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Two city council members, officers sworn in

By Staff | Mar 21, 2019

TIFFANY REPECKI The new Sanibel City Council consists of, seated from left, Vice Mayor Mick Denham and Mayor Kevin Ruane and, standing, Councilmembers Jason Maughan, Holly Smith and Richard Johnson.

The Sanibel City Council has a new face and a returning one following the recent election cycle.

At a meeting on March 19, Councilmember Richard Johnson was sworn into office for the first time, while Councilmember Holly Smith was sworn in for her first full term. Both had filed paperwork for a special election set for March for two openings on the council, but were the only candidates to do so.

Johnson replaces former Councilmember Chauncey Goss, who did not seek re-election.

Smith had been serving out the remaining term of former Councilmember Jim Jennings, who had moved to Fort Myers. She was appointed to the seat in December 2017 to serve in the interim, then in January 2018 she was the only candidate to complete the qualifying process to finish his last year.

“Thank you for all the support I’ve received from the community,” Johnson said, adding that the council and city staff have been welcoming and that he is privileged to be part of the team.

TIFFANY REPECKI Councilmember Richard Johnson is sworn into office for the first time.

The council also elected its mayor and vice mayor for the coming year.

In a 5-0 vote, Mayor Kevin Ruane was re-elected to the office.

Sitting Vice Mayor Mick Denham was nominated for re-election, while Councilmember Jason Maughan threw his hat in the ring, too. However, Maughan offered to withdrawn the nomination for himself if Denham was interested in retaining the office. He said he was, so Maughan withdrew.

In the following 5-0 vote, Denham was re-elected to serve as vice mayor.

During the meeting, the council voted unanimously for Smith to proceed with researching possible software the city could use regarding short-term rental companies. She explained that there is tracking software that is less expensive than it was several years ago and a costs-benefits analysis may help.

TIFFANY REPECKI Councilmember Holly Smith is sworn into office for her first full term.

Smith pointed out that the software could help the city monitor short-term rentals and circumvent violations, such as rentals operating out of an improper zone or available for less than 28 days.

“It may be at a cost that would be very beneficial to the island,” she said of the discounted software. “To make sure that we’re taking care of our backyard in terms of regulations and requirements.”

The council also voted unanimously to direct staff to research municipalities that have regulated gas-powered leaf blowers, the impact to the communities and available technology for a report in June.

Maughan raised the topic for discussion after being approached by residents about a ban.

He explained that he wanted to ensure the subject was fully researched before a proposal was put before the council for a vote. Specially, Maughan wanted to be aware of impacts to businesses.

TIFFANY REPECKI Sitting Mayor Kevin Ruane is sworn in to serve as mayor again.

“I don’t want to put people out of business because I want to sleep in,” he said.

Ruane noted an exemption for leaf blowers but not for generators.

“I believe there is technology out there that we can embrace,” he said, pointing out that other communities have turned to electric-powered devices. “I think it’s something we need to act upon.”

During public comment, residents spoke out for and against a ban.

Mike Miller, president of the Committee of the Islands, reported that his organization conducted a survey and got about 120 responses. He said it was “more than we’ve received on any issue.” Of them, 105 respondents were in favor of a ban on gas-powered leaf blowers, and 16 were opposed to one.

TIFFANY REPECKI Sitting Vice Mayor Mick Denham is sworn in to serve as vice mayor again.

He said those in support of a ban cited noise, air pollution, possible health effects on workers using them and on those with respiratory issues, and the argument the devices just move debris around. Those in opposition were against more city regulations and said the water issues were enough to focus on.

One resident brought to the meeting a top-of-the-line electric leaf blower and used it to demonstrate that they can also loud and bothersome. He added that he spoke to landscaping companies in Key Biscayne – where there is a ban in place – and they said they have had to hire additional workers.

Prior to the council’s vote, City Manager Judie Zimomra explained that the staff had done some preliminary research, but had not analyzed the data. There are about 20 ordinances to look at.

IN OTHER NEWS

– Community Services Director Keith Williams provided council with an update on the Donax Rehabilitation Project. Estimated to take 24 months to complete, the work commenced in February. Staff is in the permitting process for the electrical and the demolition of plant I is under way.

“As of right now, everything is on schedule and within the scope,” he said.

– The council also heard the first reading of three ordinance amendments related to the general employees retirement plan, traffic and bicycles-mopeds, and dogs at food service establishments. The second readings for the ordinances are scheduled to be held at the council’s meeting on April 2.

– The council voted 5-0 to reappoint members to the Sanibel Historical Preservation Committee, Sanibel Recreation Financial Assistance Committee and Sanibel Vegetation Committee, which included appointing adjunct members and an emeritus member to the Sanibel Vegetation Committee.