UPDATE: Marco Council story/blog: City approves tax rate of 1.6518 mils

Council raises and spending cap revision get council nods of approval as does utility rate increase

Article Highlights

  • Utility rate increase of 9.5 percent effect Oct. 1 was approved as previously discussed by Council; other increases are still to be reviewed
  • Council gives general concensus for changes to City Charter, including council raise, spending cap change and term limit changes to make January ballot
  • Council approves ad valorem tax rate of 1.6518 mils, or about $1.65 per $1,000 of taxable property value, temporarily delays capital projects
Resident Robert Glaub suggests a big cut to city spending would be to get rid of the Marco Island Police Department and accept service from the Collier County Sheriff's Office exclusively. Glaub drew laughter after saying the proposal didn't have much of a chance, particularly if City Manager Steve Thompson were to be assigned to report to Council on the idea after putting Police Chief Thom Carr in charge of investigating it.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff

Resident Robert Glaub suggests a big cut to city spending would be to get rid of the Marco Island Police Department and accept service from the Collier County Sheriff's Office exclusively. Glaub drew laughter after saying the proposal didn't have much of a chance, particularly if City Manager Steve Thompson were to be assigned to report to Council on the idea after putting Police Chief Thom Carr in charge of investigating it.

Chairman of the Charter Review Committee, James Riviere, received accolades from City Council for keeping proposed changes to the City Charter, which may make the January 2010 ballot, clear and concise.

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff

Chairman of the Charter Review Committee, James Riviere, received accolades from City Council for keeping proposed changes to the City Charter, which may make the January 2010 ballot, clear and concise.

Which is your favorite Smokehouse Bay Bridge design

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— Marco residents said Monday that they wanted to see cuts in city spending all the way down to whether the city printed documents in color.

However, Council focused on setting a millage rate that they could get approved and finding cuts in the budget based on that tax rate.

The property tax rate approved is a decrease from estimated tax bills of 1.85 mils. Council approved a rate of 1.6518 mils, or about $1.65 per $1,000 of taxable property value.

The tax rate is a 19 percent rate increase from last year’s 1.39 mils, but many agreed it’s not a lot of money for most people on Island.

“It’s the principle,” said resident Ken Honecker, who wanted to see Council focus on cutting costs.

Chairman Rob Popoff agreed. “It’s more than saving $75 or $100 on your tax bill. The people out here want to see we’re actually listening to them,” he said.

Popoff, along with Councilmen Chuck Kiester and Ted Forcht prevented the passing of a tax rate of 1.7 mils or higher by not giving the required super-majority vote.

However, Forcht’s motion of 1.6 mils failed for lack of support and a compromise was eventually reached.

Many public speakers at the meeting said they wanted to see city cuts in spending more than they were concerned about a millage rate between 1.59 mils and 1.7 mils.

“All I know is the tax of 1.6 or 1.7 (mils) doesn’t make any difference to me, but you really don’t talk about cutting out the budget,” said resident Robert Glaub.

A sticking point for many residents is that the city is adding staff for the second consecutive year and maintaining salaries at a time when other organizations and municipalities are cutting staff and salaries.

“You always talk ‘the cap,’ let’s put a cap on the staff,” said Joe Oliverio, owner of Joey’s Pizza.

The city’s spending cap prohibits spending more than 3 percent plus COLA more than the year before.

Oliverio didn’t suggest firing anyone, but didn’t support three new staff in the budget.

Resident Sal Sciarrino said the same seven people come to every meeting and say they represent a lot of people, but he doesn’t see all those people they purport to represent.

“Where are all the poor people of Marco Island?” Sciarrino asked.

Councilman Wayne Waldack, who supported the maximum millage rate, urged residents to talk to Collier County officials instead of city officials because county taxes are higher than city taxes. “It’s an unfair burden,” Waldack said of the criticism council receives.

“This is our dais ... You guys are representing us,” Marco Island Taxpayers’ Association board member Amadeo Petricca said. He recommended council talk to county officials on residents’ behalf.

“I’m one of those guys who writes to the county, writes to the paper, writes to the White House and most of the time, I don’t get an answer ... For the sake of the city, tighten your belts,” said resident Victor Rios.

Gibson asked why MITA doesn’t spend more time addressing county taxes.

“It’s our purpose. We’re concerned about keeping this (city) government under control,” MITA treasurer Karen Glaub answered.

“If you can’t become part of the cure then you just become part of the problem,” said MITA President Fay Biles to council.

Honecker said the final dollar increase likely wasn’t going to be too much, but it’s the principle that bothered him.

