The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 10 No. 19 - February 3, 2010


Board peeved with pier project


ANNA MARIA — A skeptical city commission cast doubt on the feasibility of a $1 million transportation enhancement grant project that is in the final phases of planning.

Commissioner Jo Ann Mattick, who wrote the original grant for the project before she was elected five years ago, expressed dismay at the commission attitude.

“I can’t believe you don’t want this project,” she said to her fellow commissioners at their Jan. 29 meeting. “It would be so foolish to turn down this project.”

The project, which was envisioned by a committee of citizens after the grant was awarded, calls for a low-key, ground level boardwalk to run to the north and south of the pier. It features a covered trolley shelter north of the pier.

The present sidewalk would be removed, and cars would have a driveway into the parking area and a driveway out. There would be the same number of parking spaces that exist today.

Commission Chair John Quam said he had a lot of questions and issues about the project.

“The pier is the number one attraction on the Island,” Quam said. “We need as much parking as we can get there. I’d take the boardwalk out and put in more parking.”

The Florida Department of Transportation holds the purse strings for the project. Representatives are due in the city to address the commission later this month as the project is readied for an RFP (request for proposals) for a design/build contract.

Commissioner Harry Stoltzfus had problems with that process.

“You are not going to see the design,” he said. “I fear what this is going to be until I see the design.”

Stoltzfus added that he could be convinced if he could see a design built to scale.

Both Stoltzfus and Quam as well as Commissioner Dale Woodland said they’ve had calls from citizens who say they don’t want the project at all.

“It’s very important to me that the public get back on board with this so I think it’s premature to be talking about an RFP,” Woodland said.

A visibly upset Mattick expressed dismay with what she deemed last minute objections.

“You’ve seen this project at every stage,” she said. “You approved the application for the initial grant; you saw this same drawing a year ago when Tim Eiseler (a committee member) showed it to you and explained it to you. That was the time to raise objections — not now when we’re so far into it.”

Woodland commented that he didn’t think the public had much chance for input.

“We had meetings for two years, and they were open, advertised meetings,” Mattick said. “The drawing has been on the wall.”

After the meeting, Mattick expressed frustration.

“All too often, all of us are guilty of speaking out when we oppose something,” she said. “This project was designed by the TEG (transportation enhancement grant) committee, which consists of 12 of our fellow citizens who have volunteered their time and effort for more than two years to develop a project that fits in with the character of our city and enhances the natural beauty of the pier area.”

Mattick said she’s especially disappointed since the project would allow seniors and people with disabilities who can’t walk out on the pier itself to enjoy the beauty of the bay.

Mattick said she’d be happy to explain the project to anyone with questions. She can be reached by phone at 778-3232 or e-mail at

Four bid on beach concessions

BRADENTON – Anticipation was high in the financial management office at the county administration building Friday as Melissa Assha opened proposals for the Manatee and Coquina beach concessions.

For Manatee Public Beach, there were four – Blue Wave, a division of Sunrise-Sunset Concessions of Nokomis; Café on the Beach/P.S. Beach Associates; United Park Services of Tampa; and Loggerheads LLC. For Coquina Beach, there were three – all of the above with the exception of Café on the Beach/P.S. Beach Associates.

“I feel we have a really good chance of getting this,” said Dee Percifield Schaefer, of P.S. Beach Associates, which has operated the concessions for 17 years. “We plan to be here another 100 years.”

Currently, she and her husband, Gene, lease out the concessions to Tom Vayias and John Menihtas, of Café on the Beach. She said in the new proposal, the two businesses will reverse roles.

Selection committee

Assha said the next step is convening a selection committee.

“They will come together as a team to go over the proposals and discuss them,” she explained. “They will make a recommendation to the county administrator, who will make a recommendation to the board of county commissioners.”

According to the scope of services in the request for proposals (RFP) the concessionaire will begin operations on July 20 and be open seven days a week, 365 days a year with the exception of weather events or emergency conditions.

The current monthly fee being paid for both concessions is $16,404 plus a $1,500 fee for a beer and wine license at Manatee Beach.

Coquina improvements

The RFP for Coquina Beach details the following capital improvements that will take place in 2010 and affect the concession operations:

•Major remodel/rebuild of existing concession stand, including replacing the attached and freestanding restrooms;

• Construct a marine rescue headquarters and dock bayside;

• Rebuild or remodel existing beach and bayside pavilions and construct two new pavilions at the south beach end;

• Replace and add benches, trash receptacles, picnic tables and water fountains, both beach and bayside, and sidewalks beach side.

• Remodel or rebuild the restrooms on south beach and bayside.

City pier repairs underway

ANNA MARIA — After months of wrangling about who should pay, structural repairs to the city pier are underway.

