The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 19 - January 28, 2009


Controlled burn on Egmont raises alarm
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

A huge column of smoke rises from the south end of Egmont Key
during last week’s controlled burn. PHOTO/ED ICE

EGMONT KEY – A controlled burn on Egmont Key last week startled some Anna Maria Island residents and displaced gopher tortoises that make their homes on the key.

The burn of the southern third of the key eliminated dead trees and non-native vegetation, including Australian pines, according to one of the park’s rangers, Ivan Vicente.

The burn was intended to clear the sand of exotic vegetation and open up more space for birds that nest in the sand, such as the royal tern and sandwich tern, he said.

Several bird species including black skimmers, American oystercatchers and brown pelicans nest on the southern part of the key, which is a sanctuary, in spring and summer, he said, adding that the birds are gone now.

The burn also will encourage the growth of native vegetation, he said.

"This will help spread sea oats and regenerate vegetation that controls erosion. Fire is an important part of habitat management."

The key also is home to more than 1,500 threatened gopher tortoises, a unique colony that is free from an upper respiratory disease that plagues mainland tortoises.

A dozen volunteers gathered up as many of the tortoises as they could find in two days and moved them in trucks to the north side of the key to minimize mortality, Vicente said, adding that he did not know how many tortoises were moved. Some box turtles also were relocated.

Box turtles are vulnerable to fires, but for gopher tortoises, the move probably was unnecessary, stressful and could result in them not finding their burrows again, said Ray Ashton of the Ashton Biodiversity Research and Preservation Institute in Archer, Florida, a consultant for the state’s tortoise relocation efforts.

"Gopher tortoises are astute about fire," he said. "If there’s smoke, they respond by going to their burrows, where they’re protected."

Ashton described a tortoise behavior he witnessed and videotaped during a controlled burn. A tortoise walked along the fire line until it found a break in the fire, then took the exit through the burned-out ground back to its burrow.

Moving the animals away from their burrows and not replacing them could do more damage than if they had been left alone, he said.

The key at the mouth of Tampa Bay, accessible only by boat, is home to the Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1974.

It is also the base for the Tampa Bay Pilot’s Association, whose harbor pilots guide ships in and out of Tampa Bay’s shipping channels. A working lighthouse that dates back to 1858 and a park manager’s home also are on the key, along with the U.S. Army’s Fort Dade Military Reservation ruins, a popular destination for boaters.

The fort was used by the Army to detain Seminole prisoners at the end of the third Seminole War in 1858. It was occupied by both Confederate and Union troops during the Civil War, and later became the site of Fort Dade, built to defend against Spanish attack during the Spanish-American War.

Egmont Key was named for John Perceval, the second Earl of Egmont and a member of the Irish House of Commons in 1763.

Priest responds to sex charges

HOLMES BEACH – In an emotional speech, St. Bernard Church priest Father Ron Joseph expressed bewilderment about the accusation of sexual misconduct a former acquaintance made and the way the investigation has been handled by the diocese.

More than 130 people filled Holmes Beach City Hall to hear Joseph explain what has happened. The crowd of parishioners and those who know Joseph expressed support for him, applauding when he made a point and when speakers spoke of him during a question and answer period.

Joseph, 44, who took a leave from his duties shortly before the accusation was announced three weeks ago, denied that the episode ever took place and expressed hope that the diocese, headquartered in Naples, Fla., would let him clear his name.

John Fleck, Joseph’s attorney, said this is solely a civil matter because no charges have been filed. He talked about why he is handling the case.

"I began to know Father Joseph five years ago," he said, "I got to know him and immediately loved him. I know Father Joseph and I can come to only one conclusion. He is innocent."

Fleck said that Joseph’s accuser is now 31 years old and that the alleged the incident took place when he was 16. He said the diocese recently sent Joseph a letter.

"It said that the investigation is still ongoing and they believe the accusation has some credibility," Fleck said, "without any communication with Father Ron."

Joseph told the crowd that he stands by what he told the diocese earlier, that he had not done it.

"The person making the accusation is someone in my family life," he said. "I feel betrayed by the Church for taking away my certification."

Joseph said he hired a former FBI agent to investigate.

"He said that the accuser only said that I had done good and was a big help to get him through high school," Joseph said. "I told him to ask the accuser when he got kicked out of college, who was there to pick him up?"

Joseph spoke about a meeting with church officials on Nov. 26.