He wanted to see more efforts to cut spending as well. Council needs to find another $440,000 to cut from the budget after coming down from their prior agreement of 1.7 mils, but they couldn’t agree on what to cut.

“I’ve never had a Council not want to make a decision on a budget,” Thompson said.

Trotter said he is concerned about infrastructure, capital needs and essential services in the long term.

Popoff suggested cutting about $1.35 million in capital improvement projects, including delaying the repair of the Hernando Bridge.

Trotter said he would prefer to see a proportional decrease in operational cuts. He said cutting capital projects was easy but everyone would “wake up with a hangover” when it came time to catch up on needed projects.

“Right now, most of us can’t wake up with a hangover because we can’t afford the booze,” Popoff said.

“We’re postponing critical infrastructure and calling it budget cutting and it’s not,” Recker said. “What we’re doing is fooling the people,” he added.

Council approved removing the capital improvements from the budget in order to meet the Oct. 1 deadline. Council is to look more closely at the best areas to cut later in October.

“Let’s do our due diligence,” Trotter urged his colleagues.


Smokehouse Bay Bridge

Each of the five design firms are presenting to City Council the alternative options for the replacement of the Smokehouse Bay Bridge.

The bridge replacement is estimated to cost about $12 million and some residents have questioned why it costs so much.

City Manager Steve Thompson has pointed out that the Winterberry Bridge cost about $6 million to replace and is a single span bridge. However the Smokehouse Bay Bridge is a two-span bridge.

There are fewer than 25 residents listening to the presentation live. Many residents have said that aesthetically, they prefer the two designs which include overhead arches.

Some residents, particularly members of the Marco Island Taxpayers' Association, however are recommending the least expensive bridge and are asking city officials if a bridge without the "extras," which include pedestrian pathways and a fishing pier, could be considered.

Thompson is hoping to learn more about council's direction for the project as council decided to delay funding the bridge by one year in earlier budget discussions. Council may decide tonight whether to approve obtaining the permits for the project and further design plans.

Thompson said doing so would be helpful as more stimulus dollars may still be available for projects such as this if they are "shovel ready," or have everything in place but the money to build.

View specifics of each of the five designs in a photo gallery and related stories.

The city had about 600 residents share their favorite design and the favorite was Volkert's design, which came with an approximate $9 million price tag without the "extras."

TY Lin is least expensive and Lochner is most expensive when just looking at the cost to replace the bridge and the roadway. The cost comparisons took out the cost of the "extras," or the bay walk and the fishing pier. Estimates for those two features total between $330,000 and $1 million.

TY Lin's estimate is $7.61 million and Lochner, the most expensive is estimated at about $10 million. All would take about 18 months to construct once work begins, Public Works Director Rony Joel said.

Joel recommended council "continue at a slow pace" to allow for grant application while still holding more public meetings to prioritize aspects of the project.

Joel said the money has already been collected and allocated to pay for the project's design and no more money is being requested in this budget.

Payment is to occur over the life of the bridge and it's a bridge with an approximate 75-year life span, he added.

Councilman Bill Trotter repeated that this is a four-lane, two span bridge compared to the Winterberry Bridge replaced last year at a cost of $6 million which was one span and two lanes.

Trotter also said: "Just because we have the budget for it, doesn't mean we have to spend it." He asked that when the details of the project come before council again in October, that more specifics come out about each step and cost.

Amadeo Petricca, a member of the MITA board, said he would like more details on the need to replace the bridge.

Resident Bill McMullan, who operates an Internet-based network of Marco residents keeping an eye on Island issues, called "Eye on Marco," wanted more details as well.

Despite Joel's and FDOT Debbie Tower's statements that bridge ratings would not be released to the public due to Homeland Security regulations, McMullan was able to obtain them and the public may do so as well, he said.

He said DOT's rating was about 80 percent, which is in the range for maintenance not necessarily replacement. McMullan said that some call the extras "fluff."

"I think there's a lot of flexibility here," McMullan said.

Resident Howard Laskau questioned why the bridge was so expensive. "The Jolley Bridge is going to cost about $25 million. How can something 10 times as big cost three times as much?" Laskau pondered aloud to council.

Resident Rouleau said it's time to let the five firms know the city's direction. He questioned whether the Volkert Bridge would be too low in terms of clearance underneath.

"And just because I can... Personally, I truly like the TBE (bridge design) without some of the flowers," Rouleau said.

City Charter review committee presentation

"If you're going to be on the January ballot now is the time to decide," said Chairman of the Charter review committee James Riviere as council began to review proposed changes to the City Charter.

