Sewer construction begins in Sheffield and Lamplighter districts on Marco

City hosts open house to inform residents

Debra Houghtaling, far left, a resident of the Sheffield district, asks project manager Russ DeJonge of Mitchell and Stark Construction Company how long it will take to get her home connected to the city sewer. Houghtaling is one of several residents who have been waiting years to fix a faulty septic system as the STRP was finalized.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff // Buy this photo

Debra Houghtaling, far left, a resident of the Sheffield district, asks project manager Russ DeJonge of Mitchell and Stark Construction Company how long it will take to get her home connected to the city sewer. Houghtaling is one of several residents who have been waiting years to fix a faulty septic system as the STRP was finalized.

More than 100 residents packed into the lobby of the Community Room on Bald Eagle Drive Tuesday evening to learn what was happening in their neighborhood in regards to being connected to Marco Island’s central sewer system.

The city hosted the open house as they begin the third phase of connecting districts to the city sewer. This phase includes the Lamplighter and Sheffield districts. The open house provided these residents with a brief formal presentation as well as informal one-on-one tours of graphics, maps and information on construction, staging of materials, lift stations, dewatering areas and assessment costs.

“This is a nice change in the City and for the council to let the people involved in the process actually be involved in the process,” said Anthony Costantino.

Costantino’s home on Bond Court off Lamplighter is one of several sites which are being dewatered. He said he was concerned over how long the process would take.

“The dewatering unit on our block is 60-feet long and 10-feet wide with a generator going 24-hours a day. It’s not a shrill noise but a constant low-pitched drum with the smell of diesel fuel ... People on my block are very concerned. It’s not exactly a noiseless thing,” Costantino said.

He and other residents near dewatering sites were concerned about not only the length of time to perform the work but also the integrity of the seawall where the water from the ground was being pumped.

Public Works director Rony Joel assured the community members that if anything was damaged, it would be repaired by the city or contractor.

Costantino said he was against the centralized sewer system since the beginning.

“We have septic ... There’s nothing wrong with it,” he said.

Others, were happy to be connected.

“We have to have it. We’ve needed to replace our septic system for about four to five years and have been waiting for this to happen. It’s about $12,000 for a new septic for our house,” said Debra Houghtaling.

Houghtaling, who lives in the Sheffield district, said she was most curious about the financing and scheduling for her property.

The project manager for the Septic Tank Replacement Program (STRP), Russ DeJonge of Mitchell and Stark Construction Company, the company contracted by the city to connect the remaining properties to the central sewer system, was available to answer questions. About 3,500 single family residences still need to be connected. Many residents said they were concerned about dirt, gravel and mud messes left by crews as well as how long the construction equipment would be in their neighborhoods.

Construction will be taking place between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and contractors have said they are committed to cleaning up after each work day. Length of work on each property is less consistent.

“It’s all dependent on how deep the area is. Some areas that are 16-feet deep can take a week and a half to dewater. If it’s shallow or just a couple feet it may just be a matter of days or no dewatering will be needed at all,” DeJonge said.

Actual construction in front of an individual home should only take about two days, Joel said. That doesn’t include the length of stays for lift stations and dewatering equipment, which vary based on individual properties and districts.

“If you don’t have a lift station near your home now, you won’t be getting one,” Joel said.

Finances were on almost everyone’s mind. The maximum estimated assessment per property is over $18,000 in the Lamplighter district and nearly $23,000 in the Sheffield district. The final costs will be calculated after the contract is complete based on the actual linear feet of pipe installed by the contractor.

Other costs include about $2,000 per property to use the city’s contractor to hook up the individual home to the system and remove their old septic. Private plumbing companies’ rates vary.

“I’ve heard it’s a lot more to hire your own local plumber. Local plumbers are saying ‘you’re crazy not to go to the city’s contractor.’ It’s the economy of scale because the city’s contractor is doing hundreds of these,” said Keith Shinabarger.

In addition to increases in water bills, residents will also be expected to pay for capacity costs estimated at about $4,600 for a home 2,500 square-feet or less. The capacity costs cover the expenses of upgrading the wastewater collection system and expanding the wastewater treatment plant. Overall, property owners who are adding on to the city sewer system are looking at costs ranging from about $20,000 to $30,000, while also experience larger monthly water bills.

