MARCO ISLAND — City Manager Jim Riviere said he wants more transparency in government.
That's why on Wednesday the Beautification Advisory Committee became the first of seven advisory groups to meet in the Community Room where their actions will be videotaped for broadcast. The Planning Board and Code Compliance already met in the room and are televised.
The city's advisory committees will no longer work behind closed doors, Riviere told them. The new setup was awkward at first with microphones and television screens capturing every word and nuance as the committee conducted business. The seats normally occupied by City Council were not used by the group.
Instead, committee members lined the wall to the left of the room where city staff usually sits during council meetings. Gretchen Baldus, the city's information technology director, handled the control booth, monitoring recently purchased cameras as they zoomed in on speakers.
Council Chairman Joe Batte said a few words about the plan to broadcast meetings including a reminder that the committee's demeanor would be viewed by a broader audience. He asked for civility and courtesy in all things.
"That's what the people of this city expect from us," he said. Advisory committees are appointed by council and aid it with their expertise in areas of community affairs.
Line-of-sight issues on Collier Boulevard near the Marriott were of particular concern to beautification members. Yvette Benarroch of Affordable Landscaping, a contractor for the city, reported that overgrown vegetation was removed near hotel crosswalks making pedestrians more visible to motorists.
A large bird-of-paradise plant was subdivided into three smaller sections and moved to the foot of the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge, she said. Other plants were removed from the end areas of medians and replaced with mulch.
Committee members reviewed city budget items for streetscapes and vegetation maintenance. Four months into the fiscal year, the city used 68 percent of its contractual services budget of $768,811 and 60 percent of road and street materials budgeted at $113,500.
Tim Pinter, city public works director, explained overextended funds reflected maintenance needs during this time of year and encumbrances from contractual agreements. He predicted a slowdown in rainy season would offset any overages.
Included in the budget is $1,000 for Marco in Bloom. Entries in six categories can receive nominations for awards as the city's most beautiful landscapes. Categories include commercial, condominium, privately maintained cul-de-sac, institutional and two residential categories: professionally and privately maintained.
Criteria for the contest include use of native and Florida-friendly plants, color and contrast and creativity. Areas to be judged must be viewable for public areas such as roads and sidewalks.
Nominations can be made by the public or the nominee and are due the third week of March. A nomination must include the property owner's name and address, photographs of the areas to be judged and a short statement why the nominee should receive the award.
Awards will be given at the first city council meeting is April. Brochures and nomination forms are available at City Hall.
Committee member Bob Kennedy said all area condominiums had been notified that the city was accepting nominations for Marco in Bloom. Brochures have been handed out to businesses and banners and poster are visible around town.
In other business, committee members asked if irrigation from Winterberry Park could be extended to water the butterfly garden in Calusa Park, the linear park across Winterberry Drive. Pinter said the $2,000 to hook into the water source was not budgeted in 2013.
The Master Plan includes upgrades to Calusa Park in fiscal year 2015, he said, including irrigation and continuation of the city's shared-use path. The project is expected to be funded through a Florida state grant.
The next Beautification Advisory Committee meeting is scheduled for 3 p.m., March 5, in the Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.