The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 12 - December 10, 2008


County may renourish larger area on Island
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Manatee County Natural Resources
Director Charlie Hunsicker shows members of the county
commission the escarpments made by the tide along the
northern beaches of Anna Maria.

ANNA MARIA – They didn’t say yes and they didn’t say no. It was more like, "We’ll try."

That’s the reaction the Manatee County Board of Commissioners had to a presentation by the city of Anna Maria asking for inclusion in an upcoming renourishment project. The meeting was held at the Anna Maria Island Community Center and on the beach.

The county commission gave a consensus approval to have its beach engineering firm, Coastal Planning and Engineering, look into including Anna Maria north of the Sandbar restaurant and around but not including Bean Point Point in a beach nourishment project planned for 2009 or 2010. It left open whether the county might pay for new sand along a stretch of bayfront property near the Rod and Reel Pier, where water often laps over seawalls behind homes during storms.

That project would extend beach nourishment south of the original 1992 nourishment project boundaries into Coquina Beach and County Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker said that the county might push to have all of the beaches nourished over the past 16 years packaged together for eventual federally-financed future renourishment projects.

Last spring, the county commission voted against supporting the Anna Maria extension, citing the fact that the city did not have adequate usable beach access parking and homeowners on or near the beach had long wanted to exclude parking for beachgoers near their homes. They also said that there were not enough motels in Anna Maria to support spending bed tax dollars on renourishment.

At last Tuesday’s presentation, Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford stressed the city’s amenities to tourists and why it needs to have good beaches. She said there are 66 businesses within city limits including six high-end restaurants, the historic Rod and Reel Pier and the City Pier and more than 35 beach accesses leading to the beaches, Bean Point and the bayfront. She also talked about the Pine Avenue Restoration Project.

"In the old days, people used to dock at the City Pier that will be 100 years old in 2011 and promenade down Pine Avenue," she said. "The restoration project is trying to re-create that."

Barford said that the city had recounted its parking spaces and had more than 300 signs out to provide directions to those spaces.

At that point, the group went to a waiting bus to be transported around the city and see some of the beaches that had suffered from storms and erosion. Unfortunately, they picked a day and time when the tide was unusually low, but the commissioners apparently got the picture before coming to their consensus.

When they returned to the community center, Coastal Planning and Engineering Vice President Rick Spadoni, who has represented the county’s interests in the three nourishments and renourishments since the first in 1992, talked about our beaches.

"In my career, which began in 1976, Anna Maria Island has had the worst eroded beaches I have ever worked on," he said. "It’s so bad that the Island had literally no beaches in some areas in the central part and it has been a chronic problem."

He recalled the first nourishment, when the Army Corps of Engineers used heavy, dark sand that degraded the quality of the beaches until the sand bleached out.

He recalled the 2002 renourishment, when they added a portion of beach around the Sandbar restaurant, but fell short in going north when property owners refused to approve giving up their rights to the new beaches. He said that most of those owners later asked to be included, but the renourishment barge had moved on.

He talked about the failed project in 2005, when the Corps of Engineers finally fired the contractor for not performing and leaving pipe along the beach for months.

Then he addressed the project before them at Coquina Beach, where they would be eligible or 90 percent Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding to get the dredge into the area to renourish Coquina Beach. He said they could hire that contractor to do Anna Maria’s beaches without having to pay for getting the dredge to the area.

After the meeting, Joan Dickinson, who lives in a bayfront house where the water comes up to her seawall, said she felt cautiously optimistic about her chances of getting sand between the bay and her home.

Weekend loaded with holiday spirit

The Island holiday season gets into full swing with a number of events coming up this Saturday.

First, the Privateers lead a parade through all three cities beginning at 10 a.m. at Bayfront Park in Anna Maria. Their destination is Coquina Beach, where Santa will hold court with the kids. There is still time to enter the parade. Just show up at Bayfront Park prior to 9:30 a.m.

This is a long parade, so no marching or walking units will be allowed. You must be on wheels. All units should have a sign indicating who they are representing. No political advertisements, campaigning or solicitation will be allowed. All participants must fill out an application.

