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Mayor emphasizes pandemic, water quality in state-of-the-city report

By CHAMBER OF COMMERCE - | Jan 21, 2021

PHOTO PROVIDED Mayor Denham details how the Sanibel City Council continues its support of regional water quality issues at the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce’s recent meeting.

The Sanibel City Council remains vigilant where pandemic safety measures and state legislation to improve regional water quality are concerned, Mayor Mick Denham reported at the Jan. 13 virtual meeting of the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce.

“We are also very active in discussing and trying to persuade the legislature to improve the local water quality and quantity,” he said, after covering in detail the council’s efforts to procure $750,000 in state funding for the final phase of Sanibel’s more than 20-year project to improve local water quality through a central sewer system.

The council supports a number of efforts to clean up the Everglades and waters coming out of Lake Okeechobee with the moving forward of agricultural and stormwater reservoirs and treatment facilities.

“All of these projects are designed to help the way of life on Sanibel,” Denham said, likening the island to a catcher’s mitt for all of the nutrients and pollutions traveling down from the lake.

As far as the coronavirus pandemic, he commended the city council for its pioneering mask mandate, new signage for people entering Sanibel, and discussions at every meeting on what the city can do to improve the situation. Denham himself is currently partnering with the chamber on a Mayor’s Mask Challenge to draw awareness to the importance of face coverings in fighting coronavirus spread.

“The mandate has been very well-accepted by our citizens, they welcome it,” he said, adding that “a little more work needs to be done encouraging visitors to wear masks.”

Denham also touched upon how the pandemic has affected the city’s finances.

“We had obviously a major shortfall of revenue because of the pandemic. We are slowly recovering from that,” he said.

Loss of income from beach parking and the Sanibel Causeway tolls have had the greatest impact. Beach parking and boat ramp usage are issues the council will address in upcoming meetings, Denham told chamber members.

Chamber President John Lai spoke of the chamber’s efforts to most effectively deal with the pandemic’s impact and local water quality, specifically the current flux of red tide. He reported on the effectiveness of the chamber’s SanCap Safe initiative, which has seen more than 150 local businesses take the pledge to follow pandemic safety measures that the chamber recommends.

Social media engagement has demonstrated keen interest in the program.

“It’s showing that we mean what we say as a community when say we’re SanCap Safe,” Lai said. “Visitors and guests appreciate it that we are working so hard at keeping them safe.”

Denham, who has served on the city council since 2005, concluded his 2021 Legislative Priorities presentation and state-of-the-city report by announcing that his service to the city ends in March with his current term, for which he will not seek re-election.

“Thank you for your time over the last couple of decades,” Lai said. “Our city is much better off because you served.”

The chamber’s next virtual business meeting is scheduled for Feb. 10 at noon. The featured guest speaker will be John Talmage, director of the Lee County Economic Development Office.