Collier County, Marco Island officials meet for first time in a few years

Lisa Conley; 239-213-5308

The Marco Island City Council and Collier County Commission met Thursday morning. It was the first time the two government entities have been in the same room together since 2014.

The first item of discussion was the ownership and subsequent repair of Goodland Drive, the only road in and out of Goodland. The road floods substantially during the rainy season and has been a public safety concern of Goodland residents for years.

Gavel and book on a table.

In 2002, county commissioners entered into an interlocal agreement to pay Marco Island a total of $15 million in a 15 year period in exchange for taking over Goodland Drive, a half-mile strip and other former county roads maintained by the city, according to previous reporting.

Goodland Drive: County officials have ‘one hand tied behind their back’

In May 2016 the Collier County Commissioners decided to withhold the remaining $2 million from that agreement until the city repairs Goodland Drive.

Yet the city and the county have been at odds over the extent of repairs needed.

City officials think maintaining the road can be accomplished by a resurfacing project, which would cost about $800,000, while Collier County officials and Goodland residents think the proper solution is an elevated roadway, the cost of which would be in the neighborhood of $4.5 million.

Battle of wills: Marco and County still in standoff regarding Goodland Drive repair

At the meeting, Marco Island City Council Chair Larry Honig offered to surrender control of Goodland Drive to the county commissioners, which would allow them to repair and maintain it however they see fit. He also said the city is willing to surrender its claim to the remaining $2 million of the interlocal agreement and it will give the county an additional $1.5 million of impact fees that it’s been withholding.

“That’s exactly what we were going to ask of you,” District One Commissioner Donna Fiala said.

The other commissioners agreed and said they’re glad they can finally move forward with an issue that’s plagued the two entities for years.

The councilors and commissioners also discussed the possibility of Marco Island pursuing a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, which would allow the city to operate its own ambulance services. As it stands, Marco firefighters can provide Advanced Life Support under the guidance of Collier County's Emergency Medical Services, but only EMS ambulances can transport patients.

Marco Island’s concern regarding the county’s ambulance services began last year when a nonbinding question on the March 2016 ballot asked voters if they supported a single emergency response district covering all of unincorporated Collier County. The ballot measure passed with almost 64 percent of the votes, but voters in Naples and Marco Island didn't get to vote on the question.

Brent Batten: Marco sets ambulance process in motion

Honig said he fears Marco Island would lose its power of home rule if the concept proposed in the straw ballot proceeds and the unified district transfers assets away from Marco.

"The fear that we have is the consolidation of the fire districts will become an unstoppable juggernaut and we will be the only jurisdiction not participating,” he said prior to the March 2016 vote. “That will not stand. We fear a declining service level.”

However, the county remains uncertain as to when, and if, it will consolidate its EMS and fire services, and even if it does, the quality of service it provides will not be effected, said District Two Commissioner Andy Solis.

“If there would ever be any consolidation of EMS and fire service...nothing would change as far as the level of service, and how the citizenry of Collier County (is) protected through the EMS service would be of the utmost concern,” he said. “I can’t imagine that anything would happen…that would result in a lower level of service. The only reason (to consolidate) would be to make the system better.”

Nevertheless, it’s still a matter of having home rule, Honig said, and although the city is only in the preliminary stages of researching the issue, there may come a time when it applies for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, which the county then has the power to accept or deny based on Florida state statute.

The two government entities agreed not to wait another 2½ years before meeting again, and Honig suggested, and the commissioners agreed, that they meet on Marco Island sometime in the near future.