Next comes Christmas on Bridge Street in Bradenton Beach from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Shops will be open offering specials on unique gifts, refreshments and snacks. There will be a raffle and a Chinese auction to benefit Tingley Memorial Library. Auction items include holiday wreaths, vacation packages, dinner certificates, an Anna Maria Island destination bracelet from Bridge Street Jewelers and much more.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on hand to witness lighting the Bridge Street Christmas Tree. Tampa Bay DJ Chuck Weirich will start the music at 6:30 p.m. and organist extraordinaire Carl Parks will perform. Enjoy the solo stylings of Emily Roff as well.

At 6:30, come out to the Historic Bridge Street Pier for the best view in town of the Fifth Annual Lighted Boat Parade, sponsored by the Anna Maria Island Sun and the Bradenton Beach Merchants Association and organized by the Cortez Yacht Club. The boats will start at the Bridge Street Pier and travel south along the Intracoastal Waterway. At some point, they will turn around and go north possibly under the Cortez Bridge up to the entrance to Palma Sola Bay. Your best bet to view the boats will be at the Bridge Street Pier.

A $500 price will be awarded the best-decorated boat. There will be cash prizes for boats in five classes: over 40 feet, 30 to 39 feet, 20 to 29 feet, under 20 feet and boats promoting a business.

There is still time to sign up. Call Laura Ritter at 780-3547, to register. Boaters who sign up by Thursday’s Skipper’s Party at Rotten Ralph’s on the Pier at 6:30 p.m. won’t have to pay an entry fee. If you sign up after that date, a $20 fee will apply.

Saturday night is also when Roser Memorial Community Church holds its annual Bethlehem Walk, starting around 6:30 p.m. The walk is a neighborhood re-enactment of the birth of Christ, when Joseph and Mary went from house to house seeking refuge only to end up in a manger. Steve and Stephanie Gianiotes and their daughter, Isabella, will represent Joseph, Mary and Jesus this year. Everyone is welcome to follow along. As they stop at designated houses, they will ask for a place to stay and the residents will answer that there is no space. The group will sing Christmas carols as they walk. There will be some animals of the era, including a donkey or two and a llama to add authenticity. The group winds around the block and returns to the church for cookies and refreshments.

Boyfriend’s apartment focus of search
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


ANNA MARIA – Investigators are focusing renewed search efforts on the Anna Maria apartment and yard where missing hotelier Sabine Musil-Buehler was living with her boyfriend, William Cumber, at the time of her disappearance on Nov. 4.

According to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, a crime scene unit was sent to the small, single-story building last week, concentrating the search in the back yard. The investigators paid particular attention to the dirt behind the building, they said, adding they could not comment on anything they may have found.

In addition, the agency confirmed that blood found in her stolen car is hers.

"It’s her blood. We’re not surprised by that," MCSO spokesman Dave Bristow said, confirming that investigators searched the premises at 208 B Magnolia Ave. last week, but are not releasing any details. Cumber told a Manatee Circuit judge that he expected to be evicted from the apartment last week.

It’s been more than a month since Musil-Buehler, 49, was last seen by Cumber, 39, after an argument. The missing woman is separated from her husband and business partner, Tom Buehler, with whom she owns Haley’s Motel, 8104 Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach.

Cumber, a convicted arsonist, has been questioned in both Musil-Buehler’s disappearance and in the Nov. 16 fire of a duplex at Haley’s. The investigations into the possible homicide and arson are continuing.

Last week, Manatee Circuit Judge Janette Dunnigan ordered Cumber to pay $3,629 to cover the cost of investigating a 2005 arson that he pleaded guilty to in 2006. Cumber is serving three years probation for setting fire to his ex-girlfriend’s house; he was released from prison on Sept. 13.

At a hearing to modify the terms of his probation, Cumber said he had no money, was unemployed and expected to be evicted from his Anna Maria apartment.

Cumber reportedly left his apartment voluntarily on Dec. 2 and moved to the Salvation Army in Bradenton, according to Sheriff’s Office Sgt. John Kenney.

If Cumber does not begin making restitution payments, he could violate his probation and be sent back to prison.

The man found driving Musil-Buehler’s car, Robert Corona, was arrested for grand theft. He originally stated that the missing woman had been in the car with him, then later stated that he found the car unoccupied, according to the sheriff’s office.

To report information on the disappearance or the fire, call the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office at 747-3011 or the West Manatee Fire Rescue District at 741-3900.

Island contractor charged

ANNA MARIA — A long-anticipated home renovation project turned into a nightmare for an Island couple recently.

