The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 13 - December 23, 2009


Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

The Cat in the Hat, aka Candace Johnson,
helps Preston Cole wave to his mother at
the Chiles Christmas for Kids held at the
Sandbar restaurant Dec. 15.

ANNA MARIA – They ran, they laughed, they played – 120 children from the Head Start program and Healthy Families Manatee gathered at the Sandbar restaurant for the 15th Annual Lawton Chiles Christmas for Kids.

The event, sponsored by the Chiles Group, was held in the restaurant’s pavilion last week to a backdrop of perfect weather. Children, encouraged by a bevy of volunteers, dug for buried treasure in the sand, giggling as they unearthed toys, while others fished in the fishpond or threw beanbags for prizes.

A crowd surrounded clowns Snow Bird and Sparky as they twisted colorful balloons into fun shapes. Costumed characters such as Spiderman, Blue Dog and the Cat in the Hat strolled the area hugging the children and posing for pictures.

Children had their faces painted or made artwork with stickers and glitter before the tables were cleared and costumed elves served a finger food lunch of French fries and chicken tenders.

Then a commotion erupted as the jolly fat man in the red suit arrived, walking through the crowd greeting the children with his hearty ho, ho, ho. He then settled in his chair in the gazebo to dispense bags of gifts to the children. Each child’s family also received a food basket with a complete turkey dinner and all the trimmings.

Parking panel appointments draw criticism

ANNA MARIA – A second committee – this one appointed by the mayor and approved by the city commission – will take a look at safer parking in the residential/office/retail district of the city that runs the length of Pine Avenue and covers parts of Gulf Drive south of Pine.

The appointments were made at the city commission’s Dec. 17 meeting.

The first attempt at creating the committee fell apart amid questions about how it was formed and by whom. City Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus, who based his election campaign in part on a promise to fix what he deems a dangerous situation with the parking in ROR, had formed a panel to address the issue but was forced to disband the group after questions arose over his authority to create a public committee to deal with a city problem.

Commissioners JoAnn Mattick and John Quam had questioned whether or not Stoltzfus could appoint and chair a committee, since city committees are generally appointed by the mayor and approved by the commission.

The newly appointed safety committee consists of Tom Aposporos, Terry Schaefer, Larry Albert, Micheal Coleman, Gene Aubrey and Mike Pescitelli.

Stoltzfus questioned why there were six appointments and only five commissioners.

“The mayor usually appoints a member, too,” said Mayor Fran Barford. “I’m appointing Micheal Coleman.”

Stoltzfus and several members of the audience objected to both Coleman and Aposporos being on the committee, since Coleman is the managing partner of the Pine Avenue Restoration Project, which has several residential/business projects under way up and down the street. Aposporos has worked for PAR.

“I think that’s a conflict of interest for there to be people who own property there to be on the committee,” said Margaret Jenkins.

Commissioner Chuck Webb disagreed.

“I think it’s always a good policy to bring all sides to the table so that all the voices can be heard,” he said. “That flushes out all the issues so they can be addressed.”

Committee goals

According to the city commission agenda, the proposed task of the committee will be to assess potential safety hazards, current and long term, for pedestrian and bicycle traffic while vehicles back out of parking spaces across sidewalks. The committee is to report its recommendations to minimize safety hazards to the full commission, which will study the issue in depth with the planning and zoning board at a joint meeting on Jan. 14.

Stoltzfus then questioned the necessity for the committee since the issues will be addressed during a discussion on the land development regulations at that meeting.

“This particular committee is a waste of time, since these matters will be addressed elsewhere if we follow through in basing the LDRs (land development regulations) on the comp plan,” he said. “Then the safety issue will go away.”

Quam pointed out that the commission had decided last month that the committee would be a good idea.

Commissioner Dale Woodland agreed, and said he thinks it would be a mistake to rush the committee through its deliberations.

The committee was approved with the six suggested members by a vote of 3-1. Stoltzfus voted against the committee, and Mattick was out of town and unable to attend the meeting.

City staff will contact committee members and set a date for the meeting as soon as possible.

