LoCastro presents: Council hears from county commissioner, takes up noise ordinance

Lance Shearer
Collier County Commissioner Rick LoCastro provides an update on county matters. The Marco Island City Council met in a lengthy series of meetings July 19 at the council chambers.

The county came to the city on July 19, in the person of Rick LoCastro. He is the District 1 county commissioner, whose district includes Marco Island, and he returned to the island to give a progress report, an update on city/county issues.

The LoCastro report came during a special-called City council meeting at 5 p.m., after the council’s workshop on the operational budget at 1 p.m. and before the regular council meeting at 5:30, which along with the update on Marco Island’s comprehensive plan, included recommendations from city staff on revising the city’s noise ordinance.

In one welcome piece of news, LoCastro said a beach mat to allow rolling wheelchairs and carts across South Beach is on the way. Thanking the Marco Patriots group for the their support, LoCastro gave “my promise” that on Nov. 1, the day after restrictions for sea turtle nesting season end, “we will all be standing on that mat.”

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The commissioner also addressed congestion at the county facility at Caxambas Pass, which includes a popular boat launch ramp. “Use has grown exponentially over the years,” he said with commercial kayak and jet-ski outfitters sometimes blocking off the ramp for extended periods of time. While noting that the commercial boating businesses “are taxpayers too,” LoCastro called for a “balanced approach” to using the ramp. He said that sometimes private citizens have had to wait for two hours to use the launch ramp, blocked by commercial operators “whose passengers aren’t there yet.

“We have had no organized authority over that ramp. We need a ramp ranger,” said LoCastro, to provide “triage” and say “you’re on deck, you’re number three.”

LoCastro talked about revising bus schedules to keep buses from idling outside residences, spreading fumes, and said the area at the foot of the Jolley Bridge often used as a staging ground and transfer site for construction debris will be monitored more closely. The current mass of material there, he said, is from the dock expansion for the Marco Island Yacht Club.

City Councilor Joe Rola said the county supports recreational activities in Naples, while Marco, he believes, receives nothing. “There is a large number of people coming to our beaches, and Marco Island foots the bill,” he said.

LoCastro agreed that Marco Island is a “donor community” that gives more in taxes to the county than it receives back in services and urged the city to be proactive with its requests.

“No one is going to knock on your door and tell you you have money coming,” he said.

When the regular meeting started, City Council Chairman Jared Grifoni handed out recognition to employees John Kovacs, Scott Hendrickson, and Anthony Gordon for their length of tenure (5, 15, and 15 years, respectively), named Frank Clark of the utilities department as employee of the quarter, and designated July as Parks and Recreation Month.

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In the public comments section, Lee Willis-Spector read an unsigned letter she had been handed to a renter near her, which used foul and misspelled language in telling the renter “normally we are a welcoming neighborhood, but not to you. Your ilk is not wanted here. Go back to whatever s***hole neighborhood you call home.” Grifoni thanked Willis-Spector and called the letter’s message terrible and disgusting.

The council approved millage for the upcoming fiscal year on a 7-0 vote, but not before a more contentious discussion of recommended changes to the city’s noise ordinance. Proposed changes presented by Police Chief Tracy Frazzano, after laying out inconsistencies between current “plainly audible” and decibel level limits and statistics on verified and unverified calls, included moving the time period for plainly audible violations from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., increasing decibel levels during the day from 66 to 70 decibels, and changing times associated with decibels in residential zones to match commercial zone times.

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Recommendations called for continuing with current fine levels, which go from $250 to $500, $1,000, $2,000, $4,000 and $5,000. No warnings are issued between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. The revised ordinance was adopted on first reading on a 4-3 vote, with Councilors Brechnitz, Folley, Grifoni, and Irwin in favor, and Babrowski, Blonna and Rola opposed. 

The City Council is scheduled to meet again on Aug. 16.