Friday, January 31, 2014

Seasonal Ferry Hours from Palm Island Transit

NOTICE
BEGINNING ON MONDAY, FEBRUARY 3RD, THERE WILL BE 2 FERRIES
RUNNING ALL DAY.  ‘TIS THE SEASON!
ON MONDAY, FEBRUARY 10TH, WE WILL BE EXTENDING THE FERRY HOURS UNTIL 11:00 PM, SUNDAY THROUGH FRIDAY.  SATURDAY’S  WE WILL
CONTINUE TO RUN UNTIL 12 AM.
 WE WILL RETURN TO OUR REGULAR OPERATING HOURS ON SUNDAY APRIL 20TH.

Monday, January 27, 2014

The 2014 PIE Annual Membership Meeting

Registration at the Annual Meeting
 1.26.2014: PIE President Jim Gordon called the 2014 Annual Membership Meeting to order after the rush of membership renewals and balloting had finished. The reading of the meeting minutes from the 2013 Annual Meeting was waived.

OFFICER REPORTS
President’s Report (Jim Gordon)
Jim reported that PIE had two main focuses in 2013, based on the input from the Island Poll: keeping the membership informed and being more representative of the membership in civic affairs.
We believe that we accomplished this through: website updates, more communication with the Board of County Commissioners, the R&B Advisory Committee and the Island Fire & EMS Study Group.
Ongoing PIE activities include annual testing of the waterways (Island Watch), environmental activities (WHPP, Turtle Patrol, Gopher Tortoise Conservation Team), social activities (New Years Day Parade, Street Dance, Pancake Breakfast, Art in the Palms) and community services (Beach Cleanup & Cookout, free house numbering, Island directory).
Financially, the year went very well and as a result we increased our charitable donations. We are also having growth in our membership: we may hit our target of 200 members this year.

There are lots of projects planned for next year, which means we may be dipping into our reserves by approximately $10K. More will be spent to maintain beach accesses (using professional help), more will be spent on Info Central presentations and we anticipate more spending on donations.  Kjell pointed out that WHPP received a generous donation from Southern Design, and it was also mentioned that the Gopher Tortoise Conservation Team gets donations as well.

47 members attended the meeting
COMMITTEE REPORTS
Roads & Bridges Report (Dave Witters)
The R&B Advisory Committee is working to not waste our R&B tax dollars. We are presently stuck with a 2-year contract with the former County contractor, which expires in September.  We changed the scope of the contract work plan to re-grade all of the unpaved roads to a 4% pitch.  The cable company will first mark and move (if necessary) underground lines that cross the road, but BE PREPARED for service interruption when lines are cut.  Also, the County will trim vegetation in the right-of-ways, but they do not want to disturb homeowner plantings.  So check your curbside and clear of vegetation. 
We are looking into new underlayment material because it will be less costly and more durable.  It is like a #89 rock: mostly coral & 20% shell (like driveway material). The current price is $6/ton, compared to the contractors’ bid material ($38/ton plus 12% profit plus 9% overhead).  Everything will need to be re-bid out when the current contract expires.
We sent the new material to the PA experts, and are waiting for the report to come back to see if material will be appropriate.  Tentative start for grading is MARCH. [ed. note: following the meeting we received the attached letter from Lindsey Matz Johnson, Finance Director of General Contracting Services, Inc. with further information about the roads] 

Social Committee Report (Pat Gordon for Suzy Kett)
PIE Social is planning the same roster of annual activities, but they are also considering bringing back “Pig in the Palms”, a casual pig roast/barbeque/luau to be held either at the ferry landing or on the beach some time around Spring Break in April.  Other ideas circulating were: possible neighborhood tag sale, new neighbor mixers to meet new Island owners.

