MARCO ISLAND — In the aftermath of Connecticut's school shootings, an inter-local agreement to use tennis courts at Tommie Barfield Elementary may be at risk.
A phone message from Michele LaBute to Marco Island City Manager Jim Riviere on Dec. 18 itemized concerns for public access to the school's courts. LaBute is chief operating officer for Collier County public schools.
Bryan Milk, Marco Island's community affairs director, read the phone transcript Tuesday for the island's Parks & Recreation Committee. LaBute informed Riviere the school district is in the process of reviewing security issues in light of the recent shootings.
LaBute said it was "very doubtful" the county's school board would allow residents on the courts during morning hours. She cited a district-wide policy that "absolutely does not allow" citizens to use any school tennis facilities during school hours.
Those are the hours, especially from 9 a.m. to noon, that interest residents most, Milk told the committee. He cautioned even with an amended agreement, the school board might not discuss the issue until February or March making in-season use of the courts moot.
"We will do our best to modify, amend and preserve the agreement," he said.
Riviere referred to the process as blind man's bluff. The city would first have to find out if the school board would entertain a discussion on the agreement. Any modifications would have to be brought before Marco's City Council prior to presenting them to the school board. Currently, no recommended changes to the agreement have been made public.
The committee also discussed adding exercise apparatuses around the 8-acre lake at Mackle Park. A 12-foot wide walking path encircling the lake is actively used by walkers, joggers and cyclists. The additions would elevate it to a fitness trail and provide physical routines for other parts of the body.
Each apparatus would be placed in a designated station along the path. Equipment could offer activities from pull-ups, sit-ups and push-ups to stretching and stress relief. Milk said potable water lines are located around the lake that could provide drinking water fountains to augment the exercise areas.
Parks & Recreation currently has $59,000 in its budget from impact fees earmarked for new improvements at the park. That money could be used to pay for the fitness stations if city council approves it.
"If we do this, I want to do it right," Milk said, "with grade A-plus materials that can stand up to the environment of Marco Island."
Committee member Valerie Simon said she observed exercise groups using benches and picnic tables as makeshift exercise equipment. The committee agreed to do more research into fitness stations. Any purchase would have to be approved by city council, Milk said.
The committee discussed the advisability of adding lightning detection monitors to Mackle and Winterberry parks. Florida is listed as the state with the most lightning injuries and deaths in the U.S. With more than 1,500 incidents per year, recent reports determined Florida has more lightning injuries and deaths than all other states combined.
Monitors generally report lightning activity within a preprogrammed radius of miles. The warning device would sound a blast giving athletes and spectators time to seek shelter.
Committee member Greg West said teams playing at Winterberry Park often use hand-held monitors but their accuracy is dubious. Installed units could cost $15,000 to $20,000, he said.
The purchase would have to be approved as a capital expense by city council, Milk said. He suggested information be gathered to present in May with the island's capital projects budget.
Future meeting schedules for city committees will be set in January. Currently, the Parks & Recreation Committee meets at 3:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month.