He said otherwise a vote on changes to the City Charter could come to a June 2010 vote. City Clerk Laura Litzan clarified that the ballot options need to go to the Supervisor of Elections by December 1 to make it to the January election.

The committee has recommended seven primary changes.

- "Most anticipated debate," the spending cap, had the least debate, Riviere said. He said the spending cap would be edited to allow for the cap to be calculated differently in bad times, such as the current economic state. "If prudence requires spending under the cap, then you don't have to lose it," Riviere said. The charter would be amended, if voters approve it, to start calculating the spending cap with FY 2008 and from that point forward it never goes down. The spending cap limits spending to no more than 3 percent plus COLA more than the year before. The city would then start calculating the cap beginning with the last year they had to budget under the cap due to property value declines. See related stories and check back with marconews.com for more on this issue.

City Attorney Alan Gabriel said the city's charter is valid. He has in the past questioned the legality of amending it without a special act of the Legislature approving it, but the cap has already been amended in the past. Chairman Rob Popoff said the "voters have spoken" they wanted a spending cap in order to even approve creating a city. Popoff wants to be able to lower taxes without fearing for the future.

-Any expense more than $12 million shall be approved by ordinance, not resolution. The history is that the controversial sewer project passed by resolution and an ordinance allows 10 percent of residents to petition against an ordinance after it passes, but not a resolution. Gabriel advised a conflict with state law may require further look at this proposed city charter change.

-City Council members will get an approximate 33 percent raise from $6,000 per year to $9,000 per year and the chairman will get paid an increase from $9,000 currently to $12,000 per year beginning January 2011 with COLA being added each year after. Committee member Jack Patterson thought it wasn't the time. Trotter said it was an accumulated COLA and he supported it for that reason. Riviere said after reviewing other cities' compensation to council members, it seemed reasonable.

- Beginning with the 2014 election, no council member will serve more than eight years.

- On a super majority vote, or vote of 5 of 7 council members, Council may investigate any city department or employee. The impetus for the review of this part of the charter was Vice Chairman Frank Recker and the questions following former interim-City Manager Dana Souza's transition report.

-City manager must communicate to council immediately any deviation or possibility of deviation from the budget of $250,000 or 10 percent, whichever is lower. Riviere said amending city manager powers was the most debated section of the charter.

"I think you've done an incredible job keeping things clean and straight up," Recker said.

The City Charter is currently about 12 pages and after the proposed changes, will remain a relatively short document. The charter, which sets up the city's form of government is significantly shorter than many city ordinances.

City Councilman Wayne Waldack asked about a city mayor.

Patterson warned that creating a city mayor causes the risk of one man being held responsible for everything.

City Councilman Jerry Gibson asked what the spending cap revision means. "Whatever our cap was in 2008... if we decide to cut the budget down tonight to $8 million, we'll only go back to the 2008 level. Not the 2009 level?"

"That's right," Gabriel answered.

"If you start at the 2008 level and every year it increases by 3 percent plus COLA...." Gabriel added.

"It needs to be clearer," Gibson said.

Gabriel said an option was to put in language that the cap would not go down, but he plans to present clearer language in the next few weeks.

Petricca said there should be examples given to explain the changes on the spending cap to the public and council.

Resident Keith Dameron said "it wasn't the time" for council raises. McMullan agreed, saying the public might "over-react" if the item is put on a ballot.

Resident Ken Honecker said he wanted other forms of government to be looked at.

City enforcement issues were postponed.

Popoff asked for Police Chief Thom Carr to present a report to council on the increased law and code enforcement efforts, including parking tickets near home driveways, in the future instead of discussing with the public tonight.

Trotter disagreed. This came out of the short term rental ordinance, he said.

Thompson will put the issue on the next workshop agenda.

Residents' concerns on issues not on the agenda


Petricca wanted clearer reporting, even after the forensic audit, on where the money for the Collier Boulevard reconstruction project came from.

"Maybe we learned from Maddoff... or from my Italian friend Ponzi," Petricca said drawing a laugh from Council and the audience.


Victor Rios of the Collier County Coastal Advisory Committee and Ken Kubat, chair of the Marco Beach Advisory Committee, spoke to Council about the issue of the Tourist Development Council recommending spending beach renourishment money on tourism marketing. Kubat said with Marco's BAC and the county CAC opposing the diversion of money, he hoped council would also oppose the proposal. Popoff said something would be drafted to show Council's opposition to the use of beach renourishment money for resort destination marketing.


Honecker said the sound is still off on the TV broadcast of Council meetings and he never sees the meeting repeats. "I think we need to push that up to the top of the pile if the money has already been appropriated since this is the council of communication," Honecker said.

