Bradenton Beach pier renovation to cost $1.2M-plus

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By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

City clerk Jamie Anderson opens sealed construction bids for the renovation of the Historic Bridge Street Pier during the April 21 public meeting at the Tingley Memorial Library, 111 Second St. W., Bradenton Beach. Islander Photo: Merab-Michal Favorite

City clerk Jamie Anderson opens sealed construction bids for the renovation of the Historic Bridge Street Pier during the April 21 public meeting at the Tingley Memorial Library, 111 Second St. W., Bradenton Beach. Islander Photo: Merab-Michal Favorite

Bradenton Beach city officials finally saw a step forward in the long — more than two-year — process to renovate the city pier.

The good news? The project is fully funded.

Proposals are in for the Historic Bridge Street Pier renovation and the lowest bid exceeds $1.2 million.

The sealed bids were opened during a public meeting April 21 at the Tingley Memorial Library, 111 Second St. W., Bradenton Beach.

Five construction companies submitted bids, seeking to win the contract.

The lowest proposal, $1,202,140.94, was submitted by Miami-based Pac Comm Inc.

Tampa Bay Marine of Gibsonton had the second lowest bid at $1,237,487. Shoreline Foundation Inc. of West Park bid $1,258,543, and Duncan Seawall of Sarasota bid $1,309,452. The most expensive was the bid from a Louisiana-based construction company, Russell Marine, at $1,854,625.

The city will not know which company will be awarded the contract until ZNS Engineering analyzes the bid proposals. That could take about two weeks, according to Steve Gilbert, planning official for Bradenton Beach.

“We look at several factors, including local preference, time projection and whether the plan satisfies all the needs of the city,” Gilbert said.

After the bids are analyzed, the city staff will make a recommendation and the Bradenton Beach City Commission will have final approval.

Of the 11 companies represented at a mandatory pre-bid meeting March 18 at city hall, only five submitted bids.

Gilbert said that is typical in the bid process.

“What happens is the contractors have conflicting projects and therefore don’t complete the process,” he said. “It just depends on what they have going on.”

He said construction on the pier will begin in June, but completion is dependent on the weather since it will fall in hurricane season.

If the project begins as scheduled, it will be reach completion about 10 months from the original completion target date of August 2013.

But the delay proved to be beneficial.

It resulted in an agreement for a $1 million matching-fund partnership with Manatee County, easing the financial worries of Bradenton Beach. Still, officials have been on edge to get the project started.

The pier will be funded through a joint effort by the city of Bradenton Beach Community Redevelopment Agency and Manatee County government.

The Manatee County Tourist Development Council recommended up to $1 million in matching funds for the project.

According to Mayor Bill Shearon, the county and the city CRA will split invoices as they are processed.

The county agreed to pay its share of each invoice within 30 days of receiving the bill.

– See more at: http://www.islander.org/2014/04/bradenton-beach-pier-renovation-to-cost-1-2m-plus/#sthash.iqb4HAs6.dpuf

BBPD dismisses security breach

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By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

An alleged security breach at Bradenton Beach City Hall was investigated, but the Bradenton Beach Police Department found no evidence to prompt charges.

The BBPD was investigating a report of unauthorized sharing of city files after ELRA Inc. attorney Robert Lincoln sent an email to city attorney Ricinda Perry questioning Mayor Bill Shearon’s authority to give two employees pay raises.

The city clerk’s office noted that Lincoln had attached photos of city personnel records that had not been obtained through normal channels.

ELRA, the corporate entity for the BeacHhouse Restaurant, is suing the mayor, claiming the city charter defines his mayoral position as part of a weak-mayor system of government and alleging that Shearon has tried to remold the position to give him more authority.

The police investigation found that public works employee Christine Watson took photographs of documents and provided them to Lincoln. The records show $1-per-hour pay raises for two administrative employees, Tammy Johnson and Audra Lanzaro, according to the police report.

Of concern was whether the documents were taken and photographed without consent.

The investigation resulted in no criminal charges.

Investigating BBPD Sgt. Lenard Diaz said it was his opinion that no criminal acts occurred within the city government because the files, which are normally in a locked file cabinet, were said to be found on a desk in plain view when the photographs were taken.