“The city of Anna Maria has reached an agreement with the pier tenant on the structural repairs identified in the MTCI identified in the MTCI condition assessment report,” Mayor Fran Barford wrote in a memo that City Clerk Alice Baird read to city commissioners at their Jan. 20 meeting. “Within 60 days, the major repairs will be complete.”

The city paid MTCI $5,200 to inspect the pier last September. When the final report on the 100-year-old structure was complete, it showed that there were no major structural issues, but there would be a $200,000 price tag to fix existing problems and to keep major problems from developing.

The city owns the pier and has a lease with Mario Schoenfelder, who owns and operates The City Pier Restaurant.

Under the terms of that lease, which expires in March, repairs to the pier are the Schoenfelder’s responsibility.

That’s been a contentious point over the past several years with the city doing most of the repairs until former City Commissioner Chris Tollette forced the city and the tenant to read the lease again. After a series of meetings with their tenant, the city authorized the inspection and got tough with their tenant.

Recommended repairs

As is recommended, all galvanized bolts connecting the cross beams to the pilings will be replaced with stainless steel to make them less subject to corrosion from the harsh conditions at the pier.

There will be handrails at the pier entrance and the grade of the ramp to the pier itself will be constructed to ADA standards.

The roof of the restaurant and bar/bait shop buildings will be refastened and the doors and windows will be reinforced to make them less susceptible to damage from high winds. Some of the damaged siding to the buildings will be replaced as well.

The plumbing piping and electrical systems will be repaired or replaced and protected. Leaky sanitary joints will be repaired or replaced. Four pilings will be replaced, and the rest will be monitored for structural integrity.

Lease renewal

Last year, the pier tenant asked the city to lower the rent from $8,000 a month to $5,000 a month citing the downturn in the economy as the reason for the requested reduction.

The city declined to lower the lease, and Mayor Fran Barford pointed out that any negotiations should be dealt with when the lease was up for renewal in March of this year.

After several months of discussions and lease negotiations, Schoenfelder has agreed to repair the problems identified in the report, according to the mayor’s report.

And according to Public Works Director George McKay, the city has agreed to a lease renewal with Schoenfelder.

“It’s my understanding that unless the lease negotiations break down for some reason, we won’t be putting out an RFP (request for proposals,)” McKay said. “We expect that we’ll be able to negotiate with the current tenant..

Suspected counterfeiters cornered, cuffed
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE Bradenton Beach and Holmes Beach
police converged Saturday on the Anna Maria Island Inn
in Bradenton Beach, where they tracked down a group of suspected
counterfeiters from Polk County.

BRADENTON BEACH – A man and two women were arrested on Saturday at the Anna Maria Island Inn after a clerk at CVS in Holmes Beach tipped police about receiving counterfeit money.

The clerk told police that a woman bought products with a counterfeit $100 bill, according to Bradenton Beach Police Department Lt. John Cosby.

The clerk followed the customer to the parking lot, got a description of her vehicle, and reported it to Holmes Beach police, who found the vehicle at the Anna Maria Island Inn, 2305 Gulf Drive N., he said.

At the inn, the clerk identified the woman, who was arrested along with another woman found to have an outstanding warrant in Polk County for uttering a forged instrument, he said. Their names were not available Saturday afternoon.

A man later identified as Roy Lee Carrol gave a false name – the name of his son – and was arrested for obstruction of justice after police found his driver license in a trash can in the motel room, Cosby said. He was taken to the hospital by ambulance in handcuffs after complaining of chest pain.

Five children also were in the group.

Police confiscated $340 in counterfeit bills, a printer, and a substance believed to be methamphetamine along with pipe paraphernalia, Cosby said.

The group may have been washing ink off $5 bills and printing them as $20 and $100 bills, he said. Counterfeit pens show the money as real because the paper is authentic, but alert clerks who hold a counterfeit bill up to the light can see that the watermark picture of the president on the fake bill does not match the printed picture.

The group may have been spending the counterfeit money on Anna Maria Island to exchange it for real cash, he said, adding that clerks should look for bills that feel rough to the touch and have mismatched printed and watermarked president’s pictures.

The U.S. Secret Service, a division of the U.S. Treasury Department, has been called in on the case, he said..

Couple airs a wave of complaints about surfers
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

The Hartsfield's vehicle is shown in their driveway surrounded by parked
vehicles, including one in the no parking spot on the left.

HOLMES BEACH – Complaints about surfer parking and behavior on Aqua Lane are enforcement issues and reducing parking is probably not an option, city commissioners said last week.

The pronouncement was in response to complaints aired by a couple who live on Aqua.