Public Information Coordinator Lisa Douglass said she made a mistake on repeating the summer Council meetings and it is being rectified and the sound was fixed in a rush prior to the meeting after working fine early in the morning.

Roads are a mess from the STRP, says Ben Rouleau.

McMullan outlined the financial distress in the nation and county. He said there are more than 500 homes on Marco in foreclosure, including four out of the 11 on his block. He said all cities are reducing employees except Marco. "We hired last year and we're hiring this year," McMullan said.

Council communication

Councilman Wayne Waldack nominated Joyce Perry to the audit committee.

Setting the final ad valorem tax rate to 1.6518 mils

Council is holding the final public hearing on the Fiscal Year 2010 budget and millage rate.

Trotter said it's not about spending it's about revenue. Property values are expected to continue to decline, state shared revenues are down again and city interest on accounts is down.

Waldack suggested to approve the 1.7 millage rate and Trotter seconded.

Trotter said that although the percentage increase has been reported at more than 20 percent, "it's a very small amount of money in absolute terms for the services the city has given."

He added that the millage rate continued to go down in the good years causing the rate to need to go up in the tougher years. Trotter is concerned about infrastructure, capital needs and essential services in the longterm.

Popoff said it's more than saving $75 or $100 on your tax bill. "The people out here want to see we're actually listening to them," he said.

Popoff said there is room to cut from the budget and we may be able to recapture through amending the City Charter, but you never know if people will vote to approve that.

He said if the projects in the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) are delayed for one year, then the millage rate could go down to 1.6004 mils, or about $1.60 per $1,000 of property value.

"There is a way around the cap. When we need something, we get it," Popoff said. "Trust our electorate," he added.

"If I don't run for re-election, I could go down as the guy who ruined this for this city," Popoff said.

The rollback rate is 1.6, up from last year's rate of 1.39. The rollback rate is the rate that would bring in the same amount of money as the year before. Postpone the CIP, with projects totaling just less than $1 million, and the Hernando Bridge, which costs $350,000, Popoff suggested.

Waldack said he sees letters to cut taxes, but they're all to the city and he sees none to the county. "It's an unfair burden," Waldack said.

He said it's $3 million the city will be in the hole when going down from 1.85 mils, which was the maximum rate in estimated bills taxpayers received, to 1.60 mils.

Kiester reminded everyone that he voted no to 1.7 mils and the corresponding budget because he felt there was "too much fat in it."

He said the 3 percent cap is not meant to be something they must budget up to every year. "Let's sit back and do what we have to do at the time. I don't see the dire consequences of losing the ability to tax a few million dollars 10 years into the future," Kiester said.

Kiester supported 1.6 mils, but would like to see it go lower still.

Last year, Council spent below the spending cap for the first time.

Trotter had said if Council goes too low this year they will "wake up with a hangover" when it comes to votes needed according to state rules for increasing tax rates.

"Right now most of us can't wake up with a hangover because we can't afford the booze," Popoff said.

Gibson said it's not a popular choice but the city's tax rate is lower than many fire districts alone and the city includes fire and police service, among other services.

"The citizens are intelligent and will be able to address the cap issue at that point," Popoff said.

"Yeah, but they won't. I'm not willing to gamble," Gibson replied.

Recker said he didn't think taxpayers would be upset about a 1.7 millage rate if they spent it responsibly. "For purposes of political reality tonight we need four votes and I think that brings us to the rollback rate," he added.

"Put off the capital for a year.' That's an easy thing to say. We should be looking at the longterm here," Trotter said.

"We're postponing critical infrastructure and calling it budget cutting and it's not," Recker said. Trotter agreed.

"What we're doing is fooling the people," Recker said.

"Keep it in the millage rate,' that's all we've heard," Trotter said regarding other solutions, such as a fire assessment.

"We're just mortgaging our future," Trotter said explaining his concern about delaying capital projects.

Recker said he agreed to some criticisms he has heard about how Marco spends money.

"I'd go to 1.7 (mils) and still cut the projects you're talking about," Recker said.

Trotter said the budget can be amended but they need to lock in a millage rate.


Karen Glaub, MITA treasurer, said 99 percent of MITA members support a 1.59 millage rate and would likely not argue the rate of 1.6044. "There are other things to cut besides that (Capital Improvement Program,)" she said.

Upon Waldack's request, Glaub said about 200 MITA members answered the questions.

Gibson asked why MITA didn't work to get county taxes lower.

"It's our purpose. We're concerned about keeping this (city) government under control," Glaub said.