Debate over twin piers begins to build

AMISUN News Robbery Banker
PHOTO/LAURA RITTER Peter Robinson, of Holmes Beach, gets
his boat ready for this Saturday's Lighted Boat Parade.

BRADENTON BEACH – Opposition is swelling against a state plan to demolish three beach erosion control structures, including two that form the popular twin piers surf spot.

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has notified Manatee County that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is likely to remove the structures in a beach renourishment project scheduled for 2014.

If DEP determines that the structures are derelict, the agency can require that they be demolished for public safety and liability reasons, according to DEP spokesman Paden Woodruff, adding that the issue is still under review.

The county will try to save at least the northernmost pier, according to Charlie Hunsicker, director of the county’s Natural Resources Department. The structures prevent beach erosion, protecting Gulf Drive from damage, he said, adding that there’s only a 50/0 chance the pier can be saved.

Surfers have expressed online outrage since The Sun discovered the plan earlier this month.

“Removing those groins/jetties/piers… is a huge mistake and I will guarantee that within a decade's time the sand will be almost non-existent,” Michael Long wrote on

Local surfers braving cold water and wind last weekend to surf twin piers say they are ready to sign a petition or do whatever it takes to save their favorite break.

“The piers make the waves,” said Bradenton resident Bryan Johnson, who has been surfing the spot for a decade. “There’s a history here of surfing.”

Twin piers is larger than the Island’s other major surf spot at White Avenue. It’s also less competitive, said Eric Stinson, of Bradenton, who has surfed twin piers for about eight years. Removing the structure would overcrowd White Avenue and could create competition and hostility there, he said.

Destroying twin piers would be bad for the beach, according to surfer Jesse Albritton.

“Surfers take care of this beach,” he said.

Surfrider Foundation’s local chapter adopted the beach several years ago as its annual Great American Cleanup project, but the group has not yet taken a stance on the demolition because it is generally opposed to coastal armoring.

“I’m for the surfers," Manatee County Commissioner and Tourist Development Council Chair Carol Whitmore said. "The piers draw surfers from all over the state."

They attract more than local and regional surfers – the spot is well known to fishermen and divers for its many species of fish, stone crab and other marine life, said Micah Dellinger, who has surfed and fished at twin piers for a decade. Birds that feed on the fish also frequent twin piers.

The crumbling piers are off limits to pedestrians, but some ignore warnings. At least two deaths have occurred at the piers, which is within the lifeguard response area at Coquina Beach.

The structures should be rebuilt to make them safe so that surfers and fishermen can use them, lifeguard Capt. Joe Westerman said.

The pier at Manatee public beach was demolished earlier this month for safety reasons, and another is slated to replace it.

Barlow named to P&Z board

ANNA MARIA – Bob Barlow will serve on the planning and zoning board. It was not a routine appointment.

Under the city charter, the mayor names people to serve on boards and committees and the commission approves or disapproves those appointments.

Mayor Fran Barford put forward Barlow’s name to fill the vacancy created when Doug Copeland resigned from the board.

Barlow’s appointment was on the consent agenda for the December 17 meeting, but it was removed at the request of Commissioner John Quam.

During a discussion of Barlow’s appointment, the appointment came under some harsh questioning.

“Were there other applications and what were the dates they were submitted?” Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus asked the mayor.

“We don’t make appointments by the dates of the applications,” Mayor Fran Barford replied. “Mr. (Micheal) Coleman, Carl Pearman, Charlie Daniel and Tom Turner also applied. I felt Mr. Barlow was the most qualified.”

Stoltzfus then questioned whether or not the other candidates met the qualifications.

Barford noted that everybody who applied was qualified. To qualify, an applicant must be a resident of the city and must obtain the signatures of 10 registered voters.

“All these people are good people, and all love this community,” Barford noted. “Mr. Barlow has served on the charter review committee, he’s a former city commissioner, a former vice-mayor and a former member of p&z.”

She pointed out that the selection has never been done by using the date of the application. It’s done by choosing the most qualified applicant.

“I think the mayor is making a mistake,” resident Robin Wall commented when it was time for comments from the public. “Mr. Turner chaired p&z for seven years in the 1990’s,” she said. “He wrote the LDR’s (land development regulations). I feel strongly that a mistake was made in passing over Mr. Turner.”