“We bought our house in 1998 on a quiet little street and then found out it’s surfer city USA,” Myralyn Hartsfield said. “They began arriving this morning at 7:50, and there’s talking out loud, changing clothes, lots of beer bottles.

“We know we can’t stop the parking on our street, but we’re pleading with you to eliminate the two spaces right in front of our house. It’s hard to get in and out of our driveway with two vehicles parked there.”

“We see peeing constantly, bare men and women, beer drinking, trashing, shouting, loud music,” Don Hartsfield added. “They double park and block our driveway and they don’t care.

“This has been going for a long time and we’ve been pretty patient about it. We need something done to give us some relief.”

Myralyn said when Carol Whitmore was mayor she eliminated parking on their side of the street, but they are at a dead end and there are two other spaces there.

Don said if the city would eliminate parking there, they would beautify the area at their expense. He also asked if the city could install lights because “you have a lot of drug and alcohol stuff going on late at night. They pull in there and sell drugs and whatever else.”

Commissioners comment

“I live on a surf break and they don’t bother me,” Commissioner David Zaccagnino said. “This has been a surf break for 50 years. Call the police if they block your driveway.”

Don said that police respond, but don’t act or are slow to respond.

Mayor Rich Bohnenberger said eliminating parking spaces could affect beach renourishment because the city has to have a certain amount of parking to get funding. He also pointed out that lighting could be a problem during turtle season.

“Certain things offend sensibilities of different people to different degrees,” Commissioner John Monetti observed. “I don’t think we want to go down the path of selective parking. I think it’s an enforcement issue. We sit here as commissioners representing the entire community and I think there’s a large community of surfers or other people that just wish to use the beach."

Monetti, Zaccagnino and Commissioner Al Robinson said they all live near a surf break at 28th Street and face the same issues.

“This is a problem and I intend to get it solved nicely or unnicely,” Don stressed. “We need the parking removed.”

Police and surfers speak

“I’ve been dealing with Mr. Hartsfield for quite some time, and we don’t see eye to eye on a few things,” Lt. Dale Stephenson explained. “When we’re called, we respond. That’s what we’re all about."

He said over the years, the city has reduced the parking spaces at the dead end from three to two, eliminated parking on the east side of the street and eliminated parking on White Avenue.

“The officers are down there all the time, especially on surf days,” he said. “We know where they congregate. The city has done everything they think they can without eliminating parking. That’s up to you.”

Island resident Joe Webb said he began surfing that beach in 1963 and noted, “That surf break is on the Internet; it’s world wide. It’s one of the best waves on the west coast.

“I’d be willing to come down there and hang out and talk to these guys and get the word out. I sympathize with what you’re saying, but I hate to see you take away parking spaces.”

Jim Brady, owner of the West Coast Surf Shop, said 99 percent of surfers are good people, but there are a few bad ones in any sport and pointed out, “People come from all over to surf that beach. If trouble starts, the surfers usually take care of it among themselves and try to control the bad apples.

“Even when the surf’s not up, people come to that beach. It’s a well-known beach and people like it. I hate to see parking spaces disappear.”

Bohnenberger pointed out that the city maintains a port-a-potty at the corner of Aqua Lane and White Avenue and said he would look into the issue.

Ideas abound to improve Sarasota Bay
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

SUN PHOTO/CINDY LANE Reef balls like this can attract
both juvenile fish and filter feeders such as sea
squirts that clean the water.

CITY ISLAND – Innovative ideas to improve water quality in Sarasota Bay struck a chord with about 50 people who attended the inaugural Sarasota Bay Watch Stakeholders' Meeting at Mote Marine Laboratory.

The grassroots group invited several people to address bay-related issues last month at the event, which attracted fishermen, biologists and bayfront residents.

Shoreline residents with docks on Sarasota Bay who are willing to devote a year to growing scallops are invited to participate in the Sarasota County Water Resources Department scallop program.

Juvenile scallops will be seeded in cages measuring 12 by 24 inches, and volunteers must collect data and measure shell size during the year, said Rene Janneman of Sarasota County.

The scallops will be released at the end of the year in the seagrass flats in Sarasota Bay.

The health of Sarasota Bay is improving, with nitrogen decreasing and scallops reappearing, said Mark Alderson, executive director of the Sarasota Bay Estuary Program.

Volunteers found 131 scallops in the bay last year in the Sarasota Bay Watch Second Annual Sarasota Bay Great Scallop Search. Other Sarasota Bay Watch activities include cleanups such as recent events at Sister Keys and Quick Point Preserve, said board member Rusty Chinnis, The Anna Maria Island Sun’s outdoors editor.

Another way to clean up the bay is with reef balls, according to Todd Barber, chairman of the Reef Ball Foundation.

