There is no doubt that the City of Marco Island will be spending some time in a reflective mode as 2019 begins, the rhetoric of the election season fades, and the reality of governance takes hold. The last two years have been somewhat clouded by several controversial issues; one of which lies with the hiring of Dr. Lee Niblock and his subsequent dismissal for cause within three months, which involved a misdemeanor charge of simple battery for unwanted sexual advances against the principal of the Marco Island Academy. That trial is scheduled for January 30 in the Collier County Superior Court, which may allow the community to place the issue behind them.
Newly elected councilor Erik Brechnitz, who assumed the role as chair for the board at its November organizational meeting, was given the task of negotiating an acceptable contract with David Harden, who the board chose to utilize as an interim manager. It is expected that Brechnitz will bring that contract forward and Mr. Harden will be confirmed at the January 7th meeting in council chambers. This will allow the current interim city manager, Gil Polanco to move back into his role as the city’s finance director.
One of Harden’s roles will be to help council move forward on choosing a permanent city manager.
Planning for the Future
Over the last two years several items have created a considerable debate before both council and its advisory committees. On more than one occasion the issue was raised of the necessity to review the community’s Comprehensive Plan to insure it is adequately addressing the challenges facing the island.
The Comprehensive Plan is a legal document adopted by local municipality or county government and approved by the state to guide and coordinate the long-range growth and development of that municipality.
The first page of the plan outlines its objectives: To enhance Marco Island’s quality of life, environmental quality, and tropical small town and resort character by managing growth and assuring a stable residential community with sufficient businesses to serve the needs of residents and visitors.
Councilor Charlette Roman, a former member of the Planning Board and its Chairperson, has reminded her colleagues several times of the need to review that document. December of this year will mark the 10-year anniversary of when the plan was last amended and submitted to the state for review and approval.
A plan is not meant to be static. It is intended to be amended to reflect evolving community issues, acknowledge accomplishments and shortcomings and structure future efforts. This is where an EAR (Evaluation and Appraisal Report) comes into play.
Much discussion has been held regarding several planning related issues and the council will be looking at some long-range issues in the next year.
Permanent Manager Position
Although council moved in December to fill the position of a temporary manager, the need still exists to fill that permanent position and it will not be far from the minds of those seven individuals once Mr. Harden assumes his temporary post.
Restoring Confidence With Employees, Advisory Boards and the Public
Council has recognized the need to address these issues with all three sectors and have committed themselves to making that a priority. During the election several of them spoke to the need to change the “atmosphere” to one that instills trust and confidence.
Controversial Zoning Projects
At least three projects will test both advisory boards and councilors themselves. Two of them involve Assisted Living Facilities and one in Old Marco that will include an amendment to a PUD agreement. All three have met with some level of resistance from residents.
Veterans Community Park
The Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee is looking to move forward on the project that will see the park area receive the necessary funding to install the shade trees, restroom facilities, lighting, walkways, improved parking and a possible band-stand constructed.
Station 50 Rebuild
The necessity to move on the renovation of Fire Station 50 was never more in evidence than during Hurricane Irma in September 2017. The need to raise the building to FEMA Flood Elevation, the hardening of the structure and rebuilding of the living and work space has been a priority for the last several years.
Water Quality and Storm Water Management
The issue of water quality and storm water management is one which sits front and center with many on the island. Many on council made this a priority issue during the recent council election. Fertilizer and storm water run off are both areas that Councilors Victor Rios and Sam Young have spoken passionately about and have prioritized on their agenda lists.
Council will meet the first and third Monday of the month unless listed otherwise by their calendar found on the city website at www.cityofmarcoisland.com