For Houghtaling, it’s well worth it when she no longer has to worry about septic backups when family and friends visit.

Each property’s hook-up to city sewer will need to be completed within 90 days after the city has brought the sewer lines to the street.

Properties owners who pay their assessments upfront receive a six percent discount, while those who defer the full payment for 20 years or pay an annual fee over the course of 20 years will be charged interest.

Joel said the city received a state revolving loan that was less than three percent.

Resident John Campbell said he didn’t see the interest rates charged to residents, which are 5.5 to 5.9 percent, fair.

“Unfortunately, the city is in this to make money ... I can’t get even get a CD that will pay that kind of return,” Campbell said.

Many residents said they planned to defer the payment.

“We have a number of elderly people on social security. We don’t ever want people to choose between putting food on the table and sewer,” said City Finance Director Bill Harrison.

For people on fixed-incomes, Harrison recommended the deferment plan. It allows people to either pay when they sell their homes or simply “settle up with the city in 20 years.”

More information about STRP is available on the city’s Web site Scroll down to the bottom of the page and follow links to the Septic Tank Replacement Program.

© 2008 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 18

blackwidow writes:

Is it true that Rony has the KY concession on the island?

lutherdog writes:

The prices keep going up and the outlaws in city hall continue rob the people. This is what the majority want so they must have lots more money than we do. I love Harrison's statement about simply “settle up with the city in 20 years.” Yea, sure Bill.

EdFoster writes:

Mr. Harrison, I'm touched that you don't want "elderly people on social security" ever to have "to choose between putting food on the table and sewer" so you recommend that they opt for the "deferment plan" and just "settle up with the city in 20 years." Did you tell them what that will cost? Did you bother to calculate the cost before making your recommendation? Do you even know how to calculate the cost? You didn't 2 years ago when you published your absurd figures on the city web site.

Well, I've done it for you using the figures given in the article for the Sheffield District. Admittedly these are supposed to be "maximum" figures but we ought to err on the side of caution shouldn't we? The cost to run the sewer lines is given as $23,000 to which we add $4,600 for "improvements" to the treatment plant and $2,000 to hook up to the line. That comes to $29,600. Follow me so far, Bill? Haven't lost you, have I?

The proposed interest rate could be 5.9% per year but the article doesn't mention how it is compounded. If it is compounded annually (unlikely), the multiplicative factor is 1.059 raised to the 20th power or 3.14716275 and when the 20 years are up and the homeowner "settles with the city," he'll have to come up with a cool $93,156.02. If the interest is compounded monthly (as are most mortgages), the multiplicative factor is 1.004916666667 raised to the 240th power or 3.24497817 and our shocked homeowner will be hit with a bill of $96,051.35 . Did you make this clear at the meeting, Bill? I don't know; I wasn't there.

In addition, the city proposes to charge $600/year to carry away the poop ... and that's just for starters. We all know the costs will rise immensely over the 20 year period. Look what you did to our water rates after promising not to raise them for 8 years after buying the utility

Methinks Ms. Houghtaling would be far happier paying $12,000 for a new onsite treatment system (if it really would cost that much) and pay $300 annually to have it inspected, serviced and guaranteed against mishap. I know I sure would be! Unfortunately, that is no longer a possibility! So sad! And you're shedding crocodile tears over choosing between food and sewer! For shame!

Ed Foster

veridicus writes:

Foster, you truly are a moron. Had you done the responsible thing and advised everyone to lock into the 2006 price as the city provided, the savings would have been considerable;

"The estimated construction and capacity cost for your assessment area is $20,485.00 per equivalent residential connection. This also applies to vacant lots. For properties permitted for construction after June 1, 2005, the sewer assessment may be higher, depending upon the size of the home."

"You have a one-time opportunity to guarantee that you will pay no more that the current September 2006 sewer construction and capacity cost estimate, even if the actual costs are higher when sanitary sewer lines are installed in your area."

“To guarantee that you pay no more than the 2006 estimated assessment, you are afforded the following voluntary options:

Cash Payment of the full assessment as of 2006: $19,260.00

This represents approximately a 6% discount.

