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Sanibel City Council talks about raising beach parking fees

By Staff | Aug 7, 2015

The first steps of raising beach parking from $3 an hour to $4 were taken by the Sanibel City Council Tuesday, Aug. 4.

Vice-Mayor Mick Denham introduced the raise during budget talks and the motion was passed 5-0 to instruct City Manager Judie Zimomra to bring an ordinance draft in the next meeting.

The raise of beach parking fees needs to be passed as an ordinance and will need to have first and second readings. During discussion Aug. 4, all the Councilmen and Mayor Kevin Ruane were in favor of the raise.

A raise in fines for illegal parking will also be included in the proposed ordinance.

“Beach parking revenue stream takes care of many aspects of maintaining the beaches,” Ruane said.

With the TDC (Tourist Development Council) matching funds for beach maintenance, it costs the City of Sanibel approximately $1.2 to $1.5 million.

“The tourists who visit the beaches should have to pay their share,” Denham said. “The residents of the island shouldn’t have to bear all the burden.”

Denham added the revenue from beach parking should also pay for the surveillance video which is staked out in the parking lots, as well.

Councilman Chauncey Goss was supportive of the proposed ordinance, as well.

“It’s a supply and demand issue and if the lots are always full, maybe they are not priced right,” Goss said.

Councilman Marty Harrity also agreed with the fee hike.

“It’s a user fee and it pays for itself,” Harrity said. “If the money is generated, you make sure it pays for itself (beach maintenance). I’m very supportive of it.”

The beach parking ordinance will be presented for the first time in the City Council’s meeting and will have two readings before it is voted on.

Another fee increase was discussed involving the Sanibel Recreation Center.

Director of Recreation Andrea Miller presented the Council with a 10-percent and 15-percent membership fee increase as an option to save $121,700 in operation costs, which was proposed by Mayor Ruane as a “low-hanging” cost savings during budget talks.

If the memberships are raised by 10-percent, the new fees will be $173.25 and a 15-percent increase will cost $181.13 per individual.

“Our staff would then round that number off,” Miller said.

Goss proposed to get more detailed numbers of what certain programs cost and if any are underpriced.

“The intent is to cap the subsidy (for the Rec Center) and not raise the annual membership fees,” Mayor Ruane said. “We need to balance this.”

Based on City Council direction July 21, other recommendations to meet that $121,700 in savings included reducing operating budget ($36,000); membership, program and rental fee increases ($60,000), close Rec Center on all City holidays ($12,000); do not offer Youth Summer Camp Programs for one week during annual facility maintenance closure ($5,000); Rec Center Sunday hours remain 12-5 p.m. year-round ($5,400) and close Rec Center at 7 p.m. on Monday-Thursday during summer months of June-September ($3,300).

A motion was passed 5-0 to allow Miller to come back with a flexible increase between 0-20 percent and look into how much certain programs cost.

“There will be more discussion on this,” Mayor Ruane added.

It was passed for the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village to replace the existing wood walkways with pervious brick pavers, as was the re-configuration of Shore Haven, adding office and storage space.

In the City Manager report, Zimomra said the vendor for AT&T has withdrawn a permit to install their equipment to help improve cellphone reception on Sanibel.

“We are still working with AT&T, just not that certain vendor,” Zimomra said.

Mayor Ruane said the City went through a similar path with Verizon a few years ago and it eventually worked out.

“We don’t want a monopoly here with just Verizon offered,” he said.

City Attorney Ken Cuyler was confident AT&T will eventually install the equipment needed for better reception on Sanibel.

“We just need someone up higher on the chain to grab their attention,” Cuyler said.

The resolution amending the labor agreement between the City of Sanibel and the Fraternal Order of Police was passed 5-0.