Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Volunteer Boards Face Changes

city of Marco Island - City Seal

city of Marco Island – City Seal

By Steve “Stef” Stefanides

During the upcoming council meeting scheduled for Monday, January 23 newly elected councilors will be making choices for appointments to various advisory boards that will look at tackling the thorny issues which eventually will come before the councilors themselves.

In an unusual move, two of Councilor Victor Rios’ appointees, Rony Joel (Planning Board) and Gene Burson (Beach Advisory Committee) have confirmed that Rios asked them to resign, which they have done. Their resignations would allow Rios to appoint replacements to these advisory boards.

When Councilor Rios was contacted for comment, he emailed the following response to Coastal Breeze News:  “The facts are that as a standard procedure I have discussions with my Committee appointees once in a while. I did have discussions with Mr. Burson who has served as a member of the Beach Advisory Committee and with Mr. Joel who has served in the Planning Board. Both have decided to resign…”

On January 22, 2013 council moved to amend the ordinance and tie a sitting advisory board member’s term to that of his appointing councilor. They would also go on to limit the amount of time someone could serve on an advisory board to no longer than a total of eight years.

This was in an attempt to eliminate any undue political pressure on those appointees to vote in a particular manner, and instead encourage an advisory board member to render decisions without fear of being punished by a councilor.

Boards and Committees
Of all the boards and advisory committees, only the Planning Board is a mandatory requirement under state law. The state mandates that all political entities within Florida have a Planning Board to hear issues concerning growth and zoning matters.

On Marco Island there are a number of advisory boards:

  • Audit Advisory
  • Beach Advisory
  • Beautification Advisory
  • Bike Path
  • Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee
  • Planning Board
  • Waterways Advisory

All of these committees are comprised of seven volunteer members who are appointed by councilors. Their terms run concurrently with their nominating councilperson’s term.

The exception to that rule lies with the Hideaway Beach Tax District Board, which is comprised of five members and is required by the fact that the district levies a special tax on its property owners to provide for beach re-nourishment within that private gated community.

Council Chairman Larry Honig had suggested a realignment of some of those committees and their responsibilities at the last council meeting. Although many of his fellow councilors appreciated his efforts proposing several changes, much of what was proposed was left unchanged, with the exception of some non-functioning boards still on the books.

Honig’s suggestion regarding the establishment of a Utilities Advisory Board that would focus on the water/wastewater operations was met with a more receptive attitude by councilors, and that may in fact find traction in future meetings. Details concerning its make-up and charge are to be discussed further.

Importance of Committees
“Many of these committees do the heavy lifting for some pretty weighty issues confronting the community,” said former Council Chairman Bob Brown. “It really was the hard work done by the Parks and Recreation Committee that helped to make the new Mackle Park Center a reality,” said Brown.

The new fertilizer ordinance was another example, where the initial work done by the Beach Advisory Committee brought about an updated ordinance in conjunction with the Waterways Committee, in an effort to protect the waterways around Marco.

Complexion to Change on Committees
With three new councilors and one re-elected councilman comes the potential for some major changes on those advisory boards. This provides for a lot of speculation in the make-up of those holding positions on the Marco Island Planning Board.

Charlette Roman had to vacate her seat on the Planning Board when she won the election to one of the four open council seats in November of 2016. She had originally been appointed to the Planning Board by Councilor Batte upon his re-election in 2014. Batte subsequently appointed Frank Mulligan, an existing Planning Board member to fill out her remaining two years on the board in December. Mulligan was originally appointed four years ago by Councilman Larry Sacher, who was not running for re-election and whose term would have expired February 1 by terms of the ordinance.

“Frank’s work ethic and knowledge will be valuable moving forward and I’m pleased to have him fill out the final two years left on that term. It would have been a shame to have lost that valuable knowledge and commitment to the community,” said Batte.

Appointments which expire on February 1st are presently held by Jack Patterson, Irv Povlow, William Trotter and the seat formerly held by Frank Mulligan. Those appointments will be made by newly elected Councilors Honig, Grifoni, Reed and Roman.

Councilors will also make appointments to the other boards at the January 23rd meeting.

The next meeting of the council on January 23 will convene in Council Chambers at 51 Bald Eagle Drive beginning at 5:30 PM.

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