The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 30 - April 15, 2009


Island Easter shared by thousands
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Nice weather brought a lot of families to the
beaches on Easter Sunday and the heavy presence
of law enforcement kept some of the “bad guys” away,
a positive sign two years after a shooting incident
at Coquina Beach forced a lot of families to spend
the day elsewhere.

BRADENTON BEACH – It was a lovely Easter at the beach where violence scared away families two years ago and many say the reconfigured parking lot and an abundance of uniforms and badges are what kept away the bad guys this year.

That formula worked last year, when officers from several agencies and counties came together to discourage gang members from cruising through the parking area. It was gang members who were involved in the shooting two years ago that persuaded Manatee County Commissioners to institute reconfiguration, giving police more control over where people could drive and cutting short any length of road that could be used by gang members cruising.

This year, it was a quiet day. Police staged at an open area near the RV parking in the southern end of the parking lot and their plan was to make sure they were visible to those driving into the parking lot and by the families on the beach and at the picnic tables beneath the Australian pines. There were an estimated 50 to 60 officers and deputies on patrol.

Bradenton Beach Police, the lead agency in the multi-agency task force, made three arrests, the Mutual Aid Gang Task Force (MAGTAF) made three arrests and immigration and naturalization officers made two arrests. The most serious charge was against a juvenile who was caught with brass knuckles. Otherwise, there were arrests for possession of drugs and traffic-related offenses.
Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale had praise for all the law enforcement personnel who worked so hard.

"It’s nice to see all the families coming back to Coquina Beach after the past incidents," he said, "I’m glad the new parking configuration is working and we want everyone to feel safe in bringing their families to the beach on Easter and any day."

Bradenton Beach issued 17 traffic tickets, five code violations for loud stereos and seven parking tickets, according to a department count.

Family time
For those families at the picnic tables, it was a relief to see the police presence because that meant their day would not be interrupted by violence as it was two years ago. The Figueroa family, from Waumama and Ruskin, has been coming to the beach here for the past 20 years and they were enjoying some barbecue while their children played with the contents of their picnic baskets.

"I like the way they redid the parking lot," said one of the women who did not want to be identified. "It avoids the whole commotion. Before the shooting, you would hear about someone getting run over in the parking lot."

She said the appreciated the police walking past them on the multi purpose trail because they kept the gang members away.

"Those are people who have problems," she said, "but we’re here with our kids."
The Trevinos live in Lakeland and they come to Coquina four or five times a year, calling it their escape from the fast Lakeland lifestyle.

"I like is here because it’s safe and we have shade," said Sandra Trevino. "When we came this morning I was thinking if it looks too rough, we’ll leave, but when I saw the police, I said good, we can stay all day."

She said that it didn’t appear to be as crowded as Easters past. She said it was easier to find a parking spot and a picnic table than in previous years.

That sentiment was also expressed by lifeguards at the beach. Captain Joe Westerman said that they saw a bigger crowd Saturday.

"Maybe some of the spring breakers had to get home today," he said.

Lifeguard Collin Schmidt said they had to perform some rescues for kids who got washed into the rocks by the waves. Otherwise, they said it was a busy, but routine day.

The law enforcement officers and parks and recreation workers enjoyed lunch made by resident Tjet Martin and Bradenton Beach City Commissioner Janie Robertson.

There were no major problems at Manatee County Beach in Holmes Beach or Bayfront Park in Anna Maria.

Suspects lead police on wild chase

BRADENTON BEACH – Police are still searching today for two men who led a Bradenton Beach Police officer on a wild chase last Wednesday through and around gridlocked, spring break traffic on Anna Maria Island before running from their vehicle and eluding arrest.

The incident began about 6 p.m. when Officer Tom Ferrara was dispatched to the Coquina Beach parking lot on a report of as many as 80 people who were about to get into a fight.

When Ferrara arrived, he noticed a group of people around a pavilion in the southern part of the parking area. As he approached in his patrol car, he noticed a man start to pull away in a pickup, then stop and forcibly pull another man into the truck and speed off.

