Monday, October 25, 2021

Council Tackles a Mixed Agenda

LCEC Representative Tricia Dorn presents the equity check to Council. | Photos by Steve Stefanides

Retailers run special sales and offerings usually as a Christmas in July promotion, but for the City of Marco Island it came about a month early. All of this revolved around the presentation of a check by the Lee County Electric Cooperative in the amount of $28,673.05.

That check was present by longtime Account Executive Tricia Dorn, as its share of the equity generated during the last year of the operations of LCEC. As a cooperative, all users are looked upon as shareholders in the operation and share in the equity created.

Electric cooperatives such as LCEC were created by the Rural Electrification Act under President Roosevelt to provide electricity to rural areas throughout the country that would not have otherwise been served due to their lack of population. LCEC was formed in 1940 when Southwest Florida looked considerably different than it does today and is a not-for-profit corporation with over 400 employees serving portions of the five-county Southwest Florida area.

The city is a relatively large consumer of electricity, which it uses to run its utility operations for sewer and water.

Ad Hoc Hurricane Review Committee

Councilor Charlette Roman wants an expanded discussion on hiring a temporary manager to help stabilize municipal operations.

Earlier in the year, the Ad Hoc Hurricane Review Committee was tasked to conduct a citizens’ review of issues regarding Hurricane Irma and the impact upon the community. Committee Chair James Von Rinteln presented a preliminary report, dealing primarily with the issues surrounding the run up to Hurricane Irma’s landfall on September 10, 2017.

City staff created a concise and focused “After Action Report,” which was presented to city council in January of 2018, but it was never reviewed or presented to the public. It is an in-depth review of the items that are recommended as needing attention.

The Ad Hoc Hurricane Review Committee, which began discussing details regarding the storm, has had the After Action Report made available to them, and has reviewed its details.

Von Rinteln discussed planning for the event and the need for more training for city personnel. Rinteln’s comments were not aimed at emergency first responders, but rather the need to provide more training for non-emergency city staff and elected officials, so that they may assist in other aspects of what is necessary to deal with supplemental issues. Taking advantage of local, state and federal disaster training for key personnel was also raised.

The committee’s report to city council addressed the need to include businesses, community organizations and construction companies as part of the after event response plan. The addition of specialized vehicles, such as high water vehicles, shallow draft/flat bottom vessels, and the need to continue to “harden” city facilities, was mentioned.

A review of how the community communicates with its citizens and business owners before, during and after an event was also a point of discussion in the report.

The committee will continue to meet and discuss the issues mentioned, in addition to other items, and take public comment. They meet on the first and third Monday of each month in council chambers at 3 PM.

COPCN Discussions

City Manager Gil Polanco and Fire Chief Michael Murphy provided council with updates on discussions with Collier County staff. Chairman Jared Grifoni related the details surrounding the May presentation to Collier County Commissioners that resulted in their 3-2 vote to instruct county staff to proceed to negotiate an interlocal agreement with the city, to facilitate the details of how the two entities would operate should the county grant the city’s request for a COPCN.

City Manager Polanco and Chief Murphy would go on to update the council on the discussion to date.

Some councilors continued to urge caution and requested more review. Councilor Howard Reed would once again question the numbers, and commented that the financial figures may be, “way, way off.”

Councilor Larry Honig continued to question some of the content on the city website as being misleading. Honig requested a recent communication from Dr. Tober, the county’s medical director, be placed on the website to provide a more balanced presentation of the facts. “We must put Dr. Tober’s letter on the website. He has a tremendous number of important points. If not, we are withholding important information from the voters. Our voters deserve to know what he has to say,” said Honig.

Numerous residents came forward in support of the referendum, which goes to vote on August 28, to approve the city seeking its own COPCN.

Resident Ken Honecker came forward to urge that council not give away the ad-valorem taxes that the city presently is charged to support the county ambulance, should the city provide its own ambulance service.

Ordinances and Resolutions Approved

Two ordinances were approved, including LDC amendments changing advertising and notice requirements and the first reading of the amended sign regulations.

The resolutions approving the Site Improvement Plan for the 50-year-old Marco Town Center Plaza and the Site Development Plan for the construction of a freestanding Sherwin-Williams Paint Store at 515 Bald Eagle Drive were also approved.

City Manager Search

Councilors fed off a discussion begun by Councilor Victor Rios as he presented a plan for the hiring of a new city manager for the community. Rios’ motion would fail for lack of a second. Rios made a second motion to hire a fulltime interim manager to help deal with important issues which council would be grappling with in the future.

Councilor Roman would compliment Councilor Batte’s comments that the city “needed to put our house in order before hiring a new manager.” Roman moved forward to support the possibility of a temporary city manager replacement, while the city moves on in a more deliberate and orderly fashion with the eventual goal of hiring a fulltime replacement for the former city manager.

Due to the lateness of the evening, an exhausted council moved to continue the conversation to their next meeting, when more time would be available, adjourning as the clock closed in on 10 PM.

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