MARCO ISLAND — In his first full day on the job, Marco Island City Manager Roger Hernstadt took on a double header Monday.
At 3 p.m., he joined ceremonies to dedicate the city’s fire-rescue boat at the Marco Island Yacht Club. By 5:30 p.m., he was actively participating in his first city council meeting.
During the christening of Fire-Rescue Boat 50, Hernstadt and others used high-pressure canisters to “wet down” the new vessel. The ceremony of spraying water on the boat symbolized its entry into service.
“I congratulate the people who worked to acquire it (the boat) before I came,” Hernstadt said. “It will give us the ability to serve the community near-shore, helping residents and visitors in our marine waters and protecting properties adjacent to our waterways.”
VFW commander Jim Lang attached the first American flag to the boat. Bagpipers played as the department named the vessel the “J.W. Adams,” honoring a Marco Island firefighter, who recently died of cancer while serving the community.
After the ceremony, the vessel was displayed in front of the yacht club demonstrating its range of firefighting and rescue capabilities.
“Unbelievable,” said Sal Soldano, a resident and boater. “It’s so maneuverable. It’s like a little sports car.”
At city council, Hernstadt plunged into business of a different sort.
Councilors discussed two major issues: hiring three new firefighters/emergency responders and addressing ordinance changes for seawall construction.
The request for addition fire-rescue personnel came from Fire Chief Mike Murphy. He cited a 10.5-percent increase in emergency calls in 2013 as one reason for the request.
Councilors expressed concerns about funding the new positions but voted 6-0 to approve them. Councilor Larry Sacher was not at the meeting.
The three salaries plus benefits will cost the city $225,000 annually, said Finance Director Guillermo Polanco. One firefighter will be added to each shift as the department places into service a “quick response vehicle” for medical calls.
A motion by Councilor Bob Brown to approve an ordinance reducing the number of days for constructing seawalls failed by a vote of 2-4 on first reading.
Currently, seawall construction is permitted for 180 days with the possibility of an additional 180-day extension after inspection.
Marine contractors objected to a change that would single out their industry for a reduction to 100 days for construction plus a 45-day extension. All other building constructors on the island receive the 180 days plus 180-day extension, they said.
After the construction time motion failed, council tabled votes on additional seawall ordinance changes and a resolution affecting technical specifications.
In other business, Councilor Joe Batte announced the island will have its own American Legion Post 404.
Councilor Amadeo Petricca confirmed the county has agreed to house an additional ambulance on Marco Island during peak season in 2014 and from Jan. 1 to April 30 in 2015.
Resident Eileen Ward asked council to readdress parking and enforcement on Bald Eagle Drive in Old Marco.