City clerk Jamie Anderson told police the files had been moved from former deputy clerk Karen Cervetto’s office in order to have the room painted. Cervetto resigned in January after being disciplined by Shearon.

The investigation revealed that Watson took the photographs in January with her cellphone, when she noticed the documents on the desk while painting in some of the city offices.

Tom Woodward, the city’s public works director, said he would issue Watson a verbal warning.

Woodward said he did not believe Watson’s actions were malicious because news of the raises had upset several employees who claimed the mayor did not follow protocol for salary increases.

Johnson issued an email response to commissioners and city department heads regarding the conclusion of the investigation. In the email, she expressed her disappointment with the results.

“Regardless of whether there were criminal activities or not, unethical and unprofessional activities certainly took place, and that seems to have been swept under the carpet,” she wrote. “Someone employed by the city passed on illicitly gained information to an attorney who is in litigation with the city.”

Shearon defended his decision to issue pay raises, noting that Johnson and Lanzaro had no supervision, were acting as department heads and took on a lot more responsibility after longtime City Clerk Nora Idso resigned in November due to health issues.

“The problem was I couldn’t act as a department head, so I chose to make them department heads, my administrative staff was depleted by half.” he said. “The ship was sinking and I had to plug a hole.”

The pay raises were included in the $47,564 budget amendment that was approved by commissioners at the April 17 commission meeting.

In other business

The commission April 17 voted 3-2, with Shearon and Vice Mayor Janie Robertson opposed, to require that the city attorney communicate with all commissioners, not just the mayor, when discussing litigation.

During the April meeting, Robertson pulled an invoice for Perry that details her work from the consent agenda, saying she is uncomfortable with Lincoln communicating with Perry, who had charged the city for the conferences.

Robertson said Lincoln should be communicating with the mayor’s attorney Charles F. Johnson, of Blalock Walters, not the city attorney.

“We are not being informed about what is really going on in any of the lawsuits,” she said. “We are not getting any updates from any attorneys.”

Perry said she is obliged to respond to Lincoln in certain situations, but said she could “handle herself” if she believed Lincoln was taking advantage of the situation. She said she is required by law to provide Lincoln with public records and to discuss certain items in order to give him background.

Discussion ensued and Commissioner Jan Vosburgh made a motion to have Perry copy all commissioners when conferring litigation with the mayor.

Shearon assured the commission that there was no duplication of counsel and opposed the motion. “I’d like to see you try this and run the city,” he said.

– See more at: http://www.islander.org/2014/04/bbpd-dismisses-security-breach/#sthash.dVKPeEJV.dpuf

MCSO: Woman stole $100K-plus from marina

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By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

McWilliams

McWilliams 

A Myakka woman was arrested April 23 for allegedly stealing more than $100,000 from a business where she worked for more than 10 years.

Kristine Louise McWilliams, 46, faces charges of grand theft over $100,000 and scheming to defraud over $50,000.

The theft occurred over the course of a year, according to the police report.

McWilliams was employed as the bookkeeper for Cannons Marina, 6040 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key, for about 10 years, the report said.

During her tenure, she reportedly performed bookkeeping duties that included making bank deposits.

Around July 2013, David Miller, the business owner, noticed discrepancies in the cash and check deposits and found modified deposit slips.

A forensic audit of subpoenaed bank records revealed modified slips with the cash portion of the deposit greatly reduced or missing.

From June 1, 2012, to July 10, 2013, McWilliams allegedly modified more than 100 deposits, pocketing cash of as much as $109,506.16.

Lucile Capo-Miller, public relations director for Cannons Marina and wife of owner David Miller, said the incident was “unfortunate” but would not comment further.

McWilliams was being held at the Manatee County jail on a $10,000 bond. She was released April 26.

Her arraignment will be Friday, May 9, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

– See more at: http://www.islander.org/2014/04/mcso-woman-stole-100k-plus-from-marina/#sthash.4EgIBb1a.dpuf

Sunday Favorites: Doctors, Healers and Midwives

Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 12.21.15 PMPublished Sunday, April 20, 2014 12:05 am
by Merab-Michal Favorite

Seminole Chief Holata Micco, also known as Billy Bowlegs, practiced self-inflicted bleeding to help cleanse the body of infections.