Cathy Stoltzfus also spoke up for Turner’s appointment to the board.

Barford said there was no question in her mind that Turner is an amazing person.

“He’s one of my most important consultants,” she said. “But my recommendation stands.”

Barford added that Coleman’s was the first application received, but with his involvement in Pine Avenue, he was not a good candidate for the board. She pointed out that three elected officials signed Coleman’s petition to be named to the board.

As the discussion wound down, Commissioner Chuck Webb made a motion to confirm Barlow as a member of the board. Commissioner Dale Woodland seconded the motion.

The vote was 2-2 with Quam and Stoltzfus voting against Barlow. Commissioner JoAnn Mattick was out of town.

“The motion fails,” Quam said.

He then suggested that the p&z appointment be brought back to the commission when everyone was present.

Building Official Bob Welch then showed Quam Section 2-21 of the city’s code that states that with appointment to the p&z board, when there is a tie vote, the mayor’s appointment shall be approved.

“That’s a change from our normal way,” Quam said.

So with the tie vote and with the reference to city code, the recommendation of Barlow to the p&z board was approved.

Funding causes friction

A 6-1 Manatee County Commission decision last Tuesday to give $250,000 to the Ringling International Arts Festival has Manatee tourism promoters concerned that Manatee tax dollars will boost Sarasota’s bottom line.

Half of the funds will come from Manatee County coffers while the remaining $125,000 will come from county tourist tax reserve funds usually earmarked for tourism marketing, to rebuild consumer confidence after a hurricane or other disaster.

The tourist tax is charged to guests by hotels, motels, condos and other accommodations providers.

The Manatee County Tourist Development Council (TDC), an advisory board to the Manatee County Commission, voted 5-4 to recommend the expenditure last Monday, with much dissent.

The $125,000 should be used to promote Manatee County hoteliers who collect the tourist tax that produces the funds, Bradenton beach hotelier and TDC member Barbara Rodocker said.

Manatee hoteliers would have to sell 25,000 hotel room nights at $100 a night to produce $125,000 in tourist tax revenue, Bradenton Beach hotelier and TDC member David Teitelbaum said.

Manatee County arts groups need funds too, TDC member Vernon DeSear reminded colleagues.

Precedent set

After years of the TDC denying similar requests, the Manatee County Commission set a precedent for other event promoters to request tourist tax funds, County Commissioner and former TDC Chairman Joe McClash said.

“The TDC has shied away from funding other events,” he said. “It’s only fair to entertain other requests for funds.”

Commissioners, however, did not consider a request from the 71-year-old DeSoto Heritage Festival – expected to produce the largest parade in the southeast U.S. in 2010 – asking promoters to return later. DeSoto spokesman Gus Sokos, who was referred to the commission by the TDC on Monday, requested $25,000, saying new rules require a $35,000 expenditure to erect fences along the parade route.

“I don’t know how we can say ‘no’ to something like this when we’ve just given money to an organization that’s not even in our county,” said Commissioner Donna Hayes, who will serve as commission chair in 2010.

The TDC turned down DeSoto’s request because it is primarily a community event that does not attract people from elsewhere, Commissioner Carol Whitmore said, recommending that the county grant the request from other funds.

McClash disagreed, saying the event routinely attracts out of state visitors, marching bands and Spanish dignitaries.

Tourism magnet

The Ringling Arts Festival also will attract visitors from far and wide, according to organizer and former state Sen. John McKay.

The event is expected to spin off “fringe festivals,” he said, adding that former Florida first lady Rhea Chiles, an Anna Maria Island arts activist, already has opened dialogue about staging an unspecified event on the Island during the festival.

A Riverfest in Bradenton also is being discussed, Whitmore said.

The Spoleto Festival in Charleston, S.C. has a $50 million impact in its community, “which we can realize in five to seven years with your support,” McKay told commissioners.

“I support the arts, but we just have so many organizations in Manatee County that need assistance… I can’t support this expenditure in another county,” said Hayes, who cast the lone dissenting commission vote. “I would hope you would pursue something firm on the Island and along the riverfront if this does pass.”