Kjell announced that the WHPP packet of environmental information would be converted to an online version for the PIE website this year. Two residents who are building in 2014 are working with WHPP to preserve tortoise burrows and native vegetation. Also in 2014 they will have one additional GTC Team member apply for State Gopher Tortoise Agent status. There will then be two team members certified by Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Kjell Plotkin reports for WHPP
This February a new gopher tortoise program called 'Build a Berm' will be introduced to the community.  The objective of this program is to provide a foraging area for gopher tortoises while enhancing your yard with a small interesting landscape element.  Five residents participated in successful test projects in 2013.
One last issue regarding gopher tortoises...there were 8 gopher tortoises run over this past year...that number should be ZERO!  
The Annual Septic Pump-Out will be in March, check the PIE website for details.  PIE Environmental will work on a program for the anaerobic systems in 2014.

Island Watch (Dick Sadenwater)
The water supply hookup to Englewood Water District is in progress. The Bocilla Utilities plant on the Island is expected to be phased out starting in February.  According to BU owner Craig Noden, there will be no immediate changes to the water charges.  Water lines are presently being pressure tested and sanitized. 
Dick also mentioned Fire & EMS community meeting coming up Tuesday 1.28.2014 at 10:00 AM at the Resort Clubhouse.

Info Central (Sally B. Johnson)
Sally is looking for ideas for Info Central presentations. One possible speaker: a FEMA representative to talk about upcoming changes to flood insurance.  Also, a reprise of CPR training class.  Suggestions for ‘fun’ workshops include “How to Catch Fish” and “Fabulous Things to Do with your Grandchildren (within 20 Miles)”.

Board Members hear reports
RESULTS OF THE BALLOTS
Approval of the by-laws amendment was passed with a vast majority of “yes” votes (58-4).
All new board were elected to positions: John Sickles, Vicky Millette-Riley and Ray Smith.
Dick Sadenwater was introduced as an interim director appointed by the board to serve the last year of a retired board member.

MEMBER INPUT
Suggestion for the website: webpage for the R&B Advisory Committee with contact information.
Suggestion for the website: Introduce new neighbors with online profiles in the member directory.
Suggestion for the website: “Member Marketplace” where members can post items for sale or looking to buy.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

EFD's Chief Scott Lane proposes Full-Time Fire Service

On Saturday, January 11th, Fire Chief Scott Lane of Englewood Fire District hosted a town hall meeting to discuss fire protection services for the Island

Bill Peterson, a member of our Island Study Group for Fire & EMS, introduced several important attendees including EFD Battalion Commander Russell McCord, three members of the Board of Fire Commissioners, a representative of the firefighters’ union and County Commissioner Bill Truex.  He also introduced the rest of the Island Study Group, including Rick Brunett, Linda Cotherman, Bob Madden, and Dick Sadenwater.

Chief Lane presented a proposal to provide full-time professional fire coverage for the Island, using 6 firefighter/EMTs working in 3 shifts, 2 per shift. 

He began by describing the system we presently have in place. As of 1/1/2012, Island coverage through EFD consists of daytime coverage (7AM – 7 PM) with professional firefighter/EMTs responding from the fire stations off-Island and nighttime coverage (7PM-7AM) with volunteer firefighters responding from Station 10 on the Island. Fully trained firefighters who work as volunteers are basically maintaining their certification while waiting for paid positions.

Chief Lane explained that it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to provide volunteers for two reasons. 

1. Over the past two years, the Chief’s pool of available volunteers has been reduced by half as they found jobs, leaving less experienced volunteers coming in.  
2. In addition, there was a recent change in the certification rules.  Firefighters can simply take a 40-hour certification class instead of putting in volunteer hours.  This has also reduced the number of available volunteers.

As a result, EFD needs to pay firefighters to come out to the Island at night when they can’t cover with volunteers. They are now reaching the threshold of their budget for Island coverage.

Later in the meeting, Chief Lane made it clear that the reduced availability of experienced volunteers was not just a budget issue.  “If they can’t do the job, I’m not comfortable sending someone out to do the job.”

