MARCO ISLAND — Dave Rice believes in thinking big. In this case, about 25 feet by 15 feet, on a 60-ft. tall pole.
That’s the size of the American flag he and his group are hoping to place at the gateway to Marco Island “on or near the Jolley Bridge – probably near,” Rice told the Marco Island City Council at their meeting on Monday.
“You know the flag flying at Perkins restaurant on the East Trail?” Rice asked. “That’s the size we have in mind. We’re anxious to create an atmosphere of patriotism on the island.” While the flag would be on public property, all funds for the purchase, erection, and maintenance of the installation would be private, Rice told the Council.
“We are not looking for any public funds for this project – repeat, not,” he said, adding the group had already spoken to the city’s public works director Tim Pinter, and parks and recreation director Bryan Milk on the subject.
Longtime civic activist and former professional football player Rice added that he had only found out that morning he had been tapped to chair the effort.
“I came back from vacation and found out I was chairman. That’s what happens when you go away,” he said.
Christmas Island Style chairman Steve Stefanides, not even listed as a member of the steering committee, came up to the proposal’s backers as they huddled in the back of the council chamber before the meeting, and told them the money for the project was already covered.
“It’s done. I got it donated today,” he said. “Flag, pole, and install.” He said he would leave it up to the donor if he wished to remain anonymous.
The “Big Flag Campaign,” as the organizers call their effort, has some island heavyweights behind it, and betting against this flag running up the pole is a longshot. In addition to Rice, Keith Dameron, Joe Granda, Carole Roberts, Dick and Shanahan are on the steering committee, and Chris Curle and Don Farmer were involved in the discussion along with Stefanides. County Commissioner Donna Fiala, said the organizers, “is already involved, having rolled up her sleeves … to make this project a reality.”
City Attorney Burt Saunders, a former Collier County Commissioner and Collier County Attorney, injected a note of caution.
“There’s an ordinance that prohibits a flagpole taller than 25 feet,” he told the nearly full Council chamber. “Perkins was cited,” and exceptions had to be sought. The exact location of the flag also needs to be settled, said Stefanides.
“The DOT will never let you put a flagpole on the bridge in the right of way,” he said.
But the very first item the Council took up was honoring Jim Hassig. Sgt. Hassig, of the Marco Island Police Dept., had a statement of his qualifications read into the record by Police Chief Don Hunter.
The 31-year law enforcement veteran, formerly a member of the South Bend, Fort Walton Beach, and Lee County Sheriff’s departments, as well as the United States Air Force, was commended for his work in taking over the Code Compliance unit, at the same time its mission and name were transitioning to Code Compliance, representing a new “soft touch” approach.
Sgt. Hassig’s new position, said the citation, required “the patience of a saint,” and saw him “tackle his new assignment with the calm professional demeanor that we have seen him demonstrate for years before.” Hassig was presented with a plaque, handshakes from the Council, and an ovation from the near-capacity crowd in the Council chambers.