Marco Island City Council passes first reading of budget, millage; discusses city manager search

Bob Brown is sworn in as the city's newest city councilor. Marco Island's City Council met Monday evening, considering the city manager search process and approving the first reading of the city budget. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Bob Brown is sworn in as the city's newest city councilor. Marco Island's City Council met Monday evening, considering the city manager search process and approving the first reading of the city budget. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Karina Paape, who alleged police brutality in front of the council, speaks to Police Chief Don Hunter, center, and Assistant Chief Dave Baer. Marco Island's City Council met Monday evening, considering the city manager search process and approving the first reading of the city budget. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Karina Paape, who alleged police brutality in front of the council, speaks to Police Chief Don Hunter, center, and Assistant Chief Dave Baer. Marco Island's City Council met Monday evening, considering the city manager search process and approving the first reading of the city budget. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Bob Brown, the city's newest city councilor, takes his seat on the dais for the first time. Marco Island's City Council met Monday evening, considering the city manager search process and approving the first reading of the city budget. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

Bob Brown, the city's newest city councilor, takes his seat on the dais for the first time. Marco Island's City Council met Monday evening, considering the city manager search process and approving the first reading of the city budget. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

— In a lengthy session, the City Council approved a budget and millage rate for the city, and after a spirited debate, opted to stay the course with the executive search firm in the quest for a new city manager.

At 9:30, Vice Chairman Ken Honecker, running the meeting in the absence of Chairman Joe Batte, had to put to a vote extending the meeting beyond four hours. For all the talk, including community members who used the public comments section to weigh in on issue after issue, the outcomes of the questions raised were simple and perhaps foreordained, amounting to endorsing budget numbers already arrived at, and moving forward with the hiring of a new manager.

The first order of business was swearing in new City Councilor Bob Brown, chosen by council members to fill the seat left empty by the surprise resignation of Larry Magel, who is moving off the island to the Orlando area. Jay Santiago rose to suggest naming a city park after recently deceased war hero Bedford Biles, and resident Karina Paape took the podium to allege “police brutality” in the course of a phone conversation with an officer, and then huddled in the lobby with Police Chief Don Hunter and Assistant Chief Dave Baer.

Councilors voted to pass the budget previously worked out for the coming fiscal year, and levy a millage rate of 1.96 mills for city operations, and an additional 0.1163 for debt service, after a debate revolving around fire department personnel and equipment. The millage vote was unanimous, but the budget vote passed by 5-1, with Councilor Amadeo Petricca, who had been a member of the council’s budget sub-committee that dug through the numbers, dissenting to protest inclusion of funds for operation of a “quick response vehicle” and three firefighter/EMTs to staff it. Including this, said Petricca, will hamstring the city in approaching the county to request additional ambulance coverage for Marco.

Councilor Larry Honig used one of his trademark charts to show that Marco Island is underserved in numbers of residents per ambulance, compared to other Florida cities and especially Naples. Petricca agreed, saying Naples, basically the same size, has three ambulances stationed in its city limits, while “we’re suffering with one.

“With us being a remote area of Collier County, we should have more vehicles available. We need it desperately.”

Fire-Rescue Chief, pointedly not given the chance to make a sales pitch by Councilor Larry Sacher, did note that the quick response vehicle, for which a purchase order already has been cut, will not transport patients, but is intended to free up the department’s other equipment. The additional budget and millage rate for Hideaway Beach Special Taxing District, set at 2.6 mills, passed with little discussion and no dissenting votes.

Public Works Director Tim Pinter, who has drawn the ire of councilors during recent meetings concerning the Smokehouse Bay Bridge project, was grilled about funds in the budget for street resurfacing, which he said has been put off too long, with virtually no work other than in conjunction with the STRP sewer lines for the last five years. He was asked to come back with a specific list of streets, costs and timeframes for the proposed work.

After a break, the council reviewed progress or lack of in the search for a new city manager, to replace the retiring Jim Riviere. Not really getting into the question of any particular candidates, discussion focused on councilors’ unhappiness with the work of the search firm, Colin Baenziger Associates (CBA). With the firm’s principal participating via a phone link, councilors expressed disapproval, led by Honig, who said at various times, “I don’t have confidence,” “I’m disappointed,” “it’s appalling,” and “Colin Baenziger is phoning it in. Marco Island deserves better.” He argued for choosing a new search firm.

“The process seems out of order. But if we change course now, it might damage us with candidates” for the city manager job, said Honecker. In all 132 resumes were received, and 21 had been identified by CBA for closer review. Several of those had issues, including arrests, bid rigging charges, and one who tendered his resignation due to corruption charges, said the councilors.

“I didn’t see anyone acceptable on this list. I have no problem ending our contract with Mr. Baenziger,” said Councilor Chuck Kiester. He mentioned another possible candidate whose information he had acquired.