Your payment must be received by no later than March 31, 2007.

Payment of the assessment over 20 years in equal annual installments.

The 2006 estimated assessment cost plus interest will be payable in equal annual installments over 20 years.

The annual installment will be included with your property tax bill starting in November, 2007.

Payment of the balance of the assessment is due in full upon sale or transfer of property ownership.

Deferral of Annual Payments based on the estimated assessment as of 2006.

You will not pay any money up front or in equal annual installments.

Payment will be due in full in 20 years, or upon sale or transfer of property ownership.

Interest will accrue over the deferral period.”

Instead your BS conned your friends into believing that you Neylon and the rest of your gang of know-it-alls knew more then the experts and telling them the STRP would be stopped. I did not believe your story and locked in. Now you cry about the cost, I do not feel sorry for you at all and shame on you for feeding your friends your BS.

MarcoFacts writes:

veridicus, look what Goebbels and Hitler fed Germany and at what cost. Foster and his minions cost the residents of Marco Island over $500,000.00 in unnecessary court costs which only added to each ERC's assessment. Foster, Davies, Neylon and Hall led a lot of sheep who can't think on their own into supporting their personnal agendas, not what is best for the entire island.


The island is still healing from their lies and misinformation while Foster and Neylon still spread their skewed version of their own warped reality.

Fossil writes:

Verdicus and MarcoFacts, at the risk of being labled anti-sewer(which I am not),you need to read Foster's entry again. Verdicus, your response did not address the full 20 year cost if deferred or if paid in installments. Foster claims both will exceed $90,000? All Verdicus says is: "Payment will be due in full in 20 years, or upon sale or transfer of property ownership. Interest will accrue over the deferral period.” So how much will the total cost be to Mrs. Houghtaling? Interesting that you avoid the very point Mr. Foster is making. Forfeiting nearly $100,000 upon the sale of your home because you never understood what a deferment would ultimately cost you, will come as a great surprise in 20 years. Only the poor will be taken advantage of. People who cannot afford the sewer today, will pay more than five times the actual costs if they exercise a delayed payment option. Some might suggest those who cannot afford a payment in full, take out a loan. Well, that doesn't exactly make sense if you cannot afford to make monthly payments now, does it? Makes me wonder who is conning who?

veridicus writes:

Fossil, you have completely missed the message and it is Mr. Foster that is once again misrepresenting the facts.

As stated the city gave three options; had the people in the Sheffield area locked in the 2006 cost as the city provided and paid up front the TOTAL cost would have been $19,260 and not the $27,600 now quoted by Foster, a savings of $8,340.

The city gave another option; pay in 20 installments over 20 years which would have cost $34,482 over 20 years, with any balance due when the home was sold. The interest rate on this option was 5.57%

The city then gave a third option; don’t pay anything and pay at the end of 20 years or when you sold your home for a total cost compounded annually of $64,469 and not the $96,156 quoted by our non-resident moron Ed Foster. The interest rate on this option was 5.9%.

Those who did not take the city up on this offer rolled the dice with Foster, Neylon, Hall, Batte and Guidry and lost. The smart people who did not buy into the Foster, Neylon, Hall, Batte and Guidry hype locked in.

You may think, as I do, that it is still too much, but over 60% of the voters mandated this STRP and that’s democracy.

Avenger writes:


Whatever cogent points your postings might contain are completely obscured by your name-calling and other expressions of extreme nastiness.

Marcoite writes:

It would appear that no one really knows how to calculate the total cost of the sewer payment plans.

I would like to see the Finance department add the interest rates and compounding methods to the STRP portion of the of The City of Marco Island website. Sample calculations for the 20 year and deferred payment options would be necessary to help people understand because not everyone is good at this type of math.

Also, since some people do not use the internet, the Eagle could also publish the information.

