Marco electric users won’t get their $1 million refund

Article Highlights

  • Marco Island Taxpayers' Association calls it "misappropriation of funds"
  • Lack of refund doesn't make residents happy
  • $1 million surplus gets split between park projects and reserves

— Marco’s million dollar question has been hanging in the air for weeks and some residents weren’t pleased with the final answer Monday.

Preliminary decisions made by council in workshops this summer weren’t official and the final answer almost got delayed again.

“Do we have to brainstorm this tonight? I mean God forbid it would sit there for a while,” Vice Chairman Frank Recker said.

Council did make a decision though and voted 5-2 not to refund about $1.1 million in extra electric franchise fees. Council’s attention was needed on the matter after it was learned a surplus had accrued rather than an earlier reported debt on a project to put overhead electric lines underground.

The accrual came from a 3.6 percent electric franchise fee paid to the Island’s electric provider, Lee County Electric Cooperative. LCEC collected the money on behalf of the city and it was to be used for a then-popular underground electric line project.

The project to put overhead electric lines underground Island-wide was canceled when project cost estimates from LCEC continued to escalate.

The issue has been contentious because some of the money from the electric fee was spent by the city for street lights not underground electric projects.

Marco Island Taxpayers’ Association board member Amadeo Petricca and President Fay Biles have minced no words about what they thought of the city’s management of this money.

Biles reminded council that “misappropriation of funds” is illegal and she says she could have a strong legal case against the city.

Council considered many ways to use the money including $35,000 for a memorial at Veterans’ Community Park (as requested by Marco VFW Post 6370 Commander Dave Gardner), $150,000 on street lights for athletic fields at Mackle Park (as suggested by President of the Optimist Club Tom Garousi) and $400,000 on burying overhead electric lines near Veterans’ Community Park (as requested by Councilman Bill Trotter).

“You can do just about anything you want to with it at this point,” City Manger Steve Thompson said.

“Obviously, I disagree with all of you. You’ve misappropriated millions of dollars from this fund already,” said Petricca.

Councilman Chuck Kiester questioned whether it might be prudent to try to get money back to those who paid it without the expense of issuing dollar-for-dollar refunds. He suggested reducing proposed utility rate increases. If this were done, city utility customers would get about a 8 percent rate increase on water and waste water rates instead of the currently proposed 13 percent increase.

“You shouldn’t offset one problem by creating another problem,” Petricca said.

Council voted 5-2 to spend $550,000 on putting electric lines underground at Veterans’ Community Park and to put lighting on athletic fields at Mackle Park. The remaining $550,000 would go into capital contingency. Councilmen Ted Forcht and Jerry Gibson opposed.

If refunded, the Island’s two largest hotels would get refunds of about $150,000 each, Public Works Director Rony Joel reported.

When combined, the city and the city-run utility would get the largest refund.

A resident with an average bill of about $100 per month would have received about a $42 refund, Joel reported.

Resident Ken Honecker said it was a small amount of money but it was the point of what had happened that mattered to him.

“It’s a needle under your nail type of thing,” Honecker said.

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Comments » 24

jwputnam writes:

The fact that they broke the law and missappropriated funds doesn't even come up. And they wonder why some us call then the "syndicate". More disgraceful shennigans.

marcoislandres writes:

It is not the amount of the refund it is the Principal of it. Refunding the money would have been the right thing to do and would have went a long way in letting the people on this Island know you cared about them.
You guys just don't get it do you?

happy6 writes:

what a joke...this entire town is being run by crooks....this money belongs to the taxpayers and should not be at the discretion of the inept council...and certainly not the city mgr and rony joel.....it's our money! this is borderline theft....the money was never the city's to use as they see fit....where is LCEC in all this fiasco? they billed us. i am steaming over this theft.

Fossil writes:

What difference does it make if the majority of the money goes to hotels and the city? If the hotels paid one cent to underground the lines and the City failed to do it then that one cent belongs to the hotels. If the City (the taxpayer) paid for undergrounding and our leaders failed to give it to us, then return it to the taxpayer. When is the city going to stop justifying stealing? Our leadership thinks like crooks and goes to church on Sunday (what does your clergy teach you? There is a limit to the amount of redemption confession can give you). Do the right thing for a change, your decisions reflect on your parantage. Show us that you were brought up right.

Marconian writes:

They consistently make lame brain decisions like this and think they need a raise!....UNBELIEVABLE!

Smeg writes:

Relax, you won't feel a thing.

Seek records at the Collier Cty Clerk of Courts website to investgate the flim flam council and parks directors(plus others). Apparently we should not expect city finances to make sense with these monkeys rolling the dough.

Ohhh --- It's believable!
Relax.

Don't begin to think you might be anonymous on any NDN blog. Those that want to know, know.

fortl writes:

What we need is a good old fashioned class action lawsuit.
And a complaint to the Economic Crimes Unit for Collier County.
I personally have finally had enough of these bureaucrats and their support systems for robbery and am seeking out Miami and Tampa based class action lawyers.
I want to file the compaint BEFORE the elections, Throw the Bums Out PAC

jwputnam writes:

Let's face it. We don't want to throw out the conservatives. We need only replace Popoff this time around. Magel SOUNDS good, but I am very concerned that Granda and Patterson ("syndicate" members) are on Magel's election committee. Magel is also a condo official which is OK, but loyalties also concern me....especially when a MAJOR issue coming up is water/sewer rates and the replacement of pipes, etc. There is absolutely no question that the condos, hotels and businesses have been getting a VERY low rate and that is untenable in a democracy. I also do not want to see ANYONE on council who would continue to associate with John Arceri in any way...or appoint him to any committees...same for Lazurus, Granda et al. THEY are the ones who REALLY have to go. They are the trouble.

playballonK writes:

JWP brings up a great point, we need to be very aware of these canidates associates and who they pal with.
Throw the syndicate OUT! on this next election and lets take our paradise back from these crooks.
P.s. I was told Popoff wasn't running.(lets hope)

Dan_OHagen writes:

John you obvisously have some personal vendetta against Rob Popoff. Did he insult you, did he hurt your feelings? Does he remid you of someone who beat you up in high school?

