Guest Commentary: City Council chairman updates community
Summer can be the slow season on Marco Island, but not for your City Council. We have made significant progress on the initiatives begun earlier this year, and on resolving the public safety and management problems. We also set into motion some projects in the water-sewer utility that could result in good news for homeowners. And we are getting closer to hiring a new city manager.
Let’s start with the health and safety of our community. We voted to move ahead on a three-pronged approach to our ambulance service. First, we will negotiate aggressively with the county for a second ambulance – we’ve had one permanent ambulance since before the city was founded, despite all the growth since then. Second, we will proceed with our application to the county to give us the right to have our own ambulance service, if the council or citizens approve additional funding. Third, we will pursue changes in the state law that would allow us to have our own service without having to get permission from the county, under “home rule,” just as we did with our police department. We did not have to get the county’s permission to establish the Marco Island Police Department.
At the state level, Marco Island is incredibly fortunate to have the support and partnership of Sen. Kathleen Passidomo and Rep. Bob Rommel, who were instrumental in securing major funding for critical capital projects. City council also salutes and thanks our lobbyist Ron Book for coordinating our presence in Tallahassee – which this council is determined to intensify. We are building partnerships at the county level, with the help of Commissioner Donna Fiala, and now even more at the state level. Progress!
On the fiscal front, the city wrote the final check to fully fund our police and fire pension plans – thus we have zero unfunded liabilities for pensions. A water-sewer utility membrane softening project, authorized by city council, should save the community $1 million annually – which is a full 10% of the utility’s annual operating expenses. City staff will bring back a plan for council to review in terms of how best to apply these savings. There are state requirements for us to review our backflow meters, and we may be able to tie needed changes there into an overall approach.
As for infrastructure, the Marriott corporation kicked in over $350,000 to pay for a new traffic signal at Collier and Winterberry. City Council began the process of rezoning Veterans Community Park as a “park,” legally, which today it is not. We believe the voters intended the Glon property to be purchased for use as a park, not as an all-purpose plat of land for any conceivable development. This week, the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee took the first major step to look at the next evolution of the park, and it also set into motion the long anticipated Youth Council. There are a thousand children on Marco Island, and now they can have a voice at city council. Our critical volunteer committees – which do the heavy lifting on detailed government progress – are working well, and hard, and productively. City council salutes and thanks all the community volunteers on these boards and committees.
Finally, we are making great progress in the search for a new city manager. Over 80 candidates applied for the job. Our search consultant vetted each of them – including extensive telephone interviews with many – and recommended that council review nine candidates in depth. City Council discussed them this week and selected two for further, intense evaluation by the search consultant. These two candidates and their spouses will be invited to Marco Island to meet the community on Tuesday, July 18, at 5:30 p.m., at a local venue (to be determined). Save the date!