Despite reservations, McClash voted for the expenditure, saying it was a one-time expense, and asking that economic benefits to Manatee County be tracked.

The event was listed on the commission agenda as a one-time contribution, but promoters can return for more funding if they can demonstrate revenue flowing to Manatee County, according to the proposal approved by commissioners.

“If the contribution produces an acceptable and documentable return on investment in the form of hotel occupancy, the festival could request another contribution next year,” the proposal states.

The proposal makes Manatee County’s contribution contingent on Ringling receiving another $250,000 from the Sarasota County Commission, which will consider the issue in coming weeks. McKay said he also will request $100,000 each from the cities of Bradenton and Sarasota.

Another stipulation requires that promotional materials for the festival will provide equal billing for Manatee County and its municipalities, echoing a 70-year-old grudge stemming from Sarasota’s getting top billing on the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport sign.

Burglars play Grinch before Christmas
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/TOM VAUGHT Burglars tried to smash out the
hurricane glass at The Tide and The Moon and were
unsuccessful. They used a torch to get through the door.

HOLMES BEACH – Burglars broke into four businesses in the same area of this city overnight Thursday, Dec. 18, and when she was called to her shop, one business owner lamented having to close on one of the busiest days of the season.

The four businesses were Mister Roberts Resort Wear, 5330 Gulf Drive; The Color of Coconut Clothing Company, 5352 Gulf Drive; The Tide and The Moon, 5337 Gulf Drive; and AMI Health and Fitness, 5364 Gulf Drive.

The burglars broke the rear door of Mister Roberts and took cash, according to owner Signa Bouziane. They got in through the rear door of the Color of Coconut and took cash and merchandise, according to owner Peggy Dean.

The robbers got into AMI Health and Fitness from the roof and through a vent that was there when Chez’ Pizza was in business, according to owner Kip Lalosh. He said they got a couple of items, but nothing of great value.

The intruders did most of their damage at The Tide and The Moon. They used a blunt instrument to try to break in through the windows, but all they did was break the separate panes of the hurricane glass and they had to break in the door to get inside. After that, they smashed glass counters and stole jewelry.

Tide and Moon owner Laura Shely was visibly upset after seeing the damage to her store. She said she did not know when she would be able to reopen and she said losing business during these last few days before Christmas would be devastating.

Holmes Beach Police Detective Mike Leonard was investigating Friday, aided by a crime scene unit from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. Anyone with any knowledge of the crimes should call Holmes Beach Police at 708-5804.

Beach fireworks to welcome 2010

BRADENTON BEACH – Welcome the New Year Island style, by watching the 17th Annual BeachHouse Fireworks display on the beach.

The BeachHouse restaurant, 200 Gulf Drive, N., Bradenton Beach, sponsors and hosts the fireworks display starting at midnight and you may watch them from your own vantage point on the beach or from the restaurant itself as part of dinner or a New Year’s Eve package.

“The fireworks show will be just as fabulous as ever and we will have valet parking for our customers,” said Chiles Group Marketing Director Caryn Hodge.

The inside package, which costs $99.99 per person, starts at 9 p.m. and features a four-course meal in the restaurant, music, dancing, watching the ball drop and a champagne toast with music by DJ Chuck C and party favors at midnight.

The $99.99 inside dining price includes tax and gratuity but excludes bar bill. The indoor package usually sells out, according to Hodge, so you need to make required reservations early by calling 779-2222 or e-mailing

You can also choose to enjoy the show from the Gulf-front deck with food from the BeachHouse regular menu selections and New Year’s Eve specials. Chuck Weirich will play live on the deck. Seating for the deck is first-come, first-served.

If you live on the Island or want to avoid the traffic by parking away from the show, the free trolleys will be burning the midnight kerosene, so to speak, so you won’t get stranded after the show.

“Manatee County Area Traffic will run the trolleys past midnight,” MCAT Director Ralf Heseler said. “The drivers have been instructed to operate until there are no more people at the trolley stops.”

Any way you look at it, the beach is the place to be to enjoy the fireworks show. Police will be there to keep the peace and enforce the law regarding fireworks on the beach so be smart and safe and leave it to the professionals.

