MARCO ISLAND — Recent surveys predict Marco Island residents are not ready to fund a new community center at Mackle Park. On Tuesday, the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee remained undaunted.
The polls are getting closer to accepting the idea, Community Affairs Director Bryan Milk told the committee.
City Councilor Larry Sacher, who attended the meeting as a member of the public, agreed more people seem interested in supporting a new building but spending money stands in the way.
“Our community is tired of hearing about the building,” Sacher said. “The ‘no’ votes are not coming from people with children. They’re from those without children.”
Sacher attributed the lack of public support to misconceptions about who the park serves and what it contributes to the community. Council did not include funds for the new building in its 2014 budget.
The public continually has asked for a referendum on the issue, Linda Turner, a public speaker, told the committee. She pointed to three or four city councilors who would not be in favor of budgeting funds for the project until the community was in agreement.
“I’ve been fearful of a referendum,” Milk said. “I want to get to where the public sees the need and what a new center could do for them.”
Milk said he had done everything to assuage councilors and the public. That included reducing the size and cost of the building and planning construction in phases. He also worked out a way to keep programs running throughout construction.
Committee member Litha Berger felt education on the center’s current and potential use was key to public opinion.
“I didn’t know what goes on there until I joined this committee,” Berger admitted. “All the stuff that goes on is incredible.”
As the committee brainstormed action plans, it became clear a session devoted to public outreach would better focus next steps. A workshop open to the public was scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5, in the Community Room.
Lightning detection installed
Alex Galiana, park supervisor, announced the city’s new lightning detection system designed by Thor Guard will go live on Monday, Oct. 21. The city spent $19,000 for the initial installation as Phase 1. The completed project will cost approximately $27,000.
The first phase included a detection hub at City Hall and a remote warning system next to Mackle Park’s soccer fields. The hub will detect electricity in the air within a two-mile radius from the city’s center; and then, remotely set off a 15-second siren blast at the park.
The blast will be followed by a strobe, pulsing until three short blasts of five seconds each sound the “all clear.” The system will be active from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
The 2-mile detection area includes Winterberry Park, Veterans’ Community Park, Marco Island Academy and Residents’ Beach; however, remote sirens would need to be placed at each location to give warning. The system can be set to detect atmospheric static up to 10 miles from its center.
A remote warning system costs approximately $5,000.
“I’d like to see alarms at both Winterberry Park and Veterans’ Community Park,” said Greg West, committee chairman. Winterberry Park is used almost continually for softball, baseball, soccer and football.
The committee also asked if a strobe could be placed at the far end of Mackle Park to augment the siren and alert people walking around the lake or using the dog park. There was concern that money for Phase 2 may not have been reserved in the city’s 2014 budget.
Galiana said he understood the Marco Island Civic Association board approved $5,000 for a remote warning system to tie into the city’s hub for Residents’ Beach.
Park staff said they would not actively force people to take shelter during an alarm but would rely on the good sense of people using the park.
“We’re providing a warning but individuals will be responsible to leave,” Galiana said. “Coaches have been diligent, and I don’t have any question that organized sports will get off the fields.”