A long day: Council packs three meetings into one Monday

Lance Shearer

Marco Island councilors, along with the upper echelons of the city staff, had a series of three meetings on June 21, two public and one conducted in private. Between employee contract negotiations, a budget workshop, and the regular council meeting at 5:30, it made for a long day.

They held a closed session, not open to the public or the press, to conduct contract negotiations with the police unions, about which nothing further is known at this point.

“This in one area that is exempt from Sunshine Law requirements,” said Councilor and former chairman Erik Brechnitz, so that the city and police representatives can carry out their talks and speak frankly. “Once we have a contract, then that will be public record.”

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At 1 p.m., they held a workshop session on the city’s capital budget, with participants seated at tables arranged in a rectangle rather than the council at their raised dais. Councilors listened to presentations from the various city departments about how they would be spending city taxpayers’ dollars, along with grant moneys received, how much they expected to spend, and what pot or source the funds would come from.

Per Finance Director Gil Polanco, the city expenditures total approximately $5 million, with another $7 million allocated to the utilities operations. Dollar amounts for the operating budgets will be substantially larger.

Under the capital budget, the Public Works Department, for instance, is requesting funding for initiatives including a new road sweeper for nearly a third of a million dollars, $327,531, pointing out that “street sweeping has been proven to reduce the impacts of harmful pollutants from the roadways surfaces from entering the island waterways prior to the first intense rainfall.”

Public Works Director Tim Pinter requested $245,700, nearly a quarter of a million, for refinishing Collier Boulevard streetlight poles, and $380,000 which will be matched by a state grant for a San Marco Road tide leveling/canal flushing project. These outlays are topped by the annual sidewalk inspection and repair program, for which is allocated an estimated $86,554 annually. Unglamorous but vital items such as these go to keep Marco Island the clean, smoothly running municipality that residents can count on with having to devote a lot of thought to.

After the closed contract talks and nearly three hours of capital budget workshop, councilors and staff had a short break before diving back into the general City Council meeting at 5:30. This started with some good news, with two organizations coming to the dais to give money to the city.

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Eileen Connolly-Keesler of the Community Foundation of Collier Community presented a very big check for a big number, $50,000, earmarked for trees at Veterans’ Community Park. She said a generous donor had given the foundation half a million to replant trees in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, and the tree-deficient spaces of Veterans’ Park had been designated for the planting as the park’s new look takes shape.

Tricia Dorn of Lee County Electric Cooperative presented checks totaling $23,977.09 to the city and its utilities division in an equity distribution, pointing out that LCEC was never intended to be a profit-making enterprise and excess funds were being distributed back to the member-users.

Councilors proceeded to approve a series of construction-related items on 7-0 votes. While approval of “Authorization for the City Manager to Execute a Construction Manager at Risk Contract” on Fire Station 50 sounds perilous for the construction manager, it simply authorizes the work and was approved after some questions on dollar amounts and extras, particularly from Brechnitz.

Councilors gave their approval to the guaranteed maximum price contract for Veterans’ Community Park, and in an aside, thanked Parks & Rec Advisory Board Chairman Carlos Portu for all his efforts on the project.

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The council heard from Collier County Commission vice chairman Andy Solis on the upcoming mental health facility to adjoin the David Lawrence Center on Golden Gate Parkway. He noted that there has been exponential growth of the “Baker Act” function in Collier County, and here as around the country, the “main mental health facility” for Southwest Florida “is the jail.”

After all that, councilors still had stamina and perseverance enough for a lengthy discussion of rentals. They will have nearly a month to recuperate before the next council meeting, scheduled for July 19.