The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 9 No. 44 - July 22, 2009


Swine flu hits Island worker

One of two people who died last week in Sarasota from swine flu worked in Holmes Beach.

County officials confirmed that 47-year-old Jorge Francisco Hernandez, of Sarasota, died July 15 from swine flu.

A 22-year-old Sarasota man also died of the disease. County health officials said seven cases of unconfirmed swine flu at Ringling School of Art and Design caused the school to cancel a summer program graduation.

In all, there have been 10 swine flu cases confirmed in Sarasota County with two deaths reported. There have been 19 cases in Manatee County, none of them fatal.

Health officials in Sarasota County are warning that the potentially deadly disease is still around, despite a drop in reported cases from earlier in the year.

People experiencing cough, fever of 100 degree Fahrenheit or higher, a sore throat and possibly diarrhea and vomiting should contact a doctor, according to a Sarasota Health Department news release. Those with respiratory illness should stay home and away from work, daycare or summer programs to avoid spreading infections. Postpone travel plans if you or family members become ill. They suggest you stay home at least a week after symptoms begin or 24 hours after you are symptom-free, whichever is longer.

The release listed ways to keep from catching swine flu:

• Avoid close contact with people who are coughing or otherwise appear to be ill;

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth;

• Wash hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand cleaners to reduce the spread of respiratory illness;

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or use the inside of your elbow when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

Hernandez, an assistant manager at an Island store, was known for never being without a smile, a joke or an encouraging word for employees or customers. A number of his co-workers attended his memorial service at The Palms in Sarasota, where friends and relatives told a story of a man dedicated to his family and to helping others.

Bridging the Gap coverage honored

The Island Sun staff has won first place in a statewide contest for its initiation and coverage of the Bridging the Gap campaign last year.

The award was handed out in the Florida Press Association’s Better Weekly Newspaper Contest in the Community Service category.

Sun staff writer Cindy Lane also was a winner with an honorable mention in the Environmental/Conservation category for her story and photos on birds on the Island.

Bridging the Gap was a series of contests, concerts and other promotional events designed to attract visitors to the Island while the Anna Maria Island Bridge was closed for repairs last fall.

Many residents and business owners feared that people would stop coming to the Island during that time to avoid traffic snarls and drive-time delays.

Sun Advertising Director Chantelle Lewin and Ginny’s and Jane E’s Antiques owner Ginny Dutton hatched the idea for the promotion in response to those fears.

The events included in the campaign ranged from golf tournaments to street festivals, concerts, food fests and even a trolley scavenger hunt.

Anna Maria awarded The Sun its Citizen of the Year honor for championing the cause and promoting it with stories, photos and an extensive advertising campaign.

City changes policy on ground level remodeling

HOLMES BEACH – Mayor Rich Bohnenberger told commissioners last week that the city has revised its policy regarding remodeling ground level homes.

"A couple years ago, we did away with the five-year cumulative," Bohnenberger explained. "The new rules allowed them to do one project and then go back and do another project taking into consideration the valuation of the existing project. It’s not working because we’ve had contractors trying to skirt the law."

According to Public Works Supervisor Joe Duennes, originally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) allowed remodeling of ground-level homes up to 50 percent of the assessed value plus 20 percent or 50 percent of the appraised value during the life of the home.

Over the years, that changed to a five-year cumulative (50 percent over five years), then no cumulative. Now cities set their own policies.

"FEMA relies on the building department to make the call," Duennes said. "There’s no black and white formula."

The city’s policy has been to keep the 50 percent rule, but not require a cumulative. This means when the construction is complete and a CO (certificate of occupancy) is issued on a renovation, the next day the owner can get another appraisal and do another renovation.

"We go by the ratio – the appraised value against the affidavits as to the cost to rebuild," Duennes said. "If it’s less than 50 percent, it ‘s a go. In the real world it doesn’t work.

"Some appraisers are coming in at values of $200 or more per square foot and the contractors are saying $50 to $80 to do the work. There’s room for games to be played. You can basically demo a lot of a house."

Duennes said he recognized that the policy was not working and developed a new one, which is now in effect.

