MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island City Manager Jim Riviere has made it clear that a lot of the noise over how to deal with a community center at Mackle Park is just that – noise.
In a wide-ranging interview with Mr. Riviere, we began by noting what he had told us last fall about big plans for a big complex. At that time he said: “The big wish that park advocates have is that we build a community center sometime soon. That’s just another opportunity there, where glitz and glory have no place. We just want a nuts and bolts center so we can do things for our population that we can’t do today.”
Does that still hold?
“I see nothing much changing. Some people misinterpret the process and there’s little I can do to give them an education on the subject.”
The city manager emphasizes the city will go through the required process working on the issue.
“I think it’s not too soon to start talking about it.
“The existing facility – we’re eking along in it. It’s in such poor condition we can’t even take out a permit without committing ourselves to an awful lot of ancillary upgrades. If we wanted to take the kitchen and do such a simple thing as install a dishwasher or something like that, there are so many other things in the way of it that it become prohibitive. So we don’t.
“The building is in poor shape. It’s old and it wasn’t a Taj Mahal and it certainly isn’t now.
“The problem was they hired a dreamer back in the early 2000s. And they put together a plan for Parks and Recreation that was rather grandiose for all the island. Dana (Souza) had a vision for a series pocket parks, so he buys a vacant lot to become a pocket park and included in that long range plan were fields and lights and so on, broken up into phases.
“In January of 2005, City Council adopted that master plan and that went forward with Dana. After his departure Bryan (Milk) has picked it up from there. Of the four phases to the thing, one through three are complete. And what did we get for those phases? The soccer fields for example, put in to competition grade. You talk about over the top. The grade of those fields that we provide for the Optimists is incredible.”
Could we have the World Cup here? we asked jokingly. In the same mode, he answered, “We could, just lacking bleachers and a parking lot.”
Riviere said the community center is phase four.
“There is no funding. There never has been any funding for that facility. We held a discussion to get some interaction with the current city council over what their attitude was toward youth sports and so on. So people chose to turn it into a STRP (the sewer project) and it’s really not that at all.
“It’s going to go its course. The next stop will be the budget subcommittee where we will scrub through and see what our budget targets for fiscal year 2012. That probably will in April and the first thing I’ll do is scrub the capital budget much more than we did this past year.”
What does he mean by “scrubbing,” we asked.
“Sometimes you’ll find that someone has an idea – no disparaging remark about directors or anything – but some of these guys are ambitious and when you go through and unravel their whole budget submittal you may find a piece of a program you wouldn’t agree with. That’s called scrubbing. Regardless of what they do, the project is still a fiscal year 2014 project. It has been all along.”
We asked about drawings of a “proposed” community center, a sprawling, gleaming two-story complex. We’ll have the city manager’s take on that plan, plus other concerns, such as:
Bids or no bids? Are proponents getting ahead of themselves? Why would the City of Marco Island need a place to teach kids how to cook?
That and more in a future edition of the Eagle.