The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 12 No. 41 - July 25, 2012


Board questions Sheriff’s Office budget

ANNA MARIA – Commissioners had serious questions about a proposed Sheriff’s Office budget that shows an 8.5 percent increase over the last fiscal year.

“It amounts to a $54,785.28 increase over the current contract,” explained Finance Director Diane Percycoe. “I had plugged in 3 percent because I didn’t have that information, so we need an additional $35,495.28, if this sheriff’s proposal is accepted.”

Chair Chuck Webb asked what caused the increase, and Percycoe replied, “They’ve replaced a couple deputies that left or retired and brought in some new ones that looked like they are at the top of the (salary) range.”

Mayor Mike Selby said lower paid deputies could be replaced by higher paid ones at any time and noted, “We have no way to control that. Maybe we could have the sergeant at one level and the deputies at another level. Give them a cap and let them figure out how to pay people.”

Percycoe pointed out that there is language in the contract that states that if a deputy who makes $47,000 leaves and is replaced with one that makes $67,000, the city is responsible to pay the increase in the retirement system contribution.

“We’ve lost control of our law enforcement budget. How can we winnow this down so we’re not being held hostage?” Webb asked.

Dave Bristow, sheriff’s office spokesperson, said there is process for determining which deputies will patrol the city.

“We offer the opening and deputies put in for it,” Bristow explained. “They go through an oral board for an interview, and the board chooses the deputy they think will work best.”

Percycoe also said the city will pay $2,304,783 to the county for law enforcement services plus an additional $698,735 for the Sheriff’s Office contract with the city for 2012-13 for a total of $3,003,518. The current contract for 2011-12 is $643,949.

However, Webb said, “We’ll always pay the county part. That’s not unusual.”

“Per capita, our residents are paying a higher rate than anybody in the county because it’s based on ad valorem tax,” Commissioner Dale Woodland pointed out. “We don’t have much control.

“Our crime rate is the lowest or near the lowest in the county, and we’re paying a premium. We can take those numbers and negotiate a price and let them figure out how to do it.”

Woodland asked Percycoe to get figures on what other cities are paying for law enforcement. Selby said he would discuss the issue with Sheriff Brad Steube.

Proposed budget

The proposed $2,259,212 budget is based on a 2.0 millage rate. The current fiscal year’s budget is $2,219,756 and the millage is 2.05.

Percycoe said the budget includes a 3 percent salary increase for full time employees and 1.5 percent salary increase for part time employees.

Woodland said he is opposed to any salary increases and added, “The city can’t continue to afford increases. There’s no way to justify that financially.”

Selby said last year, commissioners said they would implement either a COLA or a 3 percent increase, whichever is less.

“With government employees, you reach a ceiling; you only get paid so much,” Webb pointed out. “There are no more raises except for the cost of living. Because of the impact of the economy, if we don’t adjust it for the cost of living, we’re actually paying them less.”

Percycoe told commissioners that wind insurance is now available for the city pier at a cost of $54,873 for the pier and $34,307 for the boardwalk.

Webb told her to determine the replacement cost and said it might be more cost effective to put money into a reserve fund for replacement.

Jim Conoly was the lone resident to speak.

“We’ve got problems with parking and speeding on North Shore and enforcement,” he said. “Consider putting more money into the police department instead of taking money away. We cannot base our requirements on what other people in the county are doing.”

He said other issues are having more beach patrols, repairing street edges and corners and maintaining swales.

The next budget work session is Tuesday, July 24, at 6 p.m.


Pier temporary fix is on
Carol Whitmore

Tom Vaught | sun
An emergency fix for the piling would cost $2,500.

BRADENTON BEACH – The Bridge Street Pier may be reopening soon, thanks to a city official who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale talked with The Deck Docktor in Sarasota about placing a collar around a piling at the pier, just east of the restaurant, that nearly broke in half from the high waves produced by Tropical Storm Debby recently. The piling is visible from the pier, and the city closed the structure to visitors on the advice of engineer Charles Sego, who said the piling could shift and give way, possibly causing the pier to collapse.When the city closed the pier, it got a quick estimate of up to $10,000 to put a temporary fix on the piling, which is to be replaced along with the other pilings in a refurbishment project expected within a year.

Last week, Speciale said he thought he had found a contractor who would fix it for as low as $2,000, which the city could afford. Friday, Speciale said it would most likely be more than that but after talking with the company, he said they agreed to $2,500, which he said the city could also afford.

“It’s an emergency fix that will reopen the pier and help the restaurant, whose business dropped when the pier closed,” he said Friday. “We’re going to start ASAP and I hope to have the pier reopened by the end of next week.”

