Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Council Tackles Budget Issues and Regular Meeting in One Day 

Members of the Marco Island City Council spent the majority of their day dealing with city business commencing at 9 AM on Monday morning. They would convene for a Five-Year Capital Budgeting Workshop. 

That review of spending items would range from replacement of bridges to the purchase of “self-contained fuel storage” for use during emergencies such as another hurricane. 

The challenges dealing with fuel availability became evident during Hurricane Irma and was one of those items that the Ad-Hoc Hurricane Irma Review Committee identified in their review of the city’s response and findings post-storm.  

Each city department would present their list of projects or equipment they saw a need for during the next five-year period. These expenditures are outside the “operating budgets” for the various city departments and consist of items such as cars, trucks, radios, painting of buildings, park improvements, the upgrading of Self Contained Breathing Apparatus for the fire department, the repaving of parking lots, in car camera systems for the police department and the replacement of the West Winterberry Bridge. 

The pre-planning for these regularly occurring capital expenses was a program developed five years ago, nicknamed the “bucket plan,” and has been effective in allowing councilors and staff to plan for the future. 

It also became evident during the meeting that Marco would see a positive benefit from the temporary 1% increase in the county sales tax. The 2018-19 benefit to city coffers is estimated at $2.4 million this year and during the 2019-20 fiscal year the city should realize $3.2 million in additional revenues. 

Councilor Charlette Roman would find some support with her fellow councilors as she pointed out the need for a staff position to oversee fleet management as councilors began to count the number of vehicles and equipment in their rolling stock inventory. She further went on to point out the need for shared responsibilities regarding oversight of buildings to insure their proper maintenance.  

Chairman Erik Brechnitz even went on to speculate as to the possible need to bring vehicle maintenance in-house if a review of the cost benefit of that proposal might bring the city a capital savings.  

Council will meet once again on the Capital Budget on June 17 to hear back from staff regarding some of the questions raised. 

The only citizen input raised during the meeting was by David Rasmussen, who bemoaned the fact that council had never discussed the need to address water quality as part of their discussions. “We cannot move forward on this issue until we focus and identify the causes of the negative effects on our waterways. We must identify the root causes of what is impairing those waterways. That study, which has been proposed by the University of Florida would do that, but I see nothing in the plans here,” said Rasmussen. He would go on to point out that the base of our swales sits only three feet above the waterline and are not the answer to filtering out contaminants. 

Reconvening in the Evening 

One of the primary items that would come before council at the evening session was the adoption of the City Manager Contract for Services. That contract was negotiated between the newlyhired City Manager Michael McNees and Council Chairman Erik Brechnitz and City Attorney Alan Gabriel shortly after the May 7 vote which essentially hired McNees. 

McNees will be receiving $185,000 per year. Should council choose to terminate the manager for something other than cause during the first two years of the agreement, they would only have to pay him for 10 weeks. After that, Council would have to compensate McNees based upon 20 weeks. 

The manager will receive a $400 per month vehicle allowance and will receive mileage reimbursement for required out of county travel. The city will also provide him with a phone and tablet at no cost, and the normal reimbursement for professional membership dues, subscriptions and participation in those professional organizations. 

The city will also contribute 6½% of the manager’s annual salary to his city’s 401K plan on his 12-month anniversary each year. 

Interim City Manager David Harden will stay on for about a 30 day overlap after McNees comes aboard on July 1 to help shepherd through the 2019-20 budget with him. 

Council approved the contract by a 7-0 vote. 

Medical Marijuana Discussion 

Councilor Larry Honig would bring back information from a seminar held in Homestead, Florida which examined the rights and responsibilities of municipalities dealing with the licensing of dispensaries. 

In March 2017, Marco Island City Council voted to defer a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries. 

Councilor Honig did not lobby for either side of the issue, but instead brought back information that was distributed at the seminar in an attempt to shine light on the confusing issue and the ongoing debate in some political circles. 

Collier’s Explosive Growth 

Councilor Honig discussed the continued explosive growth seen off the island within Collier County. He commented that the county’s improved infrastructure was making it easier for visitors and others to find their way to the island to take advantage of the amenities that are present here within the community. 

Councilor Honig suggested the following: 

  • The availability of signage to make visitors aware of when parking is no longer available. 
  • Seeking out possible funding for construction of parking. 
  • Seeking possible grants from the county to help with our infrastructure needs. 

Councilor Honig suggested a workshop discussion regarding how to proceed. Chairman Brechnitz agreed with the merits of a further discussion. 

Councilor Jared Grifoni suggested to tie the discussions along with the strategic planning effort presently being undertaken by the city. 

Council Meeting on Strategic Planning 

Councilors will meet on May 28 at 5:30 PM to continue their work on the Strategic Planning efforts they have undertaken. The public is welcome, and comments will be taken. 

Marco Island City Council Capital Budget Meeting.

Michael McNees and his wife listen to the council discussion on his contract. |Photos by Steve Stefanides

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