MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island’s Beautification Committee had some new beginnings at its meeting Wednesday afternoon. The session marked the ascension of a new chairperson, Barbara Murphy. It saw a new member, Linda Colombo, seated for her first meeting. Syd Mellinger stepped down as chair, but remained on the committee.
The meeting Wednesday in the Niles conference room at City Hall also marked a departure. Former City Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Milk newly appointed to the post of community affairs director and city planner, who has served as the staff liaison to the citizens’ advisory panel, acted in that capacity for his last meeting.
Starting with the Beautification Committee’s next meeting in November, Public Works Director Tim Pinter will be the city’s point man with the group. City Manager Jim Riviere dropped by the committee to explain how the shuffle of assignments fits into his ongoing reorganization of responsibilities among city staff.
Pinter was much in evidence at Wednesday’s meeting, answering members’ questions from the audience, and Milk said it only makes sense for him to take over working with the committee. The Beautification Committee dug into a collection of landscape-related issues, with visions of lush, eco-friendly plantings tempered by the new budget realities facing everything the city government does.
“There’s one criterion driving everything we do – the almighty dollar sign,” Pinter told the group, cautioning that maintaining existing installations would take all the funds available, leaving little for new initiatives. The committee took up the questions of landscape maintenance, newspaper stands, cul-de-sacs, swales, acceptable plant materials, landscaping at the Jolley Bridge, a future community meeting, and the Marco In Bloom awards.
Al Benarroch of Affordable Landscaping, the city’s contractor, and Pinter fielded questions and led the discussion of general landscape maintenance. The nature of their work means new items are always cropping up, they said.
“The sprinklers are working fine, until someone hits another line,” said Benarroch. Coconuts growing on the top of trees along city roads would be removed, he said, to avoid potential liability issues. “We just take the fruit off. We don’t want something to fall on someone’s head, or their car.”
Pinter said that, to simplify maintenance, the city was moving to more sod and less shrubbery in medians.
“It’s easier to replace sod than bushes. We keep replacing them at the Esplanade, and they keep running them over,” he said. The shrubs also pose a line of sight problem. “We’re up here in our trucks, and we think it’s fine,” but drivers in low-slung cars have their vision blocked.
Code compliance officer Liz Carr was invited, to begin a discussion of where newspaper racks and related items are placed.
“Quite frankly, they’re not newspaper vendors. They’re selling all sorts of things,” said Pinter of some of the racks.
On cul-de-sacs, Pinter said the city is moving to get more reassurance that private citizens or condominiums offering to maintain them follow through on their intentions.
“Volunteering to maintain a cul-de-sac is great, but we’re creating a document volunteers are going to have to sign, just like for putting trees in the right of way,” he said.
Lisa Koehler of the South Florida Water Management District and city environmental specialist Nancy Richie got involved in a discussion of ground covers for swales, to avoid gravel, which is not allowed in the right of way. Member Sue Oldershaw pushed for perennial peanut grass, and sunshine mimosa, used by Naples Botanical Gardens, was mentioned as another alternative for plain old sod.
The city will be accepting the Jolley Bridge landscaping from the Florida DOT, once the DOT accepts it from contractor Johnson Bros., said Milk, and will be responsible for keeping it up. The city will have a one-year warranty on all work and plantings from when the state accepts the project, he said.
The Beautification Committee will meet for their next scheduled session on Nov. 2.