Off Islands

| October 1, 2014

By Rodger Skidmore

End of summer cocktail 

As all good drinkers know, a cocktail is a mixture of ingredients which, if consumed in sufficient quantities, can cause a heap of trouble. North Lido Beach is, on and off, suffering from the inevitable hangover. The problem? Beach pollution.

September and October are not just hot months for the beaches of Sarasota and Manatee, they are hot months which follow other hot months. While some bathers love a quick dip in chilly waters for the bracing effect, others love warmer water as they can frolic or loll about for hours without experiencing hyperthermia. The trouble with too much of a good thing is that often you wind up with too much of a bad thing. The bad thing being enterococci. And enterococci is not a form of pasta made with broccoli, it is a bacteria which can cause urinary tract, wound and blood infections and is transmitted through exposure to fecal matter in the water. The longer the water stays hot, the longer this summer stew simmers.

Of course if there is no fecal matter in the water it does not matter what the temperature is or how long the water simmers. So, how does all this material get into the waters of North Lido and other beaches, especially when the county states that there have been no sewage spills near the effected beach areas? Two main reasons, the first of which is a wrack line, a long rope of algae strung along the water’s edge after tides bring it onto the beach. This is called “a natural occurrence”, which leads one to believe that, being natural, one cannot do anything about it. Yes, it is natural, but the problem with it is that it contains marine organisms, and both the algae and the organisms die and rot. This stew or cocktail cooks in the sun and warm water and attracts birds which eat the delicious mixture and then defecate. That material then is washed into the water and, voilà, enterococci in sufficient quantities to do you in.

The solution is fairly simple – more beach clean-up. If the county would be pro-active in this regard they would not have to post “no swim” advisories for tourists to read. The other reason cited by the county is pet waste. They suggest that one should pick up after one’s pet. Since pets are not allowed on the beach, a more direct solution might be to actually enforce the “no dogs allowed” rule – again, being pro-active for the health of both humans and tourists.

Never-Never Land

Back in 1958 the Kingston Trio had a big hit with Tom Dooley. The next year they followed with another called M.T.A., about the Boston Metropolitan Transit Authority. The MTA had instituted a novel fair increase – one had to pay five cents extra to exit the system at an above ground station. Poor Charlie got on the train just before the fare increase without the extra nickel. As a result, he could not get off the train and rode around Boston forever.

Things aren’t quite so bad for people who travel from the mainland to Bradenton Beach. The worst that can happen is that they will have to remain on the beach for the next four months as the eastbound sidewalk is now closed to pedestrians and cyclists. The eastbound auto lane will be closed at night from time to time as well. This Florida Department of Transportation maintenance and repair project on the Cortez Bridge is not scheduled to be completed until late January.

Rumor has it that the FDOT will permit pedestrians and cyclists to leave the island via the Anna Maria Bridge up on Manatee Avenue. Those wishing to walk or cycle against oncoming foot and bicycle traffic will also be permitted to leave the island via the westbound sidewalk of the Cortez Bridge. No exit visas will be required.

Second Thoughts (or is it no thought at all)

As reported in last month’s Siesta Sand, Superintendent Rick Mills and the Manatee County School Board found they had a few extra million in excess taxes at their disposal and decided to spend some of it on hiring armed guards to keep the children in K – 5 schools from shooting each other. It was suggested that rather than having a private army keeping order in the sand boxes, that the extra monies be spent on anger management courses to teach our children how to deal with stress. Reducing the severity of mood swings in our children might lessen those swings when they are older.

Well, the school board went ahead and hired the gun-toting guards and now find that that action might not be quite as legal as they thought. The result is that the guards are there (as per the $1.7 million per year contract) but without the arms – and will remain unarmed until the county hashes out this mess relative to state law. The sole exception is Anna Maria Elementary which has pre-existing arrangements with the Holmes Beach Police Department to provide a School Resource Officer.

Gullett Elementary School Principal Kathy McLean thought the (un)armed guards could be used to “direct traffic and help parents, faculty members and students to utilize safe crossing zones”. Which means that Manatee County, if this issue is not resolved in favor of the NRA, will be spending $5.1 million over the next 3 years to pay for crossing guards, which job function is currently filled by the Crossing Guard component of the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

So, because there was a surplus in tax revenue for one year, Rick Mills and the Manatee School Board have contracted to, rather than reduce the millage rate, build in an extra $1.7 million per year in expenditures to pay for crossing guards who, years ago, were unpaid students who did that job for extra school credit. Perhaps setting up anger management courses for elementary school students was a bad idea after all. Maybe the courses should be set up for the taxpayers of Manatee County instead.

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Category: Columns

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