Mark and Jill Morris hired Greg Oberhofer of Quality Builders to completely gut their home at 307 Spring Ave. They planned to put on an addition and turn the property, which they’d used as a rental for 20 years, into their own home.

"I did my homework, and checked thoroughly," Jill Morris said. "Greg had a great reputation, and he had done projects for my family and friends that had gone beautifully."

The contractor was to work at a fixed price of $199,750 beginning in July 0f 2007 and then take draws from that figure when he completed certain benchmarks.

"Things went on this way for about nine months, and then I started to hear rumors from other builders in the area that Greg wasn’t paying his subs," Morris said. (In Florida, homeowners are liable for sub contractors’ bills when the general contractor doesn’t pay them.)

Before the next draw, Morris withheld the money until Oberhofer could show her checks to the sub contractors.

"About that time, he abandoned the job," she said. "He wouldn’t answer our phone calls. He didn’t respond to e-mails. He didn’t have any contact with us whatsoever."

The subs began contacting the Morrisses and asking for their money.

"My husband was a CFO (chief financial officer) of a large company, and he knows how to negotiate," Morris said. "All but one of the contractors agreed to work with us, but one refused. We had a lien placed on our house."

The problems and stress were taking their toll.

"We’ve never had so much as a minor blemish on our credit, and here we had liens on our house," she said. "This has been just devastating. It was awful."

For the Morrisses, the renovation of their home became a nightmare. As the dust begins to settle, it looks like they’re out about $55,000. They may get some of that money back from the state restitution fund, but that source is running dry, and Morris said their name is far down the list.

For Oberhofer, the result of the troubled project is a criminal charge of fraud, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. The contractor was arrested last week on a charge of misapplication of construction funds, a second-degree felony, said Sheriff’s Office spokesman Dave Bristow. Oberhofer posted a $10,000 bond and has been released.

He is scheduled to appear before Judge Diana Moreland on January 9. If he’s found guilty, he faces six months to a year in jail and could be ordered to make restitution.

Governor honors Island policemen
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story   Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Pilato                                          Sloan

Two Island police officers were honored last week for their quick efforts to save the lives of two young men whose vehicle had gone off the Anna Maria Island Bridge on April 8, 2006.

At a ceremony in Tallahassee, Gov. Charlie Crist presented the Governor’s Medal of Heroism to former Bradenton Beach Police Sgt. Charles "Chuck" Sloan and Holmes Beach Police Officer Mike Pilato. They were among a group of 10 law enforcement officers and one firefighter honored.

The two were presented the awards for being the first to arrive at the scene of the accident, wading out to the Toyota SUV where the victims were pinned inside and cutting the seat belts to get them out and to the surface. Zane Zavadil died from the accident, but Ryan Costello was revived, although he suffered severe brain damage.

Sloan, who is now an FBI agent in Dallas, and Pilato arrived at the scene in less than 10 minutes after the county emergency response center got the call from a passing motorist, who saw the vehicle go into Sarasota Bay.

"It’s something he well deserved and I’m thrilled he got it," said Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale of Sloan. "I’m sorry he’s not with us, but he’s off to bigger and better things."

Sloan was chosen to train as an FBI agent in November 2007 and resigned from the police department. Speciale said he talked to Sloan who told him that winning the award was "great and something he would always remember."

After receiving word of the award, Bradenton Beach Police Lt. John Cosby went to the state capital to attend the ceremony with Sloan, who flew in from Texas. Holmes Beach Police Chief Jay Romine also flew to the capital to be with Pilato.

"I’m very excited about him winning the award," Romine said about Pilato. "It was a selfless act and it’s nice for him to be recognized."

Pilato has been with the department since 2004. The Manatee County One Hundred Club honored both men in 2006 as Law Enforcement Officers of the Year for their actions at the accident.

The awards were given to all the officers for "distinguishing themselves through hazardous or perilous activities to preserve lives, even at the risk of great personal harm," according to the governor’s office.

Island, Cortez star in music video
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE Alanna Massey, of Parrish, plays an aspiring
ballet dancer who works at a fish house and is encouraged by bandleader
Brent Smith to strike out on her own and follow her dream.

Hollywood came calling last week to shoot a music video on Anna Maria Island and in the Village of Cortez.

