Saturday, September 26, 2020

Getting to Know Marco Island’s City Council Candidates, Part 2

 

 

By Steve “Stef” Stenfanides

This is the second installment of the eight profiles of those men and women who have chosen to run for the four open council seats in the November 8th general election for the Marco Island City Council.

Three of the four eligible councilors who could have run for re-election have chosen to do so. Councilor Larry Sacher has chosen not to seek a second and final four-year term; incumbent Councilors Ken Honecker, Larry Honig and Amadeo Petricca are seeking a second four-year term.

Newcomers Jared Grifoni, Fred Kramer, Howard Reed, Charlette Roman and Dr. Jerry Swiacki have also filed to run for those open seats.

By City Charter a councilperson’s term limited to two four-year terms in office.

The election will coincide with the general election and will be held on Tuesday November 8, with polls opening at 7 AM and closing at 7 PM at your respective precinct. Early voting will commence on October 24 to November 5, from 9 AM to 6 PM on each day, and will be held at the Marco Island Library, located at 210 South Heathwood Drive on Marco Island.

You may contact the Supervisor of Elections office to receive an absentee ballot or to vote by mail. That office can be reached by calling 239-252-8683 or by going to www.colliervotes.com for more information should you have questions.

The Marco Island Chamber of Commerce, Marco Island Civic Association and Marco Island Area Association of Realtors will be hosting two forums so that the public may listen to candidates answer questions and meet those running for council.

Those dates are October 13 and 19 at the Rose History Auditorium on the campus of the Marco Island Historical Society, 180 South Heathwood Drive, beginning at 5 PM with a Meet & Greet with the candidates, and then the Forum from 5:30-8 PM on both dates.

Fred Kramer

Having grown up on Long Island as a child, Fred Kramer knew what the cold weather during the winter months was all about. He would go on to attend Colgate University and then enlist in the United States Air Force.

Upon discharge from active duty, and while serving in the Air Force Reserve, Kramer would enter law school at the University of Miami. It was here that he would fall in love with the warmer climate in Southern Florida.

Not wanting to return to the chillier climates of the Northeast, Kramer would drive across US 41 in 1977 and go to work in a small law office on Marco Island with local attorney Sal Scuderi. After working there for about three years Kramer would decide to open his own practice on the island. He still practices law on the island and has his office in the Sun Trust building.

He has a son and a daughter who both grew up here on Marco. His son, who is a veteran of the U.S. Marines, has one child and works for Shell Oil. His daughter is employed by Ernst & Young and is expecting her first child. “It is exciting for me as I’ve always enjoyed being involved in coaching youth sports locally for both the Naples and Marco Optimist Club, along with the local YMCA,” said Kramer in an interview.

Over the almost 40 years that Kramer has lived on the island he has been active in local affairs, having served on a number of boards and committees. Some of those include the American Cancer Society, Marco Island Optimist Club, the Marco Island Residents’ Beach Association, the Marco Island Civic Association, the Marco Senior Softball League, the Forum Club of Collier County, and many others.

Prior to incorporation as a city, Kramer sat on the Marco Island Fair Water Defense Fund. That group was formed on April 2, 1996, in an effort to protect the interests of ratepayers of the former utility that serviced the island businesses

Fred Kramer

Fred Kramer

and residents. They would also start looking at the possible acquisition of the assets owned by Florida Water Services.

Those efforts were eventually taken over by the municipality when it was incorporated in 1998. Looking back on the events surrounding the eventual purchase, Kramer believes the city may have overpaid for that asset. Subsequently, today’s high rates are directly related to the costs incurred for borrowing for the purchase and the rebuilding of the failing infrastructure.

Kramer represented the Marco Island Civic Association in its efforts to enforce the Deltona Deed Restrictions. “In the early days as the island began to develop it was like the Wild West. Those guidelines helped to create a foundation for a logical development of the island,” said Kramer.

He supports a merging of those restrictions and requirements of the Deed Restriction to that of the city’s zoning and the Land Development Code. “The city and MICA have been working towards that goal and it’s a positive thing for the island as we seek to eliminate confusion for property owners,” said Kramer.

Kramer believes it may be time for another review of the community’s Comprehensive Plan. “We have challenges both on the island and off the island and they need to be considered as we move forward. A community discussion on those issues would be valuable,” said Kramer.

There is no doubt in Kramer’s mind that improvement and enhancements should be made in regards to the Veterans Community Park and he believes those enhancements should come sooner rather than later. However, he pushes back on any rush to judgment on any proposal that hasn’t first gone through the process before the Planning Board, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and then onto the council for a final disposition. He cautions those that would make these decisions to hear from all the residents first and just not some, believing the issue needs a full and transparent vetting.

His experience of being here for almost 40 years, and being part of the history of the island is one of the unique qualities that Kramer believes can assist him if he is lucky enough to be chosen for one of the four seats on council. You can find more information at: www.fredformarco.com.

