MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island City Council workshop began at 3 p.m. in the Community Room with a presentation to former Collier County Manager Jim Mudd, who recently left the position due to health concerns related to a brain tumor. Chairman Rob Popoff presented Mudd with the symbolic "key to the city" for Mudd's help with several issues over the years, including hurricane response and expansion of the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge.
See a video of the presentation from Popoff to Mudd and Mudd's acceptance of the gift and proclamation linked to this story.
Seawall draft ordinance review
Council reviewed proposed guidelines on when seawalls need to be replaced and what is an acceptable remedy to a failing wall. Waterways Advisory Committee Chairman Gale Vinson said an area in the current ordinance that prohibits placing a seawall in front of and of an existing, but failing seawall is to be deleted. This will allow residents to save some money and build a new support wall on the water side of an existing wall.
The seawall may not protrude more than one-foot into the waterway per state statute. The proposal is to define a failing a seawall as severe bowing, outward movement of a seawall, broken panels, severe wall rotation or severe wall settlement.
Public Works Director Rony Joel estimated there are about 200 miles of seawall on Island. Many seawalls were built 30 or more years ago and are past their useful life, city officials have reported.
City Council was supportive of the ordinance, but requested further clarification on the rules regulating seawalls in front of state-owned waterways, including man-made canals.
Also in the workshop, council reviewed a quarterly update from City Finance Director Patricia Bliss. Bliss reported that revenues, primarily from ad valorem taxes, are slightly more than previous years thus far.Typically about 75 to 78 percent of projected taxes are received by this point in the year, however this year about 80 percent have been received.
Bliss attributed the increase to more people looking for the early payment discount, but said more about the significance of the trend will remain to be seen in future quarterly reports.
REGULAR BUSINESS MEETING BEGINNING 5:30 P.M.
At the evening meeting beginning 5:30 p.m., among the topics for consideration is whether to approve a project proposed by Collier County to construct a new restroom and a new walkover at Tigertail Beach. The city will need to approve two variances for the county to pay for and construct the new additions.
In earlier reports, nearby residents were concerned about water quality in the lagoon, which formed between the beach and Gulf of Mexico at Tigertail within the last 10 years, as well as the idea that the walkover was being built over that lagoon.
City Environmental Specialist Nancy Richie clarified Tuesday afternoon that neither condition is the case.
City Planner Kris Van Lengen said the proposed walkover will be in addition to the four or five existing walkovers; will be placed at the southern most area of the beach and will be the only one which is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act as it will be a ramp rather than having stairs.
Richie said the lagoon is naturally occurring as opposed to residents beliefs that it was the result of recent beach renourishment.
It's a tidal lagoon and the health department tests it twice a week for bacteria and every week it's healthy, she said.
"There are over 60 species of migratory and year-round birds that use that habitat," Richie added.
Birds, fish, crabs and manatees use the lagoon as a vital, natural habitat, she reported.
"It's something that should be valued and enjoyed."
In 2005, it was considered to build a walkway over the lagoon, but because of how vital the environment and habitat was, environmentalists requested the county did not construct the walkover there, Richie said.
"This is a compromise to not having that walkway over the lagoon."
Collier County Coastal Zone Management Director Clint Perryman said the idea of constructing a walkway over the lagoon was only a feasibility study, which was "trumped by the opposition."
He said the projected cost of building a walkway from the southern end of the parking lot to the Gulf of Mexico, along with the new restrooms, will cost about $650,000 to be paid for through Tourist Development Council dollars, which come from "bed taxes" or taxes on hotel stays and other visitors' accommodations.
Coastal Zone Manager Gary McAlpin said the planned building is 32-feet by 10-feet with a family restroom that is 8-foot by 10-foot in the plan. The boardwalk would be about 300 feet from the nearest property line at the south end of the parking lot and more easily access the gulf waters.
The building is to be 16-feet and 18-inches high and the restroom building that is fully ADA compliant and therefore wheel chair accessible.
The project features a "green" design and utilizes recycled materials, McAlpin added.
