Marco Island City Council approves additional funding for iguana removal

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
A green iguana basks in the late afternoon sun at Marco Lake. The City of Marco Island hosted a presentation on invasive iguanas conducted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on Wednesday evening in the Biles Community Room.

Iguanas on Marco Island had better watch out after the City Council approved additional funding for their removal.

The Council voted 5-2 to appropriate an additional $15,000 after the city already exhausted funding for the year.

“We had $5,000 that was in the budget this year and that has been exhausted in the first quarter,” City Manager David Harden said. “There’s been a hundred or more iguanas trapped in that time frame. We’ve had a number of requests both by email and personal contact to extend the contract, appropriate some more money so that we can continue to trap these animals.”

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Director of Community Affairs Dan Smith said that when he took over his position, the iguana program had very little oversight and the city was not getting its bang for the buck.

A few months ago, the city held information sessions for citizens on how they could extinguish the pests or at the very least, take preventative steps toward controlling the population.

Smith said that one way is to control its food source, including putting in plants that don’t attract iguanas.

After joking that he had about 150 iguanas in his backyard, Councilor Jared Grifoni expressed concerns that money was not enough to provide a fix to the growing iguana problem.

“$15,000 is not going to solve the problem,” Grifoni said. “The question is: what is the problem?”

Sharing some of Grifoni’s concerns, Councilor Charlette Roman worried that the iguana problem could become a money pit.

Roman, who cast one of the dissenting votes, said that the city used to appropriate $10,000 a year toward the iguana problem and once it was exhausted, that was the end of funding.

With the city needing to identify a long-term strategy, including what the end-game was, Roman suggested that additional outreach needed to be done.

“Just throwing money after more iguanas I don’t think it being good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars,” Roman said.

Councilor Chairperson Erik Brechnitz, who also cast a dissenting vote, questioned why the city was shelling out money for the problem. Brechnitz’s point was to ask when did the problem become a responsibility for homeowners.

“I can see why we would want to assist in helping homeowners, but why do we pay for this?” Brechnitz said.