Sanibel Natural Resources director James Evans told City Council Tuesday that Sanibel's golf courses have made tremendous improvements in the past year toward complying with the city's Golf Course Nutrient and Lake Management program.
"Two of the three courses now score high enough to be considered in full compliance," said Evans. "All three have made progress in implementing the city's recommendations. Although more work can still be done to reduce nutrient loading to the lakes the Sanctuary and the Dunes are meeting the intent of the best management practices checklist."
While Beachview Golf Club also made progress its report card score remains in the non-compliance range.
Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane presented Tara Willette with the Employee of the 3rd Quarter award at Tuesday's City Council meeting. Willette, a full time administrative secretary, was recognized for her work in dealing with personnel while engaged in her computer skills training duties.
The city adopted its nutrient and lake management practices for golf courses in October 2008 and initiated the annual report card analysis in July 2011.
The courses voluntarily have worked with the city natural resources staff on implementing 13 practices through training personnel, lake management, fertilizer management and irrigation. The 13 practices include no-mow zones at the edge of lakes, raking algae out of lakes and installing filter drains among other things.
"The Sanctuary did a great job last year," said Evans. "They have gone above and beyond our recommendations. There have been no fish kills at the Dunes and the water clarity in the lakes are visibly improved."
The Sanctuary scored 63 out of 65 points from the list of 13 practices putting it in the 97 percent compliance range. That's an improvement of six percent over last year's report card.
The Dunes Golf & Tennis Club scored 59 out of 65 points to reach 91 percent compliance - an improvement of 28 percent over last year.
While showing 12 percent improvement, Beachview scored 45 points resulting in its 69 percent compliance score.
"They still need to do some work on improving buffer zones," said Evans. "They have done a good job (of buffering) along the Sanibel River, but there is still some low-hanging fruit. Some low cost or no cost practices they can do."
The water quality improvements are being noticed by residents, too. Some are putting pressure on homeowners associations to follow the same practices on common lakes.
City council also spent time pouring over the second draft of its proposed $37.8 million budget. The budget represents a millage rate of 2.1398, which is .52% less than the roll-back rate of 2.1511. The roll-back rate is the millage rate that would generate the same amount of revenue as the current rate, after adjusting for new construction.
The $4.4 million operating budget for the sanitary sewer system came under scrutiny by Mayor Kevin Ruane, who suggested not raising the rate that residents pay each month. Vice Mayor Mick Denham suggested a reduction in the operating costs.
"If we don't raise the rate that would be two out of the last three years we kept it at zero," said Ruane. "That's what I would like to see us do."
In order to cover the original construction bond payment in addition to the operating costs, the city is allowed to increase revenue by raising the monthly rate up to three percent.
Council crunched numbers with Public Works director Scott Krawczyk, weighing $78,000 in cost reductions with zero rate increase versus $20,000 in cuts with a one percent rate increase. A one percent increase in the sewer rate would cost residents about $6 per year.
"Scott, can you find me $20,000 in your budget?" Ruane asked.
"Yes," said Krawczyk.
Council also discussed upcoming contract renewals with Community Housing & Resources (CHR) and the Historical Museum & Village. They also passed a resolution adding the "caretaker's cottage" to the certificate of appropriateness to relocate it along with the Shore Haven home to the Historical Museum & Village.
Two dredging projects came before council Tuesday. The first was a resolution to dredge sand and silt accumulating in the Dinkins Bayou canals and waterway. The resolution linked both public and private areas to be dredged at the same time with homeowners being assessed for their part of the cost.
The second project is the Shell Harbor canal system at the entrance to Sanibel Marina. The area was last dredged in March 2011, but again requires work to maintain safe navigation. The unfunded project for the current fiscal year is being treated as an emergency project.
Council also recognized administrative secretary Tara Willette as the city's Employee of the 3rd Quarter. Willette earned the award through her work in coordinating citywide computer skills training. She has been a full time employee of the administration department since November 2011.