"It was a meeting in the bishop’s office where I wished I could be dead," he said. "They were yelling at me, telling me, ‘If you don’t go (get a psychological evaluation) we will take away your paycheck and health insurance."

He said he finally told them to go ahead and take away his paycheck and insurance. He said the bishop told him to leave out the back door.

When asked by Fleck to address the specific accusation, Joseph said the accuser alleged it happened in June 1993 during a sleepover in Ft. Myers. He said there was no way it could have happened because he was in Venice that night.

"I never slept alone with him," he said, "I was alone with him only in the sense that we were at his house and I talked with him in his room. I was like a father figure."

Joseph was asked what’s next.

"All I need to do is go back to being a priest," he said. "That’s all I know," Fleck told the crowd that Joseph has never been in contact with the accuser since he made the accusation. He also said that he is taking no money for defending Father Ron because he loves him as a person and feels he is innocent. Joseph was asked about his living expenses and Fleck said that being born in Haiti, Joseph knows how to live frugally.

"We don’t want anyone to say we came here today to take anything," Fleck said. "I just want resolution of this issue and restoration for Father Ron’s right to return to being a priest, hold his head high and not wear a scarlet letter on his forehead."

Barbara Dorris, national outreach director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) passed out green brochures at the meeting urging people to support the accused priest privately because public displays may intimidate others from accusing priests who abuse them.

Bay side could get sand

ANNA MARIA — A dredging project for parts of Tampa Bay may bring a temporary fix to erosion problems for residents on the bay between the Rod& Reel Pier and Bean Point.

Rick Spadoni told residents of the area at an informal meeting Jan. 26 that there's a chance the dredged sand could be brought to the Island and put between the homes and the water to act as a buffer. Winds and high tide bring flooding to the area when there are storms.

"One thing we're looking at is to use sand from that project that's permitted for 2010," Spadoni said. "We're (Spadoni and Manatee County Natural Resources Department Director Charlie Hunsicker) going to meet with the Army Corp of Engineers this week about the 2012 renourishment on the Island, and we plan to ask them about the feasibility of using sand from that dredging project as a stopgap measure in your area."

Spadoni, an engineer with Coastal Planning and Engineering, has worked on beach renourishment projects in Manatee County since 1988. He said the primary problem is with funding.

"You are south of a marker that delineates what the Florida Department of Environmental Protection considers to be Gulf shore line, so your area doesn’t qualify for state funding," Spadoni told a group of residents at an informal meeting Jan. 26. The state marker dividing the area considered Gulf coastal from non-coastal areas is fairly near Jacaranda on the Island’s bay side.

"You are in danger of erosion from Gulf waters now," he said. "Ever since Passage Key dissipated, you’ve been hit with more waves wrapping around the Island and causing erosion."

"The area between the Rod&Reel Pier and Bean Point has some of the worst erosion I’ve ever seen," he told the audience. "I think you can make a good case that you are subject to coastal influences."

The county suggested the possibility of building dunes in the area to protect buildings from flooding, but Spadoni said there’s not really enough beach left on which to place a dune.

He said that long-term, a series of T-groins should be built out into the bay. Sand would be placed in those groins and then the beach would be stabilized.

Any application to change the demarcation will be a five-to-10 year process, and residents are looking for a quicker fix.

That's where the sand from the Tampa Bay dredging project might come into play.

He said sand used doesn’t have to be the same high quality as the sand used on the Gulf side during renourishment projects.

"It has to be compatible sand, but it doesn’t have to be fine-grained white sand," he said.

"Sand is sand for us," Lazzaro said. "We just want to save our homes."

Obama backers celebrate at the beach
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Attendees of the party hosted by the
Anna Maria Island Democratic Club applaud after watching
President Barack Obama take the oath of office,

BRADENTON BEACH – The BeachHouse restaurant was nearly full as the Democratic Party of Anna Maria Island held a celebration of Barack Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday, Jan. 20.

Many of those attending gathered in the bar, where a large screen television showed the proceedings near a buffet bar, where snacks were served.

"This is a great day," said Bud Edgren, of Holmes Beach, who was there with his wife, Gretchen. "I personally never thought it would happen. We’re in for a big change. I hope it works."

Ernest Clay, of Bradenton Beach, said he was elated.

