Ruane elected Mayor again, Denham Vice Mayor
The Sanibel City Council held its Mayor and Vice Mayor elections in its Tuesday’s (April 7) meeting, with Kevin Ruane taking on another term as Mayor and Mick Denham replacing Doug Congress as the Vice Mayor.
Both were nominated and ran unopposed. Congress did not seek re-election in March.
Two council members were also sworn in, as newly-elected Chauncey Goss and incumbent Jim Jennings each took their oath to serve the community of Sanibel.
Then it was on to city business as the Council took another big step in supporting water quality issues in the area.
By a 5-0 vote, the Council passed a resolution “strongly supporting the purchase of lands south of Lake Okeechobee for the purpose of water storage, treatment and conveyance south into the Everglades to reduce damaging freshwater flows to the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries and urging the State of Florida to exercise its legal option to purchase 46,800 acres of land from the U.S. Sugar Corporation for construction of the EAA Reservoir.”
Each of Mayor Ruane and Vice Mayor Denham were present during the legislative session in Tallahassee to show their support of the White Paper, which promotes the water quality issue for Southwest Florida.
Denham pointed out this legislation’s focus and funds will be on the springs, which have been affecting the northern portion of Florida, in that they have been drying up and is becoming a serious problem, as well.
“We don’t want to see that, but it’s a part of life,” Denham said of the focus shifting to the springs, instead of the estuaries here.
“The money will be going to the springs,” Ruane added.
The problem of the springs is due degradation and contamination and is a legitimate cause and Denham also said by passing the resolution in support of buying the land from U.S. Sugar, he doesn’t want to make it look like the Council is shifting its strategy away from the White Paper, but he still supported the resolution.
Goss added that the EAA land will be a big help in the water quality issue for Southwest Florida, then it needs to show the Council supports that plan, as well.
The EAA land purchase would be a 50/50 cost share between state and federal, with Florida’s share being up to $300 million. The two obstacles are big, though, with U.S. Sugar not wanting to sell the land and the money from the state being slated to go towards the springs.
Steps are starting to be taken to curb the traffic deaths of the Eastern Screech Owl, which are being hit at a disturbing rate between mile markers five and seven on Sanibel-Captiva Road.
There have been 40 Screech Owls killed by traffic, mostly at night when they are hunting for food.
“That’s just too darn many,” said Doris Hardy, who spearheaded the movement of creating the Save Our Screech Owls (SOSO) and lives near mile markers five and seven. “The signs we do have out there are great, but many times, drivers just tune them out.”
The recommendation from SOSO and Hardy was to install Screech Owl signs, highlighted by LED lights, which would start blinking in the dusk hours. There was 100-percent support from the people who gave their public comments to the Council.
“There is an overwhelming support for the LED signs,” Mayor Ruane said.
The Council unanimously passed the purchase of two LED flashing signs to be installed each way by mile markers five and seven to a hearty applause by the owl supporters.
“We will definitely revisit this in a year to see if the signs have helped,” Ruane said.
A discussion about the traffic congestion problems which occur on Sanibel during the busy season, was tabled by the Council at the recommendation of Mayor Ruane, so they can have more in-depth conversation during workshops to come up with ideas to alleviate the pains of traveling on the island.
The resolution to budget matching funds of $25,000 in emergency funding for the Blind Pass erosion mitigation project was passed by a 5-0 vote. The funds are the City’s match for the anticipated funding from the Lee County Tourist Development Council.
The resolution to budget $18,000 in funding for the 2015 City Council election in March was passed 5-0. The amendment does not increase the 2015 budget, either.
Other resolutions which passed unanimously included to budget $10,000 in funding to resolve a claim with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; to budget $12,875 for the beach dune and coastal scrub habitat restoration at the City’s beach parks, with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for Beach Dune and Coastal Scrub Habitat Restoration project; acceptance of the Lee County Community Development Block Grant funding in the amount of $19,979.32 to rehabilitate the Community Housing and Resources, Inc. affordable housing consisting of removing and replacing kitchen cabinets in four units.
It was also passed to appropriate $29,370 in funding from the transportation fund for consultant work on the Shared Use Path Intersection Project, which does not increase the 2015 budget.
The Council voted to fill the vacant Sanibel seat on the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) with Sanibel resident Ty Symroski.
It was approved to purchase four 2016 Ford Interceptor SUVs from Duval Ford in the amount of $26,705 each for a total of $106,820. Funds were in the 2015 adopted capital budget.