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Offended

To the citizens of Marco Island: If you've read [the July 3] Marco Eagle, you've seen an article involving an ethics complaint against the former city community affairs director, Brian Milk.

Frankly, since I wasn't involved, I don't remember all the specifics of why his attorney chose to grandstand by implicating me and former Councilor Amadeo Petricca, however, I suppose the fact that he never pursued his charges against either of us is sufficient evidence that we had nothing to do with Mr. Milk's actions and frankly, I'm writing this letter because I'm offended that the Eagle chose to include my name in the article.

I've been out of city government (as has Mr. Petricca) for almost two years now, and was never approached by the State's Ethics Commission.

Ironically, during my four years on council, I was the target of an ethics complaint by one of our citizens who accused me of taking advantage of my position to gain advantages not otherwise available to 'ordinary' citizens.  The complaint involved my attendance at an event to which All members of council and county commission members (I was also on the Tourist Development Commission) were invited and a subsequent favor granted to me by the then-GM of the Marriott.  Thanks to this complaint, it took the state a full year before finding no evidence of a violation, but cost the cty thousands of dollars in defense and other costs over a $41 hamburger!

Larry Sacher, Marco Island

One of the most consequential decisions in our city’s history

Heads up, Marco Island voters! On Aug. 28, you will be making a decision on one of the most consequential referenda in the Island’s history. Your vote may substantially increase property taxes, and City Council will be powerless to reverse the decision.

City Council members are not permitted to advocate “for” or “against” the item. We can only describe the facts, and this is how I see them. 

The county currently controls ambulance service for the entire county, including us. The vote is to allow us to have our own service, including our own medical director, our own training standards and drug protocols, our own ambulances, and our own employees handling emergency calls. Down the road, we would presumably be shielded from county political developments in Emergency Medical Service (EMS), such as a possible future countywide fire district consolidation. 

There are five reasons to vote “yes,” and five reasons to vote “no.” You decide.

Why should we vote “yes,” and have our own Marco Island EMS? “Control” was covered above. Second, voting yes would allow “home rule,” or the right to decide our own destiny without the county’s approval. Third, we may permit certain drugs and procedures on our Marco Island ambulances that are not now permitted except on Collier County ambulances. Fourth, a Marco Island EMS vehicle will be authorized to transport patients off-Island — contrary to the current wait for the arrival of a county-owned vehicle. Fifth, all our accredited and trained firefighter paramedics will be able to operate up to the full level of their competency, without having to wait for a Collier County employee. Additionally, they will be able to engage in a broader range of activities, such as community paramedicine and vaccinations that the County does not permit.

Why should we vote “no,” and stay with Collier County EMS? First, the County system is nationally accredited (less than two percent of all EMS agencies) and delivers emergency services that have saved thousands of lives on Marco Island. Second, we already pay millions for the County system, and we will continue to pay millions, even if we vote to tax ourselves an additional $2 million to have our own EMS. We will pay for both. (The city has calculated that Marco Island taxes will increase $100 on property tax valued at $500,000.) Third, we have to be realistic about the typical hiccups (or worse) that come with any start-up. It is unrealistic to think that Marco Island’s new EMS will hit the ground running as smoothly as the current County system. Fourth, this will be a substantial and permanent addition to the city’s bureaucracy. At a minimum, the Fire-Rescue Department will increase by 25 percent — and every knowledgeable person at the county level believes Marco Island is substantially underestimating the number of new employees we will need. Fifth, the underlying operating premises of our new EMS system are at odds with best practices nationwide. For example, our department works in 48-hour shifts on duty and 96 hours off duty, which allows us to hire people who live some distance away. However, there is emerging national consensus that EMS fatigue is a risk. The county EMS system, which operates on 24-hour shifts, is evaluating 12-hour shifts for the majority of its units. 

If the vote is “yes,” your city council will work to provide full support for the new Marco Island EMS. If the vote is “no,” your city council and manager will get back to the table and negotiate with Collier County to get the ambulance service we believe our community deserves.

Larry Honig, Marco Island

 

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