EdFoster writes:


It seems you cannot read a blog and understand the point. Fossil and Marcoite got the point I was making but you're so fixated on name calling that you've lost all reason. All I said was that, using the figures given in the article, those who choose to follow Mr. Harrison's suggestion and "settle up with the city" in 20 years will pay close to a hundred grand at settlement time. There's nothing magic about these calculations; numbers are numbers, formulae are formulae. Any accountant or mathematician will come out with exactly the same numbers as I did if he/she starts with the same premises. The only thing that will change the final numbers is a different initial cost (unknown until the sewers are completed in the district) or a different interest rate. I used the worst-case figures in the article.

Verdicus says you should have locked in the 2006 figures by paying your assessment by March 31, 2007. If you want to play Russian Roulette as Verdicus seems to, that's fine. Personally, I wouldn't pay in 2007 for something I might not receive into 2010 or later if ever. Furthermore, anyone who did that paid for an "estimate," not the real thing. As the city says, no one will know what the real cost will be until they complete the project.

Those who "locked up" the 2006 estimates by prepaying in 2007 were gambling that the city knew what it was doing in 2006 and that construction costs would rise in the future. That's risky for two reasons: one, the city has never known what it was doing when it comes to finances and two, construction costs are dropping, not rising, because of the housing slump. I wouldn't take that gamble and most people seemed to see it the same way. Relatively few took the city up on its offer. Verdicus apparently did. Good luck to him! He used to be a friend of mine until he lost his marbles.

My real objection is that Harrison advised people on low incomes to "settle up in 20 years" without telling them how much that will cost them. How many people in smaller inland houses (like many in the Sheffield District) and are living on Social Security will be able to come up with 100 grand without being forced to sell their homes. I think it is immoral for Harrison to advise them to "settle up" in 20 years without telling them the risk.

The city says they'll give you a 6% discount if you pay in advance and that would be my choice. However, the city says it doesn't know what the cost will be until the project is completed so how can anyone pay in advance? Speak about financial morons!

Ed Foster

bbyrone46 writes:

Marcoite, you have made a very good positive suggestion. The Eagle should investigate this and write an article so that ALL may fully understand what the actual costs may be. This type of reporting would be a great service to our community. I suggest that the reporter be permitted to consult with an accountant to verify the accuracy and methods of calculating deferred costs. We do not want the reporter and the paper to be accused of accepting what the City says without consulting a professional number cruncher, do we? After all, verification of news stories is part of what a newspaper should do. This information would be a tremendous value to all citizens of our city.

OldMarcoMan writes:

LOL Avenger

Marcoite writes:

Thank you Byrone. i would support an Eagle article and I agree that a third party verification would add legitimacy to the reporting.

bankerguynaples writes:

bbyrone: As you know, since former editor Tom Riff and senior reporter Ed Bania quit the Eagle last year, the reporters of this newspaper have been accepting what the City says without investigating and consulting others. The people and advertisers know this and advertising revenue shrank. That's why the Eagle went from a five day weekly to a two a week rag.

SmokeyJoe writes:

With all the talk of the Fire Dept. funds being collected as assessments to equalize payments by residents, why is there no one wanting to equalize the sewer assessments instead of having Sheffield area residents paying so much more than other areas assessed? I remember the condo area residents saying " we paid to connect to sewer so all the rest of the Island should have to connect to public sewer and pay as well." Did anyone else have to pay $25000.00 to $30,000.00 to connect to sewer? I don,t think so! Whatever happened to " EQUAL TREATMENT UNDER THE LAW "

Leroy writes:

The Lamplighter district is getting their sewers...I just wish Davies were here to see all of the construction and dewatering activities (but, like his friend Foster he loved Marco Island so much that he moved). Makes me feel warm all over.

Foster, I know you love the attention but you are a shameless idiot!

Richard_Gibke writes:

All I can say is "Thank God" the anti-city candidates didn't get into office! Guidry is an obnoxious, immature sore loser. Hall is just a self-righteous, self-centered, pompous egomaniac and Neylon is just a plain liar. With Godfrey Davies as city manager and Ed Foster leading up a utility board they would have ruined our city and bankrupted Marco Island by stopping the STRP.

In the end, sanity took over!

27_Year_Resident writes:

My sentiments exactly Richard; government is NEVER perfect but at least we have elected honest reasonable people who are vested in our community representing us and that's the most we could hope for.

Thank you Marco City Councilors (past & present) for your time, dedication and perseverance.

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