MARCO ISLAND — There will be no horse-drawn carriage rides on Marco Island's streets, at least for the time being. The millage rate charged to island taxpayers will not rise above last year, even if voters approve an on-island emergency services clinic. And seawall repair may get more expensive.
These were some of the items that came out of the Marco Island City Council's July 16 meeting, the regular session after the joint workshop with the Planning Board, and the closed door executive sessions on legal matters. The council's meeting drew an overflow crowd to the building, with additional seats set up in the lobby for members of the public to watch the proceedings on television monitors.
To the approval of much of the audience, a motion on horse-drawn carriages failed to get a vote by council; although it had been previously approved by the Planning Board.
Company president Ellen McKinney decried the petition campaign on the Internet that, she said, falsely represented their operations, and charged them with animal cruelty.
Even with numerous conditions imposed, which the petitioners agreed to, including the stipulation that the operations could essentially be shut down at any time the city deemed necessary, the proposal by Marco Horse Drawn Carriages, Inc., went down to defeat. It died due to the lack of a second after Councilor Wayne Waldack moved for approval.
Island resident Joe Varano led the council through a recitation of his unhappiness at seawall construction work being done in the vacant lot next to his house on Menorca Court. While Varano pointedly did not name the contractor involved, Duane Thomas confirmed it was his company doing the work. The ordinance governing such activity, said City Attorney Burt Saunders, is vague, but does give guidelines for how contractors may make use of vacant lots, and stipulates that "clean concrete can be used for riprap."
"I have no problem complying with the rules," said Thomas, "I just need to know what they are."
Councilor Frank Recker, who displayed outside the meeting the gash he had gotten in his leg while inspecting the site, made a motion directing staff not to allow any more such permits until the matter was clarified.
"Yes, but what about a failed seawall?" queried Councilor Bill Trotter. Council Chairman Larry Magel mentioned they had previously gotten a figure of 20 percent for the additional cost of seawall replacement if work on adjacent lots was not permitted.
Limited to 30 days, unless it is extended, the moratorium was passed by a vote of 7-0, with Councilman Waldack weighing in over the PA system from off-island, where he is recuperating from a bicycle-vehicle collision.
The council passed on second reading an ordinance and resolution for utility rates, brushing aside several attempts by Trotter to reopen the discussion, seeking to lessen what he characterized as an unfair proportion of the cost being borne by single family homeowners, particularly those who make a point to conserve water.
Gibson agreed that many large commercial water and sewer users are getting a free ride, but in several 5-2 votes, and one 6-1, with Trotter in dissent, the council opted to keep in place the utility rate structure previously enacted.After the vote, many of the "water geeks," those who closely follow the issue and have passionate beliefs on it, kibitzed outside the council chambers, talking with Utilities Director Jeff Poteet and consultant Mike Burton. The City Council is scheduled to meet again on Aug. 20.