Council moves forward with sewer system expansion project
March 12, 2018


The Sanibel City Council approved two resolutions for the Phase 4 sewer system expansion project, establishing the special assessments, as well as filled the vacancy on the planning commission.

At its March 6 meeting, the council unanimously backed both resolutions, which address 18 parcels along Woodring Road and a portion of West Gulf Drive. A $10,000 special assessment per property was approved, along with a $4,386.21 connection fee for all but one parcel and a $1,948.31 transmission main charge for two of the properties.

Mayor Kevin Ruane asked for an update on where the city is at with the expansion project.

City Manager Judie Zimomra explained that certain parcels were previously exempt from having to connect to the system until their septic systems failed. She estimated that there are less than 100.

"It's just that they had such low usage," Zimomra said of the exemption's approval.

In addition, the properties were facing the highest assessments and were more difficult to access.

She explained that the project was designed to skip over them, focusing on the others first.

"We're going to do all of those and save the toughest ones for last," Zimomra said.

First readings were held for two ordinances to amend the city codes relating to elevated swimming pools and floodplain management. Public hearings were scheduled for the next meeting in April.

The council also unanimously appointed Matthew Kirchner to the Sanibel Planning Commission, filling the opening left by the resignation of former Commissioner John Talmage. Prior to the vote, the councilmembers each shared their pick via a scrap-paper vote. Kirchner received four of the votes.

He is a year-round resident and general contractor with Kirchner Contracting Inc.

The fifth vote went to Tim Garmager. The other applicants included Thomas Foley, William Mills, Thomas Rothman, James Urbelis, Roger Triftshauser, Walter Cheatham and Jonathan Tongyai.

"We've got some great applicants," Councilwoman Holly Smith said before the paper vote.

Also at the meeting, the council voted to keep Councilman Jason Maughan on as the liaison to Community Housing and Resources. Having worked with CHR as a planning commissioner, Smith voiced interest in the role and noted that she was approached when Maughan missed a meeting.

"I did hope to continue my work with below market rate housing," she said.

Richard Johnson, president of CHR's board of directors, spoke before the council.

"I just want to make sure we don't lose any momentum," he said. "I want to make sure we have the support of the full council."

The Lee County Municipal Planning Organization sought input from the council on Sanibel's Shared Use Path Master Plan update. The MPO is conducting the study and asked for direction on selecting a consultant, whether the city would support one from a pre-approved list of nine firms or an outsider.

County staff reported that eight of the nine had already expressed interest in the project.

Keith Williams, director of the Sanibel Public Works Department, explained to the councilmembers that he believed one could be secured from the list and that an interview and review would still follow.

"It's not just grabbing from out of a bag," he said.

Maughan recommended going with a local firm if more than one rose to the top.

"I'd rather pick somebody who's local on the scene," he said. "It's be nice to have them close to home and nice to support local business."

The council voted in support of going with the list. It also voted in favor of Williams and Craig Chandler, with the planning department, serving on the consultant team as representatives.

Following some discussion, the council voted to allow the San Cap Motor Club to hold car shows at Periwinkle Place without requiring special event permits, which arose from a recent parking issue.

Scot Congress, one of the club's founding members, explained that it had been holding the shows for three years and never needed a permit. At its last one, there had been an overflow parking problem.

He explained that the issue had been resolved, so the permit seemed unnecessary.

"We don't sell anything, we don't need signs, we don't use any traffic control," Congress said.

Council agreed to let the car shows continue as is.

"As long as you have the responsibility of directing traffic," Ruane said.

A five-year agreement that was up for approval between the city and the Sanibel Historical Museum and Village was tabled until a later date. Some councilmembers questioned a portion of the agreement that required the city to pay to the museum $50,000 per year for administrative and operational costs.

Ruane pointed to the almost $800,000 in reserves held by the museum.

"Cash is certainly tight at the moment," he said, noting that the city is looking into loans and lines of credit to replenish its emergency funds after Hurricane Irma. "The reserves give me some pause."

Ruane asked for clarification on what the museum planned to do with its reserves and why the city would be financially supporting the museum when it appeared to have a funding mechanism in place.

"I'm just looking at a cost that seems to be escalating," he said.

Others on the dais agreed.

"The city does not have a growth in revenue stream over the next couple of years," Vice Mayor Mick Denham said, adding that inflation will increase over the next several years. "We do have to nickle and dime things and that's going to be the fact of life for a little while."

The council voted unanimously to table the agreement until answers were available.

A request from The Sanibel School to serve alcohol at its Annual Sea Horse Festival on April 21 was also tabled at the meeting. Before even addressing the alcohol issue, council voiced concerns about the Parent Teacher Association not having a clear parking plan for the event, set for the Community Park.

"Nobody can vote for it without those pieces relating to parking nailed down," Maughan said.

Others on the council agreed.

"Traffic becomes a major issue here," Ruane said.

The PTA will work with city staffers to iron out the issues, then bring it back to council.


- The council unanimously approved six food trucks for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation's annual Beer in the Bushes event on March 31.

- Natural Resources Department Director James Evans reported that staff is continuing to see green algae growth in the Pine Island Sound and bay. He added that red tide is being observed from Pinellas County down through Monroe County, with Sanibel staffers continuing to follow a patchy area of it.

"We have seen numerous fish kills reported," Evans said.

"We did have reports of respiratory irritation on a number of our beaches," he added.

During public comment, one resident suggested looking into charging fees at the boat ramps to better protect the shallow beds, help prevent manatee deaths and improve water quality from gasoline.

Another resident suggested reserving some spots at the city's beach parking lots for residents who pay about $100 for the annual parking sticker. She reported that it can be hard to find a spot in season.


Regular Size Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander