Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Council Approves New Fire Station Plans

Photos by Steve Stefanides


It was a relatively uncontroversial agenda for the Marco Island City Council on Monday evening, as councilors sped through their agenda and dispatched a number of relatively routine matters. This was after they spent about 30 minutes hearing from District 1 County Commissioner Rick LoCastro as he outlined how he intended to differ from his predecessor.

LoCastro promised a fresh approach to dealing with issues, and promised he would be proactive regarding his style. He encouraged council to reach out to him when they had concerns regarding issues that might be impacting their joint constituencies. LoCastro assured councilors he was committed to working with them and would meet with the council on a regular basis. 

LoCastro represents Marco Island, East Naples, Goodland, Isles of Capri and Port of the Islands as the District 1 Collier County Commissioner. He replaced longtime Commissioner Donna Fiala, who retired after serving for 20 years representing this same district.

One of the major issues on the council’s regular agenda dealt with approval of the site development plan for the new facility that will replace Fire/Rescue Station 50 at the corner of Bald Eagle Drive and San Marco Road. Council has been working toward finalization of those plans for about a year now.

The old station will be completely demolished, and personnel housed in temporary quarters while construction is in progress over an estimated one-year build cycle.

As part of this project, improved drainage will be added to store and deal with storm water on the property that encompasses the entire city complex.

The plans include a new training tower for both fire and police personnel, in addition to an expanded Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for the city. Also included in the plans are a bulk fuel depot to provide both gasoline and diesel for city vehicles in the event of an emergency such as a hurricane.

Some questions regarding compliance with FEMA requirements were brought up by Councilor Brechnitz, who had been advised that failure to meet those updated elevation mandates would lose the city’s eligibility for the million-dollar FEMA Grant which has been preliminarily approved for the construction of the station. The two items dealing with the new station received unanimous approval by council.

Councilor Brechnitz also walked his colleagues through what he saw as the dangers tied to pending legislation being considered by the Florida Legislature. Brechnitz, although an adamant supporter of property rights, said he also strongly believes surrounding property owners also have a right to peace and tranquility. The two bills presently before legislative committees would further dilute cities’, towns’ and counties’ rights to regulate troublesome rental homes and home-based businesses in single family neighborhoods.

Newly elected Councilor Becky Irwin cautioned her fellow councilors that Florida is a tourist-based economy. “We must be open minded in our thought process, and we have to be welcoming in our approach,” said Irwin who is also a realtor on the island.

Council Chairman Jared Grifoni questioned whether we are “blowing things out of proportion,” asking “Does the language in the legislation line up with the hype?” Councilor Claire Babrowski pointed out that the Strategic Plan as recently created by Council was moot on the issue of single-family neighborhoods and the vision for them moving forward.



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