Dr. Fay Biles was a major topic of interest at the December Marco Island City Council meeting.
Not only was she recognized for serving the community for the last 36 years as the president of the Marco Island Taxpayers Association (MITA) through a proclamation and key to the city, but Council Chairman Larry Sacher also announced to the audience that he had formally submitted the application to name the city’s Community Room after Dr. Biles and her late husband, Bedford.
“I formally submitted the paperwork to the Parks and Recreation Committee to rename (the community room) in honor of Dr. Biles and her late husband,” Sacher said during the proclamation ceremony. “As I was putting the paperwork together, I Googled Dr. Biles. We’d be here another hour if we read all of the things Dr. Biles has done not only for the city of Marco Island but for Collier County as well as some of the colleges in our area. She truly deserves this award.”
This was the second meeting in a row Sacher mentioned naming the room for the Bileses, and it is no small wonder. The couple — who was married for 64 years — first bought a vacation home on Marco Island in 1967 and moved to the island full time in 1989. Even as part-time residents, though, Dr. Biles was at the forefront of MITA and became the organization’s president in 1978. Her commitment to “research, investigate, analyze and report on important issues that impact budgets” and to “good honest government” is unparalleled on Marco Island.
In addition to serving on a number of community boards and committees, Dr. Biles also was a driving force behind fundraising efforts for Florida Gulf Coast University. She used her years of experience as a professor and administrator at Kent State University in Ohio to help elevate FGCU, serving two four-year terms on the FGCI Foundation Board and also being named a Foundation Fellow.
Dr. Biles was very appreciative and a bit overwhelmed by the outpouring of applause and admiration she received during the City Council Meeting. “I am not sure I can voice any words at all,” she said. “I am so thrilled. I don’t deserve all of this. It is just I love Marco Island. I love the city. I love thepeople on Marco Island, and I love the taxpayers.”
Now that the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee has the application to name the Community Room in honor of the Bileses, the review process will begin followed by a 45-day window for public comment and then final approval to be given by City Council. Notice of naming the facility will be posted on the city’s website and advertised in local media to open up citizen comment.
In other business, City Councilors:
- Chose by secret ballot three candidates to serve as Magistrate for Marco Island. Robert Pritt, Myrnbelle Roche and Monte Lazarus will now be tasked with hearing code enforcement cases at a rate of $175 per hour. Payment of code enforcement fines will help fund the magistrate program.
- Heard from Dr. Bill Totter, who spoke on behalf of The Esplanade Condominiums regarding a beautification proposal for the seawall and landscaping area that is adjacent to the development’s property. Trotter based his proposal on the original development agreement The Esplanade had with the city dating back to 1998, and offered an alternative to the current plan for a concrete and paver pad to be constructed along the property line. Councilors directed city staff to work with The Esplanade and come back to council with a resolution.
- Voted 4-3 to remove all “No Parking” signs from commercial alleyways on Marco Island after entertaining yet another lengthy discussion about parking in the alleys. The discussion stemmed from the city’s request that local businesses pay for improvements — roughly $25,000 — to their alleyways in order to expand their parking. If a business chose not to pay, then a “No Parking” sign would be posted in the alleyway, and for the most part, businesses were not interested in shelling out the money for the improvements.
A number of business owners spoke on the issue, and city councilors were split. “I find it troubling to ask businesses to contribute $25,000 to correct a city problem,” Councilor Joe Batte said. “This needs to be revisited. When we started this, it was to correct a city problem and not at the expense of the community.”
Councilor Amadeo Petricca disagreed: “It is our business to manage the city not their businesses. The city is entitled to some compensation if (the businesses) want additional parking.”
Chairman Sacher summed up thenarrow council vote by saying, “We clearly don’t have enough space here. We want to put an end to something that has gone on forever. When this island was originally designed, they had no idea the kind of volume we would have here now.”
The signs will be removed “until further decisions can be made.”
- Scheduled a workshop for Monday, Jan. 5, to meet with representatives of GrayRobinson to discuss the future of the firm’s contract for providing legal services to the city. This was decided after city councilors discussed and decided against following through with a request for proposals from new law firms
- Unanimously agreed to conduct a workshop with the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee regarding the next steps for the Mackle Park Community Center project.
- Voted 6-1, with Councilor Batte in dissent, to discuss a possible raise in salary for City Manager Roger Hernstadt at the Jan. 5 regular City Council Meeting. Any decisions on the issue will be ratified at the Jan. 20 meeting.
It is an item city councilors agreed to look at as Hernstadt’s one-year anniversary with the city is approaching in February. Councilor Larry Honig did a quick study of comparable city manager salaries around the state and found that annual increases — 2.5 percent for merit and 1 percent for cost of living — are common.
- Voted 4-3 to move forward with an already approved 2.1 percent utility rate increase. Councilors Ken Honecker, Victor Rios and Petricca voted in opposition to the measure. The vote was prompted by a report sent to councilors by Marco Island Finance Director Guillermo Polanco that said the city could face financial problems and jeopardize its bond ratings if City Council did not do something to balance the utility budget, which included the yet-to-be instituted 2.1 percent rate. Council would have to either proceed with the increase, take out the equivalent dollar amount from the utility’s reserves to put into the coffers, cut the operating budget, or a combination thereof.
- Agreed to revisit the vacant lot sewer assessment with a second reading of the plan during City Council’s Jan. 20 meeting. The plan is to assess vacant lot owners for capital improvements made to Marco Island Utilities in preparation for any future building on their lots. To date, this cost has been shouldered by those who have built on their lots.