MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island City Council is to discuss the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico; negotiate a contract with interim City Manager Jim Riviere, and discuss their approach to the long-term replacement of recently fired City Manager Steve Thompson tonight.
Live coverage 5:30 p.m.
Councilman Larry Magel recommended declaring an emergency on the critical erosion of Hideaway Beach. Council agreed, upon general consensus, to add it to the agenda. Council later decided to approve the call for emergency action, which will have no cost to the city or its taxpayers outside of the Hideaway Beach Special Taxing District, Magel said. The district taxes itself 2.6 mils per $1,000 of taxable property value. They just need council to agree the erosion is bad enough to call it an emergency in order to get their permits from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said Richard Freeman, chairman of Hideaway Beach's special taxing district.
Gulf of Mexico oil spill update
Marco City Council is getting an update on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill by Dan Summers, Director of Collier County Bureau of Emergency Services.
Once the federal services arrive on the scene here, Summers will work to make sure local interests are communicated and taken into account, he said.
It was a an awkward "wind anomaly" that caused the odor in Collier County several days ago, he said.
"The weather patterns the past few days has not made the response very effective," Summers added.
Collier County is in "high vulnerability" due to its beaches, although a lot about the spill is not yet known, he said.
Volunteers are needed and can register on line at volunteerflorida.org.
More on this can be read in the Wednesday edition of the Marco Eagle and by checking back to marconews.com.
Community forum 6 p.m.
Dick Schoen, a long-time Marco Island resident, was upset about last week's meetings. "I was just aghast," he said. Schoen said that the lack of transparency cited for the reason for the firing of City Manager Steve Thompson took him aback as the discussion was not on the agenda in advance.
He didn't understand how the council members had the information to make their decision.
Schoen said he wants the State Attorney's office to investigate that Sunshine Laws were followed.
Marco resident Bob Olson suggested Islanders "give (interim City Manager Jim) Riviere a chance."
The Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce is working to raise money for the Fourth of July fireworks show. The cost for the show was $42,000 last year. Finance Director Patricia Bliss said the show could be a bit smaller and the price would then be $37,000 this year.
President Vip Grover requested an approximate $18,500 bridge loan to help raise the money.
City Councilman Jerry Gibson suggested that loan be increased to $23,500 to get the whole show and keep people coming to Marco Island for the event. Council supported Gibson in a vote of 6-1 with Councilman Larry Magel voting 'no' citing fiscal responsibility.
Joe Granda stepped up offering to help in anyway he can.
The city is also contributing $10,000 from council contingency, which comes from city taxpayers.
The Chamber may come back and ask for $5,000 more if the same big show is desired.
Grover said it appears unlikely to save the taxpayers anymore money, but the people of Marco are generous.
Raffle tickets are being sold to the general public to support the show. Contact the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce, 394-7549, for more information.
Charter high school 6:30 p.m.
Marco Island Discovery Center proponents, which are proposing a charter high school on Island, are seeking a letter of support from City Council tonight. Olivia Watt, 10, spoke on behalf of her mom, Jane Watt, president of the Marco Island Discovery Center High School, who could not be here due to a schedule conflict.
Olivia said she wanted to attend the high school.
Jonathon Watt, 7, Olivia's brother, is a first-grader at Tommie Barfield Elementary School. He thanked the council for their support.
More on council's support and the charter high school project can be found in upcoming editions of the Marco Eagle and in follow-up stories to be posted to marconews.com.
Interim City Manager contract
Marco Island City Council unanimously approved (7-0) a contract with interim City Manager Jim Riviere to pay him an annual salary of $150,000. The decision came with little debate.
The salary is the minimum in previously advertised descriptions for the position. Riviere also waived all benefits, which have a value of about $50,000.
The contract was negotiated by Chairman Frank Recker and Riviere last week.
“I wanted to give them a bargain,” Riviere said prior to the decision.
Previous City Manager Steve Thompson, who was fired earlier this month, earned $160,000 annually and took the cash equivalent of the city’s benefit package, bringing his total cash earnings before taxes to about $220,000, not including his monthly car and cell phone allowances.
“I just wanted it to be low. I took Steve Thompson’s contract and deleted all the things that didn’t apply,” said Riviere, who already has secured his own health benefits.
The contract also allows Riviere to receive $500 monthly for a vehicle allowance and for a city-paid cell phone. The contract is indefinite as required by the City Charter.
Prior to the meeting, Riviere said he didn't think the city was ready to embark on the long-term management search yet. However, council is to talk about their approach to the search later in the evening.
CRA committee appointees
Council is considering up to 18 people for the Town Center Community Redevelopment Agency advisory committee. VIP Grover, among the applicants, said it's ridiculous to have so many people.
Marco Island resident Jim Timmerman disagreed, saying as many people from a cross section of the community was advisable. He said a strong personality would need to run the committee.
Marco Island resident Bill McMullan said with the amount of confusion on the CRA topic, a large committee may be helpful. It's an Island-wide issue affecting all taxpayers, he said.
A special CRA forum to share information with the public will be held with the Planning Board at 9 a.m. on May 21.
"I don't see this issue being on the race track," Recker said.
Councilman Chuck Kiester will chair the CRA advisory committee, which will begin with all applicants as members in a vote of 5-2. Councilmen Jerry Gibson and Wayne Waldack voted 'no.'
Seawall construction on vacant lots in residential areas a savings and a nuisance, Islanders argue
Upon Recker's request, council is discussing the current ordinance allowing construction on vacant lots in residential neighborhoods for up to 120 days per year, particularly for seawall construction. Although the rules require lot owner approval, city officials have said that there has been some inconvenience to neighbors caused as the construction takes longer than anticipated in some cases.
