MARCO ISLAND — The day started at 9 a.m. at City Council chambers, with a Budget Sub-Committee session. Although only the three members of the BSC were required to attend, additional councilors including Bill Trotter and Council Chairman Larry Magel, and several of those council hopefuls showed up. City Manager Jim Riviere, also present, spoke to the long succession of sessions.
"I can foresee a scramble," he said. "When we say 'the meeting of August 20,' the question will be 'which one?' "
After the BSC members, Chairman Joe Batte, along with Councilors Jerry Gibson and Frank Recker, spent the morning with Riviere and city department heads, attempting to finalize their recommendations to the full council, the full council met at 1 p.m. to hear those recommendations.
The beginning of that meeting was taken up with an extended session of the Councilmen literally trying to get onto the same page. With numbers constantly being revised, and binders updated, little effort was necessary to get the same set of figures in front of all involved.
When Councilor Bill Trotter asked about travel and phone expense, Gibson pointed out these were the same questions that had been asked – and answered – during the BSC sessions. This has been a long series of meetings. The same issues have a way of coming up time after time: the Smokehouse Bay Bridge, Mackle Park expansion, accounting systems, and of course personnel costs.
Riviere told the Council the intent was to give city employees a two percent "general increase" in salary. City Council regular and candidate Amadeo Petricca rose to point out that there was nothing in the budget for a controller, with a temporary controller and a temporary finance director currently at the financial helm for the city. In the aftermath of the city paying out a $100,000 settlement in a lawsuit, Councilman Chuck Kiester raised the question of whether the city should consider self-insuring.
"If we do self-insure, we're going to be on the hook for the first $100,000 as well," said Magel. "You've got to have those umbrella amounts." The council agreed to look at what level of self-insurance would be cost-effective, or make the best bet.
The MIPD's request for five and a half additional FTEs, or full-time equivalents, came in for scrutiny. Chief Don Hunter has proposed the institution of a special unit, a three-person "flex group" that in addition to performing regular patrol duties, can serve warrants, and surveil career criminals and gang members, who have been showing up on the island, he said.
Marco is home to five known sex offenders, said Hunter, and additional cases are being worked. The additional officers will also cut the need for overtime, he said, although some overtime, with hurricanes being a prime example, is unavoidable.
On code compliance, Batte spoke up for the deterrent value of a good code enforcement program.
"If we didn't have that, we'd see so many more violations," he said.
Public Works Director Tim Pinter said his budget request is $2.5 million, just 98 percent of last year's budget of approximately $2,597,000. Trotter questioned $40,000 for landscape maintenance on the city side of the Jolley Bridge, but Pinter said that was the lowest of three bids received, with the high bid coming in at $110,000.
The biggest ticket optional item on the budget, the improvements at Mackle Park, has no dollars in this year's proposed budget, said Batte. The BSC's recommendation, he said, was to lay the matter in front of the full Council for guidance, in light of work city staff has done on the project.
"Are we going to continue on this master plan, which includes the Mackle Park recreation center?" Batte asked the Council. "We need to take it to the people," Trotter said, advocating following the course adopted with the since-rejected 24/7 emergency clinic.
As the meeting wore on past 4 p.m., a delivery arrived – 10 to 12 pizzas, sure sign of a lengthy, ongoing session yet to come.
The City Council called off a tentatively scheduled "overflow" meeting on Tuesday, after getting through all their business. Council will meet again on Sept. 4, the Tuesday after Labor Day.