"You always talk 'the cap,' let's put a cap on the staff," said Joe Oliverio, owner of Joey's Pizza.

Oliverio said he didn't want to see anyone get fired but didn't support three new staff that are in the budget.

Kiester said if we keep adding infrastructure, we have to hire staff.

"All I know is the tax (rate) of 1.6 or 1.7 (mils) doesn't make any difference to me, but you really don't talk about cutting out the budget," said resident Robert Glaub.

He suggested shutting down the police department and using the Collier County Sheriff's Office again. "We're already paying millions for this service every year and you're constitutionally obligated to give us this service," Robert Glaub said.

"The gorilla in the room has always been the spending cap," Honecker said. He added that there are fees, such as the fee on the utility bill for repaving roads, that could brought back under the cap and would bring them to the maximum allowed under city charter if they wanted, but he didn't think the cap should drive the budget and tax rate.

Petricca didn't like the council telling residents to talk to the county. "This is our dais... You guys are representing us," Petricca said to the Council, recommending they talk to the county officials on Marco residents' behalf.

He added that the utility bill increases are another part of city bills going up. Petricca did agree that he would rather pay all bills in ad valorem taxes than in any other fees.

"Through 2010, we're still going to be in a dump," Petricca forecast.

Rios said: "I'm one of those guys who writes to the county, writes to the paper, writes to the White House and most of the time, I don't get an answer."

"For the sake of the city, tighten your belt," Rios said.

MITA President Fay Biles said she wanted to see cuts on the city level.

"If you can't become part of the cure than you just become part of the problem," Biles said.

"I'm so astounded by the attacks," said resident Sal Sciarrino, adding that it's always the same seven people coming to the meetings every week. They say they represent a lot of people, but those people aren't seen, he added.

"Do your best thing. Don't become like Congress has," he said.

"Where are all the poor people of Marco Island?" Sciarrino asked.

Recker and Waldack suggested the millage rate stay at 1.7 mils as previously approved by Council and the CIP and Hernando Bridge will be delayed one year with the money going to reserves.

"I think fixing our bridges is a priority. It's a safety issue," said Councilman Ted Forcht, adding that he wondered if there might be stimulus dollars for the project.

Kiester, Popoff and Forcht voted no and since 1.7 mils needed super majority, the motion failed.

Forcht said he would support 1.6004 mils but got no second. Popoff suggested 1.6518 mils and removed the delay of capital projects to a later discussion this evening about the budget. Recker seconded 1.6518 plus the .0955 debt service for Veterans' Community Park.

Waldack delayed voting and Forcht said "ride the pony cowboy."

The motion passed 5-2 with Forcht and Kiester opposing the rate.

Cutting the budget to reflect rate of 1.6518 mils down from max estimate of 1.85 mils

Reserves will be used to spend up to the cap by putting money in an "equipment replacement fund," which will be undesignated reserves for items such as vehicle replacement, building maintenance and other capital projects as needed.

Finance Director Patricia Bliss said there were errors in the Sept. 18 budget summary. Bliss said the error was made by the newspaper during typesetting the camera-ready copy.

The city general fund is a total of about $25 million with $15 million coming from property taxes, $4.5 million coming from other resources and $5.3 million coming from fund balances and reserves brought forward from the previous year. The $5 million in reserves is not spend, so the general fund spending budget is actually about $20 million.

Council, particularly Kiester, Recker and Trotter, said they didn't want to see adding new staff for bringing landscape maintenance in-house into the budget. They wanted to see more of a case study. Resident Larry Magel, who serves on several committees, has suggested working on the current contract for landscaping before deciding whether to bring in-house. The issue will be tabled until after January, they decided. Popoff and Gibson voted no on tabling.

Trotter didn't want to create a fund to spend up to the cap. "It's not creating revenue," he said.

He thought it should be a broader name and didn't want any money spent without their knowledge on equipment replacement.

Thompson said it was to complete the second part of deciding to pay for things over their useful life. The reserve would allow for money to be in an account so if many major improvements reach the end of their useful life at the same time, there is money to begin such new projects.

"Call it 'spending to the cap as a line item,'" Thompson suggested.

He added that it could be created with the requirement to have Council approval.

"I think we can trust Thompson to bring it to us," Kiester said.

Trotter said delaying capital projects is "like mortgaging our future."

Thompson said the cut from 1.7 to 1.6518 mils equates to another approximate $400,000 cut. "If you could give me a couple sacred cows," he asked.

Trotter suggested keeping the capital about the same percentage of the budget. He wanted cuts to come from both pots-- capital projects and operations.