The pier suffered damage from Debby when a number of boats moored south of it broke loose during the high winds and crashed into it. Two boats were wedged against the pier, and their motion broke the piling and the mast from one of the boats broke the railing.

Rotten Ralph’s at the Pier remained open during the shutdown.

In other news from the pier, Speciale said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) specialists had been in town to look over the sunken boats from the storm. Speciale said the city would also start the process of condemning the boats so they could be removed with West Coast Inland Navigation District (WCIND) funding, even though FEMA might be able to pay for more of the expense.

Speciale also said the city’s dinghy dock, which was damaged, and the 11th Street South seawall, which was washed out, are on the FEMA list of public areas that were damaged.

City to work on budget deficit

BRADENTON BEACH – After two weeks of haggling over what to spend and where to spend it, the City Commission will face some tough decisions when it sets the millage rate.

City Clerk Nora Idso gave commissioners a worksheet when they started their series of meetings showing the anticipated income and estimated expenditures for the next fiscal year, starting Oct. 1.

After six meetings in which the commissioners made changes as they saw fit, Idso gave them a new worksheet showing the changes and the difference in the bottom line.

The original worksheet showed a difference of $104,758 and the last worksheet’s difference was $145,479.

Idso also gave the commissioners examples of what the city could raise if it elevated the millage rate, also known as the property tax rate, a small amount. Last year, the city the city raised $845,956 with a rate of 2.1359, which translates to $213.59 for each $100,000 of taxable value. The memo shows that raising the millage to 2.20, and taxes to $220 per $100,000 of value, they city would see an extra $871,343, which would eliminate the deficit and give the city some money to spend on projects the commissioners spoke about the past two weeks.

Commissioner Jan Vosburgh was the most adamant about keeping the tax rate the same, but at the Monday meeting last week, Commissioner Rick Gatehouse was critical.

“Calling for budget cuts without making recommendations where could be construed as disingenuous,” he said. “We must provide services. You can’t run a business without raising prices.

“Jan, you claim you cut the budget last year with no negative results, I disagree,” he added. “There were no raises last year, the commission raided the health savings account and then took away their (Christmas) turkeys and hams.”

Gatehouse said he wanted to renegotiate the city’s contract with MT Causley for building official Steve Gilbert’s services to lower the number of hours he works, invite the city attorney to meetings only if there is something on the agenda for her and to cut back on street sweeping for a total of $50,000 in savings. The changes to the budget this year were partly due to the need to improve some services and to rebuild the city’s infrastructure, including road repair and repaving.

The police budget would go up $2,500 for operating expenses for a total of $962.232. That includes a new police car, which the city will pay off in time.

Emergency management stays at $13,000 for the coming year and the capital improvements projects budget went up $25,000 for paving. The city also plans on replacing the carpet at city hall.

The city added $5,385 to the pier budget for new controls for the clock in the tower on Tuesday. Commissioners approved $3,000 in streets and roads for banners to go up on poles along Bridge Street. They added $5,000 to stormwater to cover street sweeping for the year and in facilities maintenance, they will spend $10,000 to hookup a generator to propane to offer power for city buildings in an emergency.

On Friday, they dropped plans to cut Gilbert’s hours, approved the same library budget and approved the Community Redevelopment Agency budget to reflect the fact they will be spending all of the money raised there on rebuilding the Bridge Street Pier.

They will set a millage rate on Wednesday, July 25, at 9:30 a.m.

Holmes Beach mayoral candidates take stands

HOLMES BEACH – Political newcomer Carmel Monti is running for Holmes Beach mayor largely because of large houses, according to his recently released campaign platform.

The problems at multi-bedroom, duplex vacation rentals in the city’s R-2 zoning district have attracted crowds of residents to commission meetings for months.

Monti blames incumbent Mayor Rich Bohnenberger for allowing the problem to develop.

“Why have these infractions been allowed to go on until now?” he asked.

Bohnenberger had no comment, but issued the following goals for next term, should he be re-elected.

• Opening the 32-acre preserve at Grassy Point for public access.

• Continuing storm water improvements to alleviate flooding and comply with the federal Clean Water Act.

• Lobbying the Legislature to restore the ability to change short-term rental regulations.

• Applying every existing code possible to bring resolution to the major rental problems, trash, parking and noise, and work with staff to continue delivering public services in the most cost effective manner.