The video, which is scheduled to appear on MTV and VH-1 before Christmas, features the Florida band Shinedown singing its song "Second Chance." It was shot at various locations on the Island, including Periwinkle Plaza in Anna Maria, the Silver Surf resort in Bradenton Beach and the Star Fish Company in Cortez.

"The Island and Cortez were great places to shoot," said Thom Fennessey, the executive producer from Collaboration Factory, the Los Angeles company that is producing the video.

Fennessey used all local actors and technical staff, as well as local homes and businesses in the video.

One of the local spots was at Corky and Brenda Parker’s house on Periwinkle.

"They were driving up and down the streets looking for somewhere to shoot, and they saw our house," Brenda Parker said. "It rained all day; it was a Sunday afternoon and I was still in my pajamas when this whole production crew came knocking on my door."

Parker said they asked to see the inside of her house, so she got a neighbor to come over and then showed the production crew her home.

"They were looking for a messy garage, and mine fits the bill," she said with a grin from her seat beside Fennessey in the production RV.

They apparently liked what they saw, because scenes for the music video were shot in every room of Parker’s house as well as in the garage.

And for his part, Fennessey said he chose the Island because his mother, Pat, lives in Bradenton and is involved with the arts in Sarasota, particularly with the Sarasota Ballet.

"The song is about a young woman who has been dancing all her life," Fennessey said. "In the story, she’s 18 and poised to make choices. She has dreams about being a famous ballerina, but to do that, she’ll have to leave home."

"Second Chance" is the story of the moment in her life when she has to come to terms with what she’ll do in the future.

The girl’s parents own a fish market, so with Fennessey’s mother’s connections to the ballet, the Manatee County Film Commission (see related story) and Star Fish Company close at hand, it was an easy decision to shoot on the Island and in Cortez, according to Fennessey.

The story of how Anna Maria resident William Bernet, a seven-year old boy who lives across the street from Parker, came to be in the video is itself like something out of a movie.

"We needed a seven-year old to play the younger brother of the dancer," Fennessey said. "The boy we were going to use couldn’t make it."

"They were sort of desperate," Parker added. "They said the boy was a ‘critical part’ of the video. When I heard that, I knew William would be perfect. He’s a very charismatic little boy, and he’s so smart."

So the producers and Parker went across the street and talked to Beth Bernet, William’s mom.

"I’m not the type of mother who would take her kids to stand in line at auditions, but this just fell out of the sky," Bernet said. "So I explained everything to William, and let him make the decision."

William said that he thought things over for a little while.

"I kind of thought about it and how I’d feel to act. I was a little nervous at first but then I was OK," William said. "Sometimes I had to act sort of sad or worried, so I did that."

Bernet said all in all it was an interesting experience as the cast and crew moved between her house on Periwinkle, Star Fish Company, the BP Station in Holmes Beach and the beach in front of Silver Surf in Bradenton Beach.

"They shoot hours and hours of video and then edit it down to just minutes or seconds," she said. "William was on the set about two hours, and when it’s finished, you’ll only see him for a little amount of time, maybe 30 seconds."

Other Island and area residents who have parts in the video are Yolanda Ibasfalean, of Cortez, Logan Bystrom and Alex Orlando, of Holmes Beach, and Aaron Clark, of Bradenton.

They really wanted to use local people.

"The lead singer for Shinedown, Brent Mains, told Parker that he had a vision of exactly how he wanted everything to look.

"He said he didn’t want to shoot the video in a studio," she recalled. "He wanted to shoot it on a quiet little Island using people who weren’t professionals. Anna Maria Island and Cortez were just what he was looking for."

Parker noted that everyone on the shoot was just fantastic.

"They were all so nice, and they were careful with my house," she said. "It was strange having everyone around for two days."

Parker said the film company moved everything out of her bedrooms and put in other furnishings, but when they were finished, they put everything back as it had been.

The band is out of Jacksonville, and they’re just back from an international tour. They were on the bill to appear Sunday in Tampa at the Ford Amphitheater with a number of other bands.

To learn more about them go to their Web site, The song "Second Chance" is on there and available for a free listen.

The song is a rock ballad, and no matter what your generation, you’ll be able to actually hear the words to it and recognize the story and picture how it was shot on the Island.

Beautification board may seek new adopter

HOLMES BEACH – Anxious to get the traffic islands at East Bay Drive and Manatee Avenue planted, beautification board members said they might look for another group to adopt them.