"I’m like most African-Americans, we had no idea that this would happen in our lifetime," Clay said, "I’m old enough and been around enough to know what a struggle we had to get this far."

Peggy Kraft was born in Germany and was visiting from her home in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

"I’m absolutely thrilled," she said as she watched the TV. "This is an unbelievable moment in American history. He has an awesome responsibility because I can’t remember when things have been this bad."

Edgren said that Obama’s rise to the top was meteoric.

"Two or three years ago, this fellow was a nobody," he said. "It’s amazing how America has changed its thinking."

Edgren said Americans have got to stop thinking of him as a black man and start thinking of him as an American.

Clay said it is a new day for America.

"I hope things get better," he said. "This is something we can really be proud of."

Kraft said she was hopeful that America would improve relations with the rest of the world.

"We don’t want to be an international outcast," she said. "America has always been a beacon for liberty."

Kraft said that friends and family in Germany were excited and told her the whole country celebrated when Obama won the election.

After the inauguration, the crowd listed to Obama’s speech, applauding several times. After his speech, they sang the Star Spangled Banner together. Joe McCormick, visiting from Troy, N.Y., enthusiastically sang along with tears in his eyes.

Cumber denies probation violation
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


HOLMES BEACH – William Cumber has entered a plea of denial to a petition filed against him for violating his probation, waiving his arraignment and demanding a hearing.

Cumber, 39, may have been the last person to see Holmes Beach motel owner Sabine Musil-Buehler, 49, before she disappeared on Nov. 4, 2008. He told police they argued at their home over his cigarette smoking.

Cumber was arrested in Marion County on Dec. 22 on a charge of driving with a suspended driver license, according to court records.

He had been scheduled for a Jan. 30 arraignment on the violation of probation petition, which charged him with leaving Manatee County without his probation officer’s consent and failing to remain at liberty without violating any law.

Cumber was on probation for an arson conviction; he was sentenced in 2006 to 42 months in prison and three years probation for setting fire to his ex-girlfriend’s house in 2005 and was released from prison on Sept. 13.

After a Nov. 16 fire that destroyed a duplex at Haley’s, police questioned Cumber extensively.

Cumber has told both police and the Sun that he has no idea where Musil-Buehler is and had nothing to do with her disappearance.

The missing woman’s blood was discovered in her car, which was found in the possession of another man, Robert Corona, who has not been charged in her disappearance. He was charged with grand theft auto, resisting, obstructing or opposing a law enforcement officer and no valid drivers license and is scheduled for trial on March 23.

Board recommends against ROR changes

ANNA MARIA — It was the third in a series of somewhat contentious hearings on an ordinance that would change the regulations governing the city’s residential/office/retail district.

The planning and zoning board will recommend to the city commission against passing the ordinance. Three board members voted against the ordinance because they want the residential portion of buildings in the ROR district to be owner-occupied and they don’t want swimming pools allowed.

Chairman Doug Copeland had no problem with swimming pools or occupation of the residential portion of the ordinance, but he said he was seriously concerned that the size and bulk of structures allowed under the revised (and current) ordinance was way too big.

"I have concerns with the lot coverage and lot and yard bulk, and if they are not addressed, I think we are certainly creating what I consider to be a monster," he said.

Copeland pointed out that the structures recently built by the Pine Avenue Restoration group are actually about 40 percent smaller than what could potentially be built on any lot in the ROR district. With complaints about the size of the two buildings already up, Copeland urged residents to let city commissioners know that that part of the ordinance needs re-working.

He said that even if the ordinance is passed at the commission level, he hopes the city will revisit that section of the ordinance and revise it as soon as possible.

A number of residents voiced their opinions at the meeting.

"The owner-occupancy rule has been in force for the last 20 years," Robin Wall said. "There is compatibility with a residential community."

Wall proposed postponing any changes for one year to allow time for some architectural standards to be enacted.

Larry Albert said he thought the Pine Avenue Project was a good one.

"But I don’t agree with having multiple ownership in the buildings with two people on the business places and then the residential areas," Albert said. "That’s two, three or even four owners in each building."

Both City Attorney Jim Dye and City Planner Alan Garrett reminded residents and members of the P&Z board that the hearing was about guidelines for the entire ROR district, not just one project.

Then, when asked directly, both Garrett and Dye agreed that under the language in the current code, separate ownership could actually be allowed – something that no one had realized.

