Finances, employees and updates of ongoing projects took up most of the Sanibel City Council's time at Tuesday's monthly meeting.
City finance director Sylvia Edwards was presented with two awards from the Government Finance Officers Association at the start of the meeting. James Lewin, fiscal analyst for Lee County Budget Services, made the presentation on behalf of the GFOA of the Distinguished Budget Presentation Award and the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report Award.
Charmaine Yeadon was recognized for serving Sanibel for 33 years as assistant finance director before her retirement on April 12. Emergency management specialist Lance Henninger was named the employee of the second quarter.
Council discussed a budget amendment transferring a Fiscal Year 2012 ending balance of nearly $5 million forward to the 2013 budget as well as the city's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for 2012 which required no action.
Mayor Kevin Ruane and city manager Judie Zimomra gave updates on staff work progress on the commercial redevelopment project. A second redevelopment workshop has been set for Tuesday, May 21. Needs assessment reports on the Center 4 Life, non-profits and applicable building codes are expected to be presented at the council's meeting on May 7.
Zimomra also reported on the East Periwinkle shared use path project open house conducted on April 3. The project was received positively among the 68 visitors to the session based on the comment forms submitted and interactions with city Public Works staffers.
Zimomra also pointed out that the 2012 year end causeway count topped three million vehicles for the first time since 2004. The figure also is a seven-year high.
Councilman Mick Denham updated the panel on the citizen fertilizer education program he is spearheading.
"Our legislators in Tallahassee are trying to do as much harm to us as they can," joked Denham. "The House has decided to form a commission to review the scientific evidence of fertilizer ordinances for the next two years. It does not stop ordinances on the books, but no new ordinances can go in effect."
He added he will continue to find ways for the educational plan to participate even though the makeup of the commission seems to favor the fertilizer industry.
Late in the meeting, city attorney Ken Cuyler brought a request by a property owner for a fine reduction relating to a Brazilian pepper code violation. The absentee owner, Melanie Iwanowski, cited financial hardships reaching back as far as five years for not being able to remove the pepper.
Iwanowski, who also has been unable to pay the property taxes to the county, has been in violation of the pepper eradication code since an Aug. 20 code hearing and imposed a fine of $100 per day since. That fine now amounts to more than $20,000.
The vacant lot at 3005 Turtle Gait Lane is under a contract for sale set to close soon with the buyer aware that the Brazilian peppers are to be removed.
Councilman Jim Jennings made a motion to reduce the fine to $741.99, which was established as the actual cost to the city for bringing the action.
"The bottom line is we get the trees removed, and that's what's important," said Jennings.
Denham voiced a concern that council might be setting some precedent for future requests from residents on a case-by-case basis.
His objection was noted, but Jennings' motion was seconded with a 5-0 vote.