Seminole Chief Holata Micco, also known as Billy
Bowlegs, practiced self-inflicted bleeding to help
cleanse the body of infections.

For the most part, early settlers had to self-treat their wounds using natural remedies to heal the infections and diseases that befell them.

While some treatment methods could be considered acceptable by today’s standards, others such as purging the stomach, bleeding and the use of leeches might be considered irrational.

The Seminoles used herbs and bleeding to cleanse their bodies in times of sickness. In the book The Lures of Manatee, by Lillie McDuffee, the Wyatt family discovered a band of Seminoles, Seminole Chief Billy Bowlegs among them. The group had been quarantined from the rest of their tribe and was conducting the bleeding method of cleansing.

The first doctor to come to the area was Dr. John Oliver Brown who moved to Palmetto in 1893 at the age of 24 to practice medicine.

Brown was particularly interested in typhoid and malaria (also referred to “Intermittent Fear”) fevers. At the time, most doctors believed that inhaling rotting vegetation caused malaria. However, Brown associated the disease with mosquitoes and ordered all open-water wells filled and all rainwater cisterns covered because he believed it would reduce the population.

Brown served the community for 57 years, delivering 976 babies and traveling as many as 30 miles on horseback to tend to his patients.

The Manatee Mineral Spring was thought to have healing powers. It was used by native Americans and settled by Manatee's first white pioneer, Josiah Gates, in January 1842. It served Fort Branch when the early settlers camped nearby for protection from the Seminole raid of 1856.

The Manatee Mineral Spring was thought to have healing powers. It was used by native Americans and settled by Manatee’s first white pioneer, Josiah Gates, in January 1842. It served Fort Branch when the early settlers camped nearby for protection from the Seminole raid of 1856.

When a doctor wasn’t available, the women in the community served as healers. Pioneer housewives had access to medical books for guidance.

Each family kept a garden near their home containing essential medicinal herbs. According to historian Adam Wescott, palmetto berries and pennyroyal tea were used for colds and flu, soda and ginger helped treated colic, lemon, honey and horehound were used for cough, cinnamon and nutmeg helped with diarrhea, willow bark reduced fever, oak bark tea or a drop of turpentine on a lump of sugar was used for worms, chewed tobacco poultice was applied to insect stings and kerosene or animal fat healed wounds.

But people with more severe sicknesses or long term illnesses might seek out a more experienced “herb woman” or be taken to the doctor, which often meant traveling many miles to the next town or city.

Northern doctors prescribed a trip to Florida for several diseases such as tuberculosis. That is how many of the area pioneers ended up in Manatee County.
The fact that people came to Florida to better their health was also enticing to doctors.

Dr. Franklin Branch, born in 1802 in Orwell, Vermont, moved to the Village of Manatee in October 1846 and purchased the land that included the Manatee Mineral Spring.

Dr. Franklin Branch planned to begin a sanatorium, utilizing the springs' healing powers to cure his patients. However, the sanatorium became a fortified encampment during the Third Seminole War and Branch's plan never came to fruition.

Dr. Franklin Branch planned to begin a sanatorium, utilizing the springs’ healing powers to cure his patients. However, the sanatorium became a fortified encampment during the Third Seminole War and Branch’s plan never came to fruition.

Branch planned to build a sanatorium and utilize the supposed healing properties of the mineral spring to treat his patients.

The buildings he constructed were instead fortified with sable palm trunks for protection against the Seminoles. Instead of patients, residents of Manatee occupied the structures of what became known as “Fort Branch” for nine months, during the Third Seminole War.

During that time, Branch delivered three babies and treated a variety of ailments. Following the death of his wife, he sold his property and moved his practice elsewhere.

Dr. John S. Helms arrived in Palmetto in 1896. Immediately, he noticed many of the area’s children featured sallow complexions and behaved lethargically. He discovered they were suffering from hookworm, an often-fatal ailment that plagued many southern states. A simple step of better sanitation eradicated the parasite. Helms later opened a drugstore at Ninth Avenue and Fourth Street.