Last month, a representative of the Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island said the club planned to partner with the board to replant the traffic islands. However, board members said last week they have not received any further contact from the club.

David Zaccagnino, the city commission liaison to the board and a Rotary Club member, said the proposal has not yet reached the club’s subcommittee level and then it must go to the board of directors.

"It’s a visible spot and any organization would love to have it," Zaccagnino told the board. "But the board changes every year and it has to come to a vote every year. It’s lot of work and it’s a lot of money for us. I think at this point it’s iffy."

Melissa Snyder said the plants the board is proposing to install would cost about $1,000.

"The way the economy is there are a lot of organizations that are reaching out to Rotary, such as needy families," Zaccagnino pointed out. "When you have those going up against a plant project, those are going to get priority."

"It doesn’t sound to hopeful, Chairman John Molyneux said. "Contact the representative and tell her we have to make a decision soon, and in the event interest has waned, would they let us know so we can seek another sponsor."

Spring seminar

Members discussed their annual spring plant seminar and agreed that it would focus on Florida-friendly landscaping. Molyneux suggested they use the subject of their recent grant application – developing a demonstration garden at Marina and Key Royale drives.

"We could show people how we assessed the site and take them step by step through the process," Maureen Hirthler said.

"And how they could modify the process and apply it in their yards," Kathy King added.

Members agreed that they would get a speaker from the Manatee County Extension office and the board’s three master gardeners would also speak. The presentations would be followed by a question and answer period.

"People are going to ask how much it will cost if they do it in their yards," Zaccagnino said.

Snyder said members should stress that people don’t have to plant their whole yard at once. King added that there is an upfront investment, but people will save money on fertilizer, water, replacing plants, etc.

They agreed that they would hold the seminar sometime in March. They also agreed to ask Keep Manatee Beautiful for a pigeon plum or a Jamaican caper to plant somewhere in the city for Florida Arbor Day, Jan. 16.

Shooting victim remembers one year ago
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Sue Normand works at her computer at
Island Mail and More in the Anna Maria Island Centre in Holmes Beach.

HOLMES BEACH – It has been a year since Mark Koenigs walked into Island Mail and More, waited for a couple of customers to clear out and, as owner Sue Normand waited on him, pulled out a pistol from a box on the counter and shot her.

It took authorities about an hour to Koenigs him and the legal system seven month to convict him, but the incident has transformed Normand’s life from that of a strong, independent businesswoman to a somebody who realizes she can’t do it alone anymore.

Business at Island Mail and More was brisk Monday, as Normand was being interviewed. Last year, the shooting interrupted her business as her son, Stephen, scrambled to move to the area and run it while she recovered from the gunshot wound. It almost put her out of business.

Now that she’s back at, although not full-time, she has to rely on customers to move big or heavy boxes or objects because she can’t bend over or lift. She also uses a cane when she walks because Koenig’s bullet shattered her pelvis, which had to be reconstructed.

"I’m looking for help here over the holidays and probably after that," she said. "I don’t usually keep someone on after the holidays, but my son needs to go back to what he was doing before the shooting."

Normand’s daughter, Lisa, flew down from Washington, D.C. the day of the shooting to be with her. She used all of her vacation time and that of fellow employees who donated their time. Lisa returned to be with her mother at Koenigs’ sentencing.

Normand said she thought Koenigs would be convicted more quickly.

"He was caught immediately, he was charged immediately and he was caught red-handed," she said. "It was cut and dried."

Koenigs was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the shooting and was shot by two law enforcement officers because he refused to put down the gun.

Normand said the shooting has not made her fearful of people who come in the shop.

"I’m certainly more apt to look at customers I don’t know," she said. "Koenigs wasn’t a stranger, although he was strange."

In addition to taking away her independence, Normand said the shooting took away her self -confidence.

"It took away my feeling that I could handle anything," she said. "I no longer feel that even if the worst happened, I could handle it."

As for her home, where she had to install an elevator to take her to the living level, she said she still has some furniture in storage that she had to move out of the house to make room for her wheelchair.

On the positive end, Normand said that she is grateful for the community that helped raise money for her and tried to fill the voids left in her life.

"I never though so many people could be so good and offer help," she said, "Unfortunately, I’m not good at asking people for help and when they said to call them when I needed, I wouldn’t."

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper