The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 14 No. 38 - July 16, 2014

headlines

Awards shine on The Sun
Carol Whitmore

mike field | sun

The entire Sun staff was recognized for general excellence in the 2013 Florida Press Association Better Weekly Newspaper Contest, while the graphic designer and co-publisher were commended for the publication’s design, two staff writer/photographers were praised for news and feature stories and photography, and accolades were presented to the publication’s cartoonist and a contributing photographer.

Judges for the contest applauded The Sun’s staff for “great journalism,” “engaging graphics,” “excellent photography,” “strong art” and “attractive design,” among other achievements. The newspaper competed in Division B, which includes publications with circulations of 7,000 to 15,000.

The Sun was the only newspaper on Anna Maria Island to receive any awards.

“I’m really proud of our entire staff,” Sun Publisher Mike Field said. “The contest results reflect just how much time, effort and dedication our people bring to their jobs. We are so fortunate to work in such a great business and are deeply honored by the recognition and comments of the Florida Press Association judges.”

This year’s awards are:

First place

• Cindy Lane: Local Government Reporting, for “Anna Maria Island – Filled to the gills?” about Island leaders appealing to local tourism officials to scale back marketing the destination, saying it has exceeded its capacity for absorbing tourists. Judges said she “reported well and completely on the impact of tourism on the local economy.”
• Tom Vaught: Education Reporting, for “Chores No More a Winner,” detailing speech contest topics by Anna Maria Elementary School students. Judges called the story “Well written and a really good story,” and praised the reporter’s “very engaging style.”
• Cindy Lane: In-Depth Reporting (non-investigative), for “Flood insurance rates soon to rise.” Judges’ comments included, “This is great journalism! It’s not an easy task to make readers interested in flood insurance rates, but you pulled it off, and you shined some light on questionable government practices.”
• Cindy Lane: Agricultural and Environmental Reporting, for “Oil spill leaves residue of uncertainty.” Judges said the reporter “… did a fine follow-up story on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill… she showed readers how much was left undone three years later.”
• Cindy Lane: Community History, for “Cruise the Historic River,” about the AMI Water Shuttle’s Manatee River cruise, a partnership with the Manatee County Historical Resources Department.
• Duke Miller: Feature Photo, for “Perfect landing,” depicting a white pelican’s water landing off Cortez. Judges praised the contributor’s “Excellent timing, perfect resolution and background color.”

Second place

• Anna Maria Island Sun Staff: Overall General Excellence, including an issue that led with a story titled “The search ends,” about efforts to find a small boy who was swept out into the Gulf of Mexico while swimming. Judges noted the issue’s “Clean, attractive design,” “excellent pics,” “meaty stories” and “revenue generating ideas.”
• Steve Borggren: Original Local Editorial Cartoon, for “Island cottages.”
• Cindy Lane: Feature Story (non-profile), for “Insider’s Island,” a tourist’s guide to well-known and lesser-known places of interest on and offshore of Anna Maria Island.
• Cindy Lane: Best Headline, for “Landscaping project wilts.”

Third place

• Ricardo Fonseca, Mike Field: Overall Graphic Design, for an issue that led with the story, “Fire hits Rod and Reel.” Judges praised “Lots of entry points for readers,” and commented that “engaging demographics and strong art add to the overall flow of the content throughout the publication.”
• Cindy Lane: Editorial Award, for “Listen to the people,” about local officials denying a marina at Long Bar Pointe but approving several thousand new homes there. Judges said: “If you are going to take leaders to task when they fail their constituents, you should commend them when they do good – this is a fine example of an editorial doing just that.”
• Cindy Lane: Photo Series in One Issue, for “Soul surfers go to camp,” featuring Eternal Summer Surf Camp, which offers surfing lessons combined with summer Bible school for kids. Judges said “Lane had multiple entries that were impressive… she’s consistently a very good journalist with a variety of talents.”
• Cindy Lane: Sports picture, for “Paddleboard master,” featuring Island native Izzi Gomez competing at the 28th Annual National Kidney Foundation Rich Salick Pro/Am Surf Festival in Cocoa Beach.
• Tom Vaught: In-Depth Reporting (non-investigative), for “Complaints prompt police search.”
• Tom Vaught: Feature Story (non-profile), for “Boston nurses remember bombings.”

AMICCO: ‘We are leaping off the Island’
Carol Whitmore

FILE PHOTO

Maestro Alfred Gershfeld leads the Anna Maria Island
Concert Chorus and Orchestra during a concert at
CrossPointe Fellowship in Holmes Beach.

The Anna Maria Island Concert Chorus and Orchestra (AMICCO), which includes Manatee County’s only professional symphony orchestra, has announced it will move two of its four concerts off the Island next season because of traffic gridlock and congestion.

The February and March shows will be held at Kirkwood Presbyterian Church at 6101 Cortez Road W. instead of at CrossPointe Fellowship in Holmes Beach.

The announcement came in the AMICCO newsletter, and it included a reason for the decision.

“An enormous challenge we face for the future is the ever-growing traffic problem on the Island in February and March,” it said. “Given the problem of many audience members, and even our musicians of the chorus and orchestra being able to get to our Island performance venue on time, or even at all, we reveal to you first, as AMICCO musicians and members, that we are leaping of the Island in February and March to bring you AMICCO@Kirkwood, specifically the Kirkwood Presbyterian Church (the big green church) at 6101 Cortez Road in Bradenton.”

The message included a name change for the group.

“This solution is in direct response to the many requests to address traffic issues,” it said. “You spoke about driving frustrations, we listened.

“This decision is also in keeping with our mission of expanding our presence in the region,” the newsletter said. “And, with that, you are the first to read the news of our brand-new moniker, AMICCO@Kirkwood, #MusicOnCortez.”

The message said the December 2014 and January 2015 concerts would continue to be held at CrossPointe, 8605 Gulf Drive, Holmes Beach.

In an e-mail to Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie, Holmes Beach Commissioner Jean Peelen said, “AMICCO is a treasured Island cultural resource. The loss or weakening of such institutions does not bode well for the future of this Island as a community. It is yet another way in which the overload on the Island is causing deterioration of the community.”

Chappie pointed out the two performances off-Island would help spread the music to the mainland.

“It happened last year when they held their first Symphony in the Sand at Coquina, and it drew a lot of people from off the Island,” he said.

Chappie wasn’t the only county official to see a bright side to the move.

“Although we prefer to see arts and culture remain on Anna Maria Island on a year round basis, we believe that the Anna Maria Island Comunity Chorus and Orchestra made a great decision to showcase their performances on the mainland,” said Elliott Falcione, director of the Manatee County Convention and Visitiors Bureau.

“This move to a mainland venue should give the chorus the ability to draw people from the mainland community that will hopefully result in higher attendance,” Falcione said.

However, Peelen said she is upset because the move shows the direction the Island is going with the explosive increase in tourism and the shift from owner-occupied residences to vacation homes.

“My heart is broken,” she said. “What’s next, the elementary school? One problem is the developers don’t care what happens to the residents.”

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, a former Holmes Beach mayor, said she’s sorry to hear the news.

“I feel terrible,” she said. “It’s a shame it had to happen. It’s another Island tradition that has gone by the wayside.”

Duncan gets Bridge Street Pier contract - again
Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

FILE PHOTO

The Bridge Street Pier, as it appeared in this Sun photo from 2010.

BRADENTON BEACH – For the second time in recent months, city commissioners awarded the Bradenton Beach City Pier reconstruction project contract to Duncan Seawall.

Duncan’s proposal came in at $1,483,717, with an estimated completion timetable of 161 days. Work is expected to begin in mid to late July, pending the negotiation of a final contract, which is already underway.

Unlike the 3-2 vote that took place at the May 22 meeting, commissioners were unanimous in their support of Duncan during the Thursday, July 10, special meeting.

The May decision was met immediately with a bid protest filed by Pac Comm, with a second bid protest received from Tampa Bay Marine a few days later.

These bid protests led commissioners to discard all bids received during the original request for proposal (RFP) bid process and put the project out for bid a second time.

The subsequent RFP included a design and build electrical and lighting component that also reduced the city’s exposure to future bid protests.