With a commitment from CBA that more vetting would be done and a refined list of possible managers presented, Brown spoke for continuing the process with the already in-place consultant.

“Let’s take a look at what’s presented Friday,” before deciding to switch horses, he counseled.

After some discussion on the difference between a formal motion and a straw vote, councilors voted 4-2 to continue with CBA, with Honig and Kiester opposed.

Kiester, who is finding his niche as “Dr. No,” frequently dissenting from otherwise unanimous or lopsided votes, also voted against continuing the council meeting beyond 9:30.

The budget and millage rates must be voted on again for a second reading, at which time the millage could be adjusted down but not up. The City Council meets again on Sept. 16.

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Comments » 8

ajm3s writes:

"...the budget vote passed by 5-1, with Councilor Amadeo Petricca, who had been a member of the council’s budget sub-committee that dug through the numbers, dissenting to protest inclusion of funds for operation of a “quick response vehicle” and three firefighter/EMTs to staff it."

Lets review priorities....

Last year it was the purchase of a fire boat at $400K to take advantage of a crisis of a botched boat fire response near the Caxambas boat launch.

Now the priority is a used quick response vehicle supported with a slide presentation showing three separate days with more than 3 concurrent responders....and this was added to the budget after the review process....but in the final analysis, the only dissenting vote was Mr. Petricca, as councilor.

Are you again being duped into comparisons to Naples and other cities in Florida? Let us start with the definition of resident. Does it include the visitors, the short term renters, etc. all potential users of rescue services? Does Naples's higher percentage of commercial activity vs residential impact the comparisons? Bear in mind, Naples has addressed its higher commercial basis and visitor impact by relying less on ad valorem taxes and more on fee revenue. Marco Island does NOT have the fee revenue structure that Naples has to support a larger rescue operation? If we are to assess the size of rescue operations, it is small but not because of size of resident population but because of the impact of visitors...which impacts the cost of providing rescue services that is supported solely by property value. Is apportionment by property value on Marco Island to be compared with Naples?

This underscores my dismissal of Mr. Honig's presentation...a chart which shows Marco Island under-served in numbers of residents per ambulance.

I contend, Naples gets a larger portion of its tax revenue from services and fees, Marco Island DOES NOT. I strongly recommend the county provide more ambulances to this city (and remember, you pay $175/call for EMS/Collier ambulance) NOT Marco Island Fire/Rescue.

Is the weekly/monthly renter and its property owner (includes condo and single family homes) getting a great deal? Consider the higher revenue to use a home as a hotel yet the cost of services is the same regardless of the number of "residents" in the home. Is it fair to say the retiree or family living full time in their own home or condo subsidizing others if the the rescue services are to expand?

I believe the level of service provided by the Fire/Rescue Department is more than adequate to service the retirees or families who reside on this island...However, I believe the transient "resident" may not be adequately paying to support a larger fire/rescue department that Mr. Murphy is constantly seeking to maintain a certain level of service.

But then again, I often hear that Marco Island is a great place to retire or raise a family....and let me add its guests and investors!

ajm3s writes:

After listening to the meeting on the web: Mr. Petricca gets it with regard to EMTs and firefighting needs vis a vis Naples!!!!!!!!!!!!!

naples_rocket writes:

I found Honig's yet another chart series questionable. Where are those numbers coming from? Google? How can one compare residential community like Marco to communities where majority of buildings are commercial/industrial. What about fire departments that are faced with wild fires every year? Yes, per residential dwelling unit our staffing levels might be lower, but residential is pretty much all we've got. Furthermore, some fire departments have EMS blended in. Are we sure what was shown on his chart takes that into account?
On a lighter note, I am very glad City Manager search is moving forward.

LEHonig writes:

To ajm3s and naples_rocket, all my charts (unless I specify differently) are based on that particular city's published data in 2012 Certified Annual Financial Reports, and (for population, dwelling units and buildings) U.S. Census data 2010, updated by the Census Bureau to 2012. I've studied reports for well over 100 cities in Florida, so that I can try to bring some perspective as to whether various ideas, proposals and directions appear consistent with other cities' experience. I never compare cities with different types of service capabilities unless that's irrelevant to the point I'm making, And I never falsely skew my analysis by including, or excluding, our swelled season residents. For example, my Fire Rescue charts use our base population, even though if I used in-season population we'd look even worse.

As to the QRV, the Quick Response Vehicle replaces an existing vehicle which does not offer the capabilities of the QRV, and the Budget Subcommittee felt that the incremental asset cost of $58,000 was justified. Councilor Honecker was instrumental in reducing the original request by two-thirds. As for the one additional person per shift, this will make Marco Island one of the 10 highest departments in the state in terms of dwellings per firefighter, and in terms of population per rescue personnel, a step up from today's situation in which we're among the top five. We are nowhere near the levels of most of our sister cities. And of course the rationale is service. In the past 5 years, calls for service have increased significantly, as have wait times for response. The QRV will provide more patient care, comfort and safety while waiting for ambulance transport.