The germ theory of disease did not become the basis of treatment until the late 1800s.

One of the babies delivered at Fort Branch was Furman Charles Whitaker, the first native-born resident of Manatee County to become a doctor and practice in the area.

Furman had injured his elbow as a boy, without the capability of doing physical labor, he was sent to Danville, Kentucky to study. He returned in 1877, at the end of the Civil War.

He established his medical practice first in Sarasota in 1896, then in Bradenton in 1898. From 1906-1909 Furman practiced general medicine, then went to New York City for his specialty diploma. He was the first Eye, Ear and Nose specialist to practice in Manatee County, returning in 1911.

 Dr. Furman Whittaker became Manatee County's first native-born doctor and Manatee County's first eye, ears and throat specialist.


Dr. Furman Whittaker became Manatee County’s first native-born doctor and Manatee County’s first eye, ears and throat specialist.

Dr. Jack Halton was the first doctor to open a practice in Sarasota, 1904. Four years later, he opened the Halton Sanatorium. However, many historians believe it was his wife who was the real healer in the family.

Back then, women could not earn their doctorate, but they could become midwives.

Cornelia Ponder, of Punta Gorda, was one of the most well-known midwives in the region. Born in 1874 in Georgia, she received medical training was the only midwife to serve the Punta Gorda area during the turn of the century, delivering babies of all ethnicities although she was black. She delivered hundreds of babies in the region.

Antibiotics weren’t invented until the 1930s. Today they are prescribed without a thought, but it wasn’t that long ago that simple herbal ingredients did the job.

 

Caregiver accused of abusing elderly Holmes Beach man

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By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

A home health aide was arrested April 10 after she allegedly tied a 95-year-old patient to his bed and physically and mentally abused him.

Franklin

Franklin

Joan Smith Franklin, 68, 100 block of Hammock Road, Anna Maria, faces charges of abusing and neglecting an elderly person after she failed to provide the man with proper care and caused him great pain, according to the probable cause affidavit filed by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Franklin has served as the man’s caretaker for more than two years, according to the PCA. She visited the man regularly at his residence on the 600 block of Key Royale Drive in Holmes Beach.

Franklin told The Islander that she is not guilty and plans to fight the charges.

“I was not aware that you can be arrested based on the false accusations of another person,” she said. “I just hope my case helps to brings attention to others in the same situation.”

The patient was immobile due to multiple hip fractures.

He told deputies that Franklin threatened to “break his bones” if he did not lay still. He also accused her of being “very rough when manipulating his body.”

He told the deputy she would often pull his hair when she wanted him to sit up, the report said.

Franklin also allegedly refused to take the victim to his Feb. 28 doctor’s appointment.

A witness told police she saw Franklin tie the victim to the bed, verbally abuse him and pull his hair, the report stated.

Franklin said she has been a caregiver for more than 50 years. She said she is a longtime resident of Anna Maria Island, where she raised her three grandchildren.

Franklin said she routinely volunteers at the elementary school and for community functions. She said receiving a speeding ticket was the closest she’s ever come to being in trouble with the law.

“When you see this, you think, ‘How can this happen?’” she said. “But it can happen to anyone.”

According to the report, Franklin said she restrained the man, but did so to protect him from getting out of bed and hurting himself.

She told The Islander she could not discuss details of the case.

Franklin was taken to the Manatee County jail and released the next day on a $3,000 bond.

Her arraignment will be at 9 a.m., Friday, April 25, at the Manatee County Judicial Center, 1051 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

– See more at: http://www.islander.org/2014/04/caregiver-accused-of-abusing-elderly-holmes-beach-man/#sthash.h8D6xePR.dpufhttp://www.islander.org/2014/04/caregiver-accused-of-abusing-elderly-holmes-beach-man/

Bradenton Beach to crack down on ‘derelict vessels’

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By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

In Bradenton Beach, a certain derelict sailboat without a mast doesn’t want to stay put.