When contacted Monday morning, Tampa Bay Marine General Manager Chris Theriot said the Gibsonton-based construction firm has no intent to file a bid protest in reaction to last week’s decision, despite being the lowest bidder, at $1,402,879, with an estimated completion time of 172 days.

“We don’t think it was fair, but they can do whatever they want to do,” Theriot said of the decision reached by commission and the Pier Team advisory board.

According to City Attorney Ricinda Perry, as of Monday morning, there was no indication of a bid protest coming from Pac Comm either.

Working closely with Building Official Steve Gilbert, ZNS Engineering Construction Engineering Manager Karen Wilson assisted the city throughout the entire RFP process.

According to the bid evaluation matrix prepared by ZNS in response to the second RFP, Duncan Seawall ranked highest with an evaluation score of 2,684, followed by Tampa Bay Marine at 2,520, and Pac Comm at 1,875.

In contrast to Pac Comm’s original bid, which was the lowest of the three firms, the company’s second bid came in highest at $1,762,783.

Looking back on last week’s meeting, Gilbert said, “The Pier Team recommended Duncan as the best responder. They had the best response to RFP that we put out. They did the best on all of the evaluation score sheets; and in response to the electrical design and build aspect of the project, they provided details and specifics that no one else did.

"That tells me that they put a lot more thought and a lot more effort into the response and we have a much better idea of what we’re getting for the price.”

Center presents growth strategy and budget

Pat Copeland | sun

Grayson Chatt sold his handmade tie-dyed T-shirts
at Monday’s community meeting to raise money
for the Center. T-shirts will be available at the Beach
Market at Coquina Beach on Sunday and at the Center.
Small and medium sizes are $15 and large and extra
large sizes are $20.

ANNA MARIA – In the first public meeting since announcing that the Island Community Center was on the brink of financial disaster, Center officials presented a three-pronged growth strategy and budget to the community.

In the first meeting held June 4, officials said the Center did not have enough money to continue operating for another month and asked for the community’s help in finding solutions to resolve the crisis and move into the future.

Since then, the community has rallied with donations, volunteers and ideas and the Center has embraced them all. In addition, it has cut the budget and developed a growth strategy that includes earned revenue, collaboration and partnerships and community benefit.

“I don’t believe that an organization can just cut its way to solvency,” Executive Director Dawn Stiles told the group at Mondays’ meeting. “There are always ways to save money. There have to be expenses cut, but it’s easier to grow revenue than constantly cut expenses.

“The one thing we never want to do is to lose your operational capacity, and if you only cut and never grow, then when an opportunity comes along to grow revenue, you have no capacity to respond to it.”

She said programs to create new revenue include specialized sports camps, specialty camps, after school care at the elementary school, special needs camps, tutoring, home school classes, specialty teen camps, after school arts programs, a program for children of divorce, parent education, the Dragon Boat team, dog obedience classes and river boat cruises.

Memberships for rental properties

One exciting offering is a membership program for rental property owners, which Stiles said is a “huge opportunity to bring in new revenue. This is an idea to sell memberships to the Community Center to rental property owners.”

She said according to a source, there are 500 rental properties in the city of Anna Maria alone, and six or seven rental companies already have committed to the program at $350 per membership.

“Last week we brought in $11,000 just from one rental agency,” she continued. “We’re providing them with a packet with materials to send to their owners, and they’ll get a membership card to scan into our computer system.”

An idea committee also is in the works to assess ideas submitted following the first community meeting. It will meet on July 24 to discuss the ideas and make recommendations to the board of directors.

Collaborations include the Florida Maritime Museum, Boys and Girls Clubs, Anna Maria Elementary School AMI Chamber of Commerce and Annie Silver Community Center.

“I am so excited about the collaboration with the Annie Silver Community Center, Stile said. “I have been working for a year trying to gain their trust.”

Center employees now drive Annie Silver’s Senior Adventures participants on their field trips and plans are to develop a “Lunch, Learn and Activity” program for them.

The Center is actively involved in partnerships with Cultural Connections, the Panda tennis group, the Volley Academy, Channel Markers tutoring, Sugar Beach Digital, the Ariel Marketing Group and AMIsland.com.