The suspect went under the Longboat Pass Bridge and north on the dirt road east of Gulf Drive. Ferrara said the cloud of dust the suspect raised forced him to stay back from the truck because he could not see. The suspect then got onto Gulf Drive, where traffic northbound was stopped due to congestion. Ferrara said the suspect went into the southbound lane, forcing drivers off the road and almost striking a trolley. The suspect went through the roundabout in the wrong lane and turned east on Cortez Road, where the traffic was also stopped. Ferrara said the suspect went through the traffic using both lanes and when he got to Cortez Village, he drove off the road to get around traffic.

The suspect continued east on Cortez Road with Ferrara in pursuit, but as it got into multiple lanes of congestion and as the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office helicopter neared the scene, he backed off.
The suspects ran into a car before turning off at 48th Street. The suspects jumped from the truck and law enforcement officials were unable to find them.

Ferrara said that the truck was registered to a Bradenton man who reported it stolen after the chase. He said that the sheriff’s office impounded the truck and is inspecting the vehicle for evidence.

Cumber admits violating probation

BRADENTON – Former Anna Maria Island resident William Cumber admitted in court Tuesday that he violated his probation and will be sentenced May 14.

Cumber, 39, could get a maximum of 30 years in prison for the violation, according to prosecutors, a fact his defense attorney has strongly criticized.

Cumber is the boyfriend of missing Haley’s Motel co-owner Sabine Musil-Buehler, 49, and was questioned after both her Nov. 4 disappearance and the Nov. 16 fire that destroyeda duplex at the motel, which she owns with her husband, Tom Buehler.

Cumber has not been charged in either the disappearance or the fire, but was charged with violating his probation in December by leaving Manatee County without his probation officer’s consent. He was on probation for a 2006 arson conviction for setting fire to a former girlfriend’s home.

Last week, a Manatee Circuit judge granted Assistant State Attorney Tony Casoria’s request that Cumber’s fingerprints be taken in court to compare with his fingerprints taken in December in Marion County, where he pled guilty to driving with a suspended license.

Casoria said the fingerprints would simplify the prosecution of the violation of probation.
Last Wednesday, Cumber, who has been in jail since December, entered the Manatee County courtroom shackled in chains at the waist, wrists and ankles.

"I think it’s pretty transparent," said Cumber’s defense attorney, Tom Ostrander, explaining that he thinks the prosecution is treating Cumber as though he were charged with Musil-Buehler’s disappearance and the fire. "It’s to try to scare the hell out of him to get him to cooperate."

Ostrander had advised Cumber not to accept the prosecution’s deal of 15 years in prison for admitting the violation of probation. It was unclear at press time if Tuesday’s admission means he has, in fact, accepted the prosecution’s deal. Ostrander has called the offered sentence excessive.

The defense attorney previously said he hopes the sentence will be based on driving with a suspended license and not on Musil-Buehler’s disappearance and the motel fire, in which Cumber has denied involvement. Law enforcement is still investigating both cases.

Musil-Buehler’s husband reported her missing on Nov. 6 after another man, Robert Corona, was arrested for stealing her car, in which her blood was later discovered. Corona, 38, pled not guilty last month to grand theft of a motor vehicle, no valid driver license and resisting, obstructing or opposing an officer.

Red tide research at risk

A preliminary state budget that would cut $3 million of the $5 million previously allocated for red tide research and programs could mean a step backward in managing its effects, said Sandy Gilbert, chairman of the board of START (Solutions To Avoid Red Tide).

"The red tide budget is cut more than the 15-20 percent they’re cutting in general," he said, which has prompted the group to request the Florida Legislature to add $1 million back to the funding.

Red tide is a concentration of single-celled plant-like organisms that produce toxins that can kill fish, birds, marine mammals and sea turtles. Airborne red tide can irritate the human respiratory system, and eating shellfish exposed to red tide can cause food poisoning.

Red tide funding literally comes and goes with the tides, observers say – when red tide is absent, as it has been for more than two years, interest and funding often decline.

Research threatened
The cuts could affect some of the 28 full- and part-time staff members who work on red tide at Mote Marine Laboratory, as well as other research programs, according to spokeswoman Nadine Slimak.

