Council honors retiring police officer
Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane issued a proclamation at Monday’s City Council meeting recognizing Lt. Scott Ashby for his 30-plus years of service with the Sanibel Police Department. Ashby is retiring on Dec. 31.
Ashby started with the department in 1981, advancing in position from police aide, dispatcher, officer, detective, sergeant and finally as lieutenant.
“The City Council of the City of Sanibel is proud to recognize and congratulate Lt. Ashby upon his retirement and to express our appreciation for his services to the city’s police department during his tenure, and our heartfelt desire that he enjoy a long, healthy and happy retirement,” the proclamation states.
Ashby entertained the gathering with a humorous good-bye speech thanking all those he worked with, reported to, assisted or was assisted by, and essentially crossed paths with.
Council then delved into two hot topics with extensive discussions about the Nov. 6 election and the language in the Sanibel Plan’s Evaluation & Appraisal Report (EAR).
Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington stood before council to hash out what happened on election day, why the lines at the polls were so long and how those issues are being addressed.
Lee County is using its third voting system since 2000, when the paper punch cards were in use. Remember the hanging chads?
“We went to the touch screens until then-Governor Charlie Crist mandated we use the optical scanners we have now,” said Harrington.
She said Crist did not like the touch screen system over concerns of the computers being hacked into.
Grant money to purchase the optical scanners did not go far enough and Lee County basically has just one scanner per precinct with an average of 3,000 voters per precinct. There are 169 scanners available for 125 precincts.
“The ballot this time was four pages long, longest it’s ever been, which slowed down the process,” Harrington said. “And it is mandated that they be printed in English and Spanish.”
With the redistricting done last year, Sanibel went from three precincts down to just two. Lines at Precinct 117 at Sanibel Community Church extended beyond six hours while lines at Precinct 16 at Center 4 Life were shorter and that poll closed after 8 p.m. while Precinct 117 wasn’t finished until after 11 p.m.
Harrington agreed with council’s suggestion to find out why one precinct got it right and the other one didn’t.
“We are bringing those workers in to find that out,” Harrington said.
She also agreed that Center 4 Life is not suitable because of limited parking and has asked Sanibel Congregational Church, which hosted the third Sanibel precinct in the past, to consider returning as a polling site.
“In the coming days I am meeting with the Secretary of State and the association of supervisors to exchange ideas of what the state needs to change,” said Harrington. “We are restricted by state laws and funds on what we can and can’t do, and the early voting period, and the number of early voting sites.”
Once again, views on changing or adding one word in the EAR was batted back and forth between Council and the public. Six citizens pleaded with Council to remove the qualifying word “measurable” and/or “significantly” from a phrase dealing with beach uses and the impact on wildlife beach habitat.
“We don’t want hot dog stands, volleyball nets and jet skis lining the beaches,” said Larry Schopp, a board member of Committee of the Islands (COTI). “Qualifier words can be trouble in the long run. Measurable means one thing to some people and another to other people.”
Sailboards, paddleboards and other activities popular on the Causeway beaches plus horses on the beach also were mentioned through public comment.
Councilman Marty Harrity took issue with the view expressed that any member of Council would allow activity detrimental to the beaches.
“I’m amazed that anyone would suggest that we don’t care about our beaches,” Harrity said forcefully.
When it came to vote on the measure, all five Council members were more comfortable with “measurable” over “significant” and both being left out.
The troublesome phrase, then, will read: “… development shall not measurably degrade the beach and wildlife habitat.”
The next Council meeting is January 15.