The proposed changes were developed over the past six years while the city’s comprehensive plan was being revised, first with a task force, then by the P&Z board and finally by the city commission.

At every step along the way, the idea of allowing separate ownership of the residential and commercial units of the buildings in the district was added to the comprehensive plan.

"This was intended as a mixed-use district, and we haven’t seen that happen in all these years," said Micheal Coleman, the managing partner for Pine Avenue Restoration. "That’s precisely why the language was added. We were seeing the district become primarily residential, and the city was losing forever the opportunity to have a central business district."

Many of the people speaking out against the project live on Spring Avenue, and their back yards will abut the back yards of any mixed-use structures on Pine Avenue. Several residents and the attorney for some other residents said that they feared that the properties would be used as short-term rentals in connection with the increasing wedding business on the Island.

Jeremy Anderson, the attorney for Barbara and William Nally, Joe and Marie White and the Manelli family, said the wedding business targets people in his age group and that wild parties go along with weddings. He said he knew this from personal experience and he urged the P&Z board to vote against separate ownership or short-term rentals.

There were comments in favor of making the changes to the code.

"Many people don’t like change, but I’m here to say that change is inevitable," said Wayne Sewold. "This is a time when we have a financial meltdown and one of our own is going to make our community better. He is one of us. Pine Avenue is going to be developed. The question is by who?"

City Commissioner Chris Tollette also spoke in favor of the changes to the code.

"In 2005, when we were revising the comp plan, one of the greatest fears we had was that we might not have a viable business district if we were not thoughtful," she said. "So we agreed to take out the language requiring mixed-use businesses in the ROR to be owner occupied."

The board agreed to leave the proposed language in the ordinance that did not require the business and the residence to be owned by the same person and to allow swimming pools so long as they are for the use of the residents only.

Despite leaving that language in, however, the board then voted against recommending that the city commission approve the ordinance.

Copeland, Jim Conoly, Frank Pytel and Margaret Jenkins voted against the recommendation. Mike Yetter, Sandy Mattick and Randal Stover voted for it.

The proposed ordinance now goes to the commission for a second reading and public hearing on Thursday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m.

Port Dolphin reps a no show

PALMETTO – Port Dolphin officials chose not to appear before the Council of Governments last week to answer questions about its project off Anna Maria Island.

The proposed Port Dolphin Energy Liquefied Natural Gas Deepwater Port would consist of two submersible mooring buoys about three miles apart and 100 feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico, 28 miles west of the Island. Tankers would convert their cargoes of liquid natural gas into vaporized natural gas at the floating port, then pump the gas into a proposed 42-mile-long pipeline, which would come ashore at Port Manatee to supply electric companies.

The Houston-based company clashed with Longboat Key officials at a Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials meeting earlier this month, when the town requested what Port Dolphin termed "confidential" information about its underwater surveys.

Port Dolphin surveyed the Gulf of Mexico bottom late last year off Bean Point to determine an alternate route for its pipeline that would have a lighter impact on underwater sand reserves used for beach renourishment on Anna Maria Island and Longboat Key.

When Longboat Key officials asked whether they had found any new sand reserves, Port Dolphin officials declined to answer, citing competitive business reasons.

Town officials got a boost at last week’s meeting when Manatee County Commissioner and Port Authority member Joe McClash announced that the county supports Longboat Key in its quest.

"Port Manatee has not reached an agreement with Port Dolphin. It was not our intention to do so until these issues are resolved," he said.

"We appreciate Manatee County’s cooperation," Longboat Key Commissioner George Spoll said. "But there’s an inherent conflict in the process."

Opposing economic interests are the issue, he said, suggesting that Port Dolphin prefers laying pipeline through sand because it’s less expensive than laying it on the Gulf floor and covering it with concrete mattresses or rocks. Locating and mining beach compatible renourishment sand also is an expensive proposition for the county and town.

"It’s quite obvious they’re balancing their pocketbook against our sand," he said.

While Port Dolphin has rerouted its proposed pipeline away from sand reserves currently used by Manatee County, its new route passes through potential sand reserves the county can reach with its existing equipment, said Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Natural Resources Department, which is in charge of beach renourishment.

"Despite best efforts to avoid it, it’s possible that it won’t," he said. "We won’t know until we are allowed to share information on the depth and nature of the sand."

The port permitting process will afford some opportunities to ask the questions again, he said, "but it seems the company has offered all it is willing to offer."