Thompson said Oct. 1 the city must approve the budget.

It can be amended any time, Trotter said.

"Let's do our due diligence," he added.

"I've never had a Council not want to make a decision on a budget," Thompson said.

Gabriel suggested taking a couple minutes. "We need to approve a budget that is as accurate to an actual budget as possible," Gabriel said.

"Take as much out of operations as you do the capital," Trotter suggested. He wanted it to be done at the next meeting in more detail.

Kiester said it's a good goal, but it may not be reached.

Recker motioned to approve the budget with the delay of the CIP and Hernando Bridge. About $1.3 million was taken out of the budget, which is more than enough to cover the millage rate decrease.

Kiester voted no. Council is to look more closely at the next meeting at what should be cut.

The total budget for all funds is about $105 million, including utilities and everything, Thompson said.

Southwest Florida Basin Rule

The rule may affect city properties such as Mackle Park, Veterans' Community Park and other large pieces of land, Thompson said.

Trotter said it was hard to make a decision without knowing what the cost to the city might be. Jennifer Hecker of the Conservancy had said at previous meetings that it's important to support for the rule environmental reasons and to preserve water quality. Public Works Director Rony Joel has expressed concerns about the potential cost to the city.

Anything impacting 5 or more acres of Wetlands must follow the new rule to capture more storm water runoff, Conservancy officials reported in their proposal.

The City of Sanibel has supported the Basin Rule.

"Sanibel has had major water quality issues compared to what we've had," said City Environmental Specialist Nancy Richie. "They had quicker concerns," she added.

The Conservancy wants South Florida Water Management District to adopt their basin rule. SFWMD has showed interest in supporting DEP's rule expected in more than a year, Richie reported.

Recker and Joel said it may all become a moot point.

"We're just showing our moral support for stringent standards," Recker said.

"Even though I'm a little nervous about the economic impact, we're the stewards of this island," Trotter said, adding that Council needs to be sensitive to the environment.

Kiester said "everyone knows stormwater runoff is the dirtiest water."

Joel said SFWMD has supported the city in the past and SFWMD asked the city not to support the SWFL Basin Rule.

Amber Crooks of the Conservancy presented the Basin Rule which is to give credits to developers for best practices for water quality. She said to at least show support for the concepts.

Crooks referred to Marco as an "end of pipe community."

The point is not to pin us against SFWMD but to support the standards in principal, Crooks added. Council approved supporting the Conservancy's request in a 6-1 vote. Gibson voted against it.

Parking at restaurants

Planning Board voted to continue on a case-by-case basis. Joey's Pizza is requesting more shared parking off-site to allow for more seats in his restaurant.

Popoff said Council hasn't agreed to take things by a case-by-case basis. "I don't agree with what they said." He added that he doesn't want more than 100 restaurants on Island coming one-by-one.

Kiester recommended taking care of the owner, Oliverio, in front of them for now. Council approved the request for off-site parking 7-0.

Oliverio, president of Marco Island Restaurant Association, said only about five free-standing restaurants would be affected.

Utility rate increase of 9.5 percent effective Oct. 1 gets final approval, other increases to receive further review

A rate increase of 9.5 percent on water and waste water is to be effective October 1 of this year as Council has previously discussed. Next year's possible rate increase will not be set until after the utility advisory committee completes their study, which is expected in November.

"Why can't we wait for the utility committee to come back with their findings?" Kiester asked.

The committee is to make recommendation the first week in November.

Bill Holmes of the Marco Island Condo Management Association requests not approving the 9.5 percent increase with condos already facing foreclosures.

Holmes was concerned about the issue as condominiums are working on creating their budgets.

Thomspon said condo rates have been an issue in the past several years and it should be addressed in the next few months. After having an "across the board" increase, the rate structure will likely be addressed by January.

Honecker said the committee has been told not to look at rate structure. "You might as well get a Magic 8 ball to figure out why they're charging you what they're charging you because nobody knows," he added.

Recker said it wasn't a number pulled out of no where and moved to adopt it. Kiester and Forcht opposed and the 9.5 percent increase was passed 5-2.

REPORTER'S NOTE: There was an error in the live blog regarding 2010 utility rates that has since been corrected above. Council has only approved the 9.5 percent Oct. 1, 2009 increase thus far. City Manager Steve Thompson reported after the meeting that an additional 1.5 percent may be considered for emergency repairs to the Waste Water Treatment Plant, but all other increases are to be reviewed first by the utility committee before coming back to Council.

Bonding, bond insurance and debt service

It was known the bond rating may suffer as it has, Thompson said.