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE From left, Lt. Collin Schmidt, Logistics
Officer Jim Pritchard, Lt. Rex Beach and Capt. Joe Westerman
with the surfboard trophy the lifeguards gave Pritchard at
his going away party, and a clock presented by the
Manatee County Commission.

Lifeguard Jim Pritchard will trade in his surfboard for a golf bag when he walks down the stairs of the Manatee public beach lifeguard tower next week after 24 years on guard.

The first lifeguard to retire from the Manatee County Marine Rescue Division, a lot has changed since he hit the beach in 1974.

Not the heat, the rip currents or the storms. Not the stress of constant vigilance and running deliberately into danger. Not the low pay or the inevitable skin cancer.

But while lifeguarding is no day at the beach, the tools of the trade have come a long, long way, he said.

Before the climate controlled lifeguard towers were built at Manatee and Coquina beaches, there was nothing but a tall wooden chair with a ladder up the back.

Before lifeguards had EMT training, the first aid kit was a fishing tackle box with some Band-Aids, antiseptic and a dime taped on the inside of the lid to use at a pay phone.

Before cell phones and radios, the communications system was a whistle and a cheerleader’s megaphone.

Before 1978, when a truck was purchased, transportation between Manatee Beach and Coquina Beach was on foot. The flashing lights for the truck didn’t come until the 1990s.

Everything was stored under the stairs that led to the rooftop pavilion above the concession stand.

Equipment is Pritchard’s business. He created the position he holds as logistics officer, in charge of scuba tanks, rescue vehicles, surfboards and everything today’s lifeguard needs.

Well, almost everything.

They have to supply their own dedication.

Out of 175 lifeguards who have worked for the county, only a half-dozen have lasted more than 20 years on Manatee’s beaches, many washing out due to low pay and high stress. On some moderately busy days, 10 to 12 lifeguards are watching 8,000 to 12,000 people; during the last spring break, lifeguards performed 50 to 60 rescues a day.

Protecting 3.2 million visitors a year from the elements and from themselves takes an even temperament, a way with people, teamwork and the intuition to recognize potential trouble. Pritchard’s coworkers say the Vietnam veteran and father of three has what it takes, plus a sense of humor.

They tell the story about the tourist who was taking photos from atop a rock jetty. Pritchard walked up to the photographer and diplomatically asked, “Would you like me to take a picture of you on the ‘keep off’ sign?”


Pritchard, 58, has sweet and tart memories about his career.

He can picture his children walking toward the lifeguard stand with their book bags after the last bell at Anna Maria Elementary School.

And he recalls a badly-conceived and short-lived attempt by the county to save money and combine lifeguarding with parking lot maintenance duties by assigning lifeguards what they wryly dubbed the “rescue rake.”

He remembers living above the spirited teenage antics on the roof of the Manatee beach pavilion, the day the pier crumbled into the Gulf after a no-name storm, and the lifeguard’s lifeguard, his mentor Dave Miller, who ought to have the new Manatee beach pier named after him, he said.

And there were the rescues, like the 13 people he saved with another lifeguard one day in the wicked currents of Longboat Pass. And the four-year-old girl whose father didn’t notice she was missing until he stumbled over her submerged body. She wasn’t breathing when Pritchard arrived. He performed CPR until she coughed and came back to life. Then she reached out and squeezed his finger. It’s a moment forever frozen in memory, along with countless other rescues both performed and prevented.

Pritchard, who was named Lifeguard of the Year in 2000, was honored last Tuesday with a gold clock by the Manatee County Commission, and his team mates gave him a surprise party, presenting him with a surfboard plaque, reading: “For the lives he saved, and his 24 years of dedicated service to Manatee County.”

After 48 years on the Island, Pritchard moved recently to a nearby golf course community, where he said he won’t have to worry so much about storms destroying his home.

But he won’t be a stranger to the beach, he said. In fact, when the new operations center is built for the lifeguards at Coquina Bayside Park, Pritchard plans to keep his Marine Rescue Division mug there so he can have a cup of coffee with the team.

The mug contains the job description he’s carried out all these years. “When you are at your worst, we are at our best.”

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