The boat is now tied up to the public dock on 12th Street South, but broke away from its anchorage, got tied up to the dock, then broke away again.

There seems to be no way of keeping the vessel in place as the dock lines are rotted.

“I get complaints all the time about this boat,” commissioner Jan Vosburgh said during a work session April 15. “People are saying it’s ruining the dock and fear it could be dangerous if it breaks away again.”

A dinghy dock serves as a landing point for boaters anchored off the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach. Officials say the number of boats at the anchorage has doubled in the past two years. Islander Photo: Merab-Michal Favorite

A dinghy dock serves as a landing point for boaters anchored off the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Bradenton Beach. Officials say the number of boats at the anchorage has doubled in the past two years. Islander Photo: Merab-Michal Favorite

The boat on 12th Street is just one of a number of a rising number of vessels anchored off the Historic Bridge Street Pier in Sarasota Bay that are creating concerns for law enforcement.

Mayor Bill Shearon said the Bradenton Beach Police Department now will work with the U.S. Coast Guard at Station Cortez and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law enforcement arm to make sure all the boats anchored offshore are registered with the state.

“Instead of waiting until the thing sinks, or breaks loose and floats into a dock we are trying to be proactive instead of reactive on this,” he said. “That way we reduce the expense of recovering submerged vessels or repairing damages.”

All boats in Florida for 90 days or more require registration from the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles, according to dmv.org. The only boats exempt are those used strictly as lifeboats or cruisers traveling through who do not plan to stay more than three months.

Boats must be registered with the tax collector’s office within 30 days of purchase and require a sized-based registration fee ranging from $12-$200.

The U.S. Coast Guard and Florid Fish and Wildlife routinely inspect the boats anchored offshore to make sure they are in compliance with environmental laws regarding sewers and greywater, or wastewater generated from washbasins and baths.

However, Police Chief Sam Speciale said most of boaters are good about the environmental regulations, registration often gets overlooked.

“The problem with the boats here, is that many of them have been here for years,” he said. “When one person decides they don’t want to be a liveaboard anymore, they simply give the boat to someone else to live on.”

Speciale says that while original owners usually hand over the title, they often forget to register the vessel to the new owner. The exchange tends to create confusion in the event of a boat breaking loose from it’s holding.

“When the boat is adrift, (the BBPD) is left solving the mystery as to who owns the boat,” he said.

Boats that look dilapidated are considered “at risk” and are tagged by law enforcement authorities, entered into a database and tracked, according to the FWC website myfwc.org. A letter to the owner asks that he or she take action. If no one responds to the letter or tag, the vessel is considered derelict and may be removed by law enforcement at the owner’s expense. However, before this occurs, citizens have the right to claim the vessel as found property. As long as the person goes through the required steps to legally own the vessel, he or she can become the skipper.

Speciale said a vessel considered at risk will now be deemed a derelict vessel and posted, regardless of whether there is someone living aboard.

“What this is going to do is force the people living on the boat to have it registered,” he said. “They will have to claim it as found property and go through the required steps to keep it there.”

Speciale said there has been an influx of livaboards over the past two years as a result of the city of Sarasota operations at its mooring field in Sarasota Bay just outside of Marina Jack, 2 Marina Plaza.

The field allows for 35 vessels at a time and requires a fee of $250 a month or $25 a day for the use of the anchorage and amenities. Features include showers and laundry, Wi-Fi, a pumping vessel, a trash and recycling service and more.

Speciale said that many of the people who used to live on boats near Marina Jack relocated in the anchorage near the Historic Bridge Street Pier because they had access to many of the same amenities minus the price.

He also said the city of Bradenton Beach planned to create and operate its own mooring field 10 years ago, adding space on the pier for a harbormaster office, laundry and showers, however the plan never came to fruition.

“We decided that we would be spending more than we could take in,” he said. “So the effort was abandoned.”

Today the showers and restrooms still exist, but are closed after business hours of the restaurants located on the pier.

The number of boats that call the harbor home has doubled.

“We think focusing on the registration is going to solve a lot of issues,” Speciale said.

