The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 33 - May 6, 2009


Second restaurant robbed

ANNA MARIA – For the second time in two weeks, an Island restaurant has been robbed of its cash receipts overnight.

The latest victim, The Waterfront Restaurant, 110 South Bay Blvd., was burglarized between 1:52 and 2:12 a.m. on Friday, May 1, according to a security recording.

Waterfront owner Jason Suzor said they knew how to get around the alarm.

"They took out a glass panel from the door to get in," he said. "Since they did not open the door, they did not trip the alarm."

However, Suzor said the camera caught images of the burglars.

"There were two males and they were wearing bandanas over their faces," he said, "They broke into the office and took the money. We also have a recording of their getaway car."

The Manatee County Sheriff’s office is investigating. Sgt. John Kenney said they also want to know if this is related to the April 13 burglary of the Beach Bistro in Holmes Beach.

"We’re comparing notes with the Holmes Beach Police Department," he said. "The main difference is they kicked in a wall to get into the Bistro where here, they were careful not to cause too much damage."

Kenney said they were also checking with other police departments to see if this burglary could be related to others.

Meanwhile, Suzor hopes the images will help officials solve the case. This is the second time the popular restaurant has been victimized. In March 2004, an arson fire destroyed the old structure and Suzor rebuilt it. The arsonist has never been caught.

Anyone with information on this burglary should call 911 or the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office Anna Maria substation at 708-8899.

‘Stay calm, don’t panic’

BRADENTON – Don’t panic, wash your hands often and stay away from sick people – that was the advice from county health officials Friday at a public forum on swine flu organized by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan.

"We have a very serious public health concern," Buchanan told residents. "There’s cause for concern, but no need to panic. We’d rather be safe than sorry."

As of press time, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has documented 244 cases in the U.S., with 15 probable in Florida. There has been one death and more deaths are expected. Buchanan said government officials are coordinating their efforts with foreign countries and have agreed not to close any borders or restrict travel at the present time.

On Monday, Manatee County school officials released an advisory to parents warning them to prepare for school closings if cases of swine flu occur here. Three schools were closed in Hillsborough County after two students showed symptoms of the illness.

"In light of those developments," the advisory said, "Manatee School District officials, working in close cooperation with the Manatee County Health Department, advise parents to begin planning now for the possibility their child’s school could close if a probable case is identified in Manatee County."

Parents were urged to make plans now for day care for their children and warned that school closings could be for a few days or even a few weeks.

"If a probable or confirmed case is diagnosed and a school is closed, it is important that students from those schools stay away from other people and groups as much as possible," the announcement said. "They should not gather in other locations such as shopping malls, movie theaters or community centers."

Borders to stay open

Buchanan, meanwhile, said government officials are coordinating their efforts with foreign countries and have agreed not to close any borders or restrict travel at the present time.

"Last Friday, we assembled professionals and came up with a flex plan and are working with vendors to make sure we have the clinical supplies on hand," Rei Lopez, director of clinical labs at Manatee Memorial Hospital, said. "Our goal is to ensure we can put out a health care response that can be sustained throughout the event."

Daniel Freidrich, president and CEO of Blake Medical Center, said there has been no increase in flu cases coming into the hospital, but the county’s medical professionals "live in a constant state of readiness and have a plan in place."

Dr. Gladys Branic, director of the Manatee County Health Department, urged people to protect themselves and their families by becoming educated and practicing good health habits. She said people should not shake hands, but do the elbow bump or a head nod instead, stay home if they are sick, avoid sick people and wash their hands often.

"Our goal is to reduce transmissions and decrease the severity of the disease," Branic said. "This is a very fluid situation. We get our guidance from the CDC."

Laurie Feagans, the county’s emergency management chief, and Forrest Branscomb, risk manager for the county school system, said their role is to support county health officials.

Officials respond

One parent said because of vandalism, school officials remove soap dispensers, paper towels and toilet paper, and students don’t have adequate restroom supplies.

Branscomb acknowledged that there are some issues with vandals emptying soap dispensers and stuffing paper towels in toilets, but officials try to keep restrooms supplied.

"That shouldn’t happen," Branscomb stressed. "In addition, we have put alcohol gel dispensers in various areas of schools. I’ve been in four school this week and they have soap and towels, so give me a list of names and I’d be glad to research it."

Another parent asked at what point schools would be closed.

"The CDC guidelines for schools is if one child is confirmed with swine flu, then they recommend the school be closed, so you don’t transmit the disease to others," Branic responded.

Buchanan said schools present a big problem because there is no vaccine for swine flu and noted, "The president is making the investments right now to put this in play if it becomes necessary."

