It took three ballots, but the six members of the Marco Island City Council have finally chosen an interim replacement for former Councilman Sam Young to serve for five months; or until the election in November of this year. At that time, voters on the island will choose a replacement for the remaining 2 years of his unexpired 4-year term.
The City Council asked questions of the three finalists who were chosen from five applications for the job. Those three candidates were Gregory Folley, Phares Heindl, and Joseph Rola, all Marco Island residents. Each of the applicants were given ten minutes to make a final pitch for the seventh seat on the dais and answered questions from those they would potentially join.
Earlier last week, each of the candidates held one on one private meetings with each of those six councilors. On the initial ballot, the candidate polling the fewest votes would be eliminated and then a second round of voting would be taken. Phares Heindl was eliminated on that first round of balloting, leaving Folley and Rola to go head to head seeking a four-vote majority.
However, when the second round of ballots was performed, and the votes counted, they were left deadlocked three to three. On the third round of voting, Folley received the magic forth vote when one sitting councilor changed his or her vote during the secret balloting.
Folley was immediately sworn in by City Clerk Laura Litzan and assumed his position on the dais, while his wife and friends looked on.
There would be no wasting time as the first order of business would be to hear from Chris Byrne, the city’s Emergency Management Recovery Coordinator regarding the recommendation of the city staff to move forward on their recommendation to put out an RFQ for proposals for a Construction Manager at Risk for the project to build a new Headquarters for the Marco Island Fire Department.
However, the debate did not go as smoothly as some might have thought, as Councilor Victor Rios questioned this process and preferred that a process which involved a design/bid/build process be instead undertaken. He was joined in his questioning by both Councilor Honig and Council Chairman Erik Brechnitz.
The initial estimates for the station have now grown close to $12 million and all three of those councilors were concerned that the city would not have adequate oversight of the project.
Byrne, the former Deputy Fire Chief of the Fire Department, retired in June of 2016 but was brought back to service within the city during Hurricane Irma and has coordinated the grant process with FEMA since the Category 3 Hurricane slammed into the island in September of 2017.
Byrne explained that a $1.7 million grant from FEMA might be put in jeopardy should the City Council not move the process forward by years end. At the end of the debate, the council voted 4-3 to accept the staffs’ recommendation. Newly seated Councilman Greg Folley made the deciding vote, joining with Councilors Reed, Roman and Grifoni to approve the staffs’ recommendation.
During citizen comments, local resident and business owner Mario Curiale came forward and complained regarding a recent incident at his establishment at 845 Bald Eagle Drive. Officers were called to Mario’s Bar and Grill to investigate a complaint of underage drinking. He questioned the time that it would take to determine the validity of the ID’s presented to the officers, but his time elapsed. Later in the evening, under council comments, Councilor Honig rose to defend the professional manner in which the officer’s responded to a situation which might have become more inflamed had it not been for their restrained handling of a situation which had the potential to deteriorate into a more serious situation.
Councilor Honig was joined by others from the dais to commend the department’s handling of the situation and compliment Chief Frazzano for her officers’ professionalism.
The Marco City Council will hold a Capital Budget Workshop on June 8th in the Council Chambers beginning at 1 PM as they start their 2020-2021 Budget deliberations.