Ken Honecker

When the election of 2012 was held, Ken Honecker was one of four new councilors that were elected to office. He spent 11 years volunteering on various committees and giving his time and experience to contribute to the community before dipping his toe into the elective office pond.

Honecker grew up in Northern New Jersey where he was one of three children. His father would own his own small commercial refrigeration business in the Fairfield, New Jersey area. He would go on to college where he would receive his engineering degree and would leave New Jersey to go to work for the David W. Taylor Naval Research Center, which today is known as the Cardebrock Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center.

The next five years he would find himself immersed into insuring the U.S. Navy’s attack submarines were being built to meet all the standards and specifications to defend the nation, no matter what their missions were. From dry dock to sea trials, Honecker would be aboard those craft insuring they were seaworthy.

Honecker’s father in the meantime would see one the largest competitors in his field go out of business and would ramp up to fill the void. That is when Honecker made the move back to Northern New Jersey to help the family business expand.

In 1997 Ken and his wife Diane would find themselves visiting Southwest Florida to attend seminars by one of the software providers he used for the business. That is when they would start looking in earnest for a home or condo that they might purchase for getaways. In 1998 they purchased a small Deltona

Ken Honecker

Ken Honecker

home on the island, after first looking in the Fort Lauderdale area and finding that not as appealing as Marco.

They would eventually sell the family business in 2000, and decided the time was right to move south to Marco fulltime. They would be one of the first on the island to tear down their small Deltona home and build a new home on that same lot that would give them a little more space.

It was in 2001 that Honecker would start attending council meetings to understand more about the workings of the fledgling city. His experience in finance, engineering and operations would be helpful in understanding the workings of the city and especially the newly acquired assets of the Florida Water Services. FWS had been the major provider of water and wastewater services on the island.

Honecker would sit on a number of city committees, including the first Ad-Hoc Committee on Rental Housing. “That was very frustrating for me to have worked with a cross section of 10 other residents to come up with a unanimous decision regarding a rental ordinance, only to have it killed by having it tabled before council without hearing from the public.”

He was appointed to the Ad-Hoc Utility Advisory Committee in 2009, that committee was the precursor to the Utility Advisory Board, which was formed in 2010. Their original task was to minimize a rate increase recommended by PRMG Consulting group. They went through each line item of the Capital Improvement Program to make strategic recommendations for the prioritizing and eliminating unnecessary capital spending, resulting in substantial savings to rate payers.

Their second recommendation involved the creation of a Utility Advisory Board to eliminate undue political influence in the decision making process concerning utility issues. Honecker was appointed to that board in 2010. Their major focus was on reviewing the rate structure. Their recommendations were eventually tabled by council.

The long stalled Mackle Park Community Center Project started to move forward when Honecker explored the possibility of alternate construction methods and other cost savings measures for the long discussed project. Eventually that project was reduced from $6,000,000 to $3.5 million and a successful referendum was held confirming community support.

He is in favor of addressing the parking issues on the island by looking at the possibility of collaborative efforts between businesses and the city. He has even suggested that a possible shuttle service might be run by businesses or the Chamber of Commerce during the busy seasonal months between January and May, in an effort to ease parking challenges.

Honecker brought forward the idea of acquiring a “gently used” medic unit to help avert the purchase of a $200,000+ piece of apparatus which would reduce the wear and tear on larger apparatus running to medical calls. That cost savings to taxpayers ran about $150,000.

He has served as a member of the Marco Island Taxpayers Association, in addition to serving as a founding member of the Marco Island Bald Eagle Sanctuary. Both he and his wife Diane serve on the Marco Island Christmas Home Decorating Committee during the holiday season as well as spending time out on the water on their boat when they have free time. You can find more information at: www.kenformarco.com.

Howard Reed

When you meet Howard Reed you find him as a quiet and soft-spoken individual who chooses his comments carefully. That probably is a reflection of his educational background, having graduated from Grace College and Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana with a dual Masters in Divinity and Science Counseling.

As to why he chose to throw his hat in the ring, Reed simply responds; “I have a responsibility to help maintain the island for my children and our grandkids, and I think I can make a positive difference.”

He and his wife Debra have a son and a daughter, along with nine grandchildren, and have

Howard Reed

Howard Reed

been married for 39 years. They have lived here since 2005 and enjoy sailing as one of their pastimes.

What began for Reed as a part time endeavor in graduate school would grow into a full-time business of providing audio visual services in hospital operating rooms, and the filming of orthopedic procedures and training materials for surgeons. Reed eventually sold his company, but continued to consult in the business. He holds several patents on related devices.

Reed became involved in the debate regarding the ill-fated rental ordinance over a year ago. “I was not against the concept of dealing with problematic residential rentals, but I believed the short term rental ordinance as written was illegal under state law, an example of significant government overreach and would not have effectively addressed the issue of problem renters,” said Reed.

“If anything is to be done it must motivate property owners to better screen, educate and control their renters. That motivation could include an escalating fine schedule that would force owners to insure their renters are properly vetted and informed of the rules and if necessary evicted if they refuse to behave properly in a residential neighborhood,” continued Reed.