“Together we have achieved so much while setting a new record of four consecutive years of no tax increases,” according to Bohnenberger. “Moving forward I am recommending that new hires in the police department be placed in the state pension plan to provide for long-term savings to the city and to protect those in our current plan.”

The following is Monti’s campaign platform:

“The build out of many new homes in the city may conform to the laws on the books. However, there is the intent of the law and then there is the law. The intent of the law on this Island does not want to promote the building of houses that will occupy many more renters than most people would consider a reasonable house rental. Therefore, there exist loopholes and wording that allow for some builders to take advantage of the law and not build in the spirit of what the vision of the Island has established. We do not want to become a Daytona Beach resort community. We have a reputation of being a destination place where the tourists have been able to coexist with the local residents. This has changed and continues to change with no restraints.

“Therefore, the laws have to be tightened up and clarified to take out the loopholes that allow for this to happen. These laws then have to be given to the proper departments in the city and enforced and support given from the mayor where necessary to enforce the intent of the law. In other words, accountability for the current and modified laws has to be enforced.

“The demolition of houses and rebuilding of the houses must also be looked at much more consistently and scrutinized more closely. There are actions that are taken in an inconsistent manner, or in which the rules are not followed, once again on the books but with loopholes that allow for a wide latitude of interpretation and confusion on making a good consistent decision on the part of various departments within the city.

“The third and last, but perhaps one of the most important areas of my platform would have to deal with communication and leadership, both in the city hall and to our residents. Residents should have an open forum to vent their grievances. The city council and mayor need to be responsive to letters and e-mails written to them as well as open forums set up just to listen to the complaints regarding concerns. I personally wrote two letters to the city and never received the common courtesy of a reply.

“After all, aren’t our elected officials supposed to be ‘public servants?’ ”

Fire chief presents $5.52 million budget

BRADENTON – West Manatee Fire Chief Andy Price presented the $5.52 million 2012-13 budget to fire commissioners last week.

“This is the sixth budget in a row that we have been limited to the five-year personal income growth factor (PIG),” Price explained. “This has allowed us to maintain the staffing and service levels in place since the 2002-03 budget.

“With assessments, we were given an assessment cap and once we reached that cap, we can only increase rates through the PIG.”

While the PIG is 3.16 percent, the district only increased its assessment rate by 2.5 percent. The increase in assessments plus additional tax roll changes will produce a revenue increase of $176,410.

Price said the budget includes a 2 percent cost of living allowance for employees and some minor salary adjustments. He said he expects a double-digit increase in health insurance rates and workers’ compensation rates are expected to rise 39 percent.

“The district is financially able to meet its obligation and reserves are at a level to ensure that facilities, equipment and personal needs can be met,” he said.

Budget figures for 2012-13 are as follows with 2011-12 in parentheses:

Operating budget income – taxes and fees, $5,397,207 ($5,268,645.48); interest, $30,000 ($37,800); and reimbursement, $99,500 ($99,760).

Operating budget expenses – wages and benefits, $4,696,795 ($4,649,326); maintenance, $160,500 ($149,000); insurance, $60,000 ($60,000); training, $38,000 ($36,500); office expenses, $10,500 ($9,000); supplies, $23,500 ($23,500); utilities, $134,000 ($128,000); fire prevention, $13,750 ($13,750); special services, $359,376 ($306,855.02); miscellaneous, $31,036($30,274.25).

The total operating budget is $5,527,457 ($5,406,205.48).

Fire commissioners plan to vote on the budget at their next meeting on Thursday, Aug. 16, at 6 p.m.

Hands Across the Sand in Anna Maria

Hands Across the Sand drew about 400 people to Anna Maria
Island beaches in 2010, after the Deepwater Horizon
exploded on April 20, leaking oil into the Gulf
of Mexico until July 15.

ANNA MARIA – People will join Hands Across the Sand on Saturday, Aug. 4 at 11 a.m. on the beach in Anna Maria to promote clean energy.

The city is expected to approve the peaceful demonstration stretching from the Sandbar north to Bean Point, which promotes an end to dependence on fossil fuel, said event organizer Billy Malfese, chair of the Environmental Enhancement and Education Committee.

EEEC encourages participants to walk, bike or take the free trolley to the beach in Anna Maria to symbolize their commitment to using less oil.

The first Hands Across the Sand, held in February 2010, attracted about 180 people to Anna Maria Island to protest a proposal by the Florida House of Representatives to lift the ban on nearshore drilling off Florida. The proposal was narrowly defeated.

Two months later, on April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the northern Gulf of Mexico, spilling oil into the Gulf until July 15. Hands Across the Sand, founded by Dave Rauschkolb, a surfer and restaurateur from Seaside, Fla., quickly went international.

