Wednesday, January 19, 2022

A busy time at City Hall

Marco Island City Hall.

Marco Island City Hall.

If last week’s City Council meeting is any indication, City Hall is busier than ever. The bi-weekly meeting, that lasted well over three hours, covered a gamut of issues, which included the passing of a new county ordinance requiring commercial businesses on Marco to conform with county recycling policies. Since Marco Island has no Waste Management department, an Interlocal arrangement that ties Marco Island to Collier County Ordinances, means that Collier County will provide the resources, expertise, education, and monitoring of the process, while the City of Marco Island will control the hours of collection, signage, exemptions and variances. As well as commercial businesses, multiple residences and condos will be required to conform to the recycling ordinance.

In spite of Councilors’ repeated statements that this was “not the time, nor the forum”, and that the decision is to be made by for Collier County Board of Education, several audience members came to the podium to express their opinion that a high school should not be built on Tract K. Most cited concerns about protecting the eagle nesting on the land and their belief that the land be kept as park or conservation land. Objections were also raised to the effect that Tract K is not large enough for a high school to adequately serve the needs of students. City Attorney, Alan Gabriel, informed Council that he had a received a petition from the “Eagle Sanctuary” group with a request that the land in question be purchased from Collier County. The attorney is required to review the petition. If the initiative goes forward, it would need a 10% vote of the electorate to go ahead. This debate will doubtless not abate for quite some time.

Before the business of the evening focused largely on City finances with a presentation of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR), the City of Marco Island was awarded its eighth consecutive annual certificate of achievement, for excellence in financial reporting in its CAFR, by the Government Finance Officer Association. Auditor Chip Jones described the overall financial statements for Fiscal Year 2009 as “very healthy.”  He reported the general fund balance to be $13 million –70% of total expenditures, with the “ability to set aside funds good.” Although net assets were increased by $19 million, property taxes were down from $17.6 million to $15.5 million in valuations for next year. (Hence the need to adjust the millage rate.) Jones pinpointed some potential problem areas which warranted analysis by the Audit Advisory Committee, including regular detailed analysis of cash flow to ensure payment of debt, and the likely need to increase payments to funding City pension plans.

Chief of Police Thom Carr reported to the meeting that the MIPD was dealing with increased local criminal activities this summer. He referred to transients who are coming into the community to commit crimes, such as the recent robbery at Crazy Flamingo and the arrest of several men known to be planning to steal several boats from residences on Marco Island. He pointed out the number of police incidents are not much lower now than in the busy winter season and that, although Marco’s population is almost the size of Naples’, Naples has 79 police officers, whereas Marco has only 32. Two members of the community questioned the decision of the City to relieve Lt. Pena of his position on the police force. They called attention to the fact that he was only the third highest paid lieutenant, was described in his review as “exceptional, professional and proficient,” and had received the highest possible rating.

During the meeting Chairman Frank Recker suggested it was time to remove the word “Interim” from Dr. James Riviere’s title. Larry Magel recommended an “incentive compensation” for Riviere. No decision has been made at this time.

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