Finally, the boat, er, the Marine Rescue Vessel with Fire Suppression Capability. I supported this for its capability given our water-surrounded community and the number of incidents. But just on the financial side, I showed in a City Council meeting last December that the annual incremental cost of this vessel is around $5,000.

JohninMarco writes:

in response to LEHonig:

To ajm3s and naples_rocket, all my charts (unless I specify differently) are based on that particular city's published data in 2012 Certified Annual Financial Reports, and (for population, dwelling units and buildings) U.S. Census data 2010, updated by the Census Bureau to 2012. I've studied reports for well over 100 cities in Florida, so that I can try to bring some perspective as to whether various ideas, proposals and directions appear consistent with other cities' experience. I never compare cities with different types of service capabilities unless that's irrelevant to the point I'm making, And I never falsely skew my analysis by including, or excluding, our swelled season residents. For example, my Fire Rescue charts use our base population, even though if I used in-season population we'd look even worse.

As to the QRV, the Quick Response Vehicle replaces an existing vehicle which does not offer the capabilities of the QRV, and the Budget Subcommittee felt that the incremental asset cost of $58,000 was justified. Councilor Honecker was instrumental in reducing the original request by two-thirds. As for the one additional person per shift, this will make Marco Island one of the 10 highest departments in the state in terms of dwellings per firefighter, and in terms of population per rescue personnel, a step up from today's situation in which we're among the top five. We are nowhere near the levels of most of our sister cities. And of course the rationale is service. In the past 5 years, calls for service have increased significantly, as have wait times for response. The QRV will provide more patient care, comfort and safety while waiting for ambulance transport.

Finally, the boat, er, the Marine Rescue Vessel with Fire Suppression Capability. I supported this for its capability given our water-surrounded community and the number of incidents. But just on the financial side, I showed in a City Council meeting last December that the annual incremental cost of this vessel is around $5,000.

I have 1 question then for you. Why is it that the highest paid members of the Fire Dept. do not respond to emergency calls? This information comes from the rank and file members of this dept. I think that the residents should expect more bang for the buck.

ajm3s writes:

in response to LEHonig:

To ajm3s and naples_rocket, all my charts (unless I specify differently) are based on that particular city's published data in 2012 Certified Annual Financial Reports, and (for population, dwelling units and buildings) U.S. Census data 2010, updated by the Census Bureau to 2012. I've studied reports for well over 100 cities in Florida, so that I can try to bring some perspective as to whether various ideas, proposals and directions appear consistent with other cities' experience. I never compare cities with different types of service capabilities unless that's irrelevant to the point I'm making, And I never falsely skew my analysis by including, or excluding, our swelled season residents. For example, my Fire Rescue charts use our base population, even though if I used in-season population we'd look even worse.

As to the QRV, the Quick Response Vehicle replaces an existing vehicle which does not offer the capabilities of the QRV, and the Budget Subcommittee felt that the incremental asset cost of $58,000 was justified. Councilor Honecker was instrumental in reducing the original request by two-thirds. As for the one additional person per shift, this will make Marco Island one of the 10 highest departments in the state in terms of dwellings per firefighter, and in terms of population per rescue personnel, a step up from today's situation in which we're among the top five. We are nowhere near the levels of most of our sister cities. And of course the rationale is service. In the past 5 years, calls for service have increased significantly, as have wait times for response. The QRV will provide more patient care, comfort and safety while waiting for ambulance transport.

Finally, the boat, er, the Marine Rescue Vessel with Fire Suppression Capability. I supported this for its capability given our water-surrounded community and the number of incidents. But just on the financial side, I showed in a City Council meeting last December that the annual incremental cost of this vessel is around $5,000.

Please, everytime a councilman compares Naples to Marco Island based on residents, I cringe, because Naples has a higher percentage of commercial/retail space and acts as a central hub for surrounding communities. Consequently the amount of traffic, commercial activity etc requires more services from the city, even though the residential population is similar.

God help us all!

lauralbi1 writes:

To AJM3: I just want to make certain that you are aware that the "City of Naples" is the same size, 20 square miles, as Marco Island. many of the buildings you are so paranoid about lie outside the City and are serviced by County Services or are paid to the City of Naples by County Taxes. If you are not happy using the City of Naples, I suggest you refer to information from the City of Venice, which yields the same conclusions/results.
Ed Issler

Konfuzius writes:

What has God to do with this amateur budget plan?
God has enough to do with his own organizations.
My idea is very simple. Cut all expensiveness by 50 % and consolidate.
Common sense. No money - no spending.
Let us go down by city council. 3 members are more than enough for a small community like Marco Island. Police by by, Sheriff back and no investments the next 5 years.
And pay Eddies relocation to Venice.

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