"It’s not just an effect on Mote, but on the state of Florida," she said, explaining that the state funding is used to leverage federal and foundation grants to fund more comprehensive studies.

Cuts at the proposed levels could mean the end of the beach conditions report that lets people know which beaches along Florida’s Gulf coast have red tide (941-BEACHES), and the end of research on the impact of red tide on manatees, fish and Florida Keys coral reefs, Gilbert said.

"A budget cut of this magnitude will reduce by at least 50 percent existing monitoring programs and their support technology used to detect red tide," he said.

In addition, a control and mitigation program that START helped fund would be eliminated, he said, adding that the program already has identified promising approaches that could control the strength of red tide toxins and limit the size or duration of blooms.

START requests that concerned citizens ask their state senators and representatives to preserve the funding. Island residents can contact Rep. Bill Galvano at 1023 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton, FL 34205 (708-4968) and Sen. Mike Bennett, 3653 Cortez Road W., Bradenton, FL 34210 (727-6349).

Sunrise, message wow worshippers
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Rev. Rosemary Backer, of Gloria Gei Lutheran Church,
gives the sermon at the Easter Sunrise Service.

HOLMES BEACH – The weather was perfect as a crowd estimated at more than 1,400 people gathered at Manatee County Beach for the 45th time to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Organized by the Kiwanis Club of Anna Maria Island for All Island Denominations, the weather was much better than last year when rain shortened the event.

Kiwanis member and musician Bob LoPiccolo played the keyboard, and Steve Wicker sang and also played the keyboard. Preachers from all six of the churches on the Island performed the non-denominational Christian service.

Rev. Harry I. Parsell, from the Episcopal Church of the Annunciation, provided the invocation, and Kiwanis President Sandy Haas-Martens welcome everyone to the service as the sky started to shed its darkness and the seabirds began their daily search for food.

Major Leckie performed the prayer for the military, a regular event since the tragedies of Sept. 11, 2001. Rev. Jean Woady Louis, from St. Bernard Catholic Church, read from John 20, 1-18.

The group sang "The Old Rugged Cross" as it does every year and Rev. Gary Batey, of Roser Memorial Community Church, read Acts 10, 34-43, followed by Rev. Dale Lawson, from CrossPointe Fellowship reading Corinthians 15, 1-11.

Rev. Rosemary Backer, from Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, gave the sermon, "Sunday’s Coming." She spoke of the excitement of the coming of Christ after his death on the cross,

Rev. Stephen King, from Harvey Memorial Community Church, gave the offertory prayer and the benediction. The money collected will be divided among the churches. Kiwanis members Larry Fowler and Dale Redeker chaired the committee that organized this year’s event.

As the service ended, friends, neighbors and visitors gathered chairs and blankets and headed off to celebrate the holiday at home or on the beach.

Commission concerned about big box homes

ANNA MARIA — City commissioners last week agreed that they’d like to see their planner work up a way for the city to control the huge, flat-sided, flat roofed homes that maximize lot coverage all the way up to the second living floor.

In the 1970s, city commissioners passed an ordinance that mandated that no construction in the city could be taller than 37 feet from the crown of the road.

Now, today’s commission wants to limit the size and shape of the second living floor of new construction and extensive remodels of existing homes.

Planner Alan Garrett showed photographs of several homes on the city’s north end and polled commissioners about what they don’t like to see in their city.

"It’s the McMansions, those huge houses maximizing the lots, the big box structures on North Shore that have such high vertical walls," said Commissioner Chuck Webb.

"It’s the boxes, basically,’ Commissioner Chris Tollette said. "They have no architectural interest."
Garrett explained that there are several ways to regulate second floor construction.

"You can mandate a greater setback on the second floor, but you almost insure that you’ll get the wedding cake, cookie cutter look that we see in Holmes Beach today," he said.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick stated that upper level setbacks also require more expensive construction, since there need to be weight bearing walls at the outer perimeter of the building and also under the second floor where the setbacks are.

