Marco Island City Council discusses Veterans Community Park, city manager search

Lisa Conley
Marco Eagle

The Marco Island City Council met Monday and discussed the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee’s (PRAC) ongoing projects, the continuing search for a city manager and more.

City of Marco Island Government Center sign.

PRAC’s Portu praises progress

PRAC Chair Carlos Portu gave the council an update on the committee’s projects, including the new Mackle Park Community Center, which received a $10,000 donation from the Marco Island Woman’s Club earlier in the meeting.

One of the committee’s major projects is, of course, updating the Veterans Community Park 2009 Master Plan.

Portu told the council that there are some amenities slated for the park that are “no brainers,” such as walkways, shade trees and restrooms; however, there are other aspects of the master plan that have since fallen out of favor with the public, or have become more contentious in recent months, such as the band shell.

More:Marco City Council to PRAC: Take a "fresh look" at Veterans Community Park

“Ultimately I think that if we can start adding amenities to the park and generate a plan going forward, it’ll certainly be much easier for us to show the community gradual process and improvement,” Portu said.

He also noted that the committee wants the park to have a “dual purpose,” meaning it can be utilized for both special events – such as the Farmers Market, Christmas Island Style and the Seafood and Music Festival – and day-to-day goings-on; updating the master plan would allow that to happen, Portu said.

More:PRAC moves forward with master plan update

Yet some members of the public are imploring PRAC to leave the master plan as is, noting that at the time, it was approved by the majority of the Marco Island community.

“In the history of Marco Island, there’s never been a plan that’s been more vetted in front of the citizens than the 2009 Veterans Park Master Plan,” said Ed Issler, Planning Board member and one of the park’s primary defenders during the controversial hotel project in the fall. “There were public meetings on top of public meetings and almost all citizens got involved in the process.”

Portu said the committee will continue to work on a draft proposal for funding to update the master plan. PRAC’s next meeting is 3 p.m. June 20 in the city council’s chambers.

Calling all city managers

As of Tuesday, the City of Marco Island officially began recruiting for a new city manager.

W.D. Higginbotham, Jr. of The Mercer Group, Inc. – the firm the councilors selected to conduct the search for a new city manager – presented the city manager job posting to the councilors during Monday's meeting.

One of the biggest points of contention regarding the job posting was the salary; initially, Higginbotham had the salary listed as $175,875, which was former city manager Roger Hernstadt’s salary at the time of his departure.

More:Former Marco Manager Hernstadt takes job as Fort Myers Beach town manager

However, the councilors noted that Hernstadt, who was hired with a salary of $155,000, received a raise each year, which wasn’t necessarily in the best interests of the city or its taxpayers given that he had never undergone a formal evaluation during his tenure, some councilors argued.

Furthermore, the city manager receives 30 percent benefits in addition to his or her salary, which Chair Larry Honig said is both "wildly outside the norm" and increases the true value of the city manager's salary, which is not reflected in the job posting.

After much debate, the councilors finally agreed on a salary range of $135,000 to $165,000.

In other business

Council proclaimed the week of May 20 – 26 National Safe Boating Week. It also approved a resolution extending a temporary use permit for a temporary tent located on the grounds of the Marriott Resort.

The four newly-elected councilors also appointed the following community members to the Audit Advisory Committee: Dick Adams (appointed by Honig); Laura Axelson (Vice-Chair Jared Grifoni); Jim Miller (Charlette Roman); and William Rogers (Howard Reed).

Council’s next meeting will be 5:30 p.m. June 5 in the community room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.