"They have to bring in a detailed demo plan plus all the numbers from the appraiser and a cost estimate and construction plan," he explained. "Bob (Building Inspector Bob Shaffer and I determine the 50 percent, whether it goes over the line or not.

"If it’s a go we’ll issue a demo permit. After the demo plan is complete and inspected, we’ll issue a building permit. In addition, we’re going back to a one-year cumulative."

Since this is a policy change, no ordinance is required.

Angler’s Inn – what’s ahead?
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

with Jane Coleman, an advisor, in the upstairs
of the old inn checking out the room numbers
that are still above the doors.

ANNA MARIA — The building that stands just to the north of the Lake LaVista Inlet has been in the same spot for just short of a century.

"It’s one of the oldest buildings on the Island," said Sissy Quinn, the director of the Anna Maria Island Heritage Society, a newly formed 501(c) 3 non-profit that will begin a capital campaign to try to raise the funds to purchase and preserve the structure that some have called the most endangered historic structure on the Island.

"It was built around 1912," Quinn said. "George Bean and Roser were selling lots on the Island. They’d bring people over on a steamer boat from Tampa and show them around. They’d put them up overnight in the old Inn."

The original hardwood floors are still in place, though the kitchen floor shows the scarring from linoleum that was used to cover it sometime in the past.

The outside walls are made from a kind of block construction.

"The mold for making the blocks came from Sears and Roebuck," Quinn said. "You can see the same block used in Roser Church and Rosedale Cottage, which were built around the same time."

The current owners of the property expressed an interest in working with the Heritage group to preserve the structure.

The property was never on the market, but a couple of years ago, the Pine Avenue Restoration partners approached the owner and ultimately took an option on the property.

The selling price with the building on the three lots was $900,000. Without the building it was several hundred thousand more.

"It’s a little scary to be jumping in to raise that kind of money," Quinn said. "But it’s important enough to save our history,"

How will Angler’s Inn be used?

Quinn and Jane Coleman, who volunteers as an advisor to Quinn, can envision a day when the old Inn would be the site for soirees or wine tastings.

"We see it as a sort of place for the entire community to use," Coleman said.

"It won’t be a museum," Quinn added. "But we do plan to restore and furnish it in a way that’s appropriate to that period in time."

Angler’s Inn is in the residential zone, and that could potentially pose a problem for some of the uses Quinn and her group plan, according to Alan Garrett, the city planner and Bob Welch, the building official.

"There’s nothing insurmountable here, but the city commission may have to make some decisions," Garrett said. "Residential zoning is the most restrictive of the zoning categories. It’s that way to protect the residential uses there."

Garrett and Welch thought about the options that might be open for the group working to preserve Angler’s Inn.

"There would probably have to be an amendment to the comprehensive plan," Garrett said. "Then the parcel could be designated ROR (residential/office/retail). That would allow the mixture of uses they’re looking for."

Welch said the property owners could come to the city and ask for the zoning change.

"It’s a fine balance," Welch said. "You want to preserve a historic structure and you want to protect the residential character of the neighborhood."

Another option would be for the owners to donate the property to the city, and the city could lease it back to the organization. The Anna Maria Island Historical Society, the 20-year old historical preservation organization on the Island, leases its museum on Pine Avenue for $1 a year.

"Then the commission could designate the land as PSP — that means public/semi-public zoning," Welch said. "That would be the same zoning as city hall, the community center and the historical society’s campus."

Garrett said that there could be restrictions put on any rezone.

"You can specifically prohibit any commercial use in a rezone," he said. "There can be controls placed on what the property can be used for."

In any case, both Garrett and Welch said it’s up to the property owners to approach the city and request a change in zoning, and it’s up to the commission to decide of the change is beneficial to the city and is compatible with the neighborhood.

Sierra Club promotes passage of fertilizer ordinances

ANNA MARIA – Chris Costello, of the Sierra Club, urged Island officials to adopt fertilizer management ordinances to protect the region’s water resources.

"I’m here to share some of my two years of experience in being involved in processes that have created strong fertilizer ordinances along the Gulf coast," Costello told members of the Coalition of Barrier Island Elected Officials.

