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MARCO ISLAND — Changing Marco Island’s speed limits did not go as planned for City Manager Jim Riviere. He hoped to shed more light on the topic at tonight’s Marco Island City Council meeting.
“It was not a smooth implementation,” Riviere said on Monday. New signs recently installed reduced speed limits on the island’s main thoroughfares from 35 to 30 m.p.h.
The 30 m.p.h. signs were taken down and the 35 m.p.h. signs put back up this morning before the Council meeting.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, either in council communications or in the city manager’s report, several key city staffers will speak on the issue, Riviere said. Those include Tim Pinter, public works director, Police Chief Don Hunter and the city’s attorney, Burt Saunders.
Riviere confirmed that he was the person responsible for the change but acted on state mandates and under city ordinances. No other government agencies were involved or informed that the speed limits had changed, he said.
The new 30 m.p.h. speed limit signs were funded through the city’s public works department.
Riviere also did not inform City Council or the Planning Board prior to changing the signs.
Lack of communication surfaced on Friday when Planning Board member Monte Lazarus asked why the board, an integral part of zoning and development on the island, had not been notified about the change.
“How can we have changes in the speed limits without notice to the Planning Board and City Council?” he said. “We’re not the experts on it, but we are the Planning Board.”
After the meeting, Joe Batte, a Marco Island city councilor, said he was unaware of the change until he heard about it from a caller.
“The city manager is usually good about giving council a heads up, but he didn’t about this,” Batte said.
“I received about 20 calls when the speed limit changed, and I didn’t know anything about it,” he said. “It was embarrassing to have to tell callers that I’d look into it and call them back. I’m their representative, and I’m expected to know.”
Jerry Gibson, chairman of City Council, confirmed that he received no communications on the reduction in speed limits and only knew about the change from the first of many callers complaining about it.
On Sunday at the Esplanade, residents had differing opinions about the change.
“I can walk faster than 30 m.p.h.,” said Ed Adams, a new resident on the island. “I don’t understand the rationale. With divided highways like Collier Boulevard and two coming and two going lanes, just the set up should constitute 35 m.p.h. at least, unless the lower speed is just a mechanism for giving tickets.”
On Monday, Riviere confirmed there were no plans to set up speed traps on the island noting that such actions would be illegal under state mandates.
Eve Tschantz was OK with the lower speed limit.
“Now, I’d like to see the police enforce it,” Tschantz said. “I live on the north end of Barfield (Drive) and drivers are always speeding there. I wish they’d go 10 m.p.h. on my street.”
Some felt the problem was a lack of speed limit enforcement.
It doesn’t make sense,” said Steve Stefanides. “If we just enforced the prior speed limit (35 m.p.h.), it would work.”