Marco Island Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee: City parks in danger of being loved to death

Community Services Director Bryan Milk addresses the board. The Marco Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee met Tuesday, considering how to make best use of the city's park facilities. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER

Community Services Director Bryan Milk addresses the board. The Marco Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee met Tuesday, considering how to make best use of the city's park facilities. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Chairman Paul Meyer, left, leads the discussion. The Marco Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee met Tuesday, considering how to make best use of the city's park facilities. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER

Chairman Paul Meyer, left, leads the discussion. The Marco Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee met Tuesday, considering how to make best use of the city's park facilities. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

— Marco Island loves its parks, and the many activities that take place in them. If there is a problem in the area of parks and recreation, that’s it – the island’s citizens may be loving the parks to death.

At the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee meeting on Tuesday afternoon, held in the Niles conference room at City Hall, the committee heard from parks and rec staff about the programs going on in city parks, both recently held and upcoming. There are a host of these, and almost without exception, they are heavily attended, particularly during this time of year.

One of the most recent was a new event, the Community Health Fair, held Saturday at Mackle Park. Teen leader Lola Dial said it drew 600 visitors, but Community Services Director Bryan Milk estimated the number at over 1,000.

“We had every air-conditioned space full of exhibitors, and they were spilling out into the parking lot,” said Milk. The fair provided a good example, said committee member Greg West, of how limited space is in the city’s park system.

“It was so successful, we’re already planning for next year,” said Dial. Finding space and available time in a facility may be a challenge. Mackle Park hosts concerts, movies, mah jongg, bridge, and canasta, political meetings, formal teas, street dances, a wide variety of children’s programs, and classes in tai chi, women’s self-defense and cooking, along with regular individual and team sports, an upcoming model sailboat regatta, and the city’s massive Easter egg hunt.

Committee chairman Paul Meyer drew a connection between two activities, classes on knife sharpening and the women’s self-defense.

“Have we done something wrong?” he joked.

A similar situation exists on the parks and rec athletic fields, where it is challenging to find time for workers to keep up the facilities, working around the heavy usage schedules.

“The big problem is we can’t get on the fields. We’ve backed off on maintenance,” said recreation supervisor Alex Galiana, “because the fields are packed. Our guys get there at 7 or 7:30 in the morning, just to get the fields ready.” With three separate baseball teams on the island, and soccer practice going year ’round, the fields are showing the effect of constant use, he said.

“We closed up the top half of the one soccer field to give it a break,” said Galiana. Baseball fields should be raked and watered, “even ripped up a little” after games, he said. Milk confirmed that school and other groups who share the athletic fields are paying the city for the privilege, as they are supposed to, but the issue is constant use.

“Our facilities are being used like crazy,” he said. Rather than sounding an alarm, though, both staff and committee members focused on how best to work under existing conditions.

Milk reported to the committee how he and Meyer had met with the Marco Island Homeowners’ Association on February 17 to address their questions concerning the need for the new community center budgeted for Mackle Park. While a 20,000 square foot, two-story facility had been recommended to replace the existing 8,000 square foot center, plans have been scaled back, he said.

“The current building proposal as we move forward is a one-story building including a maximum building square footage of 16,500 s.f. of air-conditioned space,” said Milk’s report. “The Community Center will not provide an indoor gymnasium or walking track.” Those items, Milk told the advisory board, would be added in an unspecified Phase Two, “sometime in the future.”

The cost for the new one-story 16,500 square foot center, he said, is $3 million, and the business plan for the facility will include a leaseback payment program and proposed park revenue. The bottom line, he told the homeowners’ association, this “will not increase your taxes.”

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board’s next meeting is scheduled for March 20.

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Comments » 7

marcofriend writes:

Gee,somehow the "Phase II" was missed by a lot of people at the property owners meeting last week. It seemed that there would be nothing more than a 1 story building period, and that was only being looked at for feasablility as our City Council has never said we were doing anything. Where will the funding come from? Why is everyone in the City afraid to put this up for a referendum? If they are comfortable that the people all want this at this time, then put it out there and the people will vote for it. Perhaps they are a little nervous with all the opposition along with the huge majority voting against this in the MICA survey.

blogsmog writes:

Bryan Milk is good people

1Paradiselost writes:

in response to blogsmog:

Bryan Milk is good people

Yea.... So is Soylent Green!

