Monday, October 26, 2020

First Council Meeting of 2020


David Crain of the Waterways Advisory Committee listens as President and CEO Harvey Harper of Environmental Research and Design answers a question of council.

The first meeting of the year saw sidewalks and the environment come up big winners as the City Council awarded contracts for sidewalks that totaled $1,510,732. That included a contract for the construction of the San Marco Road Shared Use Pathway Project, the North Collier Boulevard Sidewalk Project, and a final contract with Eli Contracting Inc., for the repair and replacement of city-owned sidewalks on Marco Island.

The City Council has yet to come to terms with a suggestion that they assume responsibility for the maintenance of all sidewalks within the city after a homeowner installs them as part of building their home. Today, property owners are responsible for maintaining those sidewalks in the right of way in front of their addresses, but do not have ownership or control of those areas.

The issue of sidewalks, who owns them, when they should be installed, and who should maintain them on and around the island has been a hot topic for several years. In the last twelve months, the issue concerning who maintains those existing sidewalks has been the focus of considerable discussion.

City Manager Michael McNees came back to the Council with possible solutions at an early October 2019 meeting as a follow-up. He brought back a cafeteria list of options for council consideration. That list included:

  • Maintain the status quo.
  • Have the city pre-qualify vendors for property owners with agreed-upon costs per linear foot.
  • City do improvements and then have costs assessed to the owner over a 3-5-year period of time.
  • City take over sidewalks completely.

Councilors once again did not feel they had adequate information.

Councilor Roman believed that more discussion and planning was needed before the city could take over the maintenance of sidewalks. She preferred looking at options two or three prior to the city moving into assuming full responsibility for their maintenance.

Councilman Grifoni suggested that if the city was to take over, it should be a referendum issue to have the city’s property owners approve. That process could take close to a year.

Councilman Honig, however, drew the comparison of paving roads in front of a home to the maintenance of the sidewalks. “We should budget for this,” Honig explained. He again suggested reducing Code Enforcement back to the 2016 budget levels to cover the expenses of dealing with this issue at the October meeting. The council will continue to wait to hear from Manager McNees in the near future.

Environmental Research and Design Contract Awarded

The long-awaited contract for Consulting Services for Nutrient Source Evaluation and Assessment was finally awarded last evening to Environmental Research and Design in the amount of $131,065.

They will be conducting a thorough evaluation of the waters on and around Marco Island to determine the sources of pollutants entering our waterways. They outlined the process they will be following to council that evening and take questions regarding those details.

Marco Island Community Parks Foundation Formed

The Articles of Incorporation for a 501 (C-3) Non-Profit were approved by Resolution at the January 6th, 2020 meeting of the council. This will allow donations and endowments to be tax-deductible for those wishing to donate for the improvements to the Veterans Community Park Master Plan.

It is anticipated that the project will cost $8 million when built out with improvements to drainage, parking the construction of a bandshell, restroom/changing facilities and other improvements to the park. Councilor Young questioned why those donations couldn’t be utilized for purchase of more green space within the community.

Some also questioned the composition of the board, but not the intent of the creation of the Foundation. The Resolution passed 6-1 with Councilman Young dissenting. 

Magistrate Effectiveness Questioned

Councilor Rios complained that the City’s Magistrate was not hard enough on repeat offenders which came before her. The present Magistrate traveled over from the Miami-Dade area, leaving some councilors to question whether she was possibly unaware of the importance which islanders placed on environmental issues within the community.

Councilor Young question why there was no “evaluation program” in place to properly evaluate the Magistrate’s effectiveness.

Councilor Roman, who once had reservations regarding how the job was being handled, praised the work being done lately by the Magistrate.

The City Council voted 5-2 to extend the Magistrate’s contract for another two years over the protests of Councilors Young and Grifoni’s objections.

Changes to Previously Approved Site Plan 

Brixmor Corporation, the owners of the Marco Town Center, which is engaged in a major facelift to its property at the intersection of Bald Eagle Drive and Collier Boulevard, brought forward some aesthetic changes they are proposing for that project which is underway at that site.

Those changes provided a more tropical and lighter tone to the exterior of their buildings onsite.

They received unanimous approval for the proposed changes.

Chairman Brechnitz Protests State Act

The Chairman advised his fellow councilors how dissatisfied he was with the Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission’s ruling which reinstated former Marco Island Police Sergeant Neil Giansanti’s certification as a law enforcement officer in the State of Florida. Giansanti was in the process of facing termination for his unbecoming actions as an officer due to having sex while on-duty with a female resident. 

Then Police Chief Al Schettino had requested that the Commission revoke his certification, however, Giansanti voluntarily surrendered his credentials to the commission, but then retracted his initial action and his attorney petitioned the board and a lesser action was agreed to.

Brechnitz just wanted to make the board aware of the action he was taking.

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