One resident asked if Tamiflu is accessible to the public. Friedrich said the hospitals have adequate supplies of it, but pointed out, "It is not a cure. It only eases the symptoms."

Another asked why the president does not close the Mexican border and said, "Most American people want our borders secure. Your first job is to protect the American people. To me this is crazy. The government is supposed to be responsible to us first."

Buchanan said the issue currently is being discussed in Congress, but it would be difficult because of the number of people that cross it and the impact on the Mexican economy.

Mambo at the Spring Fling

HOLMES BEACH – The St. Bernard Catholic Church hall will be transformed into a New Orleans-style street party on Saturday night during Spring Fling’s Mardi Gras Mambo.

The Anna Maria Elementary Parent Teacher Organization hopes to raise $26,000 from parents and school supporters at the annual event, which draws casual, formal and even costumed participants.

Past flings have helped pay for new library books, a mobile computer lab, new television studio equipment, an outdoor classroom, a kiln, a playground, and garden maintenance, among other additions.

This year, Principal Tom Leavengood asked for Apples for both teachers and students.

Apple Macintosh laptop and desktop computers are needed to replace those that are more than five years old, which often freeze up, and which the school district will not repair, he told the PTO last week.

Leavengood said that hardware is more critical than funding a technology teaching position, the group’s original priority.

"Replacing computers is going to be more relevant than a tech teacher at this time," he said, adding that teachers eventually will be required to upgrade their computer skills as a job requirement. "Those computers are being used every day."

The new test that replaces the FCAT also will be given on computers, he said.

The PTO wish list includes reading and math games, smart boards, field trip and tutoring funding and funding for traveling teaching programs to visit the school, among other items.

With school district funding cutbacks, the fundraiser is even more important this year, organizers said.

A $40 per person ticket ($280 for a table of eight) buys dinner, dancing to the music of DJ Chris Grumley and a chance to bid on silent auction items. Participating restaurants include Harry’s Continental Kitchen, Moore’s Stone Crab, Sandbar, Waterfront, Mr. Bones, Ocean Star, City Pier, Rod and Reel Pier, Ezra’s, Jane E’s I’ll Cook If I Want To, A Moveable Feast, Beautiful Cakes by Ron and the Anna Maria Island Oyster Bar.

Complimentary babysitting for children between two and 12 is available at the School for Constructive Play, 304 Pine Ave. in Anna Maria.

For more information or to purchase tickets, call the school at 708-5525.

Sabine mystery drags on
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

ILLUSTRATION/PROVIDED Artist Barbara Hines painted
one of the Haley’s Motel parrots with missing motel
co-owner Sabine Musil-Buehler.

HOLMES BEACH – It’s been six months this week since Haley’s Motel co-owner Sabine Musil-Buehler was last seen or heard from by family and friends.

Her Nov. 4, 2008, disappearance and a Nov. 16 fire at Haley’s are still being actively investigated, according to spokesmen for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the State Fire Marshal’s Office.

But the mystery persists.

"Six months; it’s more of nothing," said Tom Buehler, the missing woman’s husband and co-owner of Haley’s. "Nothing’s changed for forever."

Musil-Buehler’s friend, Nancy House, is glad at least that no body has been discovered.

"Because nothing has happened, that’s what makes me still have hope," said House, who owns Fat Cat Carpet Cleaning on Anna Maria Island.

House and her friend, Janean Martin, say they saw a woman who looked and sounded like the vivacious, German-accented 49-year-old at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport last Nov. 13, but did not report it until they learned about the fire after returning from a cruise on Nov. 18.

"I do feel hopeful because I was so sure it was her," she said. "It’s a horrible tragedy. But we still don’t know that it is a tragedy."

Investigators reviewed airport tapes but were unable to identify the woman.

"Who’s to say it wasn’t her if they haven’t found her?" House asked.

Boyfriend questioned

The closest thing to a lead that investigators have is Musil-Buehler’s boyfriend, William Cumber, 39, who may have been the last person to see her before she disappeared. That election night, he told police, they argued about his cigarette smoking at the home they shared near the motel, and she left.

Two days later, officers pulled over her car near 12th Street West in Bradenton. The driver, Robert Corona, 38, was arrested for grand theft auto and questioned about the missing woman. He is awaiting a jury trial.

Later that week, Manatee County Sheriff’s Office detectives reported that blood – later found to match Musil-Buehler’s blood type – was found in the car.

On Nov. 16 at 7:19 p.m., fire trucks were dispatched to a duplex at Haley’s Motel at 8104 Gulf Drive. Between 7:30 and 7:40 p.m., a restaurant worker said she saw Cumber at the Anna Maria City Pier, a few blocks from the fire. That night, investigators questioned him at the couple’s home, 208 B Magnolia.

