Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Marco City Council Has A Grueling Day

Photos by Steve Stefanides | Christ Byrne Emergency Recovery Manager answers questions regarding fire station build.

The Marco Island City Council began deliberating the 2020-2021 Operating Budget at 1 PM and adjourned only for a short time before reconvening at 5:30 PM for their regular meeting. 

The afternoon session began on a high note from Finance Director Guillermo Polanco. He advised the council during the last year they have retired indebtedness on the purchase of the land which is now Veterans Community Park. They also made the last payment on the notes covering the construction of the building housing the Marco Island Police Department. 

City Manager Mike McNees added to the good news by reporting he had promoted Jose Duran as the permanent manager of the IT Department. With a straight face, McNees announced Duran would no longer wear the title of interim manager of that department, but instead would undertake on the job on a permanent basis. 

The councilors then went through each department’s budget request, hoping to keep the spending at the roll-back rate minimizing the impact on their municipal tax bill. 

Councilor Honig displayed a chart showing the rise in spending over the last several years to make the point that the council had not starved departments from receiving the necessary resources with which to carry out the delivery of services to residents. 

Like many governmental bodies, employees and the cost of those employees are one of the city’s largest expenses. From the expenses to fund the police department, to running the city manager’s office, each area was given a careful look in regard to spending. 

For the General Government, it is estimated that $26,205,701 is being budgeted. The breakdown of spending is spread across the following areas. 59% for personnel, 27% for operational spending, 13% for capital outlay and 1% to debt services. 

The bulk of spending is for public safety services. With $4,471,304 dedicated to police and $6,324,846 for the fire/rescue department.

Greg Folley asking a question regarding the Construction Manager at Risk process.

Evening Session 

After a grueling session in the afternoon, the council returned in the evening for another three hours of deliberations.  

Early on the agenda, the annual evaluation of the city manager came up. During the hiring of Michael McNees as the city’s chief executive, the council had solidified a process for his evaluation. 

However, Councilor Honig pointed out the International City Managers Association did not recommend a generic form be utilized. Councilor Roman reminded her fellow councilors that they had strongly coalesced around a process that was made part of the manager’s contract. 

They then discussed their desire to have an independent third-party survey city staff as to how they rated the performance of their boss, one which would allow anonymity. 

The subject of reviewing the Construction Manager of Risk style contract for the building of the replacement for Fire Station 50 was discussed. Newly seated Councilor Greg Folley was not comfortable with the process, as he was on the prevailing side of the vote, he moved to reconsider the vote. 

After the discussion, Council Chairman Brechnitz inquired of Chris Byrne whether or not we actually received the grant for $1.7 million. Byrne admitted we hadn’t actually received funds, but had a preliminary Tier One approval, contingent upon presentation of the final construction documents by the end of December. 

Brechnitz advised Byrne it was important that the council always be comfortable with the recommendations of staff and their validity. “Trust is a very fragile thing,” said Brechnitz. 

After much pro and con debate, the council voted 5-2 to approve the reconsideration of the vote from earlier in the month. FolleyBrechnitz, Rios, Grifoni and Honig voted to reconsider. 

Then, in a turn of events, comments from the city attorney caused a reversal of the vote and move back to the CMAR concept. The council agreed to add a person to the team at the next meeting responsible to represent the city’s interest 

A move to discuss an improved Sea Turtle Protection Ordinance quickly stalled as the ordinance had not been vetted by staff. Staff will thoroughly vet the ordinance and finalize the document. 

Councilor Honig guided his fellow councilors on a historical overview of the City’s Utility Department and review its progress to date regarding rates, challenges and future prospects. 

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