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Council increases budget for improving Sanibel’s beaches, other work

By Staff | Jan 22, 2009

After months of financial belt-tightening, budget-cutting and staff reductions, the Sanibel City Council actually approved a budget increase on Tuesday, thanks to a Lee County Tourist and Development Council grant in the amount of $1,888,710.

The grant, which is funded through the five percent tourist tax collected on accommodations rented for six months or less, provides funding for beach and shoreline related improvements around Lee County.

The funds from this most recent grant are earmarked for personnel services, repair and maintenance, contractual services, utilities, upgrading of signage, replacement of walkways and walkovers, and machinery and equipment utilized for the upkeep of Sanibel’s public beach facilities that are used by thousands of visitors each year.

More than $1 million of the funds will be used to cover the costs associated with maintenance and repairs of Sanibel’s public beaches and facilities, including repairs to Bowman’s Beach Bridge and the Fishing Pier, as well as boat ramp repairs and work necessary at the Turner Beach and Bowman’s Beach restroom facilities.

Other projects include $40,000 for beach erosion monitoring, $30,000 for water quality monitoring on San Carlos Bay, $21,000 for beach access improvements, $74,000 for the Caloosahatchee Water Quality Observatory, $510,000 for a restroom facility at the boat ramp, and $134,500 for dune walkover replacement and construction.

Vice Mayor Kevin Ruane said that an incredible amount of work goes into seeking funding such as the TDC grant each year.

“We’re always at TDC meetings,” he said. “And if it’s not me, it’s another member of the council. The City Manager is always there, and represents the City of Sanibel well.”

Mayor Mick Denham said that city representatives never missed an opportunity to lobby organizations and government agencies on behalf of the City of Sanibel.

“We may be off-island at times, but this is the kind of work that we’re out there doing,” explained Denham. “We’ll go after every single dollar that’s available to us.”

“That’s such a large amount of money,” said Councilman Peter Pappas. “If

we were to increase the millage rate to get these projects done, we’re looking at a $230 tax increase for the average Sanibel taxpayer.”

Ruane reported to Council that the TDC had recently changed its bed tax allocation to the benefit of Lee County’s beaches and shorelines.

“Although 20 percent now has to go to the Red Sox stadium since they signed that deal,” said Ruane, “they have now increased the allocation for beaches and shorelines from 20 percent to 26.4 percent. That’s an additional $1.4 million for beaches and shorelines.”

Ruane also said that he and the Council would continue to fight for beach and shoreline funding to largest degree possible.

“We need to hold line there,” he said. “This is a win for Sanibel, and a win for any beach community.”

In other business, Natural Resources Director Rob Loflin reported on the ongoing battle against the unidentified croton scale that was stripping native trees and bushes of their leaves.

“It hasn’t even been identified yet,” said Loflin of the scale insect.

The University of Florida is currently working on identifying the insect, which will aid them in the development of a plan to combat the problem.

“As you know, we don’t use pesticides here unless there’s a threat to human safety,” said Loflin. “But we are trying a pesticide in this case, due to the large area that is affected.”

In addition to the pesticide, the department has also released a large quantity of lady beetles into the affected areas, to see if perhaps they will prey on the scale insect.

“Everything is an experiment right now,” said Loflin, adding that it will be about three months or more before any progress – if any – is seen.