The next day, a team with an arson dog searched the motel grounds, followed by other searches, none leading to arson charges.

Violation of probation

The case cooled down until Dec. 22, when Cumber was arrested in Marion County on a charge of driving with a suspended license. Since then, he has been in jail for violating his probation by 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, shortly before Musil-Buehler disappeared.

Cumber, who has not been charged in either the disappearance or the fire, told The Sun in December that someone is trying to frame him for the Haley’s fire because of his past arson conviction. He tearfully denied having anything to do with his missing girlfriend’s disappearance, and said that she drove off after drinking a bottle of wine the night she vanished.

Cumber’s attorney, Thomas Ostrander, maintains that the prosecution is treating Cumber as though he were charged with the disappearance and the fire, offering him a plea deal for 15 years in prison for an admission of the violation of probation, and having him shackled in chains during his Manatee County courtroom appearances.

Cumber requested a hearing on the violation of probation, which is scheduled for May 14 at 11 a.m. in Manatee Circuit Court.

Meanwhile, life goes on at Haley’s, where Buehler is rebuilding the burned-out duplex into a three-story building and garden designed for weddings, family reunions and events.

"This will come to an end soon," he said. "I hope."

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

Rewards have been established by the Sabine Buehler Benefit Fund at Whitney Bank, 5324 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach and the Manatee County Gold Star Club.

We can all help sea turtles survive
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/LAURIE KROSNEY Anna Maria Turtle Watch volunteers turned out for a picnic
breakfast Sunday at Bayfront Park. Here, Tommy "Turtle Tom" Van Ness
chats with some of his fellow volunteers. Be sure to check Turtle Tom’s
Timely Tips in The Sun each week during nesting season to find out ways you
can help ensure the survival of these ancient creatures.

Turtle nesting season officially began last week on May 1. There are no nests on the Island yet, but you can tell it’s nesting season because the Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch volunteers are out on the beaches each morning at dawn.

They’re searching for the telltale tracks that show a female turtle has crawled ashore, dug a nest and deposited her eggs.

"Everyone is so excited that the nesting season is finally here," AMITW Director Suzi Fox said. "I had such a good time with the ‘all clear’ phone calls,’"

Fox said bayside coordinator Christina Swosinski called to remark on the beauty of the sunrise and the sighting of some dolphins in the early morning light.

Lights out for sea turtles

You don’t have to be an official AMITW volunteer to help insure the survival of marine turtles, which actually predate the dinosaurs.

Since sea turtles – nesting females and hatchlings alike – can become disoriented when they see man-made lighting, everyone with beachfront property should turn off or shield their lights.

"Keep it low, keep it long, keep it shielded," was the mantra repeated time and time again at a lighting workshop sponsored last week by Mote Marine Laboratory.

Keep it low refers to the lighting fixture itself. It should be low on a building or close to the ground, so it illuminates only the area that needs lighting and not the entire neighborhood. Low also refers to the wattage of the bulb you are using.

Keep it long refers to the wavelength of the light used. Research indicates that turtles are less apt to be disturbed by light with long wavelengths – the reds, oranges and yellows.

Keep it shielded means just what it says. Shield the light source so it illuminates only a small localized area.

"There is no need to compromise human safety," said Randy Fowler, codes administrator of Longboat Key.

Mote Biologist Dr. Tony Tucker noted that there has been progress over the years, but more work is needed.

"We say one light bulb at a time, one building at a time, one Island at a time."

"There are lighting options that will be good for the turtles and good for the people."

Representatives from Mote, the Florida Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, FPL, Anna Maria and Holmes Beach were on hand to brush up on the latest information, as was Ed Gocher, of Miller Electric, who took the certification test to become an expert on lighting solutions that will work for both people and turtles.

Code enforcement officers have already begun to make lighting inspections on the beaches, and several property owners have been notified that their lighting doesn’t meet code.

There are countless inexpensive and attractive lighting options that will provide safety for people and not harm humans.

Property owners can contact the code enforcement officer in their city. You can also log onto Type "turtle lighting" into the box and you’ll see many options, but check with the code officers to make sure what you choose is the right fixture in the right place.

Writing books is like a symphony for Moerk
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Dr. Alice Moerk continues to compose music
as well as write books.

ANNA MARIA – It was music to her ears when Alice Moerk learned that Peppertree Press would publish her quartet of thrillers.

Moerk, who has a doctorate in musicology, was professor of music at Fairmont State University in West Virginia for 32 years before retiring to the Island in 2000. She has composed 40 instrumental works, seven dramatic works, 33 vocal/choral works and eight collections since 1985.

"I wrote the books 20 years ago when I was on sabbatical at my parents house on the Island," she recalled. "I’d forgotten about them, then I found them, reread them and showed them to friends, who urged me to have them published."

Moerk said she spent the past year editing and rewriting the books and then contacted Peppertree, which agreed to publish them.

"I thought of them as a symphony," she explained. "The first book sets up the story and gives you the major characters or ideas. The second one is a slow lyrical setting of grief.

"The third book is a minuet – dance-like and joyful until the end. The fourth is the finale where everything and everybody comes together."

The first book, "The Waters of Lethe," which is due to come out soon, takes the reader from Virginia to New Mexico. It tells the story of Dr. Carolyn Robinson, who has lost her family, health and career and moves to a ranch with her daughter to rebuild her life. However, the past catches up with them and ensuing events involve a chase, a massacre and their eventual disappearance.

"The second book, "Silent Signals," takes place in West Virginia and involves a college theater department and a young man," Moerk said. "Life catches up with him and he commits suicide.

"His sister comes to town for the funeral and finds out what’s been going on behind the scenes. The connection to the first book is that Dr. Robinson was her mentor."

Moerk said the third book, "The Piper from T’P’S’L" involves a television anchor who travels to Newfoundland to film a documentary on her uncle, a word famous musician. It takes the reader from Canada’s involvement in World War II to the art scene in Paris and also involves a massacre.

"It has no relation to the other two books until you get to the fourth book, "Frozen Music," and everything comes together," Moerk said.

Moerk is currently working on her fifth book, which is set in the time of Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Outdoor dining ordinance reviewed

HOLMES BEACH – Commissioners last week agreed to consider making the process less costly and difficult for at least one restaurant seeking expansion of its outdoor dining.

In February 2008, the Freeman family, owners of Skinny’s Place, appealed to the city commission to increase the restaurant’s outdoor dining seats. That request led to an ordinance that created a procedure for restaurants to do so.

However, at its first reading in July, the Freemans learned that they would have to seek a variance from the board of adjustment. The restaurant is in a residential zone making it a nonconforming use, which requires a variance to expand.

Commissioner Pat Morton made the request to revisit, saying the board of adjustment fee is too costly.

"I wouldn’t have any problem with that at all," Commissioner John Monetti said. "If we made the process too cumbersome, we have to address that."

Commissioner Pat Geyer asked Morton if he would like the owners to come before the city commission rather than the board of adjustment with their request and he said he would. She stressed that they would still have to conform to all the safety standards and other provisions of the ordinance.

Commission Chair Sandy Haas-Martens pointed out that if the request came before the commission and it was denied, there would be no avenue for appeal. She said she would ask City Attorney Patricia Petruff to bring some options at the next work session on May 12.

Blood drive has new element

This year’s Anna Maria Island Blood Drive returns to St. Bernard Church on June 13 and 14 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. with another opportunity to stock up the county’s blood supply plus a new way of giving that goes right to the heart of the matter.

As in prior years, each donation of blood means an anonymous organization will give $100 to one, some or all of five nonprofit organizations, and each donor will have a say as to which one gets that money. But if you volunteer to donate under the Alyx Component Collection System, that donation doubles.

The Alyx system can specifically collect red blood cells and increase the supply of this critically needed blood component. It takes 25 to 28 minutes to donate and the result is twice the amount of red blood cells as a normal donation.

With a manual donation, you provide one pint of blood that is separated into its therapeutic components, typically providing one transfusion dose of red blood cells and a partial dose of platelets and plasma. A donation under Alyx means they replace the platelets and plasma with red blood cells.

To qualify for donating two red blood cell units on the Alyx System, males must be at least 5’1" tall and weigh at least 130 pounds. Women must be at least 5’5" tall and weigh at least 150 pounds.

As with whole blood donations, donors should drink plenty of fluids, relax, have a snack in the refreshment area and refrain from strenuous exercise for 24 hours after donating.

The five nonprofits are the same as last year. They are the Anna Maria Island Community Center, the Anna Maria Island Privateers, the Rotary Club of Anna Maria Island, Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center, Inc., and West Manatee Fire Rescue Auxiliary, formerly known as the volunteers.

Donors will be able to relax in the air conditioned St. Bernard fellowship hall, 248 S. Harbor Drive, Holmes Beach. In years past, donors sometimes had to sit outside in the heat at one of several bloodmobiles parked on the Island.

The Ninth Annual Island Blood Drive is sponsored by The Anna Maria Island Sun, The Bradenton Herald, Signs Now, Domino’s Pizza, the BeachHouse restaurant and Tropicana.

Identification is required to donate. Call 800-68 BLOOD (25663) to make an appointment or logon to and use the code MTFFO (zero).

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