"I didn't know the gravity of this," Recker said.

Last fall insurance firms fell, leaving cities and counties caught with a lack of insurance on municipal bonds, Thompson reminded Council.

Permanent financing for the bond insurance must be obtained by the end of the fiscal year, staff advised Council.

Council approved two bonds, one for $11 million and one for $7 million used for utility projects.

Check back to marconews.com for more on the proposed changes to the City Charter, which are planned to be placed on the January 2010 ballot

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 18

jwputnam writes:

Are you getting it yet condo owners?

Your next surprise is coming right after the election when they release the "delayed" rate study and determine that the condos have been getting rates as much as five times less than private property owners. Then you are going to be REALLY angry.

You have been had. Unfortunately, we are all paying for your greedy mistake.

deltarome writes:

I attended the meeting. None of the councelors suggested to LOWER taxes from last year. Only two wanted to keep the same. Rest voted to RAISE taxes.
For some reason, City can't hold line on spending like the County and State have done, with real tax reductions.
Since the City and Council majority wants to continue to Tax and Spend,
I say "Dump the Clunkers" at next year's election.

OldMarcoMan writes:

<----- Thinks Delta would cry if they PAID him to live here.
I think Council worked really hard last night and did a good job.
As to the Election, Kiester has my Vote and if Forcht and Popoff run Ill vote for them too.

Strat_56 writes:

"Where are all the poor people of Marco Island?" Sciarrino asked.
If you really did ask that moronic question, you are more out of touch with reality than our federal government. They're not at the council meetings bickering with you over which bridge is prettier. They are desperately trying to find ways to stay in their homes,provide for their families and keep their businesses if they haven't already lost them. Open your eyes ! Look at all the established businesses which have gone under and all the ones that are on the verge if season doesn't hit very soon. Look at all the vacant retail space. Check how many kids at Tommie Barfield now qualify for free or reduced lunch. Check with the pediatricians to see how many kids are now on medicaid. Check with the local supermarkets to see the dramatic increase in food stamp use. Check with the utility companies for the increase in delinquent accounts. The nouveau poor are now all around you. They are just too busy trying to provide for their families before they become homeless and take up residence under the bridge, where even you may notice.

jwputnam writes:

in response to OldMarcoMan:

<----- Thinks Delta would cry if they PAID him to live here.
I think Council worked really hard last night and did a good job.
As to the Election, Kiester has my Vote and if Forcht and Popoff run Ill vote for them too.

You cannot be serious about Popoff. Kiester and Forcht...yes, but Popoff? Wow, bad call in my opinion. Review his promises and then his votes. He only looks like a hero on occassion when it is expedient or he is quite sure that his motions will not pass. He is ALL show. A politician first class.

We need yet another conservative vote on the council. Just one more. If you vote for Popoff, you will be assuring the syndicate a continuing majority for at least two more years......just long enough to bankrupt Marco.

Just my opinion.

Seawaller writes:

"said resident Sal Sciarrino, adding that it's always the same seven people coming to the meetings every week. They say they represent a lot of people, but those people aren't seen, he added".

Don't worry Sal, we are out here. Many of us can't make your meetings, but please know we are following each and every vote by each and every player as well as the comments by people like you. We are better informed now than we were in 2002, we have a good idea who the sandbaggers are, and have kept track of the positions of residents such as yourself.

We now know who is credible, who is a conduit, and who is self serving. Please discontinue your attacks on the "same people" who go to the meetings because they do a great service to those of us who cannot attend.

lauralbi1 writes:

JW and others above: I told you this before, if you cannot afford the $50, sell your computer. The facts and the truth just do not support your position. This is not personal, it is factual !! The cities of Venice, Florida and Naples, Florida are the same size, population, own and run the same utilities as Marco Island. When I write the story (my LTE), and compare their City Staff, budgets, etc to Marco, it shows a compelling comparison. It shows that Marco is already running with a skeleton budget and skeleton City Staff crew. I plan on including the City of Palm City, which is smaller than Marco, has a 10% Spending Cap, and also makes Marco Island's budget look incredible.
The facts and the truth just do not support your ranting and raving. Please do the research yourself, in tandem with me, so that you cannot make any accusations. It is there for the taking.
The truth shall set you free !!! By the way, this is election material and campaign material for anyone that wants it. Our budget is a shining example, Statewide, and needs to be higher, given our CAP restrictions. It needs to be brought out to everyone including our precious neighbors, the condo owners.
Ed Issler

Dan_OHagen writes:

jwputnam, it's obvious you don't like Rob and that's your choice but he was the only one who fought for a lower millage rate at last nights meeting. In addition, I think he is the best chairman this city has ever had. Do you live here year round or do you at least watch the meetings?

