Vol 7 No. 38 - June 13, 2007

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper New boat ramp planned for Cortez

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Officials react to SevenShores suspension

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Boaters take exception to claims

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper City continues recycling program

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Fire extinguisher training a blast

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Neighbors steamed over 52nd Street paving

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Program strives to show teens ‘real world’

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Island teen gets new heart




New boat ramp planned for Cortez

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

CORTEZ – A public-private partnership between Manatee County and the Palmetto-based Manatee Fruit Co. may result in a new public boat ramp in Cortez.

After discussing whether it was appropriate to hear the proposal at a workshop without a preliminary site plan, the Manatee County Commission informally approved the concept of the boat ramp last week.

Manatee Fruit Co. is planning to build Peninsula Bay, a 358-acre development with approval for 1,100 homes north of Cortez Road on its flower farm, part of which the company proposes to donate to the county for a boat ramp.

The county approached the company with the idea for the boat ramp, according to attorney Caleb Grimes, representing Manatee Fruit Co. The company sought the commission’s informal approval of the concept because of the high cost of a preliminary site plan, he said.

"We’re trying to get a general understanding knowing full well you cannot approve the project," he told commissioners.

Last September, the commission voted for the company to proceed with plans for the boat ramp facility with two or three boat ramps, parking spaces for 70 boat trailers and 20 cars and dry boat storage with a marine store and public restrooms.

Since then, the plan has been tweaked to include 75 spaces for boat trailers plus 15 spaces for cars, dry boat storage, a small restaurant and a bait shop, Grimes said, adding that the meandering channel would be a minimum 20 feet wide and four feet deep.

Tentative homesite plans include 48 waterfront townhomes, 63 townhomes and 190 condominiums up to four stories high, with an entrance at 119th Street West.

The peninsula has to be evacuated even for a category one storm, Commissioner Jane von Hahmann said, adding, "I’m a firm believer in not increasing the amount of density in those areas."

Commission Chairman Amy Stein warned that with impending property tax cuts, public projects such as boat ramps will not be priorities.

Some of the money can come from boat registration fees, not property taxes, Commissioner Ron Getman said.

"We need a public boat ramp," Commissioner Carol Whitmore said. "We told a landowner we wanted to use his property. We asked for the land, and now we have to see how we can pay for it."

Two other prospective boat ramp sites nearby have been turned down by the commission - Parrot Cove Marina in Sunny Shores, due to inadequate public access balanced against a $106,000 price tag for dredging the channel, and the Seafood Shack restaurant, due to opposition from the Cortez community citing traffic problems.

Officials react to
SevenShores suspension

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore said she is not surprised by St. Joe’s decision to suspend sales at SevenShores.

"It’s a fact of the market," Whitmore said. "It hits the biggest developer as well as the smallest. It’s a wise business choice on their part.

"If we had done something to protect it years ago, we wouldn’t have this problem now. At least it will be passive for while."

Manatee County Commissioner Jane von Hahmann, an opponent of the project from its inception, said she was very pleased with the decision.

"I’m excited," she declared. "Anything that delays it is great. I’m the only one on the board that voted that it should to go to court.

"It’s a very high end product. They’ll also have a big insurance issue. I feel bad that they have a huge investment, but that’s the risk they take as developers."

She said if St. Joe would offer to sell the property to the county, she didn’t think the county could afford to purchase it.

"They’ve already cleared the land and the cost to put it back would be very high," she pointed out.

Glenn Compton, of ManaSota-88, the environmental group that opposed the project, said, "It’s no surprise that sales are slow. People are starting to realize the risk of living so close to the coast because of hurricanes.
"It’s a project that was out of character for the areas from the start. It’s not a desirable project."

Boaters take exception to claims

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

One of two men, who were fishing near the Anna Maria Island Bridge the morning of May 13 when a large SUV plunged into the water, said they helped rescuers.

Robert Cornell, of Braden-ton, said he and his brother, Christian, shined the large light on their boat at the accident scene as two motorcyclists, firefighters and EMS personnel got two survivors out of the water and tried to save a third, who did not survive.

