Council blog: Marco gives museum $250,000; approves of developers paying for public art

— Marco Island City Council chose to defer a review of their ordinance regulating failing seawalls until March 1. Meanwhile, this evening will be largely about requiring developers to fund public displays of arts and whether to continue forward with a $350,000 commitment toward exhibits for the new Marco Island Historical Museum.

Monte Lazarus led the council and audience in the Pledge of Allegiance to begin the meeting promptly at 5:30 p.m. He was presented with a plaque for his service to the U.S. in the military and the community through service on several Island boards and committees.

A presentation on the new designation of Marco as Tree City U.S.A. was removed from the agenda.

Charter amendments

Jim Riviere will present the ramifications of some of the seven amendments to the City Charter based on which ones passed and which ones failed during the January election.

Four amendments were approved and three failed.

"Due to the fact we were a city committee working on this we were limited in our ability to... advocate any of these items," Riviere said.

"We were at a great disadvantage to anyone who might campaign against any of these items."

City manager's spending authority is primarily delegated through the purchasing ordinance, Riviere said.

Ordinance required for expenses of $12 million or more

"It was a complete surprise that after we brought this up, it was defeated... For people opposed to runaway spending this is a green light," Riviere said.

The amendment failed and would have prevented expensive projects from being approved by resolution, which voters cannot petition against as they can ordinances.

Spending cap amendment

"We shouldn't have labeled it as an amendment to the spending cap."

The budget guidelines currently encourage government to spend money instead of save money, he added.

Compensation for council members

"There again, maybe we could have packaged it differently."

He said council members need to make more money because otherwise the only people who can serve on council are people who are independently wealthy and that doesn't represent all the people of Marco Island.

Chairman Rob Popoff said: "all the people who checked 'no' on that box have no idea what goes into doing this job."

The chair currently earns $9,000 annually and other council members earn $6,000 and voters chose not to increase their salaries by a federal COLA every year going back to the beginning of the city about 12 years ago.

Dave Rush, Joe Granda, Monte Lazarus, Larry Magel and Dick Shanahan of the former charter review committee were present and stood up for recognition.

Appointment to the Collier County Coastal Advisory Committee

Currently Councilman Ted Forcht, whose seat is expiring on March 15, and council-elect Larry Magel serve on the Coastal Advisory Committee. Magel's seat is open because he chose to run for council. Former City Councilman John Arceri applied to replace Magel. Magel may choose later, along with any member of the council, to apply for Forcht's seat before mid-March.

A new applicant, (Tony Zarella) filed, but the name was not provided before the meeting to the public.

Councilman Wayne Waldack nominated Arceri, who was selected in a 6-1 vote with Kiester voting no.

(Zarella) The new applicant was not supported by the rest of council, in a 5-2 vote with Kiester and Forcht being the only two supporting him.

Marco museum funding

Marco offered to pay $350,000 toward Marco Island Historical Museum exhibits if Collier County would match it. The county offered $250,000 in a commission meeting in January and asked Marco to consider the $100,000 already committed from the Tourist Development Council to bring the county contribution up to $350,000.

"The county commissioners really did their best to try to meet the needs of the museum, I felt," said Popoff.

Councilman Bill Trotter asked council to consider contributing $250,000 instead because the city also contributed $100,000 previously.

He also wanted an assurance that Rose Hall, which is in the museum complex on Heathwood Drive, could be used for a city performing arts center.

"We were thinking of adding that (performing arts center) to the Mackle Park plan for millions of dollars. This is an opportunity for us," Trotter added.

Councilman Jerry Gibson said of the $250,000 the county offered, $50,000 of it was from a private company. He said Marco community leaders helped raise $4.8 million toward the museum in private funding.

Gibson said the city should match $200,000 only because that's all the county really offered.

Councilman Frank Recker said $4.8 million was raised by the people of Marco and all this will go back to the county.

"A museum is not a money-making business, it's a liability," Popoff said.

"You have to staff a museum... upkeep the museum," he added.

"Look what happened when we became a city, we got all the things that didn't make money," Gibson quipped.

President of the Marco Island Historical Society Craig Woodward said he appreciated the support.

"Having the exhibit money is critical because without exhibits we're not going to get the tourists, we're not going to get the school-aged children," Woodward said.

He said $40,000 was raised at events earlier in February held by the museum.

"We had a commitment not only to the city, but to many of our donors, that the Rose Auditorium would be open for their use," Woodward added.

The titles for the museum buildings are to be signed over to the county.