Conservative budget

Stiles said the Center’s budget year is July 1 to June 30, and she called the new budget “solid and conservative. I took last years’ budget and built on it.”

She said she increased donations by $100,000 due to pledges, increased memberships by $32,000 for the rental property program and added $1,600 for the Dragon Boat program. Expenses decreased by $58,000 due to staff changes and health and liability insurance rates are being studied.

“We’ve done so much work since our last meeting,” she pointed out. “We’ve cut expenses, found ways to raise revenue and created a digital presence. We’ve worked really hard to try and address your concerns

“Now we have something to ask of you. We desperately need volunteers, tutors, event chairs and tech support. We need someone to do the match for our annual appeal in early November. If you know someone, we would really appreciate it.”

She also praised the Center’s youths, who have rallied to find ways to raise money for the Center including a lemonade stand and chocolate T-shirt sales and said a Back to the Island fund-raiser involving people who grew up using the Center is in the works.

Gal power at the Community Center

ANNA MARIA – The Island Community Center’s new administrative staff members have brought energy, enthusiasm and refreshing ideas that are reinvigorating the organization and the volunteers.

Programs Developer Jennifer Griffith began work in October, Chief Administrative Officer Wende Webb in February and Education Director Kathy Bogad in March. The three have not only bonded with each other, but also with Executive Director Dawn Stiles.

“There’s lots of collaboration; we build on each other,” Griffith said. “The teamwork is better than anywhere I’ve ever worked.

“Dawn lets us do our jobs. She doesn’t micromanage. She empowers us to be creative and assertive.”

Bogad added, “Dawn gives us great freedom to carry out our responsibilities. This is the best place I’ve worked to have that freedom.”

Webb echoed their thoughts.

“Dawn is so incredible. They hired her for a reason. She has a phenomenal background.

“She has a plan and a vision and she incorporates everybody. It’s a nice mix of backgrounds and ages.”

So who are these ladies and what are their plans?

Kathy Bogad, education director

As a long time educator, Bogad focused on secondary and post-secondary in both public and private schools in Palm Beach County and then owned a home school business.

She came to Bradenton three years ago and worked at Edison Academics as a teacher, dean of student affairs, a board member and acting director before she and partners opened their own school.

“Although it was only open a brief time, it was a very valuable experience, “ she said. “I learned a lot and it gave me great insight into the Florida Department of Education and international criteria.

She said she saw the posting for the job at the Center, applied and was hired to take charge of the before and after school and summer camp programs.

“I plan to take my vision of the programs in place and expand on them to meet the needs of the children, families and community. It is education, not only in the sense of academics, but also giving children and parents the skills and information they need.”

She said safety and communication are two of her top priorities, and she wants parents to know what their children are doing on a daily basis and to feel secure that their children are in a safe environment.

“I’m envisioning for the children at the Center lots of choices in arts, academic enrichment and sports. For example, we will have a tennis clinic in which the Panda Foundation will provide equipment and instruction to give the children a taste of tennis and hopefully ignite a spark of interest.”

“We will be bringing in qualified experts and professionals in various fields to work with parents and children so they can get good information in order to make informed decisions.”

She said she hopes to offer home school support, is in the process of creating a digital/social media team of kids with the help of Sugar Beach Digital and plans to offer parent education seminars on topics that will benefit the children and their families.

Jennifer Griffith, programs developer

Griffith grew up in Bradenton, graduated from Manatee High School and then got her bachelor’s degree in communications from USF. She worked for 15 years in Tennessee before returning home to Bradenton with her son.

“With the staff changes, it has given me more hats to wear,” she said. “I’m trying to focus on new programs and enhance the ones we have that are successful like the Dragon Boat team, which has had a huge response.”

She said the Dragon Boat program offers great team building skills and team members are developing a team-building workshop to market to other area companies. She also is restructuring the popular pickleball program to include league play.

“We have a new marketing committee that is full of amazing, talented professionals who are helping us get our name out and increase participation in existing programs. There’s never been a marketing plan or a budget for marketing. Now we have a variety of people to bring in some powerful marketing tools and teach us how to do that.”

She also is overseeing the member advisory committee, which includes users and representatives of the various programs available at the Center.

