Marco City Councilors had a full day on June 7, as several attended the official ribbon cutting for the Yellowbird Street re-opening ceremony at 10 am as the complete rebuild of the roadway was celebrated by city staff, contractors and residents.
Then later in the afternoon, councilors, city staff and residents were able to view the new Marco Island Police Marine Unit which only recently was delivered to the department from the Homestead, FL, manufacturer. The custom 32-foot center console Contender was on display as those attending Monday night’s City Council meeting filed into the Fay and Bedford Biles Community Room at the police department headquarters building.
EMPLOYEE SERVICE ANNIVERSARIES CELEBRATED
Council then breezed through a number of agenda items, including recognition of a number of employees who have served the Marco Island community for a combined 65 years.
Taking the top spot for longevity was Michael Ehlen for 35 years working for the Utility Department. Ehlen was supported that evening by a large gathering of his family.
Next in line was Michael Snyder who has served for 20 years in the city’s Utility Department.
The final two employees both have five years each in their respective departments – Brian Asbel with the Fire–Rescue Department and Detective Lorenzo Smith with the Marco Island Police Department.
ROAD RESURFACING CONTRACT AWARDED
The city awarded the 2021 Annual Street Resurfacing Project to the lowest responsible bidder, Preferred Materials, in the amount of $1,570,369.31. Streets to be repaved will be split between the center of the island and the south end of the city as detailed in the attached maps.
EMPLOYEE AND CITIZEN SURVEYS DEBATED
Some debate was held regarding how to proceed with the anticipated Citizen and Employee Survey Recommendations. Although council was comfortable with the survey of employees, they were less than satisfied with the recommended award of contract to the vendor being proposed for the Citizen Survey.
Councilors Claire Babrowski and Erik Brechnitz voiced concerns about the process being proposed. Babrowski questioned whether the process was too antiquated and not in tune with today’s standards. “It’s like posing the question whether someone is still happy with their buggy whip,” said Babrowski jokingly.
Council approved the Employee Survey but asked staff to bring forth alternatives to the Citizen Survey.
MANAGER LOOKS FOR GUIDANCE RELATIVE TO HOUSING DILEMMA
City Manager Michael McNees brought up a difficult topic with councilors as he discussed his difficulties in searching for a suitable home for himself and his family. The out-of-control escalation of housing prices on the island and the subsequent bidding wars pushing the actual purchase price of real estate significantly above asking prices have stymied his efforts to find a suitable home for himself and his family.
On multiple occasions, his bids of asking price are soon escalated beyond his comfort level and budget. “We have made a number of offers and continue to be caught up in this feeding frenzy that has, quite honestly, left us somewhat disheartened, but we continue to look in earnest,” said McNees.
McNees assumed his job as City Manager on July 1, 2019, after two years of turmoil and failed searches for a suitable manager, which included the embarrassing discharge of one replacement who held the job for only 6 months.
In a memo to councilors, the City Manager explained his plight and sought guidance as to whether he might be able to locate within a 10-mile radius of the island, so as to allow more opportunities in his housing search, at least temporarily.
Councilors showed reluctance to that suggestion, but also empathized with McNees’s situation, and debated several options, including a potential stipend to help close the gap due to the higher costs of real estate on the island.
McNees was granted a 5% raise in September of 2020, which increased his salary from $185,000 to $194,250 per year. That raise applied retroactively to July and August of 2020 after an evaluation showed he had “performed in an exceptional manner” during his first year.
Chairman Grifoni was tasked with coming back at the next council meeting with suggestions after discussing the situation with the manager.