Costello gave officials a sample ordinance approved by the Tampa Bay Estuary program with modifications proposed by the Sierra Club, a paper detailing the rationale for provisions in the ordinance, a comparison of local ordinances and educational materials produced by Lee County.

She said Lee County’s educational materials are the cream of the crop and said it has one of the strongest ordinances in the region. Others that have ordinances are Sarasota County, the town of Longboat Key, the city of North Port, Charlotte County and the city of St. Petersburg.

"The city of St. Petersburg represents the second generation of Gulf coast fertilizer ordinances," she continued. "It directly reflects Tampa Bay Estuary Program’s model ordinance and the modifications that my organization and other organizations are promoting."

Two of those modifications are that fertilizer that contains nitrogen or phosphorus cannot be sold between June 1 and Sept. 30 each year, and phosphorus fertilizer cannot be used on turf or landscape plants unless a soil or tissue test demonstrates a phosphorus deficiency.

She said the Tampa Bay Estuary Program has determined that if all counties and cities in the region had a 50 percent compliance rate of the Tampa Bay model ordinance, there would be a reduction of 84 tons of nitrogen per year.

Anna Maria Mayor Fran Barford said the city is waiting to see what Manatee County will do, and Costello said county officials have directed staff to draft an ordinance and plan to address it after the budget process is complete.

Barford said one issue with city officials is enforcement, and Costello said education is the backbone of enforcement.

"Enforcement is not the fertilizer police; it’s a cultural change," Costello stressed.

Bob Siekmann, vice mayor of Longboat Key, said when the commission was working on its ordinance "It was one of the longest and most unpleasant experiences I’ve had as a commissioner. It becomes very emotional with people who come before you.

"Everybody could throw some kind of university research study on the table to prove their point. Trying to establish the facts on which to base a decision was extremely difficult and it led to some very long, protracted, contentious debate."

Bradenton Beach Commissioner Janey Robertson asked if any of the ordinances have been challenged in court, and Costello said no.

Port Dolphin hearing July 28

A public hearing on the proposed Port Dolphin natural gas port and pipeline is scheduled for Tuesday, July 28, at the Manatee Convention Center in Palmetto.

The hearing, from 5 to 7 p.m., will be preceded by an informational open house from 3 to 4:30 p.m. about the project, a submersible liquid natural gas port 28 miles off Anna Maria Island that would connect to Port Manatee with a 42-mile-long underwater pipeline.

Comments from the public will be accepted during both sessions.

For those unable to attend, comments must be received by Aug. 24 at either (click on Search Dockets, enter 2007-28532, click on Send a Comment), or by regular mail to the Docket Management Facility, U.S. Dept. of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Ave. S.E., West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, D.C. 20590-0001. Include your name, address and docket number USCG-2007-28532.

Wireless network company advocates antennas

ANNA MARIA – Representatives of SBA Advanced Wireless Networks met with island officials to promote the use of their antenna system to enhance cellular service.

"Our business is developing wireless communications facilities," attorney Stacy Frank said. "Typically that means towers like the one you have in Holmes Beach, but we understand some communities don’t want towers. We’d like to talk to you about an alternative."

Adolfo Sanchez, of SBA, said the company’s alternative solution is small antennas with control boxes mounted on utility poles.

"This is not a replacement for towers, but it’s a complimentary coverage technique that works with the existing towers," Chris Fagas, of SBA, explained. "It fills the void between the towers. It seems you have all the needs but no sites to cite towers."

Sanchez said the company developed four clusters of coverage to augment cellular service on Anna Maria and Longboat Key. It would include the installation of 29 antenna/control box combinations.

However, Fagas pointed out that FPL won’t allow the antennas to be installed near the high voltage wires at the tops of their poles, so SBA would install telephone-type poles on which to mount the apparatus. The poles would be about 35 feet high.

"If you are interested, we’ll talk to the wireless carriers," Sanchez said.

Bradenton Beach Mayor Michael Pierce asked if the installations would generate revenue for the cities like cell towers do. Frank said no because they would be considered infrastructure and the cities already get revenue from the communications services tax.

