City moves toward creating environmental affairs board

Feb. 22, 2013 @ 05:02 AM

With the natural gas industry poised to impact Lee County's future, Sanford City Council has proposed creating a municipal environmental affairs board to address the city's specific concerns — which is set to be discussed during the council's Law and Finance Committee meeting Wednesday.  

"We can't let the city's unique concerns fall through the cracks," said Council member Rebecca Wyhof, who originally proposed that Sanford create an EAB.

After the Lee County Board of Commissioners voted to disband the joint Environmental Affairs Board in favor of a technical skill review committee earlier this year, Wyhof proposed that the city form its own board to review environmental tasks relevant to the municipality.

The city funds and maintains the city roads, water and sewer systems and has zoning and enforcement concerns that the county may not have or need to consider, she said.

"Our community has asked us and expects us to be abreast of the unique concerns for Sanford and our residents," Wyhof said.

Deeming a Sanford EAB a wonderful idea, Mayor Cornelia Olive said such an entity will be needed to address the city's interests.

"Some of the members of the former EAB, probably a majority, have an immense amount of background and history — having studied different issues that are unique to Lee County," Olive said. "I hope those who were on the original board will apply for our appointments."

City Manager Hal Hegwer said he is seeking input from council members on a draft charter and guidelines for the new EAB to potentially present during the board's next law and finance meeting, scheduled for 1 p.m. Feb. 27 at the Sanford Municipal Center.

The Lee County Environmental Review and Advisory Committee — officially charged with reviewing technical documentation and advising the county on testing matters impacting the environment — and the Sanford EAB will hopefully not be at odds and collaborate instead, Wyhof said.

"I'd like to see the boards working in conjunction," she said. "There is no reason to create inefficiencies or duplicate efforts."

Olive agreed and said cooperation between the governmental entities is essential for the success of the city and county.

Unlike the Lee County committee, Wyhof said the Sanford board will not require members to process a specific or technical skill set — unless other council members request it during the law and finance meeting.

"To my knowledge, we have some great people who have a wide variety of expertise and ability," she said.

Once the board is up and running, Wyhof said she'd like the group to make regular reports to city council on pressing environmental concerns or policy.

"I imagine there will be information that will be helpful to disseminate to the public," she said.

Applications to join the board have not been released yet, but Wyhof said she hopes they will be available for public review soon.