Saturday, October 23, 2021

MACKLE PARK Community Center proposed



Just a few years ago a dedicated group of Marco citizens worked long hours with an equally dedicated city staff, outstanding consultants and Marco’s students to develop a Master Plan for Mackle Park. The result: a superb plan that will provide a park the city needs and deserves. Phase 1, 2 and 3 of the Master Plan are complete. Phase 4 includes a new Community Center. Why should we build it now? Simple. Construction costs are at 12 year lows, interest rates are at all-time lows, and the current facility is antiquated, inefficient and costly to maintain.

Those who have visited the park after a hiatus are pleasantly surprised to see the improvement already produced under the Master Plan. The walk around the park is just perfect for walkers and skaters; the dogs love “their park” and the laser sailboating group has a world class spot for their races.

The old community center is inadequate for the community. Just consider some of the many groups that use the facility: Marco Men’s Club; Healthy Life Lecture Series; Italian-American Society; Hellenic Society; Optimist Club; Marco Island Fly-Rodders; Voting Precincts; Morning Exercise groups and on and on.

Consider the programs, ranging from the Chess Club to Spanish Class to jewelry-making to the Police/Fire Academy, and even Tiny Tumblers and Junior Power Tumblers, and more.

At a workshop held February 22, City Council heard a proposal for a new community center of 25,000 square feet with a 13,500 square foot indoor gymnasium. The facility would have room for general purposes such as classroom space, a toddler center, a teaching kitchen and a vitally needed teen center.

Bryan Milk, Director of Parks and Rec explained, “It would be cost prohibitive to remodel the existing building. Our facilities are completely booked 9 am-7pm seven days per week. The exciting thing about the possibility of this public-private partnership (P3) is it does not require any new taxes. The proposed budget is $6 million and involves a public-private partnership with a 12 year lease purchase at $600,000 per year. An estimated $38 for an average home value of $500,000 would be reappropriated from the existing tax base.”

Gordon Glover, Manager of Business Development for Mills Gilbane further explained the use of P3’s. “Mills Gilbane has a long history in Florida and a large portfolio of successful P3’s. Local projects completed by the company include facilities at FGCU, Edison State College, Marco Island Charter Middle School and Island Country Club. Councilman Joe Batte, questioned how often projects like this find major donors once the project starts. Gordon said, “We’ve built many churches. Typically, a church raises about 50% of the costs. Once the project starts and the walls go up, donations can fund up to 75%.”

Terri Di Sciullo of the Island Parks and Recreation Foundation detailed the organizations’ long-term commitment to the parks and recreation including finding a sponsor for a teaching kitchen.

Questions regarding whether the project needed to go out to bid or required a referendum were raised. Council agreed the presentation merited further investigation.

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