MAILBAG: Lee Henderson, Carlos Portu, Dawn Kuhn, Barbara A. Cooper


Whatever happened to “debt-free in 5 years”

Marco Island City Manager Roger Hernstadt’s five-year plan of May 2014.  I would guess that the plan has changed as now the City Manager and the city council have opted to increase city debt.

At one point the City Manager said “the city has been flying blind without a plan," pointing out that now was the perfect financial storm.

Would it now be wise for to implement Carpe Diem (plan of the day)?

The City Manager is quoted as saying that this $7.5 million project will proceed with or without the veterans support. The many veterans that I have talked to stated they do not support the city’s current Veterans Park plan and so far I haven’t heard any support from the electorate either.

I know the electorate supported by referendum a new recreational facility at Mackle Park and the City Manager and city council reduced the size of that building down to almost two thirds of the size requested.

Just a suggestion, how about putting more money into the Mackle Park facility, increasing its size to handle the city’s pressing needs, whatever they are. As a bonus, city employees would have ease of access to the recreational facilities, which feature beneficial health programs.

Veterans Community Park has become “The Place” for community events, it’s not time to mess up this up.

Wayne Waldack

Marco Island

Multipurpose building not part of plan

(This email was sent to members of the Marco Island City Council and copied to the Sun Times.)

I understand there is a proposal at hand to build a multipurpose building at Veterans Park. In no way does this meet with my approval for several reasons.

We have for years wanted to execute the plan for the park including an amphitheater and building for the arts and this is where the focus needs to be. We need to execute the original plan and this does not include a multipurpose building that is not in the plan. I would approve updating the plan but to helter skelter build things on this green space would lead to a disorganized mess we do not want no matter where the money is coming from.

My recommendation is to cancel this building and organize a committee to update the master plan and then when approved by all, follow the plan. The heart of this plan should be the amphitheater band shell. I volunteer to be on that committee.

Lee Henderson

Marco Island

City should not pursue state funding

(This letter was sent to members of the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and copied to the Sun Times.)

Dear fellow PRAC members:

Unfortunately I will not be able to attend our meeting today but I wanted to share my thoughts with you all regarding our ongoing discussion of Veterans Park. Please read these comments at the meeting for the record and to comply with proper Sunshine State Laws.

Over the last months since our last discussion of Veterans Park, I have had numerous discussions with fellow Islanders regarding the potential future of the Glon Property. Additionally, as a committee, we have received much of the feedback from our fellow residents that we have been searching for until this point. I must say without a doubt that most islanders feel the current progress toward a multipurpose building at Vets Park has been extremely rushed, and I can only agree with their sentiments.

The potential of some available state funding has pushed this project to this point but I feel that as a committee it behooves us to step back and reconsider the true benefit to this community in rushing a project at the park that flies in the face of a very detailed and extensive park plan that has already been developed with what seems like an exhaustive amount of community input.

Surprisingly, much of the feedback I have received has favored proceeding with the 2009 Phased Vets Park Master Plan despite its significant cost! I can appreciate the opportunity that has presented itself, but honestly I think the cost of getting this project wrong far exceeds the potential benefit of some state funding, particularly given the “concessions” in form and function that are being considered in order to gain its approval.

As such, I am of the belief that we should not pursue state funding for a potential multipurpose facility at Veterans Park at this time and should focus our attention on proceeding with the Vets park Master Plan as previously defined, even if comes with a greater cost over a longer period of time.

Its phased approach should allow for more flexibility as the needs of our island city develop through the next few years particularly in the setting of a new Mackle Park and any other properties that could come available both for parking relief at the park or other city functions. It gives us the greatest opportunity at really filling the needs of our city's residents with the last remaining large city parcel we have left.

Carlos Portu, MD

PRAC member

Use of veterans as hook unconscionable

(This letter was sent to city council members and copied to the Sun Times.)

This is an atrocity! This is an open park. Promises were made before we voted to take on this $10 million debt which we are still paying. We built a new city center/police department. The use of the word veterans as a hook to get money is unconscionable! Especially when the vets will only have use of one room for four hours/week.

This city manager did an end-run around Parks & Rec, Planning Board, and city council last year and went straight to the governor.

That is crooked and should tell you what we are dealing with! How will you explain taking away the farmers market from our local vendors, local citizens?

You will take away an important spring fundraiser for the middle school and YMCA, you will take away the Christmas tree lighting and the opportunity for all our youth organizations to perform. Where is that going?

And a stilt building? On an Island of retirees and vets? Have you lost your mind? Let’s tell the truth.

This is a fancy new office overlooking the canal for a city manager who can’t keep a staff! The City Hall departments are vacant. People have quit in droves. A second EPA person is gone — on an Island filled with nature, birds, nesting sites, turtles, etc.

Truth: $4 million left to pay on the land, $5 million for the building (not counting furnishings, electronics, equipment, paving and parking lots), Ken Honicker’s estimate to adapt the existing new center and City Hall for the fire department at $3.5 million minimum.

That puts a burden on Marco Island taxpayers and voters of $12.5 million minimum. Plus we have a new community center to pay for in Mackle Park that can service the veterans’ activities just fine.

Barbara A. Cooper

Marco Island

Build Vets Park as envisioned

I just wanted to comment on Dr. Swiacki’s guest commentary (Sun Times, Oct. 8, page A3). First I would like to point out that anyone can go to cityofmarcoisland.com, click on the government tab, then the parks and recreation tab and scroll down to the bottom to view the Veterans Community Park master plan 2009.

The final design and development was put together over many hours with input from committee members, citizens and hired consultants.

Dr. Swaiacki stated that the “anticipated cost for completion of any one of the three plans was approximately $30 million. All three proposals included a portion of the park dedicated to a veterans memorial.”

Because the veterans took it upon themselves to raise the funds to complete that portion of the park, it is now done. The first phase of the plan called for rerouting of Elkcam Circle and Park Avenue.

That is done.

The second phase calls for the completion of key elements, including 1.3-acre farmers market/festival/events lawn; 3,500-square-foot band shell; another 1.3-acre event lawn; 1,700-square-foot concession/restroom building; extension of the waterfront promenade to tie into the future Smokehouse Bay Bridge and The Esplanade among other things. The estimated phase 2 cost was between $9-11 million.

I think the city and PRAC should be concentrating on giving the citizens of Marco Island the final design in stages, starting with phase 2 as designed.

Numerous funding suggestions were presented in the plan, including bond funds, numerous grants and one must take into consideration our tax base is certainly increasing along with our real estate prices.

If the city would have to raise $5 million to build a building no one wants, why not concentrate on raising those funds and proceeding with the Veterans Community Park master plan as envisioned?

Dawn Kuhn

Marco Island