Vol 8 No. 9 - November 21, 2007


Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Insurance for Perico in question

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Study links pollution, red tide

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Dine with friends this holiday

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Fire chief reports on bridge closure plans

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Beach walk raises more than $5,000 for Erik’s family

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Negotiators talk man down to safety

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper Firefighters take advantage of demolition

Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper South Bay Boulevard property dispute resolved




Insurance for Perico in question

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – Insurance coverage for some homes on Perico Island could be in jeopardy because of an unusual issue involving firefighting jurisdiction.

West Manatee Fire Chief Andy Price told fire commissioners about the situation recently, alerting them to the potential risk for homeowners.

"I received a call from an insurance agent and was asked if we respond to this area," Price said. "I told him a portion of it is still in our jurisdiction, but the majority of it was annexed into the city of Bradenton and the city provides fire service."

He said the insurance agent said he couldn’t get insurance for a homeowner there because the closest Bradenton fire station is 5.8 miles away. West Manatee’s stations 1 and 4 are 4.2 and 3.9 miles away.

"He asked if we respond if there’s a fire and I said we go to any property in the city of Bradenton when they call for us," Price continued. "That doesn’t mean we’ll get there any quicker because it takes time to get the information from their dispatch center to us because the city has its own dispatch center."

He said if the district responds to any other fire district the call is automatic because they use the same dispatch center.

 "I think what’s happening is they do all these things on line, and when they plug in the address, it automatically grabs city of Bradenton information," Price explained. "It also has a mapping system, and they measured back to Bradenton’s closest station, which is beyond the five-mile requirement."

"The vast majority of that area is outside the five-mile limit, so I don’t know what’s going to happen to all the properties on Perico and whether or not they’re going to be able to get coverage. I’ve never heard of this before."

He said the insurance agent asked him to write a letter stating that West Manatee provides coverage, but he declined to do so because it might make the fire district liable.
"I took it a little further, and checked the furthest point of each station’s response area in our district to see if we were even close to the five miles and we weren’t," he said.

He said he alerted the county’s other fire chiefs about the issue because other districts also have had portions of their districts annexed.

Study links pollution, red tide

By Cindy Lane
sun staff writer

Nutrients in the Mississippi River may be causing red tide to bloom in the southwest Florida Gulf of Mexico, according to a study released last week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The study appears to add more fuel to the hotly-debated issue of whether nutrients from pollution runoff contribute to red tide blooms, which are population explosions of the single-celled organism, Karenia brevis.

Researchers suggest that between August and November, the wind typically blows a plume of nutrient-rich water eastward in the Gulf, delivering food to Karenia brevis organisms living offshore. The organisms can swim deep in the water to feed on the nutrients, then can swim to the surface to reach the light necessary for photosynthesis, according to the study.

After gorging, the organisms start reproducing and are blown toward the coast, according to the study, published in the journal "Continental Shelf Research," co-edited by Dr. Gary Kirkpatrick, manager of Mote Marine Laboratory’s Phytoplankton Ecology Program, and Dr. John Walsh of the University of South Florida.

The new data could shed light on a rare occurrence of red tide in the Florida Panhandle from Bay to Escambia counties over the past two months.

Another rare red tide bloom cropped up along Florida’s east coast from Nassau to Volusia counties in early October. Karenia brevis, the southwest Florida species of red tide, also was  reported recently in Delaware for the first time.

"The farthest north Karenia brevis has ever been reported previously is North Carolina," said Dr. Patricia A. Tester, branch chief of NOAA’s Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research.

"The fact that the east coast and the Panhandle have blooms and we don’t have one down here is unusual," said Dr. Richard Stumpf of NOAA, the lead researcher on the study. "The places where you would expect blooms, you’re not getting them."

While the southwest Florida coast has been free of red tide blooms all year, ongoing research by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute shows that it persistently lives offshore in varying concentrations.

Last week, very low concentrations of red tide were detected in water samples collected offshore from seven to 25 miles west of Collier County. Alongshore samples collected between Pinellas and Collier counties contained no red tide.

Red tide emits a neurotoxin that kills fish, turtles and marine mammals, makes shellfish unsafe to eat and causes respiratory problems in humans. In 2005, southwest Florida was plagued by a bloom that lasted more than a year and created a dead zone in the Gulf.

Dine with friends this holiday

Three area churches are serving turkey dinners this Thanksgiving for those who don’t want to be alone.

CrossPointe Fellowship, 8605 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria, serves at 1 p. m. Call 778-0719 to reserve.

St. Bernard Catholic Church, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach, also serves at 1 p.m.  Call 778-4769.

Roser Memorial Community Church, 512 Pine Ave., Anna Maria, serves at 2 p.m. Call 778-0414 to reserve. There is no charge but the churches would appreciate an offering.


Fire chief reports on bridge closure plans

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – West Manatee Fire Chief Andy Price told fire commissioners last week that he is working with the state to get predictions on traffic during the Anna Maria Island Bridge closure.

The Florida Department of Transportation is planning to close the bridge for 45 days as part of the bridge rehabilitation project. The project begins in January and the closure is tentatively set for October and November.

"We want to get their traffic analysis people to give us an idea because we need that information before we can decide what type of equipment we’re going to need," he explained. "Then we will sit down with EMS and the police departments to look at that data."

He said the agencies would be reimbursed for the cost of extra equipment and manpower they use during the closure, and DOT wants the fire district to be the receiving agency. It would receive all the reimbursements and distribute them to the other agencies.

Commissioner Larry Tyler asked what EMS plans to do. Price said EMS officials have discussed stationing an additional ambulance on the Island, but are not keen on putting a paramedic on a fire truck. Another option is putting a paramedic in a fire district command vehicle that would be like a chase car.