Rob happens to be one of the best councilors we have, just check his voting record. Almost everything you complain about he is the champion of. He drove the millage rate down, he insisted on cutting spending as far back as last year, Rob won't run for office, would amaze me if he did and it will be a loss. I suggest you put your skewed personal feelings aside and look at the facts for a change. You are nothing more than an armchair politician and if you didn't have the guts to sign your name I would call you a coward. Although sitting behind your computer screen and judging people is pretty cowardess. You pick out one person and slander them. First it was Lisa Douglas, now it's Rob Popoff. When they ignore you long enough you simply find your next prey and I'm sure you have your next warm victim in the wings.

I don't blog often but I do read your blogs. At times I have found myself agreeing with you but I cannot respect your methods! You make sport out of these blogs at others expense.

John, really just one question, please answer it as many have asked you and you have always avoided answering this question:

"What have you done for Marco Island?"

Soloman writes:

John, your hatred for Rob is the best endorsement he can get!!

marcoorig writes:

Dan & Soloman:

Couldn't agree with you more.

GBR writes:

Let me make sure I have this correct.
They overcharge by $1.1 million for a specific project.
Then decide not to do the project.
Then, start coming up with ways to spend the money they never should have collected in the first place.

I'm pretty sure this would be considered a criminal offense in the other 49 states.

And you wonder why they call us Floriduh!!!!!

;-)

lauralbi1 writes:

Let me get this straight. We are using monies collected for undergrounding utilities to underground utilities (for our Town Center Park). At least 1/2 of the money is going for that and lighting.
Then we have citizens who want to file a class action lawsuit that has no merit that will cost the City more than the amount collected under this program.
The other day I saw people flying kites in the park, what a great sight. The power lines are a real eye sore and interference with the football games and kites. Why not use the money for that purpose ?? As we all agree, the Hotels and businesses on the Island paid for most of it anyway.
Im think this is a just another case of the complainers complaining. If it wasn't this, it would be the bridge.
This is a great place to live and most of us enjoy each and every minute of every day living here.
Ed Issler

happy6 writes:

ed...come on...for once agree that the council is not doing right by the people...this money is ours,,,not the councils, and it needs to be returned to the rightful owners of the money. go to the besch...see kites flying...and the hotels/condos are not paying for most of it as you seem to think...there is a beautiful beach at the south end around cape marco condos...who paid for that...collier county citizens and marco citizens....and if you're loving living here every minute then you are a hermit...drive around the island ed....it's a disaster...and we're now redoing the bald eagle/san marco intersection for the 20th time in 3 years....oh...but it's "grant" money...does not cost me and you a dime...you moron!

fortl writes:

Great News
I have found two law firms who will consider the class action suit!!!
Also the Sheriifs Office Economic Crimes is opening a file on criminal investigating the situation - i.e. larceny, conversion misappropriation of funds, etc etc.

jwputnam writes:

fortl,

If you are serious, I suggest that you contact MITA. I believe that others are persuing the same thing and no need to duplicate.

jimbo46marco writes:

This is so simple. The electric company knows exactly what they charged each owner in tax. Give the money back to them and ask them to credit each unit that paid the fee. This will simply reduce next months electric bill. This includes the hotels...why try to fleece them, they were just as much a victim as any other stakeholder on the island.

Do the right thing.

Marconian writes:

in response to Smeg:

Relax, you won't feel a thing.

Seek records at the Collier Cty Clerk of Courts website to investgate the flim flam council and parks directors(plus others). Apparently we should not expect city finances to make sense with these monkeys rolling the dough.

Ohhh --- It's believable!
Relax.

Don't begin to think you might be anonymous on any NDN blog. Those that want to know, know.

Smeg this may be a dumb question but I don't claim to be computer savvy but what does ndn stand for. just curious....is it naples daily news...and if so are you indicating someone in the paper is filling someone in on who is who to someone in the city? and if that would be the assumtion isnt that a privacy violation... just curious...

ejburger writes:

I was at the meeting when council suggested returning the money and the LCEC rep said they had no way to return the money. I like councilors Kiester and Popoffs idea of putting the money into the water company and lowering rates accordingly but it got no support form council.

OldMarcoMan writes:

Ejburger your 100% correct, but Im a little confused as to why when it actually came to 'the rubber hitting the road' only Forcht and Gibson voted for the people?
Makes you think, doesn't it.

ejburger writes:

If Kiester or Popoff voted against it they would not be able to bring it up at a future meeting. My guess is that they voted for it so they can bring it back up. I heard both councilors say that the money should be returned to the people by putting the money in a utilities fund to lower our water rates. I guess we'll see what happens.

jwputnam writes:

EJ,

I probably do not understand the nuances of a vote in council, but it is my continuing impression that Popoff often makes a lot of noise in favor of the people, but seems to consistently vote with the syndicate. This was most certainly true in the case of the STRP no matter his denials.

ejburger writes:

You need to check his votes John; your wrong.

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