Friday, May 29, 2015

Memorial Service Announced for Sunday

There will be a memorial service for Cheryl and Jake Stevens on Sunday, May 31st at the Lemon Bay High School Performing Arts Center. The service will start at 1:30 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. Immediately following the service (starting approx. 2:30-3:00 PM) , there will be a Celebration of Life reception held on the Island at the home of Kathy and John Sickles, 130 Kettle Harbor Drive. Palm Island Transit is waiving all barge fees for vehicle transport to the Island for this event.

Many have asked about making donations to the family.  The daughter of a family friend (Andrea Coleman) has posted a memorial fund online that is accepting contributions. You can find it at

Rose Malone has also offered to collect donations to be re-directed according to the family wishes. You can reach her at or stop by her house at 111 Bocilla Drive, 10:00-3:00 M-F. Some people may be out of town and wish to mail something to the Stevens family. They can do that through Tim and Rose Malone. Rose Malone's address is: PO Box 3787 Placida, FL 33946.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Devastating Fire on Knight Island

All Islanders were stunned and saddened by the tragic death of an Island neighbor, Cheryl Stevens, and her son in a home fire over Memorial Day weekend. The family dog also perished in the fire.

An impromptu memorial appeared roadside as word spread through the neighborhood. Islanders have been asking how they might help the family at this time. We will update this article and pass on the information when it comes in. 

The only details that are available to date are presented in the article below, reprinted from the Sun-Herald. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Stevens' family.

Knight Island fire details emerge
   ENGLEWOOD — Charlotte County received eight frantic calls to 911 early Sunday reporting a Knight Island house engulfed in fire that killed a mother and son, and their dog.
   “The flames are shooting 75 feet up in the air,” the third, a male, caller told a 911 operator. The Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office released eight 911 calls Tuesday, redacting the names and addresses of the callers.
   The third caller described how he was 200 feet from the fire and could feel the heat. The caller’s home was four residences south of the fire at 101 North Gulf Blvd., on the island.
   “Holy Christ! It’s within a hundred feet from another house, and the people from the other house are getting out now,” the caller told the operator. She assured him the firefighters were on their way.
   The caller said embers flew west from the fire. He also heard “popping,” and said a power-line pole caught fire.
   “Now, the fire is completely through the roof,” the caller said. “The house is going down.”
   The sixth caller, a woman who said she lived in the home next to the fire, sounded panicked and told the 911 operator, “I want to get out of here.” The operator encouraged her to evacuate to a safe place.
   None of the callers knew if anyone was in the home at the time of the fire.
   Officials do not expect to complete their investigation of the fire for a week to 10 days or more.
   Two victims, identified only as a mother and son, and their dog, died in the early morning blaze. The husband and a daughter were not at home at the time.
   While officials are not identifying the victims, islanders already are mourning for the Stevens family of four who lived on the island.
   “We all feel so bad for Kevin (Stevens) and his daughter: (He) lost his wife Cheryl, their son who was visiting from college, and the dog Jasmine,” islander Mary Moore said Tuesday. “I hope the people on the island can pull together and help the family with anything they need. They will need everything.
   “Everybody is still in shock at this tragedy,” Moore also said. “People are putting flowers and crosses near the home.”
   In the wake of the fire, Moore said, “I saw Kevin, who had his arm around his daughter.”
   CCSO spokeswoman Debbie Bowe said the Sheriff’s Office is waiting for the Charlotte County Medical Examiner’s Office to complete its identification of the victims. Only then will the CCSO release their names.
   Also, the State Fire Marshal’s Office and sheriff’s officials work in tandem on the investigation. The fire marshal’s report is expected to be completed in a week, and will be released when the CCSO completes its investigation.
   Charlotte County Fire/ EMS is preparing a full incident report that could be released as early as today.
   According to the recordings, the first call was received at 2:44 a.m. Fire/EMS spokeswoman Dee Hawkins-Garland said the call was received at the fire department at 2:46 a.m. Station 10 on the island was en route at 2:50 a.m., and was on scene at 2:55 a.m.
   The first responders, Hawkins-Garland said, reported the fire had engulfed the residence when they arrived. The fire was so hot that they could not station their engine in front of the burning house without risking damage to their truck and equipment.
   Knight Island is bridgeless, and depends upon the Palm Island Transit for transportation between the island and the mainland. From the mainland, a second Charlotte County firetruck arrived at 3:04 a.m., and a third at 3:10 a.m. The Englewood Area Fire Control District also was called for assistance.
   Depending upon the distances from fire stations, response times can vary, but Hawkins-Garland said the department considers four to six minutes an optimum response time.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Peace Officers Memorial Day Ceremony‏

On Friday, May 15th a crowd of 20 or so Islanders met at the Ferry Landing flagpole in honor of Peace Officers Memorial Day.