“All aspects of the Center are represented to give us feedback and input on ideas that will impact them so all the members have a voice.

“We’re working really hard to be responsive to the community and their needs and wants, but most importantly, we are giving the Center back to the community.

Wende Webb, chief administrative officer

Webb is well known on the Island for her work with the AMI Chamber of Commerce and her many years as marketing manager with ServePro of Bradenton. But she is much more complex that that.

She sold the first bottle of hand sanitizer in the U.S., invented egg crate foam pads for the commercial market, studied ballet in Russia, was the first female surveyor in Colorado, has a degree in nutrition from UF and published a college text book on nutrition.

“What qualifies me for this job?” she asked. “Nothing and everything. It sounded interesting with enough facets to use my entire background. It’s teamwork. I like that. Everybody is excited to be here.”

As the chief administrative officer, she handles administrative operations, fundraisers, marketing, insurance, grants and financials. She is developing protocols for programs and said, “I saw a lot of inefficiencies. New eyes see things differently to save money and time.”

She also works closely with Bogad and Griffith on various programs and projects and pointed out. “The three of us had to figure it out because there was no one to ask. We get feedback from each other. We all work together really well, and we can count on each other.”

“It’s the best time to be an employee here, to be in a position to build and grow” Bogad added.

“And be part of the evolution,” Griffith concluded.

Arts and culture groups seek to increase volunteers

ANNA MARIA – Members of Cultural Connections, representing the Island’s arts and culture groups, are working on ways to increase their volunteer base.

Maureen McCormick, of the group’s volunteer committee reported, “One of the commonalities that we’ve found in all the groups is that we’re losing our volunteer base. They’re aging out and moving out. What we wanted to do is reignite that sense of volunteerism on the Island.”

She said the committee recommends a three-pronged approach – develop a database, hold a volunteer fair and present a volunteer appreciation program.

“There is a data base on a site called handsonmanatee and it’s hosted by the United Way,” she told the group. “You don’t have to be a social services organization to participate. You can go there and list a one time event that you need volunteers for or list your on-going need.”

The volunteer fair would be open to all the non-profits who have a need for volunteers, and the event could be held at CrossPointe Fellowship or the Community Center.

“People could learn about many organizations in one place,” Marsha Bard, of Ultraviolet Expressions, pointed out.

“It’s how you become part of the community,” Joan Voyles, of the Artists Guild of AMI, added.

Members approved a motion to proceed with planning a volunteer fair in January 2015.

McCormick said the volunteer appreciation program has not been developed yet.

In other business

Sissy Quinn, of AMI Preservation Trust, reported on her new group Community Connections, which is bringing together neighbors to meet and support each other.

“There’s a lot of people who are isolated, and judging by the actions of people who have been coming to the first few meetings we’ve had, it’s obvious that here’s a real need for some people. They can make friends with people and in between these meetings, they can can further their relationships.”

The next meeting of Community Connections will be on July 17 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Community Center, and everyone is asked to bring a covered dish.

Holmes Beach Commissioner Marvin Grossman said he hopes to promote an event in the city field by city hall in March to showcase the arts and “things that people who live here would be interested in” such as beatification seminars.

Voyles asked members to take the idea back to their boards for discussion. The next meeting of Cultural Connections was set for Thursday, July 24, at 1:30 p.m. in the boardroom

Fishing trip goes horribly wrong

PHOTO | SUBMITTED

Austin Goncalves remains hospitalized after eating toxic fish.

A family trip in the Bahamas took a nightmarish turn when four members of the vacationing party with ties to Anna Maria Island became seriously ill with ciguatera fish poisoning.

Ciguatera is caused by a marine microalgae called Gambierdiscus toxicus that is found growing in reefs. When the larger fish eat the smaller fish that eat the algae, the toxins accumulate inside them at levels dangerous to the humans that consume them.

One of the victims was 14-year-old Cortez resident Marlin Ellis, the son of Marianne Norman-Ellis and her husband Adam. The couple owns the Blue Marlin restaurant in Bradenton Beach, and she works for her father’s real estate company, Mike Norman Realty.

