Marco Island City Council: Firefighters' contract approved, seawall date extended, utility rate changes put on hold

Public interest in the meeting was high, with a packed room. Marco's City Council held an all-day workshop and special-called meeting Thursday in council chambers. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Public interest in the meeting was high, with a packed room. Marco's City Council held an all-day workshop and special-called meeting Thursday in council chambers. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Councilor Larry Magel came out on the short end of three 6-1 votes. Marco's City Council held an all-day workshop and special-called meeting Thursday in council chambers. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Councilor Larry Magel came out on the short end of three 6-1 votes. Marco's City Council held an all-day workshop and special-called meeting Thursday in council chambers. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Assistant Fire-Rescue Chief Chris Byrne speaks on the firefighters' contract. Marco's City Council held an all-day workshop and special-called meeting Thursday in council chambers. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Assistant Fire-Rescue Chief Chris Byrne speaks on the firefighters' contract. Marco's City Council held an all-day workshop and special-called meeting Thursday in council chambers. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

— In three key votes Thursday, Councilor Larry Magel was on the short end of 6-1 decisions. In approving the firefighters' contract, extending seawall regulations, and proceeding with a $150,000 expenditure to plan for a $1.5 million fire station renovation, Magel raised his objections in dissent and registered the only "nay" when the questions were called.

The entire Marco Island City Council staked a claim to the title of "marathon men" with their all-day Thursday gathering. Holding their third special-called meeting since the new council was seated, the group convened at 9 a.m. for a workshop session, and went straight from that to a back-to-back council meeting that was still going up to 6 p.m.

The sessions played well as a spectator sport, too, filling the council chambers, to the point where Assistant Police Chief Dave Baer had to urge the public, along with the councilors themselves, to step out and "enjoy the sunshine" so staff had room to change the seating from the U-shaped workshop table to the formal council setup utilizing the dais.

In the workshop, a procession of city department heads ran through their organizations, operations and plans. Fire-Rescue, police, public works, parks and recreation, and the water department all got their hearing, before the councilors took up the makeup and possible restructuring of Marco's various volunteer boards and committees.

Applicants for the eight different groups ran from a low of two, for both the arts and utilities advisory boards, up to 27 for the Planning Board. City Clerk Laura Litzan made the point that nothing requires the groups to hold meetings each month.

In the regular meeting, Councilor Larry Sacher brought up the issue of the tennis courts at Tommie Barfield Elementary, which the school board has ceased allowing local adults to use. Saying "security is my specialty," Council Chairman Joe Batte made the point it is a breach of security to have unregistered people on school grounds at any time, a concern particularly mindful in the wake of the school shootings in Connecticut last week. In fact, the meeting was opened with a moment of silence for the victims of that tragedy.

Councilman Chuck Kiester said his understanding is the school board "wants to turn the tennis courts into a playground." And in the public comments, citizen David Rasmussen said of the tennis players, "They got away with it for 10 or 12 years," even though using the courts was illegal. Staff was directed to discuss an interlocal agreement with the school board on the matter.

Magel joined the unanimous council on his own motion directing the Veterans' Memorial Fundraising Committee to "get started," particularly as the plans the group unveiled at the meeting for a monument with a 15 ft. high fountain will require no city funds. He also joined the other councilors in a unanimous vote on another of his motions, agreeing to defer implementation of a new utility rate structure.

But Magel was the only no vote in the approval of the new three-year contract with Marco Island's Local 2887 of the International Association of Fire Fighters. The agreement calls for increases of two percent in the first two years, and one percent in the final year, as well as adjustments in incentive pay for special skills.

"This fire department puts the emphasis on skills and abilities," to better serve the citizens of Marco Island, said Fire Chief Mike Murphy, speaking for the contract. He praised the union's cooperative attitude.

Former councilor Bill Trotter used strong words to depict the new utility rate structure, implementation of which was deferred at Thursday's meeting.

"We're hiding a seven percent rate increase in a rate structure study, masking a $2 million windfall. Staff is not being completely honest," said Trotter.

Overruling the recommendation of the Planning Board, the council voted 6-1 to extend sunseting the seawall construction regulations from April 1 to July 1, again with Magel in dissent. And in the City Manager's report, Dr. Jim Riviere passed along a positive review of the city's financial picture from bonding agent Fitch, Inc., with the continuation of the Marco Island' AA-plus and AA bond ratings.

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Comments » 2

MarcoRobert writes:

Thank you so much to our City's Alders for the agreement on the Fire Fighters contract. On July 3, 2012 they saved my life. They were fast, professional and kind to a fellow former fireman and cop. I owe my life to the C Team shift who instituted NCH's Code-Save-a-heart protocall that had every member of the cardiac team WAITING IN THE DRIVEWAY for me when we got to the down town campus. I was in the Cath Unit within the Golden Hour and I beat the "widow maler" for the second time since 2004.

Please charge us more for everything else to keep our fine Fire/Rescue and Mike Murphy as well as our city's Finest under Don Hunter working with a contract that they will be happy and agreeable too...someone's life may depend on it, like me.

deltarome writes:

Why should the city pay to repave a tennis court where a few play for "
free", that is owned by the county, when it is losing money at the city owned racket club where you have to pay to use it? Just so a few "special" people can play for free during school hours???
I agree with Larry Magel who wanted to look deeper into the Firefigher's contract. The HUUUUGE pay increases are buried in the incentive part of the contract. The 2%, 2%, 1% base pay increases are just the tip of the iceberg. The fire station was renovated after 2005 and they want another 1.5 million to do further upgrades? Nothing is too good for the Fire Dept.

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