Commissioners also looked at vertical setbacks, which draw an imaginary triangle from the lot line or from the setback lines and mandate that all construction has to be within the triangle.

Commissioners liked the third option their planner presented,called the floor area ratio (FAR.), the best.
"You go with the ratio of the floor area to towards the lot size,’ Garrett said. "For example, you may decide that there can be nothing more than 5,000 square feet on a 50 by 100 foot lot."

The planner noted that you could then have two living floors of 2,500 feet each, or you could have a larger first floor, with the second floor placed anywhere you want on the structure. You could put it at the rear or at the front and towards one side or the other, thus getting away from the wedding cake look.

In the end, there was consensus to authorize the planner and the building official to explore further the FAR concept and come back to the commission with some suggested regulatory language.

Art exhibit at The Studio is ‘A Family Affair’
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Mary DuCharme with some of her works that are
on display at the Artists Guild of Anna Maria
Island in Holmes Beach.

Mary DuCharme, along with her daughter, granddaughter and grandson will be exhibiting their artwork this month in a show called "A Family Affair" at The Studio at Gulf and Pine. DuCharme thought the family show would be a fun way to celebrate her 81 years and 50 of painting.

Daughter Valeri DuCharme, a massage therapist by occupation, and grandson Victor Plagany will be exhibiting their pottery. Granddaughter Julie Reish Fernandez works for a pharmaceutical company in Orlando and acrylic is her medium of choice but she also works in oil, pastel, charcoal and watercolor.

Mary exhibits under the name Haije, her name in Albanian, which is what her father used to call her, and is well known to Island art lovers through her involvement in the Artists Guild of AMI and the AMI Art League.

"I started painting in California with a famous portrait painter who painted Betty Ford’s White House portrait," she recalled. "I lived in various places and painted and taught art lessons everywhere I lived."

She also owned a frame shop and sold art supplies, opened a gallery and judged art shows before moving to Bradenton in 1985. Here, she became an instructor at the Longboat Key Art Center and also joined Art Manatee and Art Sarasota and the two Island art groups.

"I am so passionate about making art," she said. "Selling was never my primary reason to do it. Sometimes I get up at 2 a.m. and paint.

"When I turned 80, I wanted to have a show of all the years I’ve put into it,’ she said. "I went to Art Manatee, but there wasn’t a time slot available. Then one day, I was talking to Rhea Chiles and she offered The Studio."

The public is invited to an opening reception for "A Family Affair" on Saturday, April 18, from 4 to 6 p.m. at The Studio at Gulf and Pine, 10101 Gulf Drive, Anna Maria. It is open from noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. The phone number is 941-778-1906.

Historical Society director begins work
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Nelson Roberts learns about Island history by reading
old Island newspapers at the Island Historical Museum.

ANNA MARIA – Nelson Roberts’ enthusiasm is contagious.

As the new director of the AMI Historical Society, Roberts has been spending every afternoon in the museum meeting docents and visitors, greeting everyone with his warm smile and friendly manner.

"My focus right now is to learn from people who have made this vision a reality," he explained. "I want to learn what’s in place and build my foundation, then together as team we’ll start looking to the future."

Roberts grew up in West Palm Beach, where his father was a fishing boat captain. He served in the Marine Corps, received a bachelor’s degree in business management at St. Leo University in Dade City and taught computer science at USF in Lakeland.

He and his wife, Debbie, have been coming to the Island since 1978, and in 1994, they sold their home in Lakeland and moved to Spring Avenue in Anna Maria. A couple of years ago they relocated to Holmes Beach.

Roberts has led praise services at several Island churches and currently serves as a worship leader at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church. In 1998, he earned his master’s degree in theology and became active in Kairos Prison Ministry. Debbie is a program analyst with the School Board.

Roberts said the ad for AMIHS director caught his eye because he wanted to get more involved in the community and history is a special love of his.

"The door opened to me," he said. "I’ve been coming in every day at noon to meet every docent to get to know them and let them know how important they are.

"I’ll take the summer an prepare myself for the fall. I have some ideas, but I want to talk to the board first. It’s important to work together."

To contact Roberts, call the museum at 778-0492.

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