The Chief then presented a preliminary budget for the change.  The budget was in 2 parts: capital expenditures, which would be a one-time assessment, and operations costs (ongoing).

The capital expenditures would include a station remodeling ($120,000) and a new engine ($420,000) for a total of $540,000. This would be assessed at $341.88 per household, which could be a one-time charge for the full amount next year or spread out over a longer period.

Chief Lane explained that we have 3 pieces of equipment at the fire station, but not all of them are suitable for Island use.  He also explained that the new engine would be upgraded with foam capability and technological improvements.  Capital expenditures would also include shoring up the pilings at Station 10, putting in new flooring and a kitchen remodel.

The operations costs would be $741,000 per year.  This would break down to an annual MSBU tax of $468.29 per residential unit, $.53 per square foot for commercial and $95.00 per vacant lot.

The budget figures were prepared based on data from the tax collector’s office.  They assess the Island based on 1,454 residential units, 796 properties and 126,813 square feet of commercial property.

The number of units provided was questioned. Chief Lane said that he will confirm this information, although “improved” properties counted in the units include lots with structures such as covered boat docks, etc.  It was established that if the number of units is actually lower, the tax rates will be proportionately higher.

The ad valorum taxes that we pay to Charlotte County for protection were also questioned. Bill explained that Charlotte County collects the MSBU (non-ad valorum) taxes for fire protection and has a contract with EFD to provide fire coverage.  The ad valorum taxes that we pay to CC is for Emergency Medical Services only (ambulance and paramedics). “We don’t pay the same fire cost as the mainland” ($142 per household to CC)  “They are two different taxes, basically. Fire and EMS.”

Bill Truex spoke briefly on the County’s role. “I’m not here because CC wants to take fire service away from EFD.”  The County has a public safety mandate for medical provision. Charlotte County provides emergency medical services with professional paramedics and transport (ambulance, airlift). Firefighters from EFD that are trained as EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians) provide basic medical care and stabilize while waiting for an ambulance.

Judging from the questions asked, the audience appeared uncomfortable with the substantial tax increase proposed. Questions were raised about alternatives, such as can we just replace the volunteers with paid firefighters at night, and would EFD be receptive to a “Plan B” if this proposal is not acceptable.  Chief Lane said,  “I would take it to my Board.”  When asked if the union would accept one paid FF and 1 volunteer, he said “probably not.” 

Someone asked why can’t we do daytime service (response from the mainland) at night, which would involve running the ferry full-time. “I want full time coverage for the Island” said the Chief.

“We can mitigate our risk” one Islander said, noting that single family residences are not required to have fire coverage. “It’s our choice”. Chief Lane made it clear why his recommendation is 24/7 coverage: “If there’s a fire and a person dies, I’m not willing to accept that liability.”  Commissioner Truex added “Everybody thinks about liability.  They can get sued.”

What happens if EFD will not provide fire service? Bill Peterson said that “Charlotte County is legally required to cover the Island, and they will cover us.” Asked if they will do a proposal, Bill said that will be discussed by the study group.

Commissioner Truex said that we might consider delaying the purchase of the new engine for a few years to save on the tax bill. “There are ways to chop this up and take smaller bites” he said. “The question is, at what level do you want service? EFD will say what they recommend, you have to decide what you want. If you have service that you like, then you  need to look at that very strongly.”

The Chief said that they need an answer by April 1st, when they have to indicate to CC whether they will renew the contract. If we upgrade to a full-time manned station, we will be absorbed into the fire district.  Without 24/7 coverage by on-island paid staff, Chief Lane stated he would not support continued Island coverage after the current agreement expires. However, a final decision on that would be made by the EFD commissioners. If dropped, EFD will cover until October and then Charlotte County will take over.  According to Chief Lane, “it will be up to the Island.”

Article in Englewood Sun re. Fire Service

Englewood reassessing island fire service
By STEVE REILLY, STAFF WRITER
ENGLEWOOD
Since 2011, the Englewood Area Fire Control District has provided fire protection to the bridgeless Don Pedro and Knight islands.
Both the fire district and islanders are rethinking whether they want to continue with the fire district at a higher cost. The property owners do have the option of having Charlotte County provide fire protection.
Island homeowners could see a $300 increase to their assessments if they stay with the fire district.
Island resident Bill Peterson told Englewood fire commissioners Wednesday that islanders intend to hold meetings to decide whether they want Englewood or Charlotte County to provide fire protection.
“It’s strictly a budget issue,” Peterson said. At a recent meeting of islanders and fire district officials, he said, “The 60 people said they preferred to stay with the Englewood fire district. They are pleased with the service and want to stay with the fire district.”
A decision must be reached by April 1, giving the county time to formalize its assessments to islanders.
The issue of fire service to the islands first arose after the island’s volunteer department — which had provided island fire protection for decades — folded in 2011.
Islanders pay for their fire protection through a county municipal service benefit unit. The islanders now are assessed $140.57 per residential unit, 20 cents per square foot for commercial properties, $54.47 for vacant lots, and $11.81 for other undeveloped properties.
In 2011, Charlotte County proposed manning the island station 24/7 with paid firefighters. At that time, the county proposed assessing property owners $511.88 per residential unit, and 42 cents per square foot for commercial properties.
To date, the fire district has provided daytime fire service from the mainland stations, depending upon the island’s ferries, and after-hour service with volunteer firefighters stationed on the island.
Fire commissioners no longer feel it’s prudent to provide fire-protection services without having professional firefighters on the island 24/7.
“We have to think of worst-case scenarios,” Fire Commissioner Ron Davison said, particularly concerned with having an unmanned fire station during the daytime hours and the time it takes to ferry firefighters to the island.
“I want (the fire district) to give 100 percent, no matter what situation comes up,” he said.
Englewood Fire Chief Scott Lane proposed a $1.2 million budget for staffing the island with six firefighters, two for each shift, and for additional capital improvements — remodeling the island station and replacing a fire vehicle.
Lane hasn’t finalized what the assessments will be, but preliminary figures suggested the islanders might pay $468.29 per residential unit, 53 cents per square foot for commercial, and $95 for vacant lots. He expects to finalize the proposed assessments, based upon an accurate count of island parcels, within the next two weeks.
Lane also stressed Wednesday that whatever the costs, mainland fire district ratepayers will not be affected, and will not bear any of the costs for island service.
Email: reilly@sun-herald.com 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2013: The Year in Review

Ay, Caramba!! 2013 was a VERY busy year. We tried to capture the details for you, in case you missed any of the action.

The 2013 New Years Day Golf Cart Parade
1/1/2013 The Annual New Year’s Day Golf Cart Parade. Starting with the fire trucks and ending with the Island’s own Marching Air Band, the annual “do” kicked off a spectacular year for PIE. Our thanks to PIE Social (Suzy Kett, Chair) for getting the New Year started with a BANG!

1-12-13 INFO CENTRAL Presents: Bill Truex. PIE’s newest committee, “Info Central” (Sally B. Johnson, Chair. Barbara DeYulio) hosted our County Commissioner Bill Truex for a meet & greet at the Palm Island Resort Clubhouse. 

INFO CENTRAL Presents: Bill Truex
1-27-13 Annual Membership Meeting. Hosted by the PIE Administrative Committee (Cathy Schwartz, Chair) PIE members got the year in review from the committee reports, and finished the meeting with pieces of PIE served with cold drinks.

2-1-13 Islandscapers: Walk & Talk with Bill Dunson. PIE affiliate “Islandscapers” sponsored a nature walk along the shoreline in front of the resort.

2-9-13 Street Dance. Once again, PIE Social threw a great bash with the annual membership party, the “Street Dance” featuring live music with the T-Bone Trio Band.

