MARCO ISLAND — From the ashes of its Utility Advisory Board, Marco Island’s City Council is hoping a new Utility Advisory Committee will spring.
On Monday, council took its first step toward abolishing the existing advisory board by approving, 6-0, the first reading of it dissolution. Council’s action was precipitated by lack of participation on the advisory board. Only three members, Amadeo Petricca, David Rusmussen and William Porter were listed as active members.
The council immediately discussed and approved a resolution to create a seven-member Utilities Advisory Committee to perform many of the same tasks tackled by the advisory board. Councilor Joe Batte voted against the resolution that passed by a vote of 5-1. Council Chuck Kiester was not present at the meeting.
Members of the advisory board were told they could apply for appointment to the new committee if desired. Each council member is allowed to appoint one person to the committee.
Two public speakers, Ken Honecker, a past chairman of the advisory board, and Petricca addressed council during public comment and questioned utilities’ financial issues. Their comments drew response from some council members.
The new committee will serve at the pleasure of council and will perform other duties as determined. Council discussed directing the committee to review and make recommendations on water and sewer annual operating budgets, the utilities’ five-year capital plan and plant operations.
Public Speaker Steve Stefanides cautioned council that its approach to establishing in-house overview was a band-aid solution. He suggested that entities as large as the city’s water and sewer facilities deserved more deliberate management.
“We should have gone outside to manage it,” he said. “A referendum could establish a manager directly responsible to council and council alone.”
Stefanides praised the utility as being the heart of city assets now and going forward.
“We need some who can look 10 years, 15 years, 20 years down the road,” he said. “We’re going to have enough coming down the road that the manager needs to take care of. This is the time to run this as a business: Effectively and efficiently.”
Council Recker offered an alternate solution.
“Who wants another government employee that needs this and that and more money?” he asked. “Get bids from professional companies that manage utilities.”
In related business, councilors authorized the city manager to enter into a contract with Mitchell & Stark Construction Company for $9.3 million to install sewer facilities in the Estates Sewer District as part of the Septic Tank Replacement Program. Council decided not to interrupt the contract during the months of January, February and March known as in-season, so work will progress during that time.
Council also set workshop dates for discussions on the utilities’ Cost of Services report and revenue sufficiency study received from Burton & Associates. One workshop was originally scheduled for Monday, March 19, prior to council’s regularly scheduled meeting.
Additional workshops will be held at 5:30 p.m., Feb. 29, and 1 p.m. on March 14. All workshops will be held in the city’s Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.