Marco Island City Council believes islanders want an extra level of health care protection at night.
The island's 24-hour clinic has given way to walk-in service only during business hours due to low demand overnight. In the event of an emergency, islanders can drive 20 to 25 minutes to the Physicians Regional hospital on Collier Boulevard or call 911 for an ambulance. Even then, there is no assurance of swift service, as there is only one county ambulance dedicated to Marco Island, and that one might be busy.Against this background, City Council is backing a straw ballot for an annual property tax estimated at .1 mill to subsidize something between a doctor's office and an emergency room, with capabilities to do blood tests and X-rays, around the clock.
Supporters concede the time for public education and civic discussion is shorter than they would like, with council approving the ballot question only in early June. They say they are blocked by a technicality from being on the Nov. 6 ballot and prefer to go the Aug. 14 route rather than spending more than $22,000 on a separate referendum.
The opposition makes good points. The precise size of the tax is unclear in the official ballot language, and the tax has no sunset or end date.
There has not been time to decide whether people who are not payers of property taxes on Marco should pay a premium to use the clinic overnight. Those people would include neighbors from Goodland and Isles of Capri and even tourists. Plus, would the tax subsidize the medically indigent?
Yet, rather than call those reasons to vote "no,'' we see this Marco referendum as personal — and a beginning rather than an end. We recommend a "yes'' vote on Aug. 14 or when early voting starts Monday to keep the conversation going.
This is not setting policy for the entire county. This is Marco Island taking action because of its own unique geographic reality. It is an island, and health care is not as readily available as it is elsewhere in Southwest Florida.
Let the home rule conversation carry on in the full sunshine of open government and public records.
Who can vote? All 12,000 voters on Marco Island.
Questions about voting? Call the Collier County Supervisor of Elections Office at 239-252-8450.