Stormwater management, Veterans Community Park and plastic straws — oh my!

Marco Island City Council tackles hefty agenda Monday night

Lisa Conley
Marco Eagle
Marco Island Chief of Police Al Schettino receives a standing ovation after defending himself and his agency at the Marco Island City Council meeting on Monday, March 5, 2018. Councilman Larry Honig proposed an external review of the department to address concerning comments in last year's city employee climate survey.

The Marco Island City Council met Monday with an agenda so hefty the meeting didn't end until 10:15 p.m., and even then several important discussion items were pushed to the next meeting. 

Illicit discharge stormwater management ordinance

If the city's proposed illicit discharge stormwater management ordinance had a relationship status, it'd be "it's complicated."

In 2015 the city created a stormwater management program that had to adhere to a set of state-mandated requirements. Those requirements must be met within five years; should the city fail to meet them within that time frame, it will be subject to fines from the state.

One of the requirements is to implement an illicit discharge ordinance, which council discussed for the second time Monday.

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At their Jan. 22 meeting, the councilors cited concerns about the burden the ordinance places on residents, including requiring property owners to hire a professional engineer to conduct a drainage study demonstrating that any illicit draining from the property doesn't automatically go into the canals or swales without being treated.

Council directed city staff to remove that requirement, and several others, from the ordinance; however, doing so would put the city out of compliance not only with state regulations, but also with its own code, city attorney Alan Gabriel said Monday, which frustrated some of the councilors.

A storm drain on Goodland Drive, across from Stan's Idle Hour Restaurant, overflows during heavy rains, said Goodland resident Cleve Smith.

"It seems like we've gone from simple to more complex, then backed it off to start again. We're trying to write the stormwater ordinance from the dais, and that's caused paragraphs to be removed from the ordinance since the last time," vice chariwoman Charlette Roman said. "It's very, very confusing and I just don't think that's in the best interest of the community."

Further complicating the issue is the fact that Monday marked the end of the program's third year, meaning the city only has two years remaining to meet all of the state-mandated requirements before the state could start issuing fines.

Council ultimately unanimously passed the ordinance with the understanding that the city attorney would figure out a way to revise it to reflect their comments and concerns.

Veterans Community Park master plan update

Veterans Community Park has been the subject of debate for more than a decade. In fact, it was almost a decade ago that a committee of Marco Island residents devised a master plan for the park that included building a band shell, a concessions stand, restroom facility and a performing arts center.

That plan was never realized, however, so now the city must update it to bring it into the modern age.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee (PRAC) has discussed revising the master plan since its Oct. 18, 2016 meeting, at which then committee member Litha Berger said she contacted Kimley-Horn and Associates – the design consulting firm that helped devise the 2009 master plan – about updating it.

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On Monday, council unanimously passed a resolution to enter into a contract with Kimley-Horn and Associates to devise a new master plan for Veterans Community Park.

As part of its scope of work, Kimley-Horn and Associates will host a series of meetings with stakeholders and community members to receive input about the master plan; as it stands now, there will be three, one-hour meetings with stakeholders, including City Council and PRAC, and one 2-hour meeting with the community.

A typical Farmers Market day at Veterans Community Park on Marco Island shows the throngs of people who enjoy nosing around the stalls looking for produce, food and novelties.

Councilman Howard Reed said he’d like to see representatives from the company spend more time in the community so they can truly understand what the people want, even if that comes at an additional cost.

“There’s pent up enthusiasm. People have been dreaming about what they’re going to get out of this project for years," he said. "There are hundreds of people, myself included, that have visions we’d like to share, and I don’t see how you’re going to capture that in two and three hours.”

A representative from Kimley-Horn said he will work with council to revise the meeting schedule.

School safety after Florida school shooting

In the wake of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Fla., the Marco Island Police Department (MIPD) has beefed up its presence at the island's schools.

MIPD Chief Al Schettino said the schools typically only have a part-time school resource officer, but he's added a full-time officer to each school until the end of the school year.

Members of the Marco Island Police Department attend Tommie Barfield Elementary's "Green Eggs and Ham" breakfast on March 2, 2018.

The move will cost the city about $17,600 in extra overtime for the police department, but there were no complaints from the council or residents in attendance. 

"It's well worth it," councilman Victor Rios said. 

"Yes, it is," Schettino agreed. "The most important thing in our community is our children. This is close to my heart; I spend a lot of time working with children throughout my career as a school resource officer and there's nothing more important than that job."

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He also said that in the future the city should budget to have a full-time officer at each school.

Council agreed and asked Schettino to prepare a presentation for the upcoming budget cycle. 

Plastic straws banned near the beaches

Council voted unanimously to prohibit businesses on the beach side of Collier Boulevard from using plastic straws effective immediately.

According to the law, “no business, restaurant or any other establishment at which food or drink is served or purchased, and which is located directly adjacent to city beaches shall use, serve or distribute plastic drinking straws.”

Council has discussed banning plastic straws for years, and Roman said she's glad to see the ordinance finally come to fruition. 

“This has been a long time coming,” she said. “Plastic straws are the No. 1 garbage on our beach.”

Alternatives to plastic straws include paper straws and plant-based biodegradable straws. Some businesses on the island, including the JW Marriott, voluntarily made the switch to non-plastic straws years ago.

The Fort Myers Beach Town Council passed a similar ordinance in November. The ban went into effect last month.

Members of Marco Island's Beach Advisory Committee display a collection of plastic straws gathered during beach clean-ups at the Aug. 15, 2016, City Council meeting. Most of the straws are from South Beach near the resorts, committee members said.

In other business

The councilors recognized MIPD officers Willem Hernandez and Jeffrey Stafford for “taking extraordinary and heroic rescue measures to save an individual’s life.” The two officers saved a man who tried to jump from the S.S. Jolley Bridge in late December.

Council also approved an ordinance awarding the contract for the 2018 annual street resurfacing project and appointed the following residents to the new Ad Hoc Hurricane Review Committee: Allyson Richards; Ronald Myers; Jim von Rinteln; Ron Hagerman; Margie Hapke and alternate Brianna Ogdin.

Several agenda items, including a discussion of the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (COPCN) referendum ballot language, were pushed to the next meeting, which is 5:30 p.m., March 19, in the community room, 51 Bald Eagle.

The Marco Island City Council recognizes police officers Willem Hernandez and Jeffrey Stafford for “taking extraordinary and heroic rescue measures to save an individual’s life" at its meeting on March 5, 2018.