– See more at: http://www.islander.org/2014/04/bradenton-beach-to-crack-down-on-derelict-vessels/#sthash.ISLIkCZO.CDeXFqgJ.dpuf

ELRA opposes city’s motions to dismiss, substitute parties

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By Merab-Michal Favorite, Islander Reporter

Owners of the BeachHouse Restaurant have opposed a motion to list Bradenton Beach as the defendant in a lawsuit filed against the mayor, saying the mayor bears all the responsibility of alleged wrongdoing.

Robert Lincoln, the attorney representing BeachHouse corporate owner ELRA Inc. and its owner, Ed Chiles, has opposed a motion from the city to substitute parties and to dismiss portions of the lawsuit filed in February against Mayor Bill Shearon.

Charles F. Johnson, of Blalock Walters, representing Shearon on behalf of the city, filed a motion to substitute parties March 3, arguing the real party interest is the city, not Shearon, and the lawsuit should reflect that.

However, Lincoln responded that the city isn’t the problem and substituting parties would not make sense. Lincoln did not return phone calls from The Islander.

ELRA’s lawsuit challenges a pattern of past behavior and statements made by Shearon. It alleges he overstepped his authority and has a conflict of interest in another ongoing lawsuit, Meilner-Martin v. ELRA-Bradenton Beach, to terminate a development agreement between the city and ELRA for a parking lot on the beach.

Johnson alleges the city charter provides for a weak-mayor system of government and claims that Shearon has tried to remold the position to reflect his position.

According to Paul Ferber, part-time city resident and former political science professor at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, the biggest difference between the two systems is that in a strong-mayor system, the mayor has the authority to hire and fire the department heads.

“Only the full commission has the power to do this in Bradenton Beach and, thus, what we clearly have here is the weak-mayor system,” Ferber said in an email.

However, the ELRA suit alleges Shearon was acting as a “strong mayor” when he threatened department heads if they failed to provide evidence to sway the commission to deny the development agreement.

Shearon has denied those allegations.

“I was elected by the people to run the city in the best way I can,” he said. “They seem to have a problem with how I’m running the city and thoughts about how I should be running the city, yet, neither one of them live here. Maybe they should move here and run for mayor.”

If Shearon where part of a strong-mayor government, he would have more executive authority over the city and would not be able to vote on the commission, according to Ferber.

At the March 20 commission meeting, Vice Mayor Janie Robertson motioned to reaffirm the mayor as the administrator of Bradenton Beach as described by the city charter and employee handbook.

However, her motion died for lack of a second. Robertson asked if the city would adopt an organizational chart in the future, and Shearon said that was his intent.

The lawsuit also alleges that Shearon has a conflict of interest in the Meilner-Martin lawsuit, which originally listed Shearon, fellow planning and zoning board member Jo Ann Meilner, and Shearon’s partner Tjet Martin as plaintiffs.

Shearon withdrew from the lawsuit after winning the November municipal election, but ELRA claims Shearon still has a conflict because his significant other, Tjet Martin, remains a plaintiff.

Shearon said that while he and Martin are a couple and run a business together, they are not legally married and do not share bank accounts.

“She is funding the lawsuit on her own,” Shearon said. “I pulled out of that lawsuit before I was sworn in and have not spent a dime of my money on that case, therefore, there is no conflict of interest.”

The ELRA v. mayor lawsuit also alleges the mayor violated Florida’s Sunshine Laws through email communications. It also alleges he spoke with Meilner privately on city business in 2012 when they both served on the P&Z board.

Meilner denied any wrongdoing, saying their conversations were not about agenda items, merely a friendly exchange between colleagues about routine items.

“They are reaching here,” she said. “They must be desperate if they are throwing around these accusations. Bill and I never discussed city issues outside city chambers.

Shearon said that while he has no animosity toward ELRA, there has been a perceived difference of opinion concerning the lawsuit.

“What’s really disappointing to me is that they could have come and talked to me about this disagreement but, unfortunately, there has been a lack of communication on Mr. Chiles’ part,” Shearon said.

“With all the problems facing the city, (the lawsuit) is a waste of my time and taxpayer money,” he said.