Nearly 65 percent of Marco Island Civic Association (MICA) members would support a tax increase if it meant the island would receive a second full-time ambulance.
The question was part of MICA’s annual membership survey, which asks its members questions about the organization and takes their temperatures on other important issues facing the island, such as the Marco Island Fire-Rescue Department's future.
The Marco Island City Council voted in early June to take a three-pronged approach to the issue of pursuing a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (COCPN.) Such a certificate would allow the city to operate its own ambulance services rather than relying on the county.
One of the prongs involves asking the county for a second full-time ambulance to replace a part-time ambulance that currently operates during season.
“We have a part-time ambulance that operates December to April for 12 hours a day, which adds up to 1,400 hours,” Vice-Chair Jared Grifoni, author of the successful, multi-pronged resolution, said at the time. “That leaves 7,300 hours that there’s only one unit on the island, and that doesn’t even take into account when the unit is moved off island based on need elsewhere.”
Marco Fire-Rescue Chief Mike Murphy agreed.
“When this city became a city in 1997, I have a picture from the Marco Island Eagle that shows one ambulance coming into the station with two people staffing it,” he said, noting that 68 percent of the island’s emergency calls require transportation to area hospitals. “Twenty years later, we still have that one ambulance with two people staffing it.”
The survey also asked MICA members if they supported adding a band shell and restrooms to Veterans Community Park, and nearly 80 percent of respondents said yes, almost an exact reversal from last year's survey in which 82 percent of respondents said they did not want more development of the park.
The difference is that this year's survey included the fact that even with a band shell and restrooms, 90 percent of the park would remain 'green space,' which islanders have passionately advocated for in the past.
The future of Veterans Community Park became an especially heated issue around this time last year when a hotel developer offered to develop the park in exchange for its commercial intensity credits, which would allow the developer to build a 165-room hotel on land adjacent to the park.
Small Brothers, LLC – the project’s developer – received such negative feedback from the community that it actually re-designed the hotel in the hopes of placating residents; specifically, Small Brothers reduced the height of the building from 95 feet to 75 feet – which would not require a code variance – reduced the number of rooms from 165 to 153 and agreed to pay the city $1 million in exchange for the park's intensity credits rather than add $3.5 million worth of enhancements to Veterans Community Park.
Nevertheless, it still wasn't enough to convince residents, nor the board members and councilors who represent them, that the project was a good idea; council rejected the project in January.
Since then, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) has begun the process of updating the Veterans Community Park 2009 Master Plan and deciding which elements, if any, would offer the greatest benefits.
“I think some of the things that have been contemplated by the city … are one-time only events, and I think what we need to keep in mind is…what type of park do we want to create for everybody that it can be used every day,” PRAC member Meg Bonos said in April. “You want a park that’s day-to-day, but also everlasting.”
The survey also revealed that although more than 80 percent of MICA members believe stormwater management is either important or extremely important, only a third would support a tax increase to help address the issue.
According to the survey, the majority of MICA members do not support the construction of a parking garage, but do support addressing the island's parking issues by updating the city's code for restaurant seating and enforcing it citywide.
Of the 6,276 surveys that were sent out, 2,636 completed surveys were returned for a response rate of 42 percent.