Beautification group hopes to get line item in Marco Island's city budget

Marco Island beautification committee members study photos Monday of personally designed residential landscapes submitted for the 2013 Marco in Bloom contest. Standing from left are Bob Kennedy, Susan LaGrotta, Peggy Anuta and Linda Colombo. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Marco Island beautification committee members study photos Monday of personally designed residential landscapes submitted for the 2013 Marco in Bloom contest. Standing from left are Bob Kennedy, Susan LaGrotta, Peggy Anuta and Linda Colombo. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Linda Turner of the Beautification Advisory Committee comments Monday on the need for a line item in the city’s budget to provide better landscape maintenance on city properties. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Linda Turner of the Beautification Advisory Committee comments Monday on the need for a line item in the city’s budget to provide better landscape maintenance on city properties. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Susan LaGrotta, chairwoman of Marco Island’s Beautification Advisory Committee discusses ongoing maintenance frustrations in a season that was not kind to plants and landscaping. Beside her is Nancy Richie, city environmental specialist and liaison to the committee for the city. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Susan LaGrotta, chairwoman of Marco Island’s Beautification Advisory Committee discusses ongoing maintenance frustrations in a season that was not kind to plants and landscaping. Beside her is Nancy Richie, city environmental specialist and liaison to the committee for the city. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

— The Marco Island Beautification Advisory Committee has so many items it wants to complete that on Monday it considered asking for a place in the city’s budget. The discussion resulted from a mix of enthusiasm and frustration.

It’s been a tough year for maintaining city-owned lands, the committee agreed. Pest infestations and lack of water have taken a toll of trees, groundcovers and shrubbery. The committee also pointed to a lack of manpower, not flower power, as the culprit.

“There’s no reason for a tree to look dead,” said Linda Colombo of the committee. City planted trees should be watered, fertilized and debugged, she said.

Committee member Bob Kennedy described taking his appointing councilor, Larry Magel, to inspect city parks and medians. During the visit, Kennedy said Magel realized how bad things looked.

Several members said they had not seen the city’s watering truck out taking care of swale trees and medians. They agreed post planting care would result in healthier vegetation that could better fight off invading species. It comes at a lower cost to the city, they said, than the alternative: Having trees die, removed and replaced with new ones.

It wasn’t clear how far into the city’s maintenance program the committee wanted to venture. The city contracts with Affordable Landscaping for most maintenance and city staff does the rest.

Syd Mellinger said the committee continued to be told staff had no time for items of upkeep suggested by the group. She urged the committee to ask council to hire two or three new workers dedicated to landscaping and maintenance. She also suggested that the committee’s objectives be categorized as capital requests and operational needs.

Committee members drafted a proposal for consideration and approval at their April 3 meeting. They hope to present the final revised version to council before the new budget cycle begins.

In capital projects, the committee will ask to expand and improve the butterfly garden in Calusa Park. That would require extending irrigation pipes under Winterberry Drive from the ballpark and adding fertilizer and mulch. The estimated cost of the project is $3,000.

In other meetings, Calusa Park’s development including pathway improvements, park landscape and irrigation has been discussed by the city’s public works department as “future plans.” The committee would like to see the park developed as soon as possible and estimated the project would cost $50,000.

The committee discussed offering a $50 “seed money” voucher to any resident willing to adopt and maintain a cul-de-sac median adjacent to their home. The voucher could be redeemed for plants. The committee considered limiting the program to 30 vouchers for fiscal year 2014 at a potential cost of $1,500.

The committee was asked to look into Florida Friendly landscaping for the Fire Station and around city-owned parking lots. The cost to replace, restore and maintain the new landscapes was estimated at $40,000.

In ongoing requests, the committee will ask the city for $35,000 to plant and maintain trees under its Tree City U.S.A. designation and $2,000 for collateral materials to continue Marco in Bloom and the Community Forum.

The committee plans to urge the city to increase maintenance funding for medians and cul-de-sac maintenance programs by $50,000. The increase would be used to install auto flushers for irrigation, maintain or plant vegetation, and mulch with alternative material.

“There’s a budget for some of this year and nothing has been done,” Mellinger said as she reviewed the list. “It’s definitely irritating.” She also said there was a history for the committee to have a line item in the budget, and she would produce earlier budgets to prove it.

In other business, the committee used a “blind selection” process to choose winners in the 2013 Marco in Bloom contest. The committee received 22 entries. Winners will be announced at the April 15 regular city council meeting.

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Comments » 2

Ocram (Inactive) writes:

A line item in the city's budget is not too much to ask when there are people willing and able to put their best efforts forth in improving the attractiveness and uniformity of areas of this island that need these people's special touches. Yes, dead trees along main roads and improving cul-de-sacs should be on the agenda.

Thank goodness there are people like this who wish to improve rather than to tear apart and criticize.

Ocram (Inactive) writes:

Klaus,

Very interesting, but could you prove that what I wrote was not in fact the truth?

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