"We were in our boat fishing south of the bridge when we heard two loud noises," he said. "One was the car hitting the railing and the other must have been it going into the water. I immediately called 911. It was 3:15 in the morning."

Cornell said shortly after that, they heard voices, although they could not make out what the people, who had been in the vehicle when it went off the bridge, were saying. They thought the voices were coming from the top of the bridge and didn’t realize at that point that the vehicle had gone into the water.

Cornell said shortly after that, they heard the two men on motorcycles, Ian Haddix of Bradenton and Evan Purcell, of Holmes Beach, come over the bridge toward the Island at a high rate of speed.

"I told Christian that I hoped they slowed down because there was something waiting for them on the other side of the bridge," he said. That something would have been the debris from the accident.

Haddix and Purcell stopped after they got across the bridge. They went off the road to the apron around the bridge landing and jumped into the water. Shortly after that, fire rescue vehicles came onto the scene.

"We were anchored on the south side of the bridge and pulled anchor, went parallel with the bridge to the channel and under the bridge to where the vehicle was," he said. "The light on our boat was on as we approached."

It was then that the two anglers realized that the SUV was in the water with the two survivors.

"The fire department had underwater lights on and we stayed on the perimeter shining ours on the scene," he said. "They had much brighter lights, and ours helped only a little.

"When they got the body of the third man out, they put it on a gurney and into our boat," Cornell said. "An EMS technician gave him CPR while we headed toward the apron."

In an earlier interview with The Sun, Haddix said he couldn’t understand why more people wouldn’t help and that he had asked them to shine their light and they didn’t.

"The fact is, the light was already on," Cornell said.


City continues recycling program

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

BRADENTON BEACH – It is an issue that keeps coming around every so often, and as it has in the past, the city commission voted last Thursday to spend a little extra to keep recycling in-house.

It all began when the city’s recycling truck, which came with bins for the different types of recyclable items, broke down leaving the city in the lurch. The city got the truck fixed, but the breakdown compelled Public Works Director Tom Woodard to search for a newer model, which he did. It was a used truck. Before he moved to purchase it, he wanted the commission to either confirm its commitment to curbside recycling pickup or having residents bring their recylables to a central location, most likely next to the public works office on Highland Avenue.

"I’m for getting another recycling truck and doing it right," Commissioner Bill Shearon said. "It would probably mean an increase in fees."

Commissioner Janie Robertson said she would also be in favor of it, even if it means raising the rates.

Commissioner Michael Pierce asked how much it would cost for each option and Woodard estimated $45,000 for the truck plus two men on the truck two days per week. He said it would cost about $1,000 per month to collect the recyclables at one location and have Waste Management haul them away.

"We’ve come a long way to get it up and running," Commissioner John Shaughnessy said. "If you have a collection point, people would come in after hours and if they can’t get in, they’ll just leave it there. It would probably bring debris and possibly a rodent problem."

Shaughnessy asked about including condominiums in recycling, which the city has not done up to this point.

Woodard said the city would give the residents recycling bins if they have a central collection location. If the city purchases a new truck, it would work out collection details with each development.

"We started out with the recycling program and we might as well follow through with it, Shaughnessy said. "It’s a time-sensitive issue because if the truck goes out again, we won’t have a backup."

"I think the public is ready to keep with this, even if it costs more," Pierce said. "I would like to know how much more."

Robertson said she didn’t need to know how much and moved to have Woodard purchase the newer truck. The vote was unanimous for the motion.

In other business, the commission approved special event permits for:

• The annual skim board competition sponsored by West Coast Surf Shop and The Sun newspaper on Aug. 26 at the BeachHouse restaurant

• Island Bazaar’s 20th anniversary June 23 on Bridge Street

• An End of Summer Street Festival sponsored by the Historic Bridge Street Merchants on Sept. 2 on Bridge Street.


