At last week's City Council meeting, one member of the audience suggested that Sanibel's leaders take a look at installing a new weigh station on the island.
The issue of a weigh station, which was dismantled and removed from the second causeway island almost two years ago, has been brought up before. Opponents to the idea have said that the structure is an eyesore which had long since held any substantial benefits for the city. Revenue from the station, according to statistics provided by City Hall, dropped almost in half during the last five years of its operation. Traffic backups along the causeway were a nuisance, too.
Proponents, however, claim that the station is beneficial for both financial and safety reasons.
But one thing is for certain: the idea of bringing a weigh station should be given some serious consideration.
A new weigh station on Sanibel would look nothing like the former facility, which looked like a pre-fabricated metal storage shed. For all intents and purposes, it was. However, a cleverly designed attendant building (which had been proposed to Lee County officials years ago) and underground scale equipment, along with a thick vegetation buffer, would eliminate eyesore worries.
The first question on everyone's mind is where could - or, more importantly, should - a weigh station be located? The last time that the council was looking at the idea (in early 2007), city staff had identified six possible locations:
Along McGregor Boulevard before the Toll Plaza
Adjacent to the Toll Plaza (Punta Rassa Boat Ramp property)
On Causeway Island B (at the location of the previous weigh station)
Immediately following the final causeway span
Behind the Sanibel & Captiva Chamber of Commerce
Beyond the Chamber of Commerce property (Pond Apple Trail parcel)
After each off-island site was rejected by Lee County officials, city staffers ultimately decided to recommend the site immediately following the final causeway span. However, that site worried residents for several reasons, most notably the brake noise created by slowing commercial vehicles, additional signage and traffic congestion. This is where locals and vacationers are supposed to get that "Welcome To Sanibel" sort of feel... not the sight, sounds and smells of idling mega-trailers and dumptrucks pulling off to the right side of the road.
Concerns by environmentalists about using that parcel, already dedicated as a nature preserve, should be assuaged since moving a weigh station to that site would require a referedum to be approved by voters. Thus, the city will have to carefully consider some of the previous proposals, as well as a few new options, in order to bring this idea to reality.
So, at this point, the answer to the first question is there is no such thing as a "perfect" location for a weigh station on Sanibel.
Another notable sticking point being pondered is whether the income generated by adding an on-island facility of the sort would support the expenses required to be extracted from the city's coffers. While the original weigh station income topped out at nearly $900,000 annually, revenues generated in the final full year (2006) reached slightly more than $511,000. But isn't a half a million dollars a significant enough figure to draw an interest in a return to a weigh station, considering that such income would be put towards ongoing road maintenance and infrastructure projects which would benefit all islanders? Some seem to think so, and some do not.
We commend the City Council for adding this to their upconing agenda. After more than two years of talk, though, we're not sure how much new information will come to light. A weigh station will benefit residents and the community and so it should move forward. The only issue remaining on the table is appropriate mitigation to address resident concerns. Concentrate the summer discussion here and move forward - a weigh station on Sanibel should not just be considered, but should be supported by all citizens of the island.
- Reporter editorial