Those at the May 3 meeting of the Marco Island City Council would first hear from a tired but upbeat State Senator Kathleen Passidomo who represents the 28th District in the Florida State Senate, which includes Collier, Hendry and a part of Lee County.
Passidomo was pleased to announce the progress of one of the financial grants that lobbyist Ron Book had sought on behalf of Marco Island. The funds sought would be used to partially fund the installation of culverts under San Marco Road, in order to connect tidal flushing between the north and south segments of the island. State Senator Passidomo and State Representative Bob Rommel shepherded this matter through their respective committees, and it had successfully made it to the governor’s desk.
She also reported that Everglades City will receive a $4 million grant to rebuild their failing wastewater treatment facility.
Bills that would have affected home rule in local communities never saw the light of day, but Passidomo was still supportive of the measures and defended her support of that legislation. “I tried to make a bad bill better,” she said.
Passidomo was still in Tallahassee and appeared before via Zoom. She received high marks from councilors for her communication and work behind the scenes during this session of the legislature, which ended last Friday.
Veterans’ Community Park Inches Forward
The plans for the buildout of the long-stalled Veterans’ Community Park project moved forward toward a final resolution on Monday evening. However, it was not without some opposition, as a few residents came forward and requested a referendum on the long-awaited project.
In 2000, the city acquired the property (previously known as the Glon property). After nearly ten years following its initial purchase, and with public pressure mounting, city council created an initial master plan for its use. This was accomplished through a collaborative effort by city staff and a council-appointed committee of residents, with the assistance of Kimley-Horn and Associates of Sarasota, Florida. The result was the creation of the Official Master Plan for Veterans’ Community Park, developed with considerable citizen input.
In 2019, a second look at that initial conceptual plan was undertaken. At the time, some residents questioned why the city would spend another $100,000 for a second look, feeling that it wasted both time and valuable resources. Despite this, once again, a contract was awarded to Kimley-Horn. Kimley-Horn worked with city staff, kept the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee informed, and held public meetings to get additional community input. This resulted in few changes to the initial plans from a decade prior.
Over the last several months, council has inched the project forward, and their consultant has created an approximately 90% cost estimate on the project. On Monday evening, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee brought forward a list of items they wanted to see revisited or changed. The additions recommended would add approximately $250,000 to the cost of the project. Council agreed to those suggestions, which pushed the plan’s 90% value to $10,700,000. Manhattan Construction still has to come in with a final 100% cost-not-to-exceed number so council can do a final vote.
Some resistance to the expense of the project has been bubbling up within the community, with thoughts that the numbers may be too high and the potential usage would not support the expense. However, it was former Councilor Howard Reed who made an impassioned presentation which supported the project, saying it has been delayed too long already.
Former Planning Board member Ed Issler, who lives near the park, complained about the placement of the amphitheater, citing the impact it will have on neighbors and their quality of life. At least two other members of the public came forward to question the cost and suggested that a referendum be held to make a final decision on the future of the property.
In the end, council approved the changes suggested by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee and the project took another step toward what appears to be a final approval.
The next council meeting will be on May 17 at 5:30 pm.