Applause greeted Marco Island’s new city councilors Monday and its new leadership. Councilor Joe Batte was elected chairman and newly elected Councilor Ken Honecker became vice chairman.
Shortly after a "coffee and cake" celebration, it was back to work with nearly 4 hours of council business. As council completed its agenda, City Manager Jim Riviere said it was time for council to decide if it wanted to keep him.
Riviere became the city's manager after an interim period as acting manager. Two years ago, he agreed to take a permanent position, but said he would only make the commitment until this election.
Monday night, Riviere said he would like to continue as city manager, but derogatory comments that surfaced during the election left him feeling like he was "on thin ice." He said it was unfair to city staff when the fate of the manager was uncertain.
Councilor Chick Kiester moved for a vote of confidence in the city manager. Newly elected Councilor Larry Sacher argued the time was not right for such a vote and suggested a written review of the manager precede the discussion.
"I'm uncomfortable with the question after 11 hours on the job," he said. "I would like to see a formal evaluation rather than an informal vote of confidence."
Councilor Larry Magel moved discussion forward saying comments made by council-elects were already affecting staff.
"There's no reason to duck this question," he countered.
The confidence vote passed 4-3 with three of the four newly elected councilors – Sacher, Amadeo Petricca and Honecker – opposed. Councilor Larry Honig voted with the majority.
Council also discussed appointments to county and city boards. By consensus, councilors representing Marco Island on county boards are Sacher on the Tourist Development Council, Kiester on the Metropolitan Planning Organization and Honig on the Coastal Advisory Committee.
Council approached appointing city boards with some confusion. After prior elections held in March, appointments were made for terms starting in June. Because 2012 elections were moved to November, board members previously appointed were asked to stay on from June to November until the new council was seated.
Honig moved all boards continue to operate with current members until new appointments could be finalized. The vote passed 5-2. The city will advertise for resumes of interested residents, and council will discuss the make-up and responsibilities of boards at its December workshop.
Council agreed on first reading to pass an ordinance that would reduce impact fees for existing commercial renovations. Joe Irvin, city zoning administrator, said the reduction would have a minor impact on capital projects for the Fire and Police Departments.
In the proposal, the city would sunset its fee reductions in parallel with a similar program in Collier County. Council will hold a second reading on the ordinance at a future meeting.
Councilors tabled a proposed amendment to the Land Development Code that would restrict certain types of advertising signs. Burt Saunders, city attorney, informed council recent litigation may have made banning the signs illegal. Council will research the issue for a future meeting.
Ed Skrzynski, owner of Marco Canvas and creator of a mooring boat cover assist system, made a presentation to council on his product. The cover system uses transoms and belly bands to aid operation and secure canvas to vessels.
The system is designed to handle hurricane force winds up to 140 mph and can be operated in minutes without heavy lifting, Skrzynski said. Marco Island's Planning Board recommended the mooring system be added to Chapter 54 of Marco Island's Code of Ordinances as an acceptable boat over alternative.
City staff suggested installation of the system should require an $85 permit and restrictions in color. The Planning Board had approved a motion to bring the item to city council without restrictions or permits.
Council voted 6-1 to accept on first reading the ordinance as presented by the Planning Board with no restrictions or permitting. Magel voted against the motion. A second reading will be scheduled for a future date.
Council rescheduled its workshop from Dec. 10 to Dec. 20. The workshop will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Community Meeting Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive. If council plans to vote on any issues, it will also call a special council meeting during the workshop.