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One year ago, our island looked forward to the 20th year of cityhood with great anticipation. Now, we take time to reflect on the progress, excitement, and trials that our community has experienced together. The past year defined the character and strength of our island and the people that live here.

A priority for City Council has been to improve relationships with Collier County and our state legislative delegation. This has been an area sorely in need of improvement. This paid dividends when council met with the county commissioners (for the first time since 2014) to resolve the Goodland Road matter and set the stage for our COPCN efforts.

Council heard from our city lobbyist and set legislative priorities for the 2018 session. Our council is committed to working smarter on bills that impact our citizens on Marco Island, including unanimously passing a resolution calling on our representatives to oppose HB 17 and SB 1158 which would have negatively impacted home rule.

Council voted to protect Veterans Community Park by rezoning the parcel officially as a “Park” (makes you scratch your head, doesn’t it?), pulling out of the hotel deal, and by placing a moratorium on density transfer. Council also approved an RFQ for a master plan update and site plan.

Our city demonstrated strength and professionalism in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. We never lost our water and LCEC was able to restore power across the island with amazing efficiency. City Council took action to lessen the burden on our citizens with a temporary elimination of permit fees for Irma-related repairs in October. In contrast, Collier County cut their fees in half in mid-December. After an event like Irma, it’s important that we learn lessons and find ways we could improve. To that end, I have proposed the creation of a hurricane review committee, which council will consider in January.

Council voted to hire our new city manager, Dr. Lee Niblock, who began work on Dec. 4. His contract included a written job description, yearly evaluations (including a written self-evaluation and evaluations by council), and saves our taxpayers money.

The debate over the COPCN came to a head. Council voted 6-1 advancing the “three-pronged approach” to improve emergency services by (1) negotiating with the County for an additional full-time ambulance, (2) working with our state legislative delegation to bypass the county with a local bill, and (3) to complete the COPCN application. In October, our legislative delegation voted 3-0 to support our local bill. Council voted 7-0 to submit our COPCN application and to hold a binding referendum in August. This will give our citizens the ability to choose the best direction for our city.

Council has a commitment to bringing the public into the process and tapping our most important resource – you. Two new committees were formed to identify community-supported actions to improve parking, reduce debt, and improve our utility. In recent months, the Ad Hoc Parking Solutions Committee and Water-Sewer Options Committee presented their recommendations to Council. Council will be closely reviewing those items in 2018. After passing parking restriction moratoriums to provide relief to families, businesses, and other residents for alley parking, swale parking, and over-the-sidewalk parking, Council again extended them through the holiday season and early 2018.

As another benefit to families, businesses, and residents, council rescinded a letter that would have terminated our control over the Tommie Barfield Elementary baseball field, the only one on the island. I also had the honor of cutting the ribbon for the grand opening of the new Mackle Park building this month.

City Council approved the 2018 budget based on the rollback millage rate (keeping your city tax rate flat after years of increases) and included roadway repairs for STRP damaged streets and other poor conditioned roadways. These were promises I and others made during the last election.

These were just some key accomplishments and current items still in progress. There is much to do in 2018. Council will be reviewing an updated sign ordinance (our current ordinance is out of compliance after a recent Supreme Court ruling), voting on a MS4 stormwater ordinance in January, beginning the Youth Council, and much more.

As our new Council Chairman, please let me know if there’s anything that I can do for you. Contact me any time at jgrifoni@marcocitycouncil.com or 239-315-2089.

I wish you all a very happy and successful new year!

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