MARCO ISLAND — Homeowners in the North Marco assessment district have until Friday to notify the city of their preferred payment method for connecting to the city’s central sewer system.
Many say they are deferring the bill, which is the most costly option in the long run.
Sewer assessments may range from about $15,000 to more than $20,000 depending on the work necessary to connect the district to the system. Assessments may increase based on how quickly the homeowner chooses to pay it off.
If paid in full by Friday, property owners will receive a 6 percent discount. A $20,000 assessment for the septic tank replacement program paid in full up front will save the property owner $1,200.
If payments are made annually on the property owner’s tax bill each fall, a 4.57 percent interest rate and a 1 percent administration fee will be added. If this option is chosen, a $20,000 STRP assessment paid off over a period of 20 years would cost about $35,000 at the end of the loan. The property owner will pay about $1,700 each year as part of their property tax bill.
The third option is to defer the whole payment up to 20 years or until the property is sold with an interest rate of 5.9 percent. If a homeowner chooses this option and pays at one time 20 years in the future, the $20,000 STRP assessment would become more than $66,000 at the end of the loan period.
However the balance would need to be paid if the property was sold before 2028. Interest in this payment option, again on a $20,000 STRP assessment, goes up each year from about $1,250 to about $3,700.
Public Information Coordinator Lisa Douglass said the city is receiving hundreds of e-mails from residents who were against the STRP project initially, but are now impressed with how well the project is coming along.
However at least two residents are concerned, particularly with the billing.
“The interest is ridiculous. They give you three options but you’d get slammed if you deferred the payment ... All the interest is loaded on the front end,” said Patty Stamatis.
Patty and her husband George Stamatis live in the South Barfield district and because of the “killer interest” paid the assessment in full and received a discount for prepayment.
While they say they weren’t fans of the STRP project for numerous reasons, the sewer project in general isn’t their current problem, but rather associated line items on their water utility bill.
“We’re being billed for services we haven’t received,” Patty said.
She explained that she and her husband were home the day they were connected to the sewer system. While there is an approximate $60 line item on their bill for the removal and replacement of sidewalk pavers, the couple says the pavers were never moved.
They also measured the distance from their house to the septic connection and believe the contractors overestimated the linear feet of pipe used to connect their home to the system. They believe the contractor’s measurement of 30 feet of pipe is incorrect and should actually be 27 and a half feet.
“People may say, why would you care about two-and-a-half feet of pipe? Well if you do that to 1,000 properties ... ,” George Stamatis said.
The contractor charges $22 per linear foot of pipe. The two line items in question on the Stamatis’ bill total $109.50.
“To say it’s a huge, massive overcharge at this point I think is a stretch, but they’ve brought this to our attention and like everything that is brought to our attention, (city staff) will look into it,” Douglass said.
The contractor for the sewer project is Rohaley and Sons Plumbing.
While the city is billing the residents, Rohaley and Sons is sending the billing information to the city’s water utility.
Yvonne Rohaley, co-owner of the plumbing company said she believes the pavers had to be removed and replaced in order for the work to be done.
The homeowners however say the concrete around the perimeter of the pavers would have to be cracked and removed in order to get the first row of pavers out. The couple also said they saw the contractors tunnel under the walkway.
“You can’t tunnel under pavers. Just because she didn’t see us do the job, doesn’t mean we didn’t do the job ... We removed and replaced a three-foot by two-foot area and they look really good. I guess that’s the problem,” Rohaley said.
Douglass said she believes the residents also may not understand how the linear piping is calculated.
“I wouldn’t have any idea of the linear feet unless it was unearthed,” Douglass said.
George Stramatis said he believes the city should take a sampling and confirm the work and billing are being done properly.
Douglass said it will be investigated, but believes at this point it is likely a misunderstanding.
The city has not received other billing complaints but the question of pavers being moved has come up in the past, she said
Property owners in the North Marco assessment district should have received a letter of notification from the city. Responses of their desired assessment payment option are due by Friday. If an option is not selected in-writing, the 20 year annual payment plan will automatically begin with this tax year. Questions regarding the notice or payment options may be addressed to the City of Marco Island’s Utility Accountant, Keith Shinabarger firstname.lastname@example.org or 389-3923.