The company expects litigation with Longboat Key, Assistant Manatee County Attorney Sarah Schenk said, cautioning against opposing Port Dolphin. The company moved its proposed route once at the county’s request, she said, and could return to its original plan, which would heavily impact underwater sand reserves.

"We acknowledge that they moved away from the existing borrow site," Longboat Key Town Manager Bruce St. Denis said. "It still goes through the best area we have for the next 50 years or more. This would all be resolved if they would share the information."

Several local, state and federal agencies must review the Port Dolphin project before it is approved.

Commissioner says ‘green’ light bulbs can be dangerous

PALMETTO – Millions of Americans have switched to compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs, which burn for years instead of months, however, most people are unaware of the hazard they create when they break.

"We have these new compact fluorescent light bulbs that everybody’s buying," Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore told officials at the Council of Governments meeting last week. "They have high levels of mercury in them.

“I don’t think the public has been educated on the possible health risk from all the mercury in them.”

Whitmore said she wanted to alert officials to the danger created when these bulbs break and the proper cleanup and disposal methods so they can educate people.

According to a document from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the bulbs contain an average of 4 milligrams of mercury and when they break, the mercury is released. If a bulb breaks in your home there are specific procedures for airing out the room, cleaning up hard surfaces, cleaning up bedding and clothing, disposal of cleaning materials and future cleaning.

The broken and burned out CFL bulbs can be taken to Home Depot stores or any of the county’s periodic hazardous waste collections for disposal. The next hazardous waste/e-scrap collection will be on Saturday, Jan. 31, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Coquina Beach.

EPA cleanup and disposal guidelines for CFLs

What precautions should I take when using CFLs in my home?

CFLs are made of glass and can break if dropped or roughly handled. Be careful when removing the bulb from its packaging, installing it or replacing it. Always screw and unscrew the light bulb by its base (not the glass), and never forcefully twist the CFL into a light socket. If a CFL breaks in your home, follow the clean-up recommendations below. Used CFLs should be disposed of properly.

What should I do with a CFL when it burns out?

Broken and burned out CFL bulbs can be taken to Home Depot stores or any of the county’s periodic hazardous waste collections for disposal. The next hazardous waste/e-scrap collection will be on Saturday, Jan. 31, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Coquina Beach.

How should I clean up a broken fluorescent bulb?

1. Before clean-up, air out the room
• Have people and pets leave the room, and don't let anyone walk through the breakage area on their way out.
• Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more.
• Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system, if you have one.

2. Clean-up for hard surfaces
• Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place them in a glass jar with a metal lid or in a sealed plastic bag.
• Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass pieces and powder.
• Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
• Do not use a vacuum or broom to clean up the broken bulb on hard surfaces.

3. Clean-up for carpeting or rugs
• Carefully pick up glass fragments and place them in a glass jar with metal lid or in a sealed plastic bag.
• Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder.
• If vacuuming is needed after all visible materials are removed, vacuum the area where the bulb was broken.
• Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister), and put the bag or vacuum debris in a sealed plastic bag.

4. Clean-up for clothing, bedding, etc.
• If clothing or bedding materials come in direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from inside the bulb that may stick to the fabric, the clothing or bedding should be thrown away. Do not wash such clothing or bedding because mercury fragments in the clothing may contaminate the machine and/or pollute sewage.
• You can, however, wash clothing or other materials that have been exposed to the mercury vapor from a broken CFL, such as the clothing you are wearing when you cleaned up the broken CFL, as long as that clothing has not come into direct contact with the materials from the broken bulb.
• If shoes come into direct contact with broken glass or mercury-containing powder from the bulb, wipe them off with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels or wipes in a glass jar or plastic bag for disposal.

5. Disposal of clean-up materials
• Immediately place all clean-up materials outdoors in a trash container or protected area for the next normal trash pickup.
• Wash your hands after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing clean-up materials.
• Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your specific area. Some states do not allow such trash disposal. Instead, they require that broken and unbroken mercury-containing bulbs be taken to a local recycling center.

6. Future cleaning of carpeting or rug
• The next several times you vacuum, shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning system and open a window before vacuuming.
• Keep the central heating/air conditioning system shut off and the window open for at least 15 minutes after vacuuming is completed.

For more information about compact fluorescent bulbs, visit
For more information about compact fluorescent bulbs and mercury, visit

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