Reef balls placed under docks attract filter feeders such as sea squirts and oysters, which clean the water. Inside the reef balls, juvenile fish take refuge, attracting crabs, fish and birds, he said.

The water flowing around the structures makes a low frequency sound that attracts fish, which use the reef ball to hide from predators in between foraging trips, he said.

The concrete used to make the reef balls is environmentally safe, eventually breaking down into gravel and sand, he said.

Mike Culinski of ORCA (Ocean Restoration Corporation and Associates) gave a demonstration of how his company’s reef balls work to clean water. Two aquariums were filled with green algae so thick that visibility was zero. After leaving a small reef ball covered with sea squirts in one aquarium for 35 minutes, the water was crystal clear. The company has done larger-scale experiments that work as well, he said.

Park and ride seen as parking problem answer

BRADENTON BEACH – The Scenic Waves Partnership Parking Subcommittee met on Wednesday, Jan. 27, to address the possibility of additional funding to help solve the city’s lack of parking spaces during season and holidays.

The group, which worked out plans to use parking spaces at Cortez and Coquina beaches and shuttle employees of city businesses and shoppers from their parking spaces to the city’s commercial district with electric shuttles, reinforced their support for those plans at the meeting.

When the group originally worked out details of the plan several years ago, the idea was shelved due to the downturn in the economy and new laws limiting how much money the city could collect in property taxes. In other words, the money ran out, but with a new round of economic recovery funds possibly becoming available, the group was called back into action.

Bradenton Beach Projects and Programs Manager Lisa Marie Phillips said that the original plan was to create a safe parking spot for employees of businesses along and near Bridge Street with a shuttle to run along Gulf Drive to take them to and from their vehicles. Because some of the employees work later than the 10:30 p.m. shutoff time for the Island trolley system, the shuttle became a necessity.

BeachHouse restaurant owner Ed Chiles said he could foresee the shuttle serving as a jitney for the downtown area for shoppers as well as employees.

Manon LaVoie, liaison from the Florida Department of Transportation, spoke about the possibility of adding a shuttle to the mixture.

“If the city applies for the shuttle, which we refer to as rolling stock, who is going to maintain it,” she said. “Also, you will need a driver who will need a special license.”

LaVoie said that the other part of the project would be construction of a shelter at the park and ride.

“That would make a good design-build project, which would cut down the expense of a designer,” she said. “If MCAT (Manatee County Area Transit) is the agency that handles the money, it would be better because the county has the authority to let design-build projects.”

The committee finally agreed to see if the county might be open to the administration of the project. Phillips suggested the city agree to house the shuttle vehicle near the public works department. Mayor Michael Pierce, who attended the meeting, suggested the city might agree to that.

The next step is to draw up the plans and secure agreement from the county so that the city and county are ready for more stimulus money, if and when it comes.

City gets grant for public garden

BRADENTON BEACH – If projects and programs manager Lisa Marie Phillips has her way, the African proverb “It take a village to raise a child” will have a new meaning at the Annie Silver Community Center.

The Florida Department of Elder Affairs recently announced that it had awarded a $2,780 mini-grant for an intergenerational activity that will promote community health and safety in Bradenton Beach.

The mini-grant comes from the department’s Communities for a Lifetime initiative, which works with local communities to encourage activities involving people of all generations.

For Bradenton Beach, that project will be a public garden to be located at the Annie Silver Community Center. The board of the community center has given its approval.

Phillips said that the project would involve other grants.

“I’m talking with Heinz foods for a grant to purchase vegetable plants,” she said. “I’m also asking Sarasota Bay Estuary Program for money to catch rainwater to be used for the garden.”

Phillips said she would like to develop the outside area around the community center to facilitate the garden and to make the site more environmentally friendly. That might involve removing the paved shuffleboard court to increase the permeability of the site.

“I want to redevelop the land and bring in native landscaping,” she said. “Than I would like to see a shell parking area.”

Phillips said she envisions using “salad tables,” or raised bed gardening areas to accommodate the elderly and handicapped.

“It gets harder to stoop over or get down on your knees as you get older,” she said. “The older people could work on the garden while youngsters watch or help standing up.”

Phillips said that she needs volunteers to help set up the garden and they can come from other Island cities or from the mainland.

“This is more than just growing food on our own,” she said. “This is about bringing people in your community together to work on a project. It’s about neighbors getting to know their neighbors. The more people know their neighbors, the safer the community becomes.”

Phillips said she envisions families coming to the garden on weekends to weed or work on the garden, maybe play board games or visit with their neighbors while their children play together.

For more information or to volunteer for the project, call Lisa Marie Phillips at 778-4619.

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