After eating the contaminated fish, Ellis and his 15-year-old friend, Austin Goncalves, from Bradenton, were rushed to a Bahamian hospital, joined by Austin’s mother, Karen, and her boyfriend, who were also in bad shape, but better off than the boys.

“My son and his friend caught two giant reef fish. They ate the fish twice and really don’t remember much of what happened next. All four of them started getting sick. By the time they got to the hospital, they were hallucinating and couldn’t explain what was wrong, so they had no idea how to treat them. Marlin had full on LSD-type hallucinations for five days,” Norman-Ellis said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), barracuda, black grouper, blackfin, cubera and dog snapper, greater amberjack, hogfish, horse-eye jack, king mackerel and yellowfin grouper have been known to carry ciguatoxins. Norman-Ellis said she believes the contaminated fish was a porgie, but is not certain.

Ciguatoxin is odorless, tasteless and very heat-resistant, so ciguatoxin-laden fish cannot be detoxified by conventional cooking.

On the Fourth of July, Norman-Ellis received a call from Austin’s mother explaining what happened.

“We were told this was one of the most severe cases ever documented, and Austin had it the worst,” Norman-Ellis said.

She and her husband caught a plane to the Bahamas that day and chartered a plane to fly their son to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, where hospital staff said it was the first case of ciguatera they had seen.

When able to travel, Austin was also transported to Miami, where he continues to receive treatment.

Marlin is now home after spending four days in the Miami hospital’s intensive care unit.

“My son has made a wonderful recovery,” Norman-Ellis said, while expressing continued concern for Austin.

Both boys with will be freshman at Manatee High in the fall.

“They don’t know the long term effects, and it’s something that’s probably going to be in their systems for life. Marlin is not supposed to eat seafood for six months and Austin may never be able to eat seafood again,” she added.

Summing up the lessons learned from this horrific experience, Norman-Ellis said, “When travelling in the Caribbean, don’t eat the really big fish, and when traveling to a foreign country, find out where the hospitals are located. The hospital my son was at was a free hospital, and they didn’t have the means to treat them. Down the street was a different hospital where there might have been a different result. Until we flew them back to the states, no one knew what was wrong with them.”

Working in conjunction with the Blue Marlin, Jill Capparelli, assistant manager of the Drift In, is organizing a benefit for Austin that will take place on Saturday, Aug. 2. To donate or assist, contact Caparelli at 941-526-6641.

Commission passes ordinances on signs and special events

ANNA MARIA – The city commission voted last Thursday to pass two ordinances and one resolution.

It first held a second and final public hearing on changes to the sign code to allow special exeptions for businesses that can prove they need A-frame signs, which the commission made illegal.

Mayor SueLynn said the portion of the ordinance that reads, “The sign special exception will be in harmony with the general purpose and intent of this chapter and will not be injurious to the neighborhood or surrounding property and will not otherwise (be) detrimental to the safe and convenient use of nearby rights of way” was open to interpretation.

Building Official Bob Welch said it would be up to the person wanting the special exception to consider public safety when putting out A-frame signs.

City Planner Alan Garrett said part of the ordinance was intentionally left vague so the city could use its judgment when determining the need for the special exception. The mayor said it also gives a lot of room for the applicant to determine what’s right. City Attorney Jim Dye said it would force the applicant to consider the existing neighborhood when applying for an exemption.

“When they evaluate what’s proposed, they would have to consider what’s existing,” he said, adding there would be “wiggle room” in the amendment.

Commission Chair Chuck Webb said the sign code has a provision that sets 1984 as the date for non-conformity. Any non-conforming sign would have to have been in existence before then.

The commission voted to pass the amendment and afterward, the mayor addressed the A-frame signs.

“If someone picks up a form to get a special exception and once they fill it out and return it, they would have to get on the agenda for approval,” she said. “I am not going to enforce the A-frame signs until Monday, August 11.”

The commission passed a resolution with new fees for city services and permits. After being passed, the city will take 30 days to update the fees.

The commissioners also passed on second reading the special event ordinance. It requires a special event permit for wedding receptions at private homes unless the home is owned by the bride or groom of their families and would not be subject to a fee. Special events are required for events that include amplified music, tents or chairs. Chairs for the infirm or handicapped are allowed without a permit. Garage sales do not need special event permits.