working with their teacher to form a sister city relationship with the cities of Anna Maria Island.

Teacher Michael Schwab, who also represents an American company in Austria, learned about Anna Maria Island from a neighbor who had visited, said Holmes Beach City Commissioner David Zaccagnino, who is corresponding with Schwab on the project.

The students and the school’s headmaster have met with the mayor of Mooskirchen about the idea of starting an exchange, according to a letter from Schwab to Zaccagnino.

Meanwhile, Schwab’s students are translating the Mooskirchen town website into English, and hope to translate Island city and possibly chamber of commerce websites into German, Zaccagnino said.

While the project originally was focused on Holmes Beach, Zaccagnino said that it has expanded to include all three Island cities with the involvement of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, which has established a committee on the project.

Mooskirchen, an agricultural area with a history dating back to 1136, has about 2,000 residents. Its website is www.mooskirchen.at.

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Murphy to renovate Beach Inn

ByCindy Lane
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Sean Murphy has won approval to turn the Beach Inn, the counterpart of his Beach Bistro restaurant at 6600 Gulf Drive, into a high-end resort while keeping the "old Florida" flavor of the building.

The 14 units at the hotel will be enlarged by enclosing the patios and walkways adjoining the units, said Brent Whitehead of Cortez-based Whitehead Construction, whose firm will do the renovations.

The open atrium also will be enclosed, transforming it into a 1,500-square-foot lobby where guests can socialize and conduct business meetings, Murphy told the Holmes Beach Board of Adjustment last week, which unanimously approved the plans.

"To justify the cost, we need to take it upscale," said Murphy, a partner in Beach Inn Partners. "The lobby is essential."

The economic pressure to convert motel and hotel rooms to condominiums is negatively affecting restaurants and retail stores, he said.

"Our biggest problem is the loss of 20 to 25 percent of hotel rooms to condos in Manatee County," said Murphy, who also is a member of the Manatee County Tourist Development Council.

Don Schroder, president of the Coalition Against Runaway Taxation (CART), agreed, speaking on Murphy’s behalf at the hearing.

"Every dollar in room rates equals three dollars spent at other businesses," he said. "He is meeting a need."

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City to get second legal opinion on coastal overlay district

ByLaurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA – An outside legal expert has been retained by the city commission as it moves forward with its coastal overlay district.

Nancy Stroud, an attorney from Boca Raton, will be taking a look at a proposed ordinance that will establish a coastal overlay district. City Attorney Jim Dye and City Planner Alan Garrett are writing the proposal.

The district will run roughly around the coastal perimeter of the city from the southern-most city limits on the Gulf, then sweep around Bean Point and terminate at Galati Marine on Bimini Bay.

Existing platted lots in the district will not be affected by the ordinance, but any lots that are newly platted or replatted would have restrictions placed on their size, height and development.

Some weeks ago, City Commissioner Chris Tollette suggested that the city seek outside counsel for a second opinion on the city’s legal vulnerability if they go ahead with the establishment of the coastal overlay district.

Tollette’s research led her to Stroud. At their January meeting, the city commission approved the hiring of the attorney, but they have not determined what they are willing to spend for outside legal counsel.

"Let’s not be penny-wise and dollar foolish," Tollette said. "We want to protect ourselves from litigation with this ordinance as much as we can."

Several property owners in the proposed coastal overlay district have already retained attorneys to represent them should the ordinance pass.

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Commissioner fined over ethics violation

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – City Commissioner Lisa Marie Phillips, who was found guilty by an administrative law judge in Tallahassee last week of using her office to intimidate a resident, said she’s glad it’s over and she wants to move on.

Judge Carolyn Holifield said Phillips, who also serves as the city’s vice mayor, misused her public position and fined her $2,000.

"I have a lot of things to do before I’m done in office and I can’t let this slow me down," she said. "In a way, it’s hard to be punished when you’re trying to do the best for your city."

The case stems from a traffic incident Jan. 3, 2004, when Phillips blew her horn at Ronald Ockerman after he slowed down or stopped. He responded with an obscene gesture, according to police reports, and Phillips drove around him and forced him to stop. She got out of her car and Ockerman said he was going to call police.

Phillips then said, "Go ahead and call the police" because "she ‘owned’ or controlled the police," according to the order. She also told Ockerman to follow her because she was going to give him a ticket.

Phillips said she will consider appealing the order, although it is an expensive process. She said she’s glad it’s over.

"That incident does not define me and it certainly is no reflection on my co-workers," she said. "When you’re an elected official, it’s a completely different deal. You give up some of the civil liberties you had before you’re elected."

Phillips noted the incident occurred within three months of her election and she did not recognize the importance of being an elected official.

Phillips said Ockerman attended her last community meeting and spoke with her cordially about what the city is doing.

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