A few subsequent emails from Ray Smith (Triple-Play Ray or TPR) and Jim Gordon, PIE Board President:

Here’s are a few pics of the flag re-raising ceremony that Sally took and passed on (thanks, Sally).  It went pretty well and, I believe, much appreciated by our attending Sheriff's Deputy John Stewart and new Volunteer Deputy Jerry Massey.  We had a total of ~20 island folks, including the cc’s above. Take care.

Ray, on behalf of the Board, may I just thank you for putting this together and for the wonderful tribute you gave to all who put their lives on the line to serve and protect us. 

Charlotte County raising MSBU rates

We got this article in the Sun online from Lindsay Yates.  Much appreciation for the heads-up re. the proposed rate increase to our Barrier Island Fire MSBU that is currently under review by the County Commissioners.

Publication:Englewood Sun;Date:May 6, 2015;Section:Englewood Sun (Local);Page Number:ES8

Charlotte to hike MSBU rates


MURDOCK — In their annual review of municipal benefit service units, county commissioners are proposing to decrease rates in some areas, maintain the same assessments in others and boost rates in several MSBUs, sometimes dramatically.

    At Tuesday’s MSBU workshop, the commission discussed a few large MSBUs, which define a geographic area within the county through which particular services are provided with non-ad valorem assessments charged per lot (equivalent residential unit or ERU).

    Most of the MSBU rate hikes were not debated, with the exception being for Harbour Heights Street & Drainage. When Commissioner Ken Doherty learned that homes on dirt roads would be charged the same as property owners living on roads slated for resurfacing, he objected.

    Doherty also said he wants to review the work program of MSBUs that do not have a citizens’ advisory committee, saying they may deserve a rate hike as well.

    “Cook Brown is one MSBU where you may want to consider a rate increase,” he said.

    Smaller MSBUs also could expect significant increases, such as Lemon Bay S&D, which currently requires an annual $30 payment per ERU but would rise to $249 next year, if planned rates are approved.

    Other S&D MSBUs forecast for a rate surge include Peace River Shores ($97/$331), Punta Gorda Non-Urban Maintenance ($93/$212), Rotonda Heights ($50/$163), Rotonda Meadows and Villas ($47/$155), South Punta Gorda Heights ($50/$312), South PG Heights West ($50/$266) and Suncoast Boulevard ($30/$94).

    In addition, some MSBUs designated for fire protection can expect a rate hike. The Charlotte County Fire MSBU, which reduced rates in 2009 and 2011 to lower reserves, is facing a 15 percent boost for next year. Similarly, Little Gasparilla Island Fire MSBU is looking at a 90 percent rate hike for a second firefighter/EMT and pumper truck.

    And the Barrier Island Fire MSBU rate would increase by $110, which does not include necessary improvements to fire station 10. 

    “There’s major remodeling that needs to be done,” county Fire Chief Marianne Taylor said

    In some cases, surveys were sent out to property owners asking their opinion on proposed rate 
increases for improvements. For example, in the Harbour Heights S&D MSBU, owners were asked if they supported a higher assessment to repave 26 miles of roadway and laying six new sidewalks. As in other similar surveys, most responses came back against the proposal, but overall a majority of surveys were never returned at all.

    “That’s telling me they’re not objecting to it,” said Danny Quick, county public works director. “To me, that’s a yes.”

    Besides citing the need for various street resurfacing programs, Quick also pointed to the MSBU citizen advisory committees, which typically supported the projects.

    Meanwhile, Commissioner Tricia Duffy lamented the poor return rate on MSBU surveys, saying the county is spending thousands of dollars.

    “It’s a shame we don’t get more input,” Duffy said.

    The proposed rate increases will be formally voted on at the May 26 County Commission meeting. The new-rate recommendations will then be sent out to property owners, along with a notice for a public hearing, if one is required.

    Final approval would come after the public hearings, scheduled for July 20-23. The new rates would be included in the TRIM (true rate in millage) notices mailed out in August.