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Congress sworn in, Ruane re-elected Mayor

By Staff | Mar 16, 2011

The 2011 Sanibel City Council, from left, Marty Harrity, Mick Denham, Doug Congress, Kevin Ruane and Jim Jennings.

The City Council welcomed new member Doug Congress to MacKenzie Hall on Tuesday, when both Mayor Kevin Ruane and Vice Mayor Mick Denham were reappointed to their positions for another year.

Congress, who was sworn in alongside incumbent councilman Jim Jennings, was administered the Oath of Office by City Manager Judie Zimomra. He was accompanied by his wife, Melanie, and their three children, twins Kelsey and Joshua (13) and Georgia (11).

“Thirty years ago this summer, my parents had the courage to make the move from the economic blight of Peroria, Ill. to the paradise that is Sanibel Island,” said Congress, who also thanked the citizens “for having such incredible confidence in me.”

Congress, a partner in an investment group that provides financing to small businesses, graduated from Fort Myers High School in 1985, received a degree in accounting from the University of Florida in 1989 and earned his CPA designation shortly thereafter. He replaces Peter Pappas, who did not seek re-election, on the council.

City Attorney Ken Cuyler conducted the elections for Mayor and Vice Mayor, with Ruane and Denham both receiving unanimous support.

“Certainly we work well together, and certainly we have a lot of work to do in the coming year,” said Ruane.

With his wife, Melanie, holding the family bible, Doug Congress is sworn in as Sanibel City Councilman on Tuesday morning.

The first item of business brought before the newly-appointed council was a presentation by Harvey Padewer, president of the Pine Tree Drive Association, who requested that the city prepare plans and cost estimates for permitting, work scope and funding to restore water flow in the canals and waterways impacted by the box culvert installed underneath Sanibel Captiva Road. The culvert connects Dinkins Bayou and Clam Bayou.

“An unintended consequence of the box culvert installation is sand an silt washing from Clam Bayou into canals and waterways,” said Padewer, who noted that reduced recreational Gulf access jeopardizes property values. “Silting has reduced the flow of water to Clam Bayou, and in the waterway.”

Following his presentation, Denham suggested that there were two primary concerns. First, relieving the silting problem by cleaning up Dinkins Bayou. Second, identifying a long-term maintenance plan for the area.

Ruane, who has previously spoken with Lee County Commissioner John Manning about the filling-in of Blind Pass, which he said is related to the Dinkins and Clam Bayous situation, agreed that city staff should begin the process of applying for permits. He also suggested arranging a meeting with Mike Mullins of the Captiva Erosion Prevention District, who partnered with the city and county on the Blind Pass project.

In addition, Ruane plans to discuss the details of the interlocal agreement and determine what each partner’s responsibilities are. Asked by a resident what sort of time-frame residents of the area could expect the city to take action, the mayor offered it would be “premature” to speculate on such plans.

Jim Jennings, left, takes the Oath of Office. Also pictured is Robb Moran.

Also, councilors voted 3-2 in favor of an ordinance which amends the City of Sanibel’s Beach Area Parking Restrictions. Denham and Jennings cast the dissenting votes.

The new law states that in the event that a resident and/or Sanibel ad valorem taxpayer property owner does not own or lease the vehicle for which a parking permit is sought, one may be issued under the following conditions:

• The vehicle for which the permit is sought is under the sole control of the resident and/or Sanibel ad valorem taxpayer property owner and a sworn affidavit is provided to the Sanibel Chief of Police, or his designee, attesting to such sole control and identifying the vehicle.

• The Sanibel Chief of Police, or his designee, in the event the sworn affidavit is found to meet the requirements of this section, shall issue such parking permit conditioned upon the continued sole control of the vehicle by the applicant during the term of the permit.

Denham argued that the policy would be “very difficult to police, and very difficult to manage.”

Chief of Police Bill Tomlinson, who supported the ordinance, explained that residents who provided false information on their sworn affidavit might be subject to fines and/or prosecution.

“It could open the door for abuse,” Tomlinson said.

Marty Harrity, who told his fellow councilmen that he thought the ordinance would be a “slam dunk,” suggested that the police and Recreation Department, in charge of issuing parking permits, monitor how many applications come in.

“Let’s keep an eye on this, and if it becomes a problem we can bring it back,” said Harrity.