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Sanibel to remain a Class 5 CRS community

By Staff | Mar 8, 2016

The City of Sanibel will be content to keep its already valuable Class 5 Community Rating System (CRS) for 2016, which enables flood insurance policy holders within the City to receive a 25-percent savings.

Sanibel is has a heavy Class 5 rating, meaning the community is deep on the fifth level and has plenty of wiggle room to keep it.

To improve to Class 4, Sanibel would have to demonstrate that programs “are in place to that minimize flood losses, minimize increases in future flooding, protect natural floodplain functions and protect people from the dangers of flooding,” according to the analysis study by Tetra Tech in Tuesday’s (March 1) City Council meeting.

But the regulatory standards, which were upgraded recently, are very strict and on a level which is almost impossible for Sanibel to reach, unless they put a heavy burden on the citizens.

“When I arrived, we were a Class 6 community and now we are a Class 5,” said Sanibel Mayor Kevin Ruane. “Looking at some of the restrictions to reach Class 4, it is unobtainable. We have good flexibility as a Class 5 community and that allows residents to improve their homes if they so choose.”

The Tetra Tech report stated Sanibel is one of 19 Florida communities with a Class 5 rating out of 219 and only one has a Class 4 rating, which is Ocala.

It was voted 4-0 (Councilman Jim Jennings was absent) to direct staff to keep ensuring a Class 5 rating, while not pursuing to raise to Class 4.

Also by a vote of 4-0, the City Council directed City staff to pursue research into refunding the Recreation Center for either a 10 or 15 year direct bank loan, with the interest rates being lower.

In 2006, citizens approved general obligation bonds of $8,350,000 to aid in the construction of the Recreation Center on Sanibel. There were $5,000 par value bonds issued with maturities to 30 years, with interest being paid semi-annually and principal paid annually.

The interest rates of those bonds were from 4.25 to 4.35 percent and the current outstanding balance stands at $6,515,000 after 10 years.

In the report to the City Council about the refunding options, the current market are favorable for debt interest rates. Bank qualified interest rates for total municipal issuances under $10 million in one calendar year, as the City qualifies.

The projected interest rates the City could lock into are from 2.47 to 3.19 percent, in either 10, 15 or 20-year terms.

In the informational graphic in the report, a 10-year term has a 2.47 percent rate, while a 15 is at 2.96 and 20 at 3.19. The millage rate would also be affected, with the current rate a .1111.

A 20-year term would have a millage rate of .0991, a 15-year at .1259 and a 10-year term at .1768. The interest savings for each term from the current bond, would be $833,833 (20 years); $1,567,620 (15) and $2,283,177 (10).

There is also a $100,000 paydown, as well with the 10 or 15 year options.

“I would like staff to bring back the best option for each the 10 and 15-year terms,” Mayor Ruane said.

The 4-0 vote directs staff to research each 10 and 15-year options, with the options being discussed at a future meeting.

The water quality topic was discussed, as well as the Mayor coalition’s trip to Washington D.C., which included Ruane.

Sanibel Natural Resource Director James Evans gave a report on the status of the Lake Okeechobee water depth, as it dropped by a small measure.

“The goal is to get the Lake below the 13.5 feet mark by June,” Evans said. “It looks like we’ll have to take the maximum discharge from the Lake now to help save the spawning season of the sport fish, which starts in March and runs through May.”

Vice Mayor Mick Denham gave his report on his efforts to disseminate information on Sanibel’s practices regarding fertilizers and golf course management to other communities.

He added letters and emails have been sent to Lee County Mayors and the goal is to set up meetings with them or other community representatives to discuss keeping water quality a priority in each city.

“Our focus points are fertilizer, golf course management, native plants and nutrient programs,” Denham said.

“It’s good we are doing this, because we need to keep track of our own backyard if we are going to be leaders in this,” Ruane added.

With the issue of traffic taking a backseat to the latest water quality problems, there was a bit of good news reported out of January’s Causeway counts.

The number of vehicles was down crossing the Causeway from 307,302 in 2015 to 299,519 this past January.

“Normally we see a three to four percent increase in traffic across the Causeway during this time, it didn’t happen,” Ruane said. “It might be due to the water, of course, but I would like to believe our message is getting across to the public.”

The communication of staying on Sanibel for a longer period of time, instead of sitting in traffic has been spread all through Lee County’s hotels, Chambers, as well in magazine ads in Jet Blue publications, which reach across the nation.

The City also has received its first signage, with the Lee County’s consent.

“Now, we have to find an appropriate places to put the signs and we have also received our live cams for live feed,” said City Manager Judie Zimomra.

The main message the City is trying to get out is includes during peak season, the daily heavy on-bound traffic congestion is from 8 a.m. to noon and heavy off-bound traffic between 2:30 and 6:30 p.m.

On a weekly basis during peak season, Saturday traffic volumes are the highest, and traffic volumes are the lightest on Sundays and Tuesdays.

The suggestions to avoid a long stay in traffic is to avoid driving on and off the Island during these peak times. Plan in advance to travel around the Island by foot and bike and stay on Island by having dinner and shop to avoid traffic delay and to check the City of Sanibel website for traffic updates at www.MySanibel.com.

Ordinance 16-001 was tabled until next month’s meeting, as well.

The ordinance includes passing characteristics of Sanibel’s “Island Style” include buildings which are rural in character, smaller in stature and understood in design.

There will be four sub-style categories, including Old Florida, Island Eclectic, Island Contemporary and Caribbean.