3-31-13 Pancake Breakfast. Our annual tradition of serving up a buffet breakfast following the non-denominational Easter ‘sunrise’ service on the beach.

4-17-13 Coastal Engineering Presentation. Charlotte County 10-Year Beach & Inlet Management Plan. Coastal Engineering Consultants and Coastal Technology Corporation presented alternatives to preserve our coastline and gathered input from Island residents.

Pancake Breakfast 2013
4-27-13 Island Poll sent to members in April of 2013. Shared the results of the Island Poll at the May PIE board meeting and posted the results online. Of the 151 PIE members, 68 responses were received.

5-13-13 BBI Zoning District approved by County Planning & Zoning Board.  PIE’s Island Watch committee kept it’s eyes on the successful creation of the new Bridgeless Barrier Island Zoning District, which updates the zoning of Island properties to single family residential. An exemption was granted to the property adjoining the ferry landing. 5-13 & 7-23-13 Public Hearings for Bridgeless Barrier Island Zoning District (BCC). 

4-29-13 Turtle Patrol: Lights out on the Beach Party. The Don Pedro Sea Turtle Patrol hosted a beachfront “Island Thing” to celebrate the beginning of sea turtle season and to remind Island residents to keep the lights off the beach through October.

Turtle Patrol at "Lights Out" Party
5-28-2013 Coastal Engineering presents Management Plan to the County Commission. On 6-1-2013 the PIE Board sent a letter to the BCC stating “At this time, we would like to express our support of the effort to find a more permanent solution to the beach erosion issues that we have on Knight Island and Don Pedro Island.  We do reserve the right to render final judgment of this project until we have seen how the project budget will impact the taxing units associated with these efforts.”

5-28-13 Board of County Commissioners vote re. the Island Roads & Bridges Advisory Committee. On 6-1-2013 a letter was sent from the PIE Board to the County Commission stating that “we endorse the recent decision by Public Works to fund an external, expert study of our sand roads.  We are confident that the work product of this study will help to resolve some of the issues with our unpaved roads that we have had to deal with for many years. We appreciate the cooperative efforts between Public Works and our local citizens ‘steering committee’, and look forward to a continuation of that cooperation with the future Roads & Bridges Advisory Committee.” 

Insurance for the Barrier Islands
5-29-13 INFO CENTRAL Presents: Insurance for the Barrier Islands. Nat Italiano of Italiano Insurance Services on Boca Grande discussed with Islanders the FEMA changes and their impact on insurance rates. 

6-12-13 INFO CENTRAL Presents: Sheriff Bill Prummell. The Sheriff talked with Islanders about security over holiday weekends. 

10-1-2013 Launch of the new PIE Website. (Meryl Schaffer, Webmistress)

10-19-13 Annual Beach Access Clean-up and Cookout. (Valerie Guenther, Chair) The Island Gardens and the beach easements got their annual makeover.

11-2-13 Community Meeting: R&B Advisory Committee. Linda Cotherman (Chair) and Tim Malone (Vice Chair) presided over a town hall meeting to discuss future plans for road improvement and maintenance.

11-9-13 Art in the Palms  PIE Social directors Suzy Kett & Rose Malone oversaw the biggest, bestest "Art in the Palms" festival yet.

12-10-13 Islandscapers: Annual Meeting & Holiday Party. A wonderful opportunity for Islandscaper member to meet and hear about the Plant Enthusiast's year in review!


OTHER COMMITTEE REPORTS:

PIE ENVIRONMENTAL:
Beach Clean-up & Cookout 2013
The threatened gopher tortoise gets a little help from the efforts of the Gopher Tortoise Conservation Team. This is what they were up to in 2013:

The team performed 10 land surveys for homeowners.  The survey diagram is a required document for the FWC and Charlotte County in applying for clearing or building permits.  Homeowners also use this survey to site the house on the lot.  More owners than ever have giving thought as to how they may leave the burrow areas untouched and the value in doing so.

