Council to discuss speeding up Marco’s sewer project

Electric fees, underground electric lines and other issues among Monday's agenda items

Article Highlights

  • Debate on what to do with leftover electric underground project money likely Monday
  • STRP may go faster to increase income, save money on construction
  • Overhead electric lines don't look like they'll be put underground anytime soon
Wayne Waldack

Eagle staff

Wayne Waldack

Forcht

Forcht

Public Works Director Rony Joel presents council with the state of the water utility, saying that the sewer assessment pot is empty and there are less than 90 days left in the operating fund. Joel and city consultants informed council of factors leading to rate hikes, including 'dampened water usage in the future forecast' and erred projections of more customers and city growth while the actual number of customers is shrinking.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff

Public Works Director Rony Joel presents council with the state of the water utility, saying that the sewer assessment pot is empty and there are less than 90 days left in the operating fund. Joel and city consultants informed council of factors leading to rate hikes, including "dampened water usage in the future forecast" and erred projections of more customers and city growth while the actual number of customers is shrinking.

— The idea of accelerating the Island’s sewer project may begin with officials pontificating on the matter, but is likely to lead to some action soon, councilors say.

Public Works Director Rony Joel is to present City Council with some facts and data to support the idea that getting the septic tank replacement program done faster will save everyone money.

Earlier in July, when Marco officials discussed their consideration of raising water and sewer rates by 13 percent to begin in October, followed by similar increases each year for the next five years, Islanders began to wonder aloud what could be done to avoid the steep increases.

First, slowing it down was mentioned, but Councilman Ted Forcht, a longtime opponent of the STRP, was among the first to say the project was too far along to equitably and inexpensively slow the program or cancel it.

After reviewing the issue for several days, former councilman and retired utility expert John Arceri said speeding it up may actually be a benefit for Islanders and their utility because the faster people are on the system, the faster they pay into it.

Joel has since advised council in a recent memo that acceleration could bring a savings to all Islanders as contractors are prepared for such a project and available for work following the cancellation, or at least longterm delay, of Cape Coral’s utility project.

“The city should anticipate receiving $500,000 to $2 million in additional (grants) from Big Cypress Basin and other granting authorities should the STRP program be expedited,” Joel advised.

The STRP began in 2005 and 1,700 more properties, of the original approximate 5,600, are left to be added to the system, Joel has reported.

Council is to review the item for discussion Monday, but several councilors have expressed an interest in taking a more serious look and making a decision on the matter of speeding up the project.

“We need to begin looking at this soon, so we can give people time to prepare if we change the schedule,” Councilman Wayne Waldack said.

Electric refund?

The issue of what to do with excess money collected on customers electric bills for placing electric lines underground is likely to be a juiced-up discussion.

“If we’re not going to go ahead with the underground (electric line) project, then we should kill the 3.6 percent electric franchise fee,” Waldack said.

There is approximately $900,000 already collected for the project by LCEC from customers’ electric bills on the city’s behalf. This will become a surplus if putting overhead electric wires underground is cancelled.

Waldack said he doesn’t think it can be equitably and efficiently returned to customers in the form of a refund.

Amadeo Petricca said the Marco Island Taxpayers’ Association board takes a different stance. He says the money can be, and should be, given back to customers.

Petricca recommends customers fill out a form to request the money back from the city, with copies of their electric bills over the course the surplus money was collected, and get a full, equitable refund.

“It’s just not going to happen that way,” Waldack said. He added that he believes it would cost too much time and money for such a refund process and suggests instead that the money be spent on a community project that benefits everyone.

Other items on the agenda include:

- Reading of a tree ordinance, which would establish guidelines for planting trees on city property, help deal with disputes among neighbors regarding tree maintenance and create a tree fund for penalties, fines and donations.

- Award of a contract to an annual auditor.

- Key Marco wastewater collection system to be added to the city system.

City Council meets 5:30 p.m. Monday in the Community Room, 51 Bald Eagle Drive.

See related story link about the short-term rental ordinance for more on council’s agenda for Monday. Also view related links for the full agenda and supporting documents.

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Comments » 2

happy6 writes:

waldunck...steal the lcec money and spend it on "another project" are you kidding me???? it's OUR money...not the city's and certainly not the council's.

NobodysFool57 writes:

In the sidebar Public Works director Rony Joel essesntially says MIU is broke with 3 months to go in the budget year. I'm tired of paying top dollar for total incompetence. If Utilities Director Jeff Poteet can cover his butt, Rony needs to go. If Rony can absolve himself of any wrongdoing, the ball is in Steve Thompson's court. Some City employee is going to have to take the hit for this, otherwise the next couple council elections will send the message these bureaucrats have thus far failed to heed.

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