MICA members support second ambulance, Veterans Community Park band shell

Lisa Conley
Marco Eagle

Nearly 65 percent of Marco Island Civic Association (MICA) members would support a tax increase if it meant the island would receive a second full-time ambulance.

Marco Island firefighters respond to a medical emergency in this file photo. The Marco Island City Council voted 7-0 Tuesday to apply for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (COPCN), which would put the city in charge of its own ambulance services.

The question was part of MICA’s annual membership survey, which asks its members questions about the organization and takes their temperatures on other important issues facing the island, such as the Marco Island Fire-Rescue Department's future.

The Marco Island City Council voted in early June to take a three-pronged approach to the issue of pursuing a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (COCPN.) Such a certificate would allow the city to operate its own ambulance services rather than relying on the county.

More:Marco City Council to aggressively pursue COCPN

One of the prongs involves asking the county for a second full-time ambulance to replace a part-time ambulance that currently operates during season.

“We have a part-time ambulance that operates December to April for 12 hours a day, which adds up to 1,400 hours,” Vice-Chair Jared Grifoni, author of the successful, multi-pronged resolution, said at the time. “That leaves 7,300 hours that there’s only one unit on the island, and that doesn’t even take into account when the unit is moved off island based on need elsewhere.”

Marco Island Fire-Rescue Chief Mike Murphy

Marco Fire-Rescue Chief Mike Murphy agreed.

“When this city became a city in 1997, I have a picture from the Marco Island Eagle that shows one ambulance coming into the station with two people staffing it,” he said, noting that 68 percent of the island’s emergency calls require transportation to area hospitals. “Twenty years later, we still have that one ambulance with two people staffing it.”

The survey also asked MICA members if they supported adding a band shell and restrooms to Veterans Community Park, and nearly 80 percent of respondents said yes, almost an exact reversal from last year's survey in which 82 percent of respondents said they did not want more development of the park.

The difference is that this year's survey included the fact that even with a band shell and restrooms, 90 percent of the park would remain 'green space,' which islanders have passionately advocated for in the past. 

More:Guest commentary: Choosing right future for Marco Island Veterans Park

The future of Veterans Community Park became an especially heated issue around this time last year when a hotel developer offered to develop the park in exchange for its commercial intensity credits, which would allow the developer to build a 165-room hotel on land adjacent to the park.

More:Plans for a new hotel near Veterans Community Park

More:Despite concerns, proposed hotel not expected to cost taxpayers

Small Brothers, LLC – the project’s developer – received such negative feedback from the community that it actually re-designed the hotel in the hopes of placating residents; specifically, Small Brothers reduced the height of the building from 95 feet to 75 feet – which would not require a code variance – reduced the number of rooms from 165 to 153 and agreed to pay the city $1 million in exchange for the park's intensity credits rather than add $3.5 million worth of enhancements to Veterans Community Park.

The original rendering of the proposed 165-room hotel located at 580 Elkcam Circle and 870 Park Avenue, two parcels of land adjacent to Veterans Community Park. The Marco Island City Council rejected the project in January.

More:Developer meets with community leaders to clear the air on hotel project

More:Small Brothers reveal revamped Veterans Community Park hotel plan

Nevertheless, it still wasn't enough to convince residents, nor the board members and councilors who represent them, that the project was a good idea; council rejected the project in January.

Since then, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) has begun the process of updating the Veterans Community Park 2009 Master Plan and deciding which elements, if any, would offer the greatest benefits.

More:Proposed Veterans Community Park hotel is off the table

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

“I think some of the things that have been contemplated by the city … are one-time only events, and I think what we need to keep in mind is…what type of park do we want to create for everybody that it can be used every day,” PRAC member Meg Bonos said in April. “You want a park that’s day-to-day, but also everlasting.”

The survey also revealed that although more than 80 percent of MICA members believe stormwater management is either important or extremely important, only a third would support a tax increase to help address the issue.

More:A stormy session: Divided Marco Planning Board rejects stormwater management ordinance

More:Planning Board gets technical in involved stormwater management discussion

More:Down the drain: Marco City Council sends back stormwater management ordinance

According to the survey, the majority of MICA members do not support the construction of a parking garage, but do support addressing the island's parking issues by updating the city's code for restaurant seating and enforcing it citywide.

Of the 6,276 surveys that were sent out, 2,636 completed surveys were returned for a response rate of 42 percent.