Meet Sheriff Bill Prummell
If gopher tortoises must be removed, it is done by hand excavating the burrow.  This year over 40 burrows were excavated prior to lot clearing and building.

Lastly and sadly, 8 injured and/or dead gopher tortoises were tended to this year.  Lemon Bay Animal Shelter and Venice Wildlife Center are our partners in this effort. 8 gopher tortoises is a high number.  Please remember to drive slowly, and tell your guests as well.

WHPP has acclimation packets available for new homeowners. If you have not received one call one of the WHPP committee members.  Kjell and Ron report the bobcat at the south end of the island is doing well! (one young bobcat was found dead in November) and the loons are back (the birds that is). 

Also, we will share news on the “build a foraging berm project” for gopher tortoises and other wildlife in February.

ISLAND SCHOLARSHIP COMMITTEE: (Donna Bright, Chair) Three scholarships awarded to: Harleigh Rodriguez-Conner, Emma Crowe, Nick Russo.

Art in the Palms 2013
PIE COMMUNITY SERVICES:
§         House number Signs (Cathy Schwartz, Chair) By April, 34 residents ordered & received free house number signs. 

§         Welcome Baskets (Cathy Schwartz, Chair) A package for new residents including information about WHPP, PIE membership form and phone number list for emergency contacts about wildlife rescues.

§         Interest in purchase of a lot for community park and gathering center. Valerie Guenther is arranging a meeting with a representative from South Gulf Cove with regard to their community facility to glean information about the feasibility of such a facility on our Islands. Valerie, along with Dennis Johnson, Sally B. Johnson, and Meryl Schaffer will begin to research the idea and report back to the Board.

ISLAND WATCH: (Jim Gordon, Chair. Linda Cotherman & Dick Sadenwater, Committee Members) Tracked developments regarding purchase of bulk water from Englewood Water District. Also, organized water testing and reporting for 2013. 

PIE ADMINISTRATIVE: December Membership Drive mailing. New flyer designed & mailed to approx. 850 Island property owners, along with board of directors absentee ballots to 151 current PIE members.

OTHER ITEMS of INTEREST and ACCOMPLISHMENTS in 2013:

1-Gazebo cleanup: The ferry landing gazebo was pressure washed and painted.  Hoover Pressure Washing Co. provided services free of charge, water was donated by Sally B & Dick Aulenti.  The gazebo was prepped for painting by Cathy & Charlie Schwartz and painted by Suzy Kett and Harleigh Rodriguez-Connor (scholarship volunteer).
2-Ferry Landing: debris removal tracked
3-Cable over waterway: Ken Connor got Comcast to secure a dangerous cable hanging over Bocilla Lagoon under the Anne Merry Bridge
4-Portable event stage was replaced with a new stage.
5-PIE Board member Dennis Johnson contacted Florida Power & Light regarding the possibility of burying overhead electric lines. He reported the response as follows: FPL requires more easement for underground lines than what is scoped on surveys, meaning more incursion onto property owners' land. Also, one person or group must pay the entire cost of the project, and FPL insisted that it is easier to maintain above ground service. The consensus of the Board: the action is too difficult and too costly to pursue.

NOTE: Most of the events of 2013 have been described in detail in our posts.  Look on the right-side menu for the BLOG ARCHIVE, and click on "2013".  Each month has articles about the events that took place.  Also, check out the photos at our PHOTO GALLERY!


HFH "Island Build" Dedication




ISLAND BUILD DEDICATION  

You are Cordially Invited to Attend a Very Special Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity Home Dedication!
Join Us as We Celebrate with Our New Homeowner Gabrielle Brady and her children Joshua, Tyler & Justin.
Monday, January 13, 2014 - 11:00 am
1645 David Place, Englewood 34223 
RSVP to: development@charlottecountyhfh.org