MARCO ISLAND — Public comment sparked renewed debate over plans to build a one-story gymnasium, teen center, adult center and welcome area expansion at Mackle Park.
Public speaker Joe Rola asked for an update on the new building at the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee meeting Tuesday.
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.
“Starting in 2013 you have $400,000 in the leaseback, but zero in operating costs and zero in personnel. This needs to be a full plan,” said Rola.
A second public speaker, Ray Seward, agreed that covering the structure’s cost was only part of the equation.
“Looking at some past investments made, no government does a good job managing a business investment,” Seward said.
Milk agreed that a full plan would include operating costs and suggested that all funding would not necessarily come from the city’s budget.
“We’re looking for any donations, but they have been insignificant to this point. People may be waiting to see what happens with council, but we have plans for legacy sponsors, pavers, etc,” he said.
Rola and Seward asked why the proposed building had not been put to referendum.
“People are upset about what the city is doing and are asking, ‘Don’t we have a say?’ ” Seward said. “We need to get the opinion of the people.”
Committee vice chairwoman Stacy Needles said more was at stake than just money.
“It’s about what quality of life it (the new building) will bring to the island,” she said. “Look at the county’s parks. They’re not paying for themselves.”
Seward agreed that if people on the island were made aware of Mackle Park’s use and how it would benefit them, they might buy into the expansion.
“Our concern is business-based. Will the programs support the building? Are we going to be paying more taxes?” he asked.
Both public speakers said they would continue to collect data on the project as representatives of Marco Island Property Owners. The group formed in 2010 as Marco Island Homeowners Association and subsequently changed its name and charter in November 2011 to include all types of property owners.
In other business, the committee decried Collier County School Superintendent Kamela Patton’s decision to do away with using the “Wednesday folders” to send recreation and events information home with schoolchildren. Outside groups such as the YMCA, city parks and recreation, the Boy Scouts or other organizations are restricted from using the folders.
All flyers and information now must be submitted electronically for acceptance; and then, will be placed on the website, www.collierschools.com. Committee members wondered how students who come from homes without computers would be able to access which programs were available to them.
“She’s making a big mistake,” said committee chairman Paul Meyer of the superintendent. “I don’t want my kids staring at a computer to see what’s happening tomorrow.”
Committee members agreed to send individual letters to the superintendent expressing how her decision will affect the community.
The next meeting of the Parks and Recreation Advisory committee is scheduled for 3:30 p.m., Feb. 21, in City Hall’s 1st Floor Conference Room, 50 Bald Eagle Drive.