Marco Island Council approves COPCN ballot referendum

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle

The Marco Island City Council has assigned a dollar figure to its August ballot referendum that could lead to local control of some of its emergency medical services.

The council voted 6-1 Monday to approve including that the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity referendum would cost taxpayers an additional $100 per $500,000 taxable valuation in its first year.

A millage analysis estimated it would require $1.97 million to fund the operating and capital expenditures for additional ambulance services, which equated to $98 per $500,000 taxable valuation.

The council, however, chose to include a more rounded figure on the ballot that it felt would be easier to understand.

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Marco Island voters will have the opportunity on Aug. 28 to determine if they want the city to have local control of EMS services after attempting to negotiate with Collier County to increase ambulance services for years.

Last year, the city approved a three-prong strategy proposed by Chairman Jared Grifoni to increase its services that included negotiating with the county for the second ambulance, working with state legislators on a local bill to bypass the need for county authorization and submitting a COPCN application.

Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill in March that will pave the way for the Aug. 28 vote and included conditions such as Marco Island holding the referendum, having a third-party financial analysis done and submitting a COPCN application to the county.

Although the Collier County Board of Commissioners has the final say, the Collier Emergency Medical Authority passed a recommendation on May 1 to approve a conditional COPCN.

The board will meet on May 22 to discuss Marco Island’s application.

Marco Island city councilor Larry Honig

Based upon the most recent series of events, Councilor Larry Honig pushed the council to consider exploring all avenues to increase EMS services instead of relying on the vote.

“We are today at the point of maximum leverage,” Honig said. “The county knows we’re going to get a COPCN one way or another.”

Honig noted that the county’s February letter to the city offering three alternatives was only the first offer the Marco Island had received. With county officials fearing that its EMS services could be fragmented by a COPCN granted to Marco Island, Honig said the city likely could get a better offer now.

Councilor Bob Brown disagreed with Honig’s take because he felt the county could not make a better offer than what is available at the state level.

Councilor Howard Reed, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said he supported the referendum but was concerned about some of the language the council approved because he felt it was potentially misleading.

“I object to the language that says that allowing the city’s fire rescue department to deliver EMS and ambulance services and provide appropriate funding,” Reed said. “Provide appropriate funding and raising taxes are two completely different things and I find it misleading.”

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