Woodward said the titles won't be signed over until an acceptable agreement with the county, donors and historical society is made.

"You've come to the table with almost $5 million, what more do you need to show them?" Recker asked rhetorically.

Woodward said MIHS has not yet had the opportunity to set a meeting with the county due to time constraints with recent museum events.

It was less expensive to build more due to the economy, he continued, however ad valorem taxes and bed taxes for the TDC are down due to the economy causing budgetary constraints. Museums are funded only through TDC usually, Woodward said.

"The only reason we got anything from the reserves is because this board stood up and said we will match it," he added.

Kiester said maybe the city should delay making a commitment until the county can make a commitment on staffing the museum and meeting Woodward's terms in the title transfer to protect donors and the historical society.

Council commended Collier County Commissioner Donna Fiala for her support.

"I could go on and on about what (Donna Fiala) has done for this Island," Woodward said.

"I think we need to have a seat at the table when the historical society and the county is talking," Forcht said.

Popoff requested a consensus that council is interested in committing at least $250,000. Council members nodded, indicating they would.

"The people of the historical society have worked really hard... so they can sleep at night," Popoff said.

Trotter said "just putting it off shows we're not supporting Woodward in the current environment."

He suggested a contingency about the city being involved in the process.

Recker asked if Woodward would rather see $200,000 or $250,000 with a "ton of contingencies."

"No I'd rather see a larger amount," Woodward said.

"There was some sentiment on the council of even going less than $250,000," Trotter said, indicating Gibson.

The money from the city would go to MIHS and the money from the county would be spent directly on purchasing the exhibits as they choose.

Cedar Hanes of Paradise Advertising, who is a consultant with the county, said he would donate $50,000 as part of the county's recent contribution.

The current county budget has $80,000 annually in it for lagoon upkeep, trash and other museum operations, Woodward said.

Marco resident Amadeo Petricca suggested matching the county funds and no more. He supported Trotter's fiscal conservatism on the issue.

"More money was spent on a bigger building and they have to fill it up now," Petricca said.

Popoff said support from the county commission would be greater if they were elected at-large instead of trading things amongst each other to benefit the districts of the county they represent.

Marco resident Ken Honecker suggested committing $200,000 tonight giving a dollar-for-dollar match with county money and then offering the other $150,000 with conditions of working with the county.

"I get the feeling the county commission doesn't really care..." Recker said.

"It's an amazing thing that we have done here. We really have built one of the most unique buildings, in terms of a museum, perhaps in the whole country," said Alan Sandlin.

The county was first to step up to the bat to say 'yeah we like the idea and we'll give you the land,'" Sandlin added.

The county also gave seed money.

"So I don't think it's really fair to say they didn't do things for us.... Are we going to benefit from it probably more than they will?" he asked.

"Probably we will, but we're all going to benefit from it," he continued.

Sandlin suggested inviting the county commission here, since only Fiala has seen the museum, so they know how it will benefit them.

"We've worked together incredibly well and we can all be very proud of that."

Sandlin continued that $700,000 would really help secure great exhibits.

"We don't want to put mom and pop stuff in a world class museum."

Bill Perdichizzi said he liked the idea of creating a highly definitive plan of how the city, county, donors, museum and historical society would function.

Trotter made a motion to give $250,000 to the historical society for exhibits under the contingency that $250,000 is provided by the county and the contingency that Rose Auditorium could be used by the city and that the city could be involved with negotiations going forward.

The votes were: Forcht Yes, Kiester No, Gibson No, Recker No, Trotter Yes, Waldack Yes, Popoff yes.

The motion passed 4-3.

Water main improvement on Winterberry and Heathwood drives

Council approved (7-0) a contract with D.N. Higgins in the amount of $197,000 for improvements to the water main near Winterberry and Heathwood drives. This will improve water pressure fluctuation issues.

Island Manor condo lift station improvement

Council approved (5-2 with Forcht and Kiester voting 'no') a contract with Stahlman-England Irrigation in the amount of $118,000 to improve the lift station in Island Manor condominium. Utility Director Rony Joel said the utility owns the lift station, which is considerably passed its useful life and frequently requires middle-of-the-night maintenance.

Public art requirement for new non-residential developments

Chairwoman of the city's Arts Advisory Committee, Claudia Klug-Kowel, said the committee has worked on an ordinance for several years to require public art.

The ordinance before council would require a fee of $1 per square foot for non-residential development construction if the building is smaller than 5,000 square feet. If the building is larger, the equivalent amount of money could be spent on art to be incorporated in the development project.

