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Council updated on island transportation study

By Staff | Nov 18, 2009

During Tuesday’s City Council session, David Baxter, project manager for the Alternative Transportation in Parks and Public Lands (ATPPL) program, delivered an update on the study investigating transportation alternatives for visitors to the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and the potential impact it will have on Sanibel.

The program, designed to assist national parks and public lands in managing their visitation while meeting the primary goal of providing sanctuary habitats for various wildlife, has four primary goals:

Conserve natural, historical, and cultural resources

Reduce congestion and pollution

Improve visitor mobility and accessibility

Enhance the visitor experience

Baxter told the council that the ATPPL study – launched in early 2008 – is essentially nearing the end of Phase I, which had been funded through a $700,000 grant applied for by the refuge, the City of Sanibel and the Lee County Department of Transportation. To this point, progress related to the program has been collecting data, conducting public information workshops, Internet and in-person surveys and evaluating the results of those.

“The project will look to identify a broad range of alternative transportation scenarios,” the project Web site – www.dingdarlingtransportation.com – states. “These may include travel by means other than private automobiles such as walking, bicycling, bus, refuge type tram, water taxis and other guideway systems.”

Presently, the ATPPL project is considering four alternatives: taking no action and leaving the refuge transportation system untouched, changing the transportation system within the refuge only, changing the transportation system within the refuge as well as across the island and changing the transportation system on the island only.

Phase II, for which funding has yet to be received, is anticipated to continue in Spring 2010, with a completion date of Winter 2011. Additional public information workshops have tentatively been scheduled for Feb. 2 and March 30, although specific details were not discussed.

Councilman Jim Jennings asked whether the study is looking into the use of “alternative energy” vehicles. Baxter said that they are considering several “green” options, including vehicles which employ hydro-electric cells, solar power and biodiesel fuels, but that cost-efficiency is an impacting factor.

“I think that this is important and it’s good that people are being proactive with this,” said fellow councilman Marty Harrity. “Keep up the good work.”

Vice Mayor Kevin Ruane, sitting in for an absent Mayor Mick Denham, also praised Baxter’s presentation.

“We appreciate the update,” said Ruane. “This gives us an opprtunity to be involved. We look forward to hearing more about this project and participating with you in 2010.”

In other business, Ruane handed out a number of awards to the city’s Finance Department. A Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting for the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) was presented to finance director Sylvia Edwards for her work on the Fiscal Year 2008 report. Renee Lynch, the city’s former finance director, received the award for the FY 2007 report. Also, a GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award for FY 2009 was given to Edwards and Frances Slane, the city’s fiscal analyst.

The council also approved the extension of a contract between the city and former planner Ken Pfalzer for work he is undertaking on behalf of the city. Currently, Pfalzer is assigned to completing a Sanibel Plan amendment supplement, develop a School Concurrency Procedure in Land Development Code, complete the 26-year update of the Interior Wetlands Conservation District as well as several other projects.

The approved contract included a 15 percent reduction in Pfalzer’s hourly rate for his services. Councilors voted 3-0 in favor of capping that work at $24,900 for the year, with Peter Pappas abstaining.