Four Marco Island City Council seats will be available in next year’s election. Chairman Mike Minozzi and Councilor Glenn Tucker cannot run because of term limits. The seats held by Councilwoman Terri DiSciullo and Vice Chairman Bill Trotter are also up for grabs. Neither has announced whether they will run again.
The Marco Eagle reported May 28 that Joe Batte was running for election. Roger Hall’s announcement appeared in the June 18 issue.
Francis "Butch" Neylon is also throwing his hat into the ring.
The 61-year-old candidate has been married to his wife Betty for 38 years. The couple have four children and six grandchildren. They have lived on Marco Island since 2001.
Neylon said an important item he can bring to the table as a City Council member is his expertise and experience in construction and utility systems. He said those benefits can increase the quality of life on Marco Island.
Neylon started an electrical service company in 1976. Five years later, the firm had 70 employees and had added several other services. He merged the original company into his present company, Industrial Technical Services, Inc.
The technology company provides not only electrical and mechanical services, but also specialized control systems to public and private firms in the Northeast.
"For many years we have been deeply involved in water and wastewater utilities providing design build services, fabrication, installation and maintenance of critical equipment, instrumentation and control systems," he said.
Neylon, a systems designer and supplier, said he understands all aspects of design fabrication and construction of water and wastewater budgeting, reporting, distribution, collection and treatment facilities because of his extensive experience.
In the last few years, his three sons have been taking charge of the day to day operations of the company.
The city’s reasons to purchase a water and wastewater system, now called Marco Island Utilities, three years ago was a "sound" idea, according to Neylon. He added the purchase was the right decision for Marco Island even though the cost of the system will be debated for many years to come.
"Owning our own utilities gives us control over essential services and these systems have the potential of becoming the crown jewel of Marco Island, providing the finest water, wastewater and reuse water services in South Florida," he said. "Our goal should be to reduce rates and increase quality through sensible programs that manage our resources while protecting public health, property and the environment." That goal has not been achieved yet, according to Neylon. In order to have stable rates, less expensive utility expansion and overall quality improvements, the city needs to rethink its efforts and resources.
Neylon’s priorities include improving the quality of potable drinking water on the island and reducing or eliminating the use of potable water for landscape irrigation.
"The unnecessary and extremely expensive extension of our wastewater collection and treatment facilities, STRP, must be halted," he said, referring to the Septic Tank Replacement Program. "Our aging wastewater collection system leaks and must be corrected to reduce infiltration of groundwater and ex-filtration of sewage into our groundwater. Extending our existing system is environmentally dangerous."
Neylon believes the Marco Island Utility has the potential to become one of the largest benefits of living on Marco Island. He said the focus of the utility in the future should be potable and reuse water.
"Now is the time to start to bring about the benefits we were all promised when the utility was acquired," he said. "This is our utility. We need to redirect our objectives and goals to realize those benefits."
Neylon pointed out that Marco Island has many residents with the necessary skills to "redirect and refocus" the island’s limited resources. He said using the knowledge and skills of those people will improve the city’s utilities and lessen the likelihood of increased utility rates in the future.
If elected to the City Council, Neylon wants to form a blue ribbon committee made up of citizens experienced in the utility field. The committee’s focus would be to find out what needs to be improved in the city’s utilities and develop plans that would prioritize and accomplish Neylon’s goals.
He says all of the committee’s meetings would be publicly announced. Citizens of the island would be encouraged to attend and participate in the meetings.
"I have met and worked with many public minded and talented people on Marco Island over the past two years and it is unconscionable to ignore these resources," he said. "None of us have all the answers, but the more people involved in the process, the less likely it will be that we will miss an opportunity to improve our systems."
Neylon says another one of his priorities is to restore fairness and equity to Marco Island. He noted that the city’s staff drafted four or five financing plans to fund the STRP. The plans were discussed by the City Council for several months. Most of the plans were abandoned.
Neylon said the recent referendum to finance the STRP was "another version of flimflam financing to fund this inequitable program, and the good citizens of Marco saw through it and defeated it by a large margin."
More than 55 percent of the people who voted in the referendum voted against limiting the sewer assessments to $10,000 and paying the remaining cost with a 4.5-percent property tax increase.
Neylon said utility rates will be artificially increased in order to make up for unrelated costs.
"Rates must reflect the cost of providing water and wastewater services, not road paving," he said. "That will change."
The current City Council must stop wasting taxpayers’ money on the STRP, according to Neylon, and face the fact that the project will be stopped. He said citizens must convince the councilors to postpone purchases that will not be needed before their terms run out. Neylon referred to the council’s 4-2 vote during the June 18 meeting that approved a $1.3 million change order for the construction of nine sewer lift stations to begin this year. He said the council should reverse its decision and save the funds for something else.
Neylon noted the turmoil that has developed between residents and City Hall on controversial issues and the increased attendance at council meetings. He said Marco Island is small enough so that anyone who wants to directly participate in the city government can.
"We can and must all work together to improve relationships on our island," he said. "The us verses them mentality must stop. Fair treatment for all must return as the standard and we will all be better for it." Neylon referred to a recent statement by City Council member Ted Forcht that just because something is legal doesn’t make it right. Neylon couldn’t agree more. Council members and city officials must return to doing what is right, according to Neylon, and be fair and honest in dealing with the public.
"We must not use the legal system to enable policies or programs that the people do not want, but rather do the will of the people with their full consent and approval," he said. "We have seen unpopular resolutions, ordinances, practices and programs pushed upon our citizens under the guise of home rule powers.
Neylon said the home rule provision in Florida law has been used too many times by the city and has led to the turmoil, lawsuits against the city and unnecessary costs.
He noted the citizen opposition to the 90-day mandatory hook-up to the STRP under the City Code of Ordinances verses the 365 days allowed under Florida statute. Neylon said the issue was an example of an unlawful ordinance.
"The (Marco Island Waterways and Boating Safety) ordinance is in the hands of the courts and the attorney fighting it says that he will attack Marco’s use of home rule in this trial," Neylon said, referring to a pending court case. "Bad legal advice or a propensity to usurp powers that are not granted under the statute, the courts will decide."
He agrees with recent statements made by some council members that sections of the Marco Island City Charter need to be amended. Neylon said the process of amending the charter must be done carefully.
He also referred to recent efforts to exclude the cost of capital improvement projects from the city’s 3-percent spending cap.
If the spending cap did not exist, much of the city’s reserve funds would be gone, according to Neylon. He added that, if a real emergency were to happen, the city would be in trouble.
"Closing the loophole between the use of resolutions and ordinances will have to be addressed in order to assure that the people have the right of referendum over a resolution as they do over ordinances," he said. "This ambiguity has allowed the current council to move forward with the STRP, a $135,000,000 project without the people being able to vote to spend that money."
Neylon said the citizens of Marco Island are reasonable, generous, talented and dedicated to making the island a true paradise.
He wants to finish the unnecessary and expensive construction projects that have "devastated" the island. Future funding and other resources should be used only for necessary programs. Other projects should be delayed until the more important projects and issues are dealt with, according to Neylon.
"Open meetings with question and answer sessions, true debate with all sides heard from and listened to; that is democracy," he said. "That is what I will bring to the Marco Island City Council, and I respectfully ask that you honor me with your vote."