Marco City Council plows through heavy agenda

Monday night's meeting was the last regular meeting of the year

Lisa Conley
Marco Eagle

The Marco Island City Council met Monday night with both a packed agenda and room, although by 7:45 p.m., after the councilors had discussed several high-stakes items, only a dozen or so Islanders remained.

Marco Island residents and city councilors stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. The Marco Island City Council met at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 4.

In the hot seat

Many of the residents who filled the council's chambers early in the evening were there to discuss the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (COPCN), which would allow the city to operate its own ambulance services rather than relying on the county.

Earlier this year the councilors decided to take a three-pronged approach to the issue of pursuing a COPCN.

More:Marco City Council to aggressively pursue COCPN

More:County to city: You don't need a second ambulance

The City of Marco Island is exploring the possibility of seeking its own ambulance service.

County commissioners have made it clear that they will not grant the city a COPCN, nor will they provide the island with a second ambulance, thus exhausting council's first two prongs. The councilors have now begun to pursue the third and final prong, which involves changing state law.

All three members of Collier County's state legislative delegation - Sen. Kathleen Passidomo and Reps. Bob Rommel and Bryon Donalds - voted to support a local bill that would allow municipalities to grant their own COPCNs; however, there are a few stipulations.

More:3 To Know: Marco council receives unanimous support for COPCN bill

First, there must be a referendum about the COPCN on the August 2018 primary election ballot. Second, council must file a COPCN application with the county.

Dr. Gerald Swiacki, former chair of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and vocal proponent of the COPCN, criticized the councilors for not yet submitting the application since the end of the year, and therefore the start of the 2018 legislative session, is quickly approaching. 

"Because of your inaction it is likely that we will not see any change in the present situation for the next two to three years," he said. "Our citizens deserve better."

More:Guest Commentary: Improving ambulance service for Marco Island residents

More:Guest Commentary: COPCN - Support our city’s efforts

Councilor Larry Honig assured him that all of the councilors have done, and continue to do, everything they can to move the matter forward.

"I don't think you could find a city council that's doing more," he said. "I can't imagine anything that any city councilor sitting up here could have done that he or she has not done. We're all trying to do this. 

Council will host a special-called meeting to discuss the COPCN at 5:30 p.m., Dec. 12.

Troubled waters

Collier County Coastal Zone Management Director Gary McAlpin gave the councilors a presentation regarding Collier Creek, which is so riddled with seawall and dock debris from Hurricane Irma that the Christmas Island Style committee had to cancel its annual boat parade. 

More: 3 To Know: Christmas Island Style Boat Parade canceled

More: 3 To Know: New holiday boat parade planned for Dec. 9

Around this time of year the creek is usually about 10 feet deep, McAlpin said, but due to all of the debris now resting on the creek bed, it's only about 4 to 5 feet deep, which drastically limits the size of boats that are able to navigate the creek. 

The ever-treacherous Collier Creek inlet has gained new difficulty, with not only the dock but the seawall and entire point at Villa de Marco collapsed into the waterway.

"We're treating it as a serious issue," he said, "and we're looking to get it resolved as quickly as possible."

McAlpin said he's going to ask the Collier County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday to declare the Collier Creek situation an emergency and waive any competitive bidding so that the restoration effort can begin immediately. He said he hopes to start dredging later this month, but no later than January.

More:Aftermath on the water: Coast Guard Auxiliary talk describes Irma’s effects

He also said the project will be expensive, about $1.3 million total, but the county hopes to be reimbursed from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA.)

Fighting for the schools

Honig asked council to request $8.1 million from Collier County Public Schools (CCPS) to build Marco Island Academy, the island's only high school, a permanent facility. The school currently operates out of modular pre-fab units that somehow survived Hurricane Irma's wrath.

"I don't think that anyone realizes how lucky we were to have a campus to return to, and no kid should have to face that," MIA Principal Melissa Scott said. "Kids should never worry about where they're going to school or if they're going to have a classroom or campus to come back to. Kids should worry about being kids."

More:Raising the flag: Marco Island Academy celebrates ‘miracle on Marco’

The councilors already requested state funding for the project, but Rep. Donalds recommended that they also request funding from CCPS, although the school board has historically denied funding for the academy.

The motion passed 6-0, with councilor Joe Batte absent.

File: Marco Island Academy principal Melissa Scott addresses students and faculty before the flag raising. MIA, the island's charter high school, marked their first day of classes after Hurricane Irma with a ceremony featuring a flag that had flown in war zones, and was promised to help the school weather the storm.

Council also discussed an interlocal agreement between the city and Tommie Barfield Elementary (TBE.) The agreement gives the school control over its baseball field, and was set to expire later this month. 

Chair Jared Grifoni said council should vote to extend the agreement, noting that TBE's field is the only regulation-size baseball field on the island.

"By rescinding this agreement, we're basically forcing anyone who wants to play baseball on a normal size field off the island," he said. "This is too important for our children...schools and city to not have a baseball field on the island."

The motion unanimously passed, prompting applause from several young baseball players who were in the audience with their parents.

In other business

Marco Island Planning Board Chair Erik Brechnitz gave the councilors an update of the board's most recent work, including updating the city's sign ordinance and determining the percentage of pervious surfaces required for new homes, which "will have a lasting effect on Marco Island and what it looks like for the next 20 to 25 years."

More: Marco Island Planning Board: 'Signs’ of future discussions

More:Making room to grow: Planning Board approves Sami's transition to sit-down restaurant

Ad Hoc Parking Solutions Committee Chair Robert Cholka also came before the council and offered a variety of options to ease the city's persisting parking pains, including a providing a seasonal trolley and installing metered parking.

More:Divide and conquer: Parking solutions committee tackles the island's issues bit-by-bit

More:Planning Board eases parking requirements for restaurants

Council approved five ordinances, including an ordinance requesting approval of changes to parking requirements for restaurants located in shopping centers and an ordinance extending an existing moratorium on density credit transfers until June 12, 2018.

City Council's next regularly scheduled meeting is 5:30 p.m. Jan. 8, 2018 in the community room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.