MARCO ISLAND — The City Council intentionally kept their regularly scheduled meeting for Monday to a light agenda, so they could devote time to going over the proposed budget items for the upcoming Fiscal Year 2013.
The Council had only a few listed items, including the award of a contract for drainage improvements on North Collier Blvd., and presentation of certificates of appreciation to outgoing committee members, and recognition of members of the city's Utility Department, who were the recipients of a national award.
Before getting back into the nitty-gritty of budget requests for items including street repaving, though, City Manage Jim Riviere brought up another issue during his manager's report. He called up Police Chief Don Hunter to correct misinformation that had appeared in the Eye on Marco weblog, concerning crime in the city.
"This is a circumstance I think we need to neutralize," said Riviere.
Hunter went through the items listed in the Eye on Marco report, pointing out that an assault listed as occurring "last week" actually took place a year ago, and was the same assault listed as a separate occurrence in the report.
"This was alleged to be current information?" asked Council Chairman Larry Magel.
"It didn't reflect well on the police department, and caused a small heart infarction on my part," said Hunter. Eye on Marco publisher Bill McMullan took the podium, defending his reporting
"I think we need to be fully aware, so we can be more vigilant in protecting our community," he said, saying that local media does not report local crime. McMullan blamed CrimeStoppers, which recently offered a reward for information on the assault, for not clarifying the date on which the incident – there was only one – occurred.
"It doesn't say 'this is a year old.' That's where the confusion arose," he said. "It all happened this past year.
Bernadette Powers said "we're oh so close" on completing replacement of streetlights in the Old Marco area, with only eight remaining to install, and complemented the city on a job well done. She was assured that the eight will soon be completed.
Eileen Ward spoke on swale parking in the area, and the council agreed to hold a workshop on the subject during the second council meeting in October. The same timeframe was specified for a discussion of the Mackle Park expansion.
Public Works Director Tim Pinter spoke, saying that money spent now on maintaining city streets would save much more that would be necessary later.
"There are 200 lane-miles of paved streets on the island, much untouched in 15 years," said Pinter. "If we wait until the pavement deteriorates, it will be ten times the cost" to repair.
"It's time to bite the bullet on some of these streets," said Councilor Jerry Gibson. "We cannot wait any longer." Councilman Wayne Waldack seconded his remarks.
During the course of the day's meetings, time was spent discussing additional requested items, including a fire/rescue boat and replacement of the Smokehouse Bay Bridge. The steel-hulled boat, which had been approved 3-0 in the Budget Sub-Committee (BSC), was approved by a 5-2 vote in the full council, with Magel and Councilor Bill Trotter opposed. Trotter spoke in favor of speedy action on the bridge, calling it a "significant safety concern" on "the primary shared use roadway on the island."
Councilman Frank Recker made a motion to approve all the recommendations of the BSC as proposed, which Trotter called "the worst example I've ever seen of lack of transparency on this council." The motion failed on a 3-4 vote, with Councilors Gibson, Waldack, Trotter and Magel voting no. They voted 7-0, though, to accept commencing the work on the bridge.
With Trotter questioning a number of expenditures, including spending funds to upgrade the audio-video capability to broadcast city meetings, the council took a vote to approve the general fund capital improvement program, which passed 6-1, with Trotter in dissent.