"We talked about using the fire boat to carry a stable patient across the bay to Manatee Avenue and EMS could pick them up there." he continued. "That way the ambulance could stay on the Island."

He said they also discussed using a ferry to transport injured patients. He said the helicopter could be used but if the trip is not medically necessary, the patient could be liable for the bill.

"That’s a $10,000 ride," he pointed out.

He also said that overtime would be a tremendous burden for the district’s firefighters and the cost would be astronomical. He said the district should consider hiring part-time firefighters from reserves and other fire districts.



Beach walk raises more than $5,000 for Erik’s family

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

HOLMES BEACH – The sky was sunny and the temperature was comfortable last Sunday as a lot of people showed they had a lot of heart for one of the Island’s own sons.

More than 80 people took part in the walk for Erik Stahr, according to Anna Maria Elementary School counselor Cindi Harrison, but there was more.

“We have received more than $5,000,” she told a cheering crowd of tired walkers enjoying the shade under the pavilion at the Sandbar restaurant.

The event was a fund-raiser for Erik’s parents, Michael and Mary Ellen Stahr, who bore the expense of Erik’s recent heart transplant and will continue to receive bills for his ongoing medical checkups to monitor the heart.

Three sets of parents of children who were born with heart defects like Erik organized the walk. They were Susan Timmons and Sean Murphy, Kay Kay and Dan Hardy and Nancy Boltwood, mother of twins Nicky and Tori. There was another heart transplant recipient in the crowd on the beach who were winners after the walk.

Sally and Kurt Spehr, parents of Andrew, who got a new heart on April 15, shortly before Erik’s transplant in June, won the drawing for a lavish dinner for four at the Beach Bistro.

Harrison thanked the Manatee High School Drumline, which performed;  the Sandbar, which provided food after the walk; Cafe on the Beach, where the walk started; and Beach Bistro, which provided the drawing prize and water for participants at the halfway point of the 2.5 mile walk.


Negotiators talk man down to safety

By Tom Vaught
sun staff writer

A 53-year-old Cortez man came down off the mast of the sailboat he lives on Thursday afternoon after talking with police negotiators who were called when he appeared to be contemplating suicide.

Lawrence Johnson climbed up on the mast of the ship and reportedly put a noose around his neck, according to neighbors who called police. They said he might have skipped his medication before this happened.

Units from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, the county EMS and the Bradenton Beach Police Department responded to the scene in the bay south of the Cortez Bridge. Bradenton Beach Police Sergeant Charles Sloan, Deputy Brandy Franklin of the sheriff’s office and Deputy Gary Sellitto, of the sheriff’s office substation in Anna Maria talked Johnson into climbing down from the mast. He was taken into custody under the Baker Act and driven to Blake Hospital for examination.



Firefighters take advantage of demolition

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writer

The demolition of four buildings, including the old Island Baptist Church chapel, at CrossPointe Fellowship gave West Manatee firefighters a chance to practice roof ventilation techniques.

Employees of Palmetto Asphalt and Demolition Inc. began the project Thursday morning, holding off on the old chapel until firefighters finished their exercise.

"It’s a chance for us to give back to the community," the company’s owner Larry Oxendine said.

Firefighters donned their gear and rode the bucket of the ladder truck to the top of the roof and began work.

"They’re going to cut a hole in the roof, which is how we get the gas and smoke out of the building," Captain Chris Kiernan explained.

‘They’ll make a small cut in the roof to see where the trusses are," Lt. Jeff Lonzo continued, "then they’ll cut a 4-foot by 4-foot ventilation hole. If it were a real fire, they would take a long pole and break through and all the smoke would billow out."

Lonzo pointed to the roof that was exposed by the exercise and said if the building were on fire, the fire would burn very hot because of the solid tongue and groove roof.

Oxendine said the demolition would take two to three weeks to complete.


South Bay Boulevard property dispute resolved

By Laurie Krosney
sun staff writer

ANNA MARIA — After 20 months of wrangling, the city and the owners of a property at 504 South Bay finally resolved their differences when the commission granted four variance requests.

Over the course of those months, the city permitted an addition to a home owned by Terry and Patricia Olesen and then red tagged the project when it was well under way.

One of the issues was the ownership of a 10-foot strip of public access to the bay. The Olesens said they owned it. They city said it had an easement there.

The plans that the Olesens originally submitted to the city showed that they owned the property. Someone complained that it was a public beach access and the Olesens never were able to prove their ownership to the city’s satisfaction.

The Olesens filed suit and after lengthy mediation, the city and the property owners came to terms — terms that were contingent on the city granting four variance requests.

The walls of the house have been up and the addition nearly complete since well before the city’s red tag action.

The Olesens asked for and were granted a variance to the required 10-foot north side setback of 5 feet 4 inches. They asked for and were granted a 2-foot variance from the height limitation of 4 feet for a wall adjacent to the beach access, which makes the wall 6 feet high. They were also granted a variance and will be allowed to construct the wall of concrete block, which was allowed under the codes when the remodeling project began, but is now no longer allowed.

The fourth variance was for a 3-foot-6-inch variance to the southern side yard. That was also granted.

Neighbor Laura Gee, an architect, objected to the north side variance because it places the condenser unit of the air conditioning on the property under her master bedroom window.

"In all my years of practice, I have never seen a permit issued for a project with so many illegalities," she said. "None of this should have been granted without variances."

The planning and zoning board met earlier and recommended that the commission approve all but the north side variance, because the condenser units were not yet in place.

In other action, the commission unanimously approved a variance at 418 Pine Ave. for a 9-foot variance to the 29-foot required setback. The structure was permitted by former Building Official Kevin Donohue several months after the city changed the code to require a 20-foot setback for residential structures in the residential/office/retail district on Pine Avenue.


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