She recommended a combination of a fee and art could be an option as well. The requirement would also apply to large scale renovations.

The Planning Board voted 5-2 to recommend the ordinance to council.

Committee member Keith Dameron supports the requirement.

"Sometimes it takes a lot of guts to support the arts, to financially support the arts," Dameron said.

Southwest Florida cities with similar regulations include Clearwater, Sarasota, St. Petersburg and Naples.

The fee structure recommended by the arts committee mirrors Naples' requirement.

Dameron, Vice President of Iberia Bank's Marco Island Branch, said investment in the arts can pay big dividends.

"Anyway you look at it, adding a $1 is less than 1 percent of the construction cost. I think it's very reasonable for the benefit we'll get out of it," Waldack said.

"Arts are great, but I'm grossly offended by government charging a fee on commercial property, you don't think of commercial property owners as voters, for what one person thinks is beauty," Recker said.

"I'm against government mandating a fee for arbitrary things like art, espcially in these economic times," Recker said.

"It bothers me we've already spent thousands of dollars coming this far on this project," he added.

Gibson agreed with Recker. "I don't' agree with government mandating that we should have the arts. I think that is something that should come within the community," Gibson said.

"There are a lot of interests that people have in this Island that they'd love to have a $1 a square foot," he said.

"To me this is an impact fee for public art and I don't think public art should fall under impact fees," Gibson continued.

"I don't think this is one of the worst things we've done to the people... I think it would enchance the community and it would cost the average taxpayer nothing," Forcht said.

"It's just another fee a commercial developer would expect to pay... It hasn't slowed down Naples, plus it's enhanced their community," he added.

Forcht said if public art were ever going to be financed, this was the best way.

"This one really walks the line in terms of good economy and the bad economy in the state of Florida... I think this is a relatively painless way to fund the arts on Marco," he added.

"Of all the ways we've taxed and abused the people... this is one of the best for the community" Forcht continued.

Reproductions are currently not allowed in the ordinance, but Gibson said he liked the reproduction of "The Thinker" in Philadelphia and Popoff said he liked the one in Detroit as well.

Litzan said that "massed produced" is the key.

"I think this is a government intrusion again on the private citizen... This is where the government should stay the hell out of it... It's just ludicrous as far as I'm concerned. Let the businesses run their own businesses," Petricca said.

"You add this to the museum as an attraction, it could end up paying for itself," Kiester said.

"If I'm a builder and I want to build a building I'm going to resent the fact that I'm going to have to pay a fee for arts," Popoff said.

However, he did think another way to benefit the arts should help.

He suggested impact fees may make it more palatable for a builder.

"I don't want this to go away, but I don't want to approve this as it's written...I don't think it's government's place to shove something down somebody's throat," he added.

Council is considering whether to move it forward for first reading.

"I just fundamentally don't think it's government's place... If we took a look at supporting the arts but doing it in a manner... Let's not penalize the builder."

The motion passed (4-3) to move the ordinance forward for first reading. Gibson, Recker and Popoff voted 'no.'

Council communication

Trotter wanted a joint meeting set up with the county regarding the creation of a community redevelopment area for Town Center. City Manager Steve Thompson said he got the impression some work needed to be done in communicating with the county to reach any agreement on some issues.

More on the redevelopment of Town Center, the large 250-plus-acre area surrounding the shopping center by the same name, will be available at an In the Round event hosted at IberiaBank in March, Kiester announced.

Recker said the code board needed to be able to mitigate fines even when a property owner was still out of compliance in some unusual circumstances, although the code board doesn't currently have the power to do so. Gibson agreed and after the meeting said some of the circumstances are preventing the sale of foreclosure properties and further stalling coming into compliance as new owners want to know the extent of their fines before they invest.

Restaurant parking and a finding of necessity for creating the Town Center's CRA will be considered March 1. Two readings to establish the CRA are scheduled at the meeting of March 15 and April 1.

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Comments » 2

OldMarcoMan writes:

Hum, Forcht speaks,,,and he make sense,,,,,go figure

ajm3s writes:

Kudos to Recker, Gibson and Popoff for the vote against funding for the Arts. Their argument is based on the fundamental belief that government is not to control art display. Control by government is a form of censorship and as such the arts advisory board which will oversee such disbursement of monies raised by fees on commercial development is now the art critic. Our money to pay for board decisions for the good of the community. Is anyone listening to the groundswell of independent voices calling for limited government both in terms of scope and size

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