MarcoDefender writes:

in response to marcofriend:

Gee,somehow the "Phase II" was missed by a lot of people at the property owners meeting last week. It seemed that there would be nothing more than a 1 story building period, and that was only being looked at for feasablility as our City Council has never said we were doing anything. Where will the funding come from? Why is everyone in the City afraid to put this up for a referendum? If they are comfortable that the people all want this at this time, then put it out there and the people will vote for it. Perhaps they are a little nervous with all the opposition along with the huge majority voting against this in the MICA survey.

Marcofriend - It's a leaseback, so there's no cost of capital, just cost of usage. I suspect with the increased usage and revenue programs the center offers, it will cover a good portion of that lease cost on a monthly / annual basis.

As for referendum, I'm pleased that it's not decided in this method. The children on this island are the biggest users of the parks facilities here. Obviously, they benefit from a city with a premier park program like we have here, however, they are not able to voice their opinions as citizens for obvious reasons. To under-represent them would not be democratic.

I wouldn't call the opposition a huge majority, but the vocal minority. I would personally like to be more involved and vocal on these issues, but I'm not retired, therefore have far less time to dedicate on such important aspects of island life.

So, if I understand your point of view, you're against the center because of cost, is that correct? Are there other reasons? Please share, I think this subject deserves more discussion on a citizen level. Thank you.

sailingby writes:

In trying to follow the money..."Bryan Milk, community affairs director, said plans are progressing to fund a $4 million building and to negotiate a leaseback partnership with a selected builder. He said offers have been received from Mills Gilbane Building Company, Phoenix Associates, and more recently, Kraft Construction.

Marco Island City Council included $600,000 for Mackle Park’s building project in its 2013 budget and subsequent budgets that would amount to $3 million, Milk said. He is looking at proposals that would set a leaseback payment at about $400,000 per year but did not specify the number of years." http://www.marconews.com/news/2012/ja...

The number of years is a critical factor in the equation. Looks like Milk is saying $3,600,000 total construction cost. If the City pays a leaseback of $400,000 per year the City will have paid $3,600,000 in 9 years and NOT own a thing. After 9 years the cost of the facility goes up $400,000 per year if the City is required to continue paying a leaseback.

A leaseback does not appear to be a good thing for the City.

It is only a good deal for the builder who will still own the facility and has a guaranteed income of $400,000 per year.

It is better for the City to come up with construction funding.

ParkLover47 writes:

A beautiful thing happened during the 1st annual Marco Health Fair. Hundreds of people and friends were smiling; they ranged in age from adorable babies to fun loving seniors.I saw people helping people, and they were enjoying themselves!No complaining heard.I'm at the beautiful park running several times a week, and see different people, animals each time.I may watch a sailing game, or I may watch a young child play with her dog in the park. All smiling and getting fit at the same time. I look forward to a park expansion so I can meet my past sorority friends; maybe take a healthy cooking class; or maybe get involved in Zumba.It would be nice to have options. Please continue to be transparent about the revised building and how this does or does not affect our city operations budget.Best of Luck!!! Please advertise the next meeting so all residents obtain accurate information. Thank You

ajm3s writes:

And to continue on the point of costs. For clarity, this 3P is essentially a design,build, finance public private partnership.

There are pros and cons in this arrangement, but the cons are fairly steep as in increase debt cost. This city has a habit of taking what is traditionally a capital cost and paying a premium to pay for projects as an operational cost. I get it, but again why would you want to do this. I understand Mr. Milk's position that it makes his life easier, since the city gets a building and it is provided (with furniture and equipment) and he just accepts the keys and a hefty increase in total costs for the project over the life of the lease.

This would make sense if Marco Island had problems getting financing from traditional sources, and this project was vital and required immediate replacement.

But it doesn't, I believe.

In essence, the difference between a leaseback payment vs a construction loan payment is in my experience significant.

Just review a PPP (and there are many variation) specifically design, build, lease type. Mr. Trotter, made the point at one of the council meetings, and he was accurate. I would hope Mr. Magel would chime in because, he is aware as well. Since these folks are the most financially astute on the council.

And consider the fact, we have not read all the details of a the lease agreement, heck we do not even have an operational budget to review as of this date.

And remember, Mr. Milk clearly stated that he is pursuing only those options as requested from the city manager and council. No traditional requisition request for purchase, the standard bond funding for a design/build project, which is less costly on a cash flow basis.

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