This is the second segment in a two-part feature reviewing Marco’s news of the year, “A look back at 2009.”
MARCO ISLAND -- Some events in Marco’s 2009 headlines were quirky no matter who you are or where you were and others were controversial, particularly to Islanders.
The notion for the city to take over Lee County Electric Cooperative continued throughout much of the year in the opinion pages before finally fizzling out. Similarly, Collier County School District’s proposal to turn Tract K into a solar generating demonstration site arose this year and then sunset.
The city’s several-year-long anchoring case against a Marco boater finally sunk this summer after the state made it clear that cities could not regulate boat anchoring outside of an official mooring field. It had statewide ramifications and brought an end to a long, overblown battle between the waterfront property owners and the boaters of the Island.
Just as these controversies came to an end, new ones soon arrived.
Many now say the proposal for a high school on Marco is a good idea, but like many good ideas, the topic wasn’t broached without causing a stir. First, many brought up racism and elitism in behind-the-scenes discussions, causing a Lely versus Marco stance on the issue. Then, council approved the possibility of putting the school in Mackle Park. Some didn’t like that idea. The controversy of a Marco Island charter high school continues to be more about how to go about getting it than it is about whether to have one — at least from the Marco Islanders’ perspective.
An issue that’s really only just beginning is the creation of a community redevelopment area for a new 200-plus-acre area to be called Town Center, which will surround the shopping center by the same name. This will likely be a battle between the city and county as the county has tax dollars at stake in a particularly challenging financial time. Some Islanders also question the need, the expense and the worthiness of the project. This issue will likely continue through 2010 and perhaps beyond.
Another yet-to-be-resolved issue is already referred to as historic. The Key Marco code case was the longest heard case by Marco’s code enforcement board, lasting three days with evidence, exhibits and experts brought in to make one nearly forget that the issue was vegetation slaughter as opposed to the hideous murder of children or animals. The case continues through civil lawsuits filed against the city. Council, the city’s code enforcement board, as well as outside agencies, continue to scrap about how to handle a possible settlement agreement.
It’s hard to say if the astronomically high water and sewer rate increases projected over the next five years are controversial or just plain unpopular, but no doubt the controversy brewing behind those overall estimated increases is how occupants of single family homes and condos are going to equitably bite the big bullet.
Whether a utility board is created or not, it will likely be up to council to prevent any split within their community on the issue.
Creating that council will be one of the first tasks of the Marco Island citizen in 2010 as the election of three of the four candidates takes place in January.
Citizens will also decide whether to change their 12 page city charter when seven amendments, in the form of “yes” or “no” questions, arrive in their mailboxes mid-January. Those amendments took nearly the full year of 2009 to make it to the ballot.
Then there were other headlines that fall somewhere between controversial and quirky.
Some thought the charges against Marco’s doctor, and one-time political activist and council candidate, Andrew Guidry, should never have even made the news. Whether true or not, the possibility that a doctor would suggest swapping medical care for sex with a young patient or one-time friend was attention-grabbing. In the end, Guidry had to admit to some level of fault, in a document not disclosed to the public, receive a psychological evaluation and provide medical services to those in need through many hours of community service. He did this to avoid a trial. Overall, both sides seem to be relatively O.K. with that.
Another attention-grabbing crime story, more of a brief really, had a headline beginner with “Crack to the Cape.” A newspaper often has its events that can’t be left out of a real look at the community it reports on. This was one of those events. From about a dozen misspelled drug names (the news and the police did get “crack” right) to the plain absurdity of a drug-induced driver crashing into farm equipment and a separate Marco woman running into not one, but two cop cars while in the Cape Cod area of Massachusetts, the small crime brief went viral on the Internet apparently for this reporter’s wanton approach to writing it and for the tragic humor in the events.
In mid-May about 2,000 people on Marco lost power. Could it have really been the fault of an Osprey?
How about this deal: Want a free house with few working parts and numerous code violations? If so, you move it, you keep it. Well, nobody really liked the idea much, but a new owner has come in and demolition is the likely fate of the Jamaica Road home, code officials say.
Finally, Marco had some quirky-in-a-good-way news this year as the area beat the odds with the sale of two winning Fantasy Five lotto tickets on Island and a man in Isles of Capri had a nice catch when he fished a Marco woman’s purse out of the water a day after it went missing and returned it to her.