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Spring Update

     In mid-March, Marco Island was once again without a city manager. The community had learned in February that the recently-hired city manager, just two months into the job, was being investigated for battery by the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.  While the investigation was ongoing, emails that the city manager had written surfaced, containing disparaging remarks about the city staff.

     With Mr. Niblock’s departure, the turnover rate of Marco’s city managers is now even higher. Since 2008, managers have averaged just a little over a year on the job.  Take a moment to think about this:  What business or other organization could operate effectively with such high turnover at the top?

     The City Charter gives the city manager wide authority and makes him or her a key part of the government. Without a strong city manager with the highest professional standards leading the staff, the foundation of decision-making is haphazard at best.  This situation is particularly critical when it comes to providing information to the city council.  The city manager is ultimately responsible for improving overall operations from top-to-bottom, with a focus on establishing consistent service to all members of the community equally under the law.

     When I ran to be your city councilor, I felt the city was at a turning point; I articulated the need for effective government. Four months into the job, I realized the situation was more urgent and more like being at a critical crossroads. Now I believe it is imperative to stabilize the government if the city is going to realize its full promise and potential.

     The next few months will be extremely important as the council conducts the search for our next city manager. I’m cautiously optimistic that we can work together to accomplish this in a way that renews citizen confidence and puts us on the path towards effective government. 
   
   Governor Scott signed HB1395, which grants Marco Island the ability to apply directly to the Florida Department of Health for a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (COPCN) after certain conditions are met. Included in the ballot on the August 28th primary election will be a referendum for Marco voters to decide whether the city should establish and run its own ambulance service. Currently, Collier County Emergency Medical Services provides these emergency transport services to the island.

     In December, Marco Island submitted a COPCN license request to the County. The application is currently being reviewed by the County Emergency Medical Authority (EMA). Additional information, not addressed in the city’s application, has been requested by the EMA to make sure any new service would adequately meet the requirements to serve the community. The first set of questions was received February 6, and the staff is still working on the answers. An additional group of questions was sent to the city in April. Many of these questions are similar to the questions I’ve asked during council discussions since the beginning of the COPCN efforts.  I’ll be looking forward to the answers. The EMA needs the requested information in order to complete the review of the application and make a recommendation to the Board of County Commissioners.
     
     The EMA will be conducting a hearing at 9 am on May 1, 2018 at 3299 Tamiami Trail E in Bldg. F’s 5th floor Training Room. This meeting is open to the public, and I encourage you to attend. The COPCN documents and the EMA correspondence are posted on the city website homepage (look for the ambulance logo). If you are unable to find or download them, please email me; and I will send you the information. The Board of County Commissioners is scheduled to hear Marco’s COPCN license request on May 22.

     A very timely and important issue in light of the recent events on Florida’s east coast is school safety. Nothing is more important than the safety of our children! Several concerned parents reached out to me to ask for assistance in getting additional resources for improved school coverage on the island. They asked to have one School Resource Officer assigned to each school on a full-time basis, rather than the rotating coverage that they felt might leave a school vulnerable.  After meeting with parents, I worked with the interim city manager and the police chief to come up with a transition plan until the end of the school year. 

     We also started a plan to identify what additional resources would be needed from the county or the state, and from the city budgeting process to meet this requirement for our families by the beginning of the next school year. As a proactive step, the interim city manager requested and received approval from council for three new police officers to be hired and trained in order to be ready for the next school year. The School Resource Officers assisting in our schools build relationships at multiple levels with the kids, staff and teachers, as well as provide the first response in the case of an emergency.

    With smoke in the air from the brush fires east of Marco Island, Marco Island Fire Rescue celebrated the long-awaited groundbreaking of Fire Station 51. It was a beautiful morning for the event with state representatives who helped with the funding in attendance. What a great day for the community! And our firefighters got to turn a shovel, too. Thank you to everyone who made this day possible for Marco Island.

    After many years, the Council passed an ordinance banning plastic straws on the beach. The Marco Island JW Marriott informed the Beach and Coastal Resources Advisory Committee about their new program, "PARADISE, PRESERVED." The program hopes to "...preserve paradise one sip at a time." Plastic straws have been completely eliminated throughout the resort and replaced with Aadvark paper straws. The straws are made in the USA with 100 percent compostable, marine degradable, and FDA approved materials. Only frozen drinks will be served with a straw.  Thank you, JW Marriott, for helping protect and preserve Marco's beautiful beaches.

     I attended a presentation by the Community Foundation and the Shulze Foundation on the highlights of the Collier County Community Needs Assessment, a county-wide survey to better understand the needs of the residents and current assets in the community.  Marco Islanders participated in the survey at no cost to the taxpayers, and many organizations and citizens are looking forward to hearing the results. I’m coordinating for a date, possibly as early as next month, for a presentation to the Marco Island community. I am planning for it to be held here in the Community Room so that folks can watch at home, and it can be recorded.

     The Parking Solutions Committee is back to work following up on the “no cost” and “low cost” solution recommendations in the plan presented to council. Through a partnership with the county staff, additional bike racks, a low cost solution, were installed at the South Beach parking lot.  Long-needed alley cleanup operations began on Dumford Way. The committee will be discussing other low cost recommendations at their upcoming meetings, including beach shuttles, CAT bus routes, island circulators, and publicity for the free taxi service that some of our restaurants offer.

     Veteran’s Community Park planning is underway with the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee. Kimley-Horn and Associates was hired to guide the city through the process of determining what the community wants to see at the park. I’d encourage members of the community to participate so that all ideas can be explored. The meetings are held in the community room and broadcast on TV; videos of past meetings are available on the city website.

     The council participated in a seminar conducted by Dr. Payne of the Florida League of Cities Leadership Department on the “Role of the City Council.” The session was conducted at no cost to the taxpayers in an effort to address the results of the Staff Organizational Climate Survey. Dr. Payne conducted companion training for the city staff the next day and joined the group for lunch to continue more informal conversation. If you would like to read the Staff Organizational Climate Survey, I have created a link to the survey at my website, www.CharletteRoman.com.

     In the next few months, the city will begin exploring solar energy options in an effort to see if there is any cost-savings to be realized for the taxpayers. There are roughly twenty-five municipal facilities located throughout the city that could be evaluated for cost/benefit of the integration of municipal solar power production. Energy companies can provide various options for solar installations besides buying expensive systems with huge up-front costs.  At least one company, and there may be others, can evaluate solar production feasibility for in-line metering at select municipal facilities and offer the equipment through a leasing option. This long term leasing arrangement includes operation and maintenance of the system over the life of the lease.

     The council will begin its FY 2019 budget process soon. The interim city manager is finalizing the workshop schedule, and advisory committees are completing their budget requests. The workshops provide council the opportunity to better understand the numbers and the various departmental priorities from staff. The public is welcome to attend and participate. Remember, these are your tax dollars.

     I enjoy hearing from you and serving as your councilor. In addition to my website, if you are on Facebook, check out my city councilor Facebook page. With your positive involvement and support, we will move Marco Island in a positive direction for the future!
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Charlette Roman - City Councilor, Marco Island
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