Veolia to continue as Sanibel trash hauler
The reading of three resolutions to extend for two one-year terms the City of Sanibel’s contract with Veolia ES Solid Waste Southeast Inc. was just one of several approvals given by City Council Tuesday.
Collection and disposal of solid waste, recyclables and horticultural waste as well as commercial dumpster rate resolutions also were passed by council. Council’s adopting the three waste hauling resolutions is final with no future public hearings necessary.
Council also approved resolutions to establish an assessment district for the paving of Nerita Street, a project expected to cost each property owner $1,457.
The city incurred approximately $160,000 in damages caused by Tropical Storm Debby, according to City Manager Judie Zimomra. Council added an emergency agenda resolution to file for a public assistance grant in that amount through the Department of Homeland Security Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) since the state just this week added Lee County to its list of 29 counties approved for public assistance.
The city’s proposed fiscal year 2013 budget came before open council for the first time Tuesday to set the millage rate and debt service.
“This is my sixth budget and we will continue to live within our means,” promised Mayor Kevin Ruane. “We are the only municipality in Lee County do do so.”
Vice Mayor Mick Denham sparked a spirited discussion when he objected to seeing no funds budgeted for reserves.
“This is the first time in my memory that we allocated no money to reserves,” Denham said. “That makes me very uncomfortable.”
An effort to shift two $600,000 debt service items from the current and next budget cycles to reserves still wasn’t enough to placate Denham.
“$1.2 million is not enough. I’m still uncomfortable,” said Denham.
“What figure would make you comfortable?” asked Ruane.
“I’d like to see $3 million,” Denham said.
“That’s another $1.8 (million), I don’t think we can get there,” Ruane said.
The city has $6.1 million in reserves, according to Zimomra. Damages from Hurricane Charley topped $10 million, of which the city recovered about 90 percent in state and federal assistance.
Denham concluded by saying he would go over the budget line by line to see if he could find other sources. After the discussion, $1.2 to $2.0 million became the target amount.
Ruane made the motion and council unanimously approved to accept city staff’s recommendation to set the millage rate at 2.1398 per thousand. That rate is 0.52 percent less than last year’s rate. Council can reduce the rate during later public hearings, but can not raise it from this point.
The other hot topic before council was the new 5-year contract the Community Housing Resources (CHR). Denham objected to a 3 percent per year escalator clause in the annual amount the city funds CHR.
“There are no other budget items with increases built in,” said Denham. “In this tight economy I don’t see how we can justify this increase. I think we can all agree we are in this together. We are all committed to CHR.”
Looking at it five years down the road, Ruane added, “Property values continue to go down 3 percent, 5 per cent, and it looks like double digits for 2012. We put this in and values continue to go down 20 percent over the next five years, what do we do?”
Councilman Doug Congress, the council’s liaison to CHR, pointed out CHR’s budget already is lean.
“There is no fat in their budget,” he said. “They need a safety net. They are committed to fiscal responsibility and maintaining the properties they have.”
Since the contract does not expire until the end of September, the CHR board will discuss the matter among themselves and come back to council for more discussion.
Council agreed to remove from the contract all language referring to CHR moving out of its current quarters at the Center4Life building, which is due for a new roof and air conditioning system.
On that matter, council will seek a report from an architectural firm about the cost of the air conditioning system along with two plans for a new flat roof or a hip roof for the building. The city is restricted in its remodeling to a maximum expenditure of $400,000.
The city awarded five scholarships to dependents of city employees at Tuesday’s meeting. Each receives a grant of $500 for the next academic year.
Miranda and Taylor Ashby, daughter and son of Sanibel Police Lieutenant Scott Ashby, were two of the recipients. Miranda will attend the University of Central Florida while Taylor attends the University of South Florida.
Elizabeth Chamberlain, daughter of Sanibel Recreation employee Dave DeFonzo, is attending Florida State.
Joseph Earle, son of Sanibel Recreation employee Nancy Earle, attends Tallahassee Community College.
Andrea Wesserling Galician, daughter of building department employee Laura Wesserling, is pursuing a degree in nursing at Hillsborough Community College after earning a bachelors degree at South Florida.