Fire extinguisher training a blast

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

BRADENTON — Employees of Summerville at Bradenton learned how to use a fire extinguisher at a recent class given by West Manatee Deputy Fire Marshal Kurt Lathrop.

Lathrop used a fire extinguisher simulator, purchased with the district’s impact fees, in the class held at Station 4. The simulator includes props such as trash can, a stove and a flammable liquid cabinet. Today’s prop was the trash can.

"Our codes require these things to be put in, but we fail to take the step further and teach people how to use them," Lathrop pointed out.

His first piece of advice was for the group was to learn the locations of the fire extinguishers in their building.

"The code requires them to be sealed," he explained, " so you have to snap off the yellow tag. Next you pull the pin. Hold the hose and squeeze the handles together. Move it in a sweeping motion.

"Don’t go over the top of a fire because the pressure of the extinguisher will cause it to blow out. Aim at the base of the fire — the gap between the fuel and the flame — to break up the reaction."

Each employee took his/her turn amid giggles and some errant extinguisher action and earned a certificate from Lathrop.

Lathrop offers these classes to businesses, retirement homes and condominium groups in the district. Contact him at 742-3900.


Neighbors steamed
over 52nd Street paving

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Several neighbors who live near the public beach access on 52nd Street gathered Wednesday morning to protest the paving of the street end at the beach access.

Many said they were concerned that paving over the sandy, shelly street end with asphalt would increase runoff into the storm drain system.

Not so, said Joe Duennes, supervisor of Holmes Beach Public Works Department. Paving the area will reduce flooding by keeping sand out of the storm drains, he said, adding that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection no longer considers shell roads to be pervious surfaces.

In addition, the sandy street ends create dust that neighbors complain about during droughts, which the paving will resolve, he said.

The paving also will reduce potholes, which are constantly created on unpaved streets, and the city’s repair cost for potholes will also be reduced, he added.

Another resident said that walking across the asphalt would be too hot, especially for barefoot children. Duennes pointed out that pedestrians can walk down a sandy pathway on the side of the street end.

Another neighbor wondered why the residents were not asked to split the paving cost as they had in years past. Duennes said that it has been 30 years since the city asked each adjoining neighbor to pay one third of the cost while the city paid one third.

The city received a request three or four years ago to pave the street end, but the project is part of the city’s annual repaving program, Duennes said, adding that the city has been paving street ends for the past four years.



Program strives to show
teens ‘real world’

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

Jeff Darwin is looking for a few good people who don’t mind being followed.
Darwin, director of the Community Center’s teen program, wants volunteers for the teens’ job-shadowing program. Two teens will follow a volunteer through his/her working day and then ask detailed questions about the job.
Darwin told the Center’s board of directors about the job shadowing during a presentation on the teen program at a recent board meeting.

"This is a part of the life skills," Darwin explained. "I want them thinking about the future. I would like to ask anybody here who is working if they would like to have a pair of teens come to work with them."

"You get them preferably in the afternoon. Often there’s a lunch involved. I tell them to bring money for lunch. Then they’ll ask you questions about your job."

Darwin then follows up on the teens with a question and answer session. Darwin said his request is not limited to board members but can be anyone in the community.

"I’ve done it several times and it’s really neat to watch their faces," board member John Horne said. "It does give them a different grasp of reality. What you’re doing will prepare them for the real world."

Darwin continued with an overview of the teen program.

"Due to many factors, including single parent households and parents working in the service industry, many Island teens are on their own without adult companionship for extended periods of time," Darwin explained.

"The age group that the REACH program services is most at risk to experiment with negative high risk behavior such as drugs, alcohol and tobacco and early sexual experiences and destructive behavior such as vandalism."

He said last year in the three Island cities there were 49 juvenile arrests, which is many more than previous years, and the charges were more serious. Vandalism and bicycle theft topped the list in the past, while aggravated assault, battery, theft and drug and possession have come into play recently.
"Teens need to have a vision of the future to make good choices in the present, and that’s how I’ve built this program to run," he said. "I’ve learned that the teens are actually inexperienced adults who should be guided and encouraged with their choices instead of being placed in the out-of-sight, out-of-mind category that we often put them in."