The second event in June 2010 attracted about 400 people to Anna Maria Island, who drew a human line in the sand against oil drilling.

When the third international event was scheduled a year later in June 2011, 27 people attended the event on Manatee Public Beach.

The oil never reached Anna Maria Island, however, the spill had impacts on the area – commercial fishermen couldn’t work because areas of the Gulf were closed, restaurant business lagged due to seafood safety concerns and cleanup workers who traveled to Louisiana to help during the disaster developed health problems.

The oil spill’s long-term effect on the food chain in the Gulf is still undetermined. Researchers recently found traces of petroleum compounds and Corexit, the chemical used to break up the oil spill, in the eggs of American white pelicans in Minnesota, which migrate to Anna Maria Island each winter.

For more information on Hands Across the Sand in Anna Maria, e-mail Malfese at

Historic preservation committee moves forward

ANNA MARIA – Historic Preservation Committee members discussed how a historic designation could fit with flood regulations and developing an ordinance to meet the city’s needs.

George Barford said in order to meet the definition of historic structure under the Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations a building must conform to strict criteria.

“When they start putting rules out, be careful what rules you want to work under,” Gene Aubry cautioned.

Dan Gagne pointed out that to have a home declared historic would be optional for the owner and that currently the city has no way for an owner to have a house designated historic.

“There’s not a lot of people who will want to do it,” Chair Sissy Quinn added. “Our city is saying in their ordinance that they consider these ground level dwellings important to the character of our city even though they don’t qualify for an official historic designation.”

“If the person goes for the historic route, we hope to give them leeway on the 50 percent rule,” Gagne added. “We hope to implement something here so people can do work to those houses.”

However, Barford stressed, “Unless it fits into FEMA’s criteria, it won’t get relief from the 50 percent rule,” and said one of FEMA’s criteria is that the city have a historic preservation program certified by the state.

Quinn said she would try to find out how that is achieved. Garrett said he also would research it.

Members agreed to use the Alachua County ordinance as a model and tailor it to the city’s needs, and Quinn asked them to review the ordinance. Garrett asked them to pay particular attention to the criteria for regulation of construction, reconstruction, alteration and demolition of historic structures.

Barford said he felt the ordinance could be simplified and offered some draft language, which Planner Alan Garrett said he would incorporate into it. Garrett pointed out that the city also must establish a historic preservation committee and develop procedures on how to identify and designate historic structures.

“This is a very complex subject, and it can affect a lot of people,” Barford noted. “I think there will be real issues trying to figure out how to get this done.”

The next committee meeting was set for Tuesday, Aug. 7, at 2:30 p.m.

Bad year for birds

Upper right, a "scarecrow" - an artificial dead bird -
suspended in the cell phone tower in Holmes
Beach to scare birds is not a violation
of wildlife laws, according to the FWC.

ANNA MARIA – Birds are having a bad time on Anna Maria Island this year.

Only two snowy plover chicks are known to have survived a series of storms that began even before Tropical Storm Debby struck the Island June 24-26.

By the time Debby left, all the shorebird nests on the Island had blown away or were flooded, including 355 black skimmer nests, a species of special concern, and 15 least tern nests and four snowy plover nests, both threatened species, according to Anna Maria Island Turtle Watch and Shorebird Monitoring Director Suzi Fox.

About 150 black skimmer nests laid after the storm did not survive subsequent rains, she said.

The markers used to keep people away from the birds have been removed from the nesting area, north of the Sandbar restaurant in Anna Maria, she said.

Four black skimmer chicks survived out of 24 rescued from Longboat Key by Wildlife Education and Rehabilitation Center in Bradenton Beach, where Gail Straight feeds them every two hours between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and gives them medicine for botulism.

“When you lose them, it’s heartbreaking,” she said.

The parents abandoned their newly-hatched chicks during the storm, she said, adding that the center also treated several pelicans, a gannet, a yellow crowned night heron and other birds made homeless by the storm.

Nature isn’t the only problem local birds face.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) investigated a report last week that Crown Castle, the operator of the cell phone tower on Marina Drive in Holmes Beach, hung an artificial bird in the tower to scare ospreys off a nest.

Bird nests in towers can interfere with cellular telephone service.

No chicks or eggs were in the nest, and the company did not violate state or federal laws, FWC spokesman Gary Morse said, adding that no permit is required to hang scarecrows in a cell tower.

The company has an FWC permit to remove active nests from cell phone towers if needed, he said, adding, “Sometimes it has to be done.”

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