Unlike deltarome (who claims he/she was at the meeting last night) I was at the meeting. And the meeting consisted of Popoff pleading with an unwilling council to lower the millage. He didn't get any support from any councilors, Forcht and Kiester were silent!

Don't believe me? Then take the time to watch the video of the meeting and then tell me who fought for us.

jwputnam writes:

Just where do you get $50? Try $500, but that isn't even the point. They are taxing in order to preserve the ABILITY to spend. That disgusts me! Reminds me of having to submit a ridiculous materials order for my division (Navy) years ago or suffer a reduction in available funds in the future....a problem that the genius McNamara missed when he brought "planned maintenance" from Ford to the Navy. Pretty soon you have fifteen typewriters in a one man office and no place to store them.

jwputnam writes:

Incidentally Ed, what makes you think that I really care what other equally inept local governments are doing? Do they also pay an outrageous fee for County patrols AS WELL AS have their own police department housed in a Neiman Marcus facility?

One last thing: Can you tell me just exactly why we need Lisa Douglass to "communicate" for Thompson at $100,000 annually?

Somehow I can not get my arms around your undying loyalty to the syndicate. Is it that you feel a sense of belonging with them? I just don't get it.

JohninMarco writes:

As per usual Mr. Issler spins the truth his way. Hello Mr. Issler even some of your friends are starting to get hit by this economic down turn. Ask the police why the parking ticket blitz. They will tell you that it was ordered by the council. It addds revenue. With a 52% rise in water bills over the next 3 years, the councils statement not some cave dwellers, watch your utility bills skyrocket. And paying a city manager more than the states governor. You do the math. We will see more empty businesses and foreclosed lots and homes. Lets see then how many tourist make this their vacation destination. Further I am losing neighbors who are young professionals, who have lived here for years. At the rate you and the fools at city hall keep chasing them away, you maybe the last man here.

MrBreeze writes:

The reality is that spending must stop. Paying "cronies" high pay along with full perks and retirement must stop. Paying this person 100,000 to communicate is crazy. I remember when I first came to the Island I believe she was an ordinance officer now 100,000 annually. The problem is the City Council, they do not hear the people and want to grab the money and even dare to ask for 33% in pay hike. In these times they should be taking no pay at all if they are so loyal to Marco Island and its people. I say that the council needs to be voted out and new people with the Island interests in mind need to step up. If we continue down this path this Island will become very expensive to maintain and support by the average owner.

EdFoster writes:

Lisa Douglass was the ombudsman in the Fort Myers FDEP office. That's where I met her. She was a dammed good ombudsman and really worked for the people. She'd break rules and put her job on the line to do what she thought was right. I asked her to come to Marco to look at the asbestos on the Glon Property and she did so. That's what started the whole thing.

Then Bill Moss hired her as his mouthpiece. The rest is history. She sold her soul and now is a shill for City Hall. Sad!

Ed Foster

JohninMarco writes:

Read todays Editorial in the Naples Daily News,9/23/09. It says it all about the city council and the way they do business. ALL residents should be outraged!

lauralbi1 writes:

Mr. Breeze: Facts are facts. Please provide a comparative analysis of what Marco Idsland pays for each position and salary grade versus other cities of the same size, scope, population, etc. I look forward to your results. I will do the same. But I would be willing to bet that Marco's salary ranges for City Staff is lower than most. The Spending CAP, and resulting budget, controls this.
Ed Issler

marcoislandres writes:

Ed, please check and see if those city's are still hiring and giving out raises. I bet most are laying off staff and freezing salaries.

RobertGlaub writes:

Looks like Sal has got the Humanitarian of the Year award locked up.

jwputnam writes:

in response to Dan_OHagen:

jwputnam, it's obvious you don't like Rob and that's your choice but he was the only one who fought for a lower millage rate at last nights meeting. In addition, I think he is the best chairman this city has ever had. Do you live here year round or do you at least watch the meetings?

Unlike deltarome (who claims he/she was at the meeting last night) I was at the meeting. And the meeting consisted of Popoff pleading with an unwilling council to lower the millage. He didn't get any support from any councilors, Forcht and Kiester were silent!

Don't believe me? Then take the time to watch the video of the meeting and then tell me who fought for us.

Rob is pleasant, but he is a cameleon...and an election is coming up. Not honest or trustworthy. My opinion.

In addition, why would you want a man controlling your money who can not handle his own? Sad, but true.

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