When it comes to city spending, Reed believes the city is well-run financially and spends wisely. “Property owners here on Marco got here by working hard and expect the best available services to be provided to them. They expect the streets to be safe and the best emergency services to be available to them, along with the other services we receive from our municipal government.”

When the conversation turned to the complaints about high water and sewer costs, Reed spoke cautiously about that subject. “You really have two separate parts to those costs; one relates to operational and maintenance of the system; those appear to be in-line for the utility. The other lies in the enormous debt that the utility assumed from the purchase and rebuilding of the system. Those costs cannot be lowered except by paying off that debt over time,” commented Reed.

Reed would agree that potential changes to the rate schedule continues to be an issue that will most always end up being a divisive one, with competing ratepayers maneuvering for advantage. “You have three major user groups; single family, multi-family and commercial; somebody is always going to complain they are being treated unfairly. The city should determine the capital and infrastructure costs to provide the service to each user and set those as their base rates, then the rates for water delivered should be essentially equal (within the law) for all users,” said Reed.

When it comes to issues such as parking, Reed would like to see more dialogue between the stakeholders. He believes that any capital costs should be borne by those receiving the improvements. He is open to discussions regarding the usage of undeveloped properties for possible parking areas, but by private development, not by taxpayers. He is not so sure that a shuttle would be a practical solution, but agrees that the discussions regarding parking should look at all aspects of the issue.

He would be in favor of the erection of some type of informational device on 951 to inform off-islanders if there is parking available at the County Beach Access Lots, such as Tigertail and the South Beach access point. Oncoming beachgoers would be advised if those lots are full, and be redirected to other county beach access points, eliminating potential traffic issues on the island.

According to Reed, the Land Development Code review is an important project that needs to continue if we are to stay abreast of the changing dynamics of growth on the island. You can find more information at: www.reedformarco.com.

Dr. Jerry Swiacki

If Jerry Swiacki was asked to diagnose Marco Island as one of his patients he would give it a thumbs up for the most part.

Dr. Jerry Swiacki

Dr. Jerry Swiacki

“I know some people would want to say the sky is falling; I just don’t think that is the case. I’m very positive about the community we live in and refuse to take the negative tone being verbalized by some for political purposes,” said Swiacki.

Swiacki knows something about diagnosing a patient, as he’s spent his entire adult life as a surgeon, here in Florida and before that in the Detroit, Michigan area.

After he graduated from Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana he went on to medical school in Chicago and would then return to his hometown of Detroit to do his internship and later to establish his practice.

Swiacki has 10 grandchildren, each of whom he has enjoyed taking to a Notre Dame football game this fall.

He and his wife Linda would purchase their home on Marco Island while he was still practicing in Michigan. He would be able to escape on a regular basis to be in the sunshine and fresh air of Southwest Florida when still in Michigan as his schedule allowed.

It would be in 2007 when Physicians Regional opened their Collier Boulevard Campus that Swiacki would move fulltime to his home on the island. He would join them until 2009, when he joined Lehigh Regional Medical Center to handle general surgical duties there. Swiacki retired in 2014.

In 2012 he was appointed to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. “I always believed that recreation was something that everyone enjoys and was not just for the kids. Marco really reflects that in all that it provides for every age group,” said Swiacki.

Swiacki became involved in the new Mackle Park Community Center project, from the talking stages to reality. “The entire board did a great job of listening to the public and the staff about what was needed, while keeping in mind the need to bring the entire project in at a reasonable cost for the community,” said Swiacki.

He hopes to put his energy to work as a city councilman and sees several issues and challenges that need to be addressed.

“I’m very much in favor of the city doing its homework to obtain its own COPCN (Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity) to allow Marco to do its own transport should the county bow out of that business and turn it over to an independent fire district,” said Swiacki.

That move would provide residents no say over the ability to provide ALS (Advanced Life Support) and emergency transport, as Marco would have no seat at that table where the decisions are made.

He wants to look for solutions for the challenges surrounding parking on the island. “I’m not sure anyone would deny that we have an issue during the peak season that sees a major increase in the population of the island; what we have to do is come together and work out a solution,” said Swiacki.

Swiacki would like the community to take another look at the Comprehensive Plan and the Land Development Code. “Are the present regulations in place adequate enough to deal with issues such as storm water run-off and setbacks as relates to the mega-homes being constructed today? I think the residents should weigh in on that and I would want to hear from them. No one wants to stop growth, but it should be done so as to not endanger the character of the island,” said Swiacki.

“I’d like to be part of the process that continues to build on the successes we’ve had here on the island in a positive way,” said Swiacki when asked what he would like to accomplish as a councilman. You can find more information at: www.drjerryformarco.com.

OPEN FORUMS

October 13 & 19 – at Rose Hall with doors opening at 5:00PM and the forum beginning at 5:30PM. These two events are jointly sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, Marco Island Civic Association and the Marco Island Board of Realtors.

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