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City supports drowning prevention effort

By Staff | Oct 5, 2012

JIM LINETTE Dr. Steve Brown, vice chairman at Lee Memorial Health System, makes an educational presentation on child drowning prevention to City Council Tuesday.

Sanibel City Council addressed a wide range of issues at Tuesday’s meeting at City Hall, from water quality to child drowning prevention, and from vegetation code to drafts of ordinances to deal with sidewalk sales and nuisance or neglected properties.

Dr. Steve Brown, a Sanibel resident and vice chairman at Lee Memorial Health System, brought a presentation that addresses drowning prevention education, especially for kids under age 5.

“We’re here to get the support of the city for a program called Sanibel Swims,” Brown said.

The program strives to obtain a grant that would fund swim lessons through the Sanibel Recreation Center aimed at children through eighth grade.

“This year 39 children have been treated from drowning or near-drowning causes,” Brown said. “Six of those died and, unfortunately, one here on Sanibel.”

The educational part of the program teaches parents to always designate a water watcher when children are in the pool; have layers of prevention around water, pools or canals; and to learn CPR.

The council fully supports the effort especially when it comes with funding through outside grants.

Vice Mayor Mick Denham reported on the creation of area captains to assist in the effort responding to fertilizer legislation that will preempt local governments’ ability to protect local water quality.

“The fertilizer companies are upset that they lost last year,” said Denham, “but the way legislation works if we won last year we could lose this year. It’s a neverending battle.”

The City of Sanibel will be conducting training workshops at City Hall for designated area captains at 1 p.m. on Oct. 29 and 5 p.m. on Oct. 30. These workshops will train those who will be responsible for coordinating with other individuals willing to write to legislators opposing harmful fertilizer legislation.

If fertilizer companies succeed through legislators, local governments, such as Sanibel, would lose a critical tool needed to address state-mandated water quality programs aimed at protecting and improving Florida’s waters and its coastal economies.

Planning department director James Jordan brought before council a first draft of an ordinance aimed at dealing with neglected or nuisance properties, the number of which on Sanibel has grown over the past three years. It was done to answer a rising number of citizen complaints on residential and commercial properties falling into disrepair.

Jordan said in the past three years 12 properties have been identified as neglected, some through foreclosure or other economic reasons and some through abandonment. His Power Point presentation can be found on the city’s website www.mysanibel.com.

“Most of Sanibel properties are well maintained,” said city manager Judith Zimomra. “Everyone here takes pride in maintaining their property because it is a major investment. There are only a few isolated cases and with the economic downturn complaints are increasing. This ordinance is intended to nip a growing problem in the bud.”

Jordan’s slide presentation showed many of the 12 properties identified as neglected. A couple have since been torn down and another was recently sold, renovated and occupied.

Examples of neglect included overgrown yards, vegetation growing on the sides of buildings, open doors and windows that invite wildlife or intruders, loose and missing roof tiles that could become projectiles in high winds, missing screen panels around unclean pools, peeling paint and siding.

The proposed ordinance will be given a public hearing before the Plan Commission and if approved a resolution would be sent to the City Council for reading and discussion. The final step would be a public hearing before City Council before final approval.

Similarly, a first draft ordinance was heard raising the number of annual holiday sidewalk sales days from 37 to 67. Restaurants are included in the ordinance for the sale of non-food items only.

The new ordinance would bring the current ordinance governing sidewalk sales in line with what retail businesses already are being allowed to do on a case-by-case request. Businesses must pay a $50 fee for a permit to conduct sidewalk sales and the permit is good for the entire year.