Darwin said there are125 youths between the ages of 11 and 15 enrolled in the program and the average daily participation is 15 teens with big events drawing 30. In order to participate in the monthly trips, such as to Busch Gardens, the teens must volunteer for eight hours per month doing activities such as environmental and beach cleanups and aiding Meals on Wheels.

"They like to help people," he said.

To learn more about the teen program or to volunteer to be shadowed at your job, call Darwin at the Center at 778-1908.


Island teen gets new heart

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Many of Erik Stahr’s friends who got to know him as he grew up on the Island are celebrating his latest secret.

He got a new heart last weekend and it was just in the nick of time.

Born without a pulmonary valve in his heart, Erik had surgery on the second day of his life so that blood could flow from his heart to his body. As an infant and small child, Erik was too weak to crawl and halfway between his second and third birthday, surgeons installed his first heart valve, taken from a pig. By the time he graduated from the Constructive School of Play and attended Anna Maria Elementary School, Erik played Little League baseball, soccer and basketball at the AMI Community Center, just like other boys his age.

When he was 12, doctors replaced Erik’s valve with a larger one taken from a calf.

As he attended King Middle School and Manatee High School, Erik’s attention turned to other things, such as playing the violin and driving cars. He loved BMWs. During his summer after graduation, Erik, worked with his dad on the Dateline NBC crew and earned enough to purchase his second BMW.

During his first term at Manatee Community College, Erik’s attention turned toward cars, e-mails, video games, girls and school work. Early last month, however, his world changed drastically.

Erik started feeling sick and after three days of little food or water, he went to the walk-in clinic. His heart function, which had never been strong, was deteriorating.

"He’s had four major reconstructions during his life," said his mother, Mary Ellen. "There’s been a lot of scarring."

Erik was sent to All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, diagnosed with failing heart function and during surgery to plant a bi-ventricular pacing device, his heart stopped. He was finally stabilized and sent to the intensive care unit of the hospital, from where he was to be sent home on May 19. However, tests showed his heart was not improving and he remained
at All Children’s.

On June 1, doctors began looking urgently for a new heart.

"He was placed on top of the waiting list," Mary Ellen said last Friday. "Of course, there are many matching factors that need to be met before they would transplant a heart into his body."

Suddenly Friday evening, word came that a heart that could be a match for Erik had been found. Erik’s parents have been keeping friends and relations updated via e-mail and his dad, Mike, said last night that two of Erik’s friends had paid a visit and were allowed to stay late. By that time, they had learned that the new heart was available and being tested for compatibility.

"11 p.m., Erik sleeps. He was elated then seemed anxious, but fell asleep about an hour ago," Mike wrote. "We pray for and have immeasurable gratitude for our donor and their loved ones. Every time we hear the helicopter landing on Bayfront Hospital next door, we think it might be Erik's new heart."

Early Saturday morning came another e-mail talking about preparations for the operation.

"The transplant team came just after 5 a.m. One more signature, for anesthesia, Erik's. They will be putting him to sleep for a while before his new heart arrives. His mood is good and still joking as they wheel him to the OR (operating room). His night nurse shared she was very impressed with his mature attitude and said it was very unusual and commented on his sense of humor.

"6:20 a.m. The transplant coordinator reports he is sleeping and that the heart should be arriving shortly. Oh, and that, ‘Erik is wonderful.’ She is new to the project and just getting to meet the spirit of Erik Stahr. He was talking until he dropped off to sleep. Erik is ready. His new heart will be here soon."

At 8:40 a.m., they wrote, "The transport team has arrived. Mom and dad just watched Erik's new heart roll by. The first of many, many, many more times it will be rolling by."

At 10:45 a.m., they wrote that the heart had started beating inside Erik and less than an hour later, Mike said, "Erik's life with a new ‘ticker’ has begun. I'm not sure exactly what time, but at 10:05 a.m., I felt it start. Erik's spirit can not be contained here."


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