"What concerns me out of the box is the adjacent property owners aren't advised," Recker said.
"You can have a factory for concrete next door to you and not have any say about it," he said.
"These same people complaining now either had their seawall done and already used their neighbor's vacant lot, so they don't care," said seawall contractor Duane Thomas, "or, they're going to need to get it replaced and then they'll care."
The ordinance only provides for the contractor to get permission from a vacant lot owner, but not notice or permission is given to neighbors.
"We have no quantitative data to show how much more it would cost somebody if these things were shipped in from somewhere else," Recker said.
Prior to the meeting, Thomas, a seawall contractor and business owner on-Island, provided a quote from an off-Island provider, S&S Precast, Inc;, in Bonita Springs, indicating it would cost about $40 per linear feet more if seawalls were manufactured off-Island and shipped to Marco Island.
Construction currently costs $76 per linear feet, just for manufacturing on-Island, Thomas said.
It would cost about $107 per linear foot of concrete seawall if manufactured off-Island and shipped, he said.
That doesn't include installation or the risks of breakage during handling, Thomas said.
"We live on an Island. We have to have seawalls to protect us," he said.
Every seawall on the Island will have to be replaced within the next 10 years, if they weren't already, Thomas said.
The majority of the Island's approximate 200 miles of seawalls are beyond their useful 30-year life, city officials have estimated.
City Manager Jim Riviere, former chairman of the Planning Board, said the ordinance does need to be reviewed.
Councilman Joe Batte agreed. "Seawalls are going to keep failing. This is a serious quality of life issue," Batte said.
Three or four months out of the year to suffer seemed too long, he added. He wanted to ensure there was a sizable savings to justify infringing on people's peace and views in the neighborhood.
Councilman Chuck Kiester suggested the Planning Board review the issue and make a recommendation.
The city's waterways committee previously unanimously (6-0) recommended to council that the ordinance allowing up to 120 days of construction in residential areas not be changed.
"Nothing would make me leave the Island quicker (than having this next door)," Recker said.
Resident Andrea Battaglia shared the experience of her brother, who lived next door to a vacant lot that was rented for four months of every year for three years in a row to build seawalls. A large barge blocked the canal, she said.
Thomas said whatever council does they need to have a long-term plan so he can make a business plan.
"I wouldn't want it next door to me for a long time either," Thomas said. He estimated that 80 percent of the Island's seawalls would need to be changed in the next 10 years and they'd need to be constructed some how.
Robert Howard of Grand Bay Condominium Association said the 80 people in his community just can't take it anymore.
"For four months, not only did we have the noise, the dust and the dirt, they left a huge over-full dumpster," Howard said.
When a storm came by, things were blowing around everywhere, he said.
The barges in the Redwood Canal near Grand Bay Condos were moving constantly and then one sank just a few weeks ago leaving an eye sore and spilled diesel fuel, Howard reminded council.
"We felt like we were living in New York Harbor," Howard said.
Don Ricci, who owns Marco Marine Construction, said home builders have as much time as they need on vacant lots. He felt it was unfair to the seawall industry.
"We only have a couple choices here," Ricci said.
"Right now it's a great deal for the property owners," he added.
Every rain fall this summer will bring more seawall failures, Ricci said.
Both contractors, Ricci and Thomas, said there is not enough commercially zoned properties on-Island to avoid construction in residential areas.
Ted Ryznor from Precision Seawall and Dock, a member of the waterways committee who abstained from voting on the issue, told council it would easily cost 30 percent more for the homeowner to build a seawall off-Island.
Inspection of panels constructed off-Island could be an issue advised city building inspector Bob Mahar.
He suggested restricting the time of day for construction.
Recker suggested the city lease lots to contractors in more appropriate areas, possibly creating income for the city and taking care of the problem.
Councilman Wayne Waldack said seaworthiness should be checked on the Island's barges to prevent them from sinking so frequently.
"When they sink, they're environmentally hazardous to our community," Waldack said.
City's search for a long-term city manager
Councilman Bill Trotter suggested the approach to the city's search for a long-term city manager be considered at a meeting to be scheduled in mid-June.
Councilman Larry Magel disagreed. "There is no rush," Magel said. He suggested Riviere supply a job description in 60 to 90 days.
Recker wanted to wait six months.
Trotter said it will take four months from the beginning of the search.
"I think it's important for the permanent manager to have municipal experience," Trotter said.
He didn't want to wait past the fall to at least address qualifications, Trotter said.
On general council consensus, they agreed to decide upon their approach to the long-term search in October.
"I have this biased that the city should take ownership of Tract K," Recker said.
He and Riviere said they just learned the Collier County School Board may consider selling Tract K for the right price.
"There's some question to the actual value of that property," Trotter said.
Any negotiations would have to come back to council, Recker said.
"You could make the case that they got their property for a dollar," Trotter said.
Riviere and Superintendent Dennis Thompson are to talk.
FDOT on alternate Jolley Bridge wall view
Trotter said FDOT will present a new design option to improve the view from the bridge. The cost differential was relatively minor at about $120,000, Trotter said.
The aesthetics and its impacts are significant, Trotter said.
"I was surprised. I thought it was going to be cost-prohibitive. It's almost too good to be true," Trotter said.
"Since you seem to be working so well with them, can you (Trotter) get us a fishing pier?" Recker asked.
The piers with matching funds, city-side and county-side, may be trickier, but could happen after this expansion project, Trotter replied.
Check back to marconews.com, naplenews.com and upcoming print editions for more on the changed view from the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge.