by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes, photos by SC Associate Publisher Chuck Larsen
Kevin Ruane and Mick Denham were handily re-elected as mayor and vice-mayor respectively on Tuesday, April 7, by City Council. Ruane was the single nominee for the position, proposed by Denham who said he couldn’t “see a better person in this time of strife for the city.”
Councilman Richard Johnson nominated Denham for vice-mayor, stating it is important to “maintain continuity” during this difficult time. Councilwoman Holly Smith nominated herself for the position. Smith said she “appreciated continuity,” but it was important to consider potential near-future changes to the council.
Ruane has thrown his hat in the ring for Lee County Commissioner, and if elected, he will resign from City Council and as mayor later this year. The vice-mayor will succeed Ruane until the council’s election next year.
“I will do the best I can to support you, Mr. Mayor, and the rest of my council colleagues, and do what is best for the city,” said Denham after being sworn in as vice-mayor.
In other business:
• Council had further discussion on the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sanibel has six confirmed cases of the virus, according to a report released April 10 by the Florida Health Department. Ruane reported a dramatic drop in traffic crossing the Sanibel Causeway and council remained unanimously opposed to using hurricane passes for entry to the island.
Johnson said hurricane passes may “appear to be an easy solution to a complex problem.” He added there are ways the city can protect citizens without using the passes.
• Ruane mentioned his “surprise” to Wildlife Drive at “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge remaining open. He felt it was one of the main attractions to the island and the city has been striving to “cut-off supply” to dissuade visitors. However, the refuge is under federal jurisdiction and City Manager Judie Zimomora was appointed to reaching out to the refuge as a first step.
• Director of Natural Resources James Evans provided an update on Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River. Lake O is down nearly 11 inches since March and 1.2 inches lower than this time last year. Due to the rapidly declining level of Lake O, the South Florida Water Management District staff recommended cutting back flows to the Caloosahatchee to the minimum flow and level of 457 cubic foot per second from 650 cfs.
“Given the extremely dry conditions throughout the system, I can understand why the flows were cutback,” said Evans in his report. “However, to make the cutbacks equitable the SFWMD should be implementing phased water cutbacks to all water users.”
Evans requested to send a letter to the SFWMD petitioning them to implement phased water cutbacks to all water users to ensure the Caloosahatchee is not cut back further if dry conditions persist. Council approved his request.