Pierce asked how many cellular providers could be on one installation and Fagas said all of them. He said cellular users would not notice any difference in service.

Officials advised SBA representatives to approach each city individually with visuals to show the pole locations.

Anna Maria considers slight tax increase

ANNA MARIA – Faced with another drop in revenue, the city of Anna Maria may have to raise taxes slightly to make its books balance and an $8,000 donation to keep the trolleys free may fall victim to the numbers crunch.

That’s what came from the city commission’s first budget workshop on Thursday, July 16.

The proposed budget for 2009-10 calls for a rise in the millage, or property tax rate, from 1.7882 to 1.9450, which translates into an increase of $15.68 for every $100,000 of taxable value on a property.

The total proposed budget figure is $3,105,861, down from $3,967,222 for the current year, which ends Sept. 30. A large part of that drop is because $764, 600 for phase one of the stormwater project drops out of the budget for 2009-2010.

Deputy City Clerk Diane Percycoe prepared the budget under a new departmentalized formula, but the change in format could not hide the fact that the city has to deal with its shrinking income base.

According to her synopsis of revenues, the ad valorem revenue was reduced by $135,148 in 2007-08 and by $161,798 in the 2008-09 budget. The city’s taxable value dropped by 12 percent in 2008-09 and by another 10 percent for the 2009-10 budget. If the millage were to stay the same for the new budget, revenues would be reduced by $117,143, according to the report. It also pointed out that state and county revenues continue to increase, and the city can expect $66,723 less from those sources for the 2009-10 fiscal year.


Mayor Fran Barford gave opening remarks at the workshop. She listed positive accomplishments from the past year. They are conclusion of the first phase of the stormwater project and the start of the second phase, an equivalent stormwater unit fund to pay for stormwater improvements, a five year capital improvement plan, improving the city’s community rating system number for lower insurance rates, land development regulation improvements, a transportation enhancement grant project and improved computer programs for better management. She also complimented the city staff for doing its part.

"We have a superb staff that gives 100-plus percent with no expectation of a raise in salary this year," she said. "We try to provide incentives including education opportunities to give them the tools to do their jobs better."

She also pointed out that a contract is being renegotiated for the city with franchisee Mario Schoenfelder, which they hope will bring in more money.


During discussion of the budget, Commissioner Dale Woodland expressed his opposition to raising the millage rate.

"We may have to live with what we’ve got, we can’t do it again next year," he said. "We can’t rob Peter to pay Paul."

Woodland also asked if the city was going to get any of the new $1 per pack cigarette tax increase and she said no, it was a state initiative.

"I thought I was helping the city," Woodland, a smoker, replied.

"The bottom line for homeowners is that their taxes will still go down if we raise the millage," said Commissioner Chuck Webb. "It won’t cause their taxes to rise over the present year."


They discussed charitable donations and Commissioner Christine Tollette suggested the city reduce its donation to the Anna Maria Island Community Center, which got $20,400 from the present budget.

"They rent the building out for special events and they’re working with a travel agency to raise money," she said. "I would suggest cutting it by $5,000."

Woodland said they could cut out 10 percent ($2,040) to reflect the 10 percent drop in revenues, but other commissioners said they would rather cut out more money. Then Woodland took aim at the trolley donation.

"I would like to see that donation drop to zero," he said. "The first year we gave money, we were supposed to get money back, but we didn’t and now here we are again."

Tollette said that developer David Teitelbaum expressed confidence the county could raise money through advertising on the trolleys to pay back the amount given this year.

Mayor Barford said she spoke with Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker about their concerns and said that refusing to pay for the trolley this year could come back to bite them.

"My problem is the political impact," she said, "Our chance of getting renourishment funding could be jeopardized."

Commissioners John Quam and Jo Ann Mattick both said they felt the county should apply more resort tax funds toward the trolley.

Webb said he believes the city should pay its fair share. They decided to decide that issue at a future meeting.

The commissioners will set their tentative millage rate at a meeting on Thursday, July 23, at 7 p.m. and there will be another budget work session on Thursday, Aug. 6, at 5:30 p.m.

Final public hearings will be held in September, although the exact dates have not yet been set.

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