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The Marco Island City Council selected executive search firm The Mercer Group, Inc. to conduct the search for a new city manager during its meeting Monday night.

The city sent out a request for proposals (RFPs) following former city manager Roger Hernstadt's abrupt resignation at the Feb. 6 council meeting, and received responses from six executive search firms.

Councilor Howard Reed called the selection of the search firm is “the most important decision (City Council) will make," and he was the first to express a preference for The Mercer Group, Inc. based on its extensive experience and the fact that it’s a Florida company; it’s also the same firm that tapped Marco Island’s original, and longest-lasting, city manager Bill Moss for the position of Naples city manager in 2008.

The other councilors agreed that The Mercer Group, Inc. was their number one choice, although Councilor Charlette Roman also expressed support for JD Gray Group, a small company that offered to serve as a consultant for up to two years after council hires a new city manager.

Council passed a resolution 6-0, with councilor Joe Batte absent, to authorize interim city manager Guillermo Polanco to enter into an agreement with The Mercer Group, Inc. for city manager search services in the amount not to exceed $25,000.

Council also selected members to the city's new Water-Sewer Options Committee: Heyward Boyce; Rony Joel; David Jones; Bruce Weinstein and Thomas Wides.

Chairman Larry Honig first suggested the Water-Sewer Options Committee at the Jan. 9 council meeting, citing the city's need to consult with experts on the issue of the water-sewer utility rates.

"City councils over the years have wrestled with this matter," he said at the April 3 council meeting. "We know that our utility total debt per Marco Island resident is among the highest in Florida."

As a result, the rates on Marco Island are extremely high, he said. The city has undertaken numerous rate studies in the past, but none have generated solutions that were amicable to all members of the council, which is why it's time to form a committee that's solely dedicated to the issue and devoid of politics.

"A number of us have tried to float creative solutions, but we continue to run into - we should just admit it - we run into plain old politics," Honig said, which is why he suggested a cohesive five-member committee rather than a traditional seven-member committee to which each councilor appoints a member.

The Water-Sewer Options Committee will hold its first meeting next month.

In other business

The Marco Island Civic Association (MICA) Board of Directors gifted the city $5,000 for Fourth of July fireworks, and the city proclaimed April 10 Gopher Tortoise Day.

Council also discussed the city's speed limits; according to Vice-Chair Jared Grifoni, Florida law sets the maximum speed within any municipality at 30 miles per hour. In order to change the speed limit, the municipality must conduct an investigation that proves the change "is reasonable and in conformity to criteria promulgated by the Department of Transportation."

Grifoni said the city changed its speed limits in 2012 without conducting a speed study, and recommended that the city conduct one now to both ensure the safety of its residents and prevent any potential future liability. Council authorized the study in a 5-1 vote with councilor Bob Brown dissenting.

Council’s next meeting is 5:30 p.m. May 1 in the community room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.

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