"Since we are crossing the mangroves we will be required to mitigate this area with plants."
He said the restroom would not be constructed until new Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) maps of flood areas are released.
Instead the county is looking for a variance for the building to be shorter than code requirements for flood areas and to construct the project closer to the water, or control line, than allowed by city code.
Councilman Jerry Gibson was concerned about how flood-proof the restrooms could really be.
McAlpin said the building is to be "stainless steal and concrete masonry built to last and withstand the storm."
The mangroves have been the most significant concern in the project plan, McAlpin said.
The requirement would be that the bathroom be 15 feet off the ground without the variance to adjust the height based on possible flooding. That elevation requirement is what the county is asking to be waived.
He said restrooms are already on the ground in some beach areas of the Island.
Community Development Director Steve Olmsted advised council that if the variances were approved tonight more detailed review of the project could occur during the permitting stage.
Debbie Roddy of the Friends of Tigertail, a 501-C-3 non-profit with about 175 members, supports the restrooms and the walkway.
Roddy said people use improper areas to go to the bathroom and the facilities are needed.
"People even bring their own toilet paper." she said.
There was disappointment among residents and council that a composting bathroom similar to the one recently constructed near Barefoot Beach could not be constructed.
McAlpin said it was price prohibitive on Marco compared to in the northern location where sewer lines weren't available.
Councilman Ted Forcht motioned to approve, seconded by Councilman Bill Trotter, and Councilman Chuck Kiester asked to amend it to include a request to reconsider a composting restroom.
Gibson said the Planning Board already asked the county to include the composting restroom information for council review.
"That's why I got so upset."
Waldack voted no. "I really don't want to vote for this."
Council approved the variance to construct closer to the water 6-1.
Council then voted whether to approve a variance to the flood elevation requirements. Waldack voted no again. It was approved 6-1.
Kiester wanted to learn the cost for composting versus the current proposed plan.
McAlpin agreed to do so.
"It was never county's intention to insult you in anyway shape or form," McAlpin said to Gibson.
Gibson nodded. I understand you weren't at that earlier meeting.
Bonnie Tucker on renaming City Hall
Bonnie Tucker stood up and read a prepared statement thanking the City Council for choosing to name City Hall in honor of her husband E. Glenn Tucker, who passed away suddenly in 2009 and was the first Marco City Councilman and longest serving after about 10 years.
The words caused Councilman Jerry Gibson and others to tear-up, leading to a standing ovation for Bonnie and in honor of Glenn Tucker.
Restaurant water fees
Joe Oliverio, owner of Joey's Pizza and President of the Marco Island Restaurant Association, was concerned about water rates for restaurants saying that current Marco ordinances don't promote environmentally-friendly businesses that conserve water. He preferred credits for systems such as tankless hot water heaters and others that conserve water. These are benefits that are available in some communities but not Marco.
Impact fees from the utility are not properly justified, he said.
City Manager Steve Thompson said Oliverio's impact fees did increase because he increased seats recently. Conservation and consumption are not related to impact fees, he added. Thompson clarified that the savings for conservation usually come on usage costs rather than impact fees.
"If you're not making the impact, you shouldn't have to pay the impact fees," Oliverio then said.
The issue will be considered through a staff report from Thompson and then possibly be reviewed by the utility committee or council, Vice Chairman Frank Recker said.
Resident Bill McMullan asked that the issue and question of whether the city increased water pressure to increase revenue to the city be added to a future agenda because he is hearing a lot of reports of problems.
Thompson prepared a slide presentation on the issue.
Utility Director Rony Joel asked a consultant with Black and Veatch to share information.
"I want to ensure council that in spite of what has been said we have not increased the water pressure to sell water," Joel said.
He added that it was increased to bring all areas of the island up to state required water pressure.
Bobby Burchett with Black and Veatch Engineering verified it needed to be increased for state requirements and fire suppression.
Burchett said, upon Recker's questioning, that he had first-hand knowledge of the water pressure falling below the state's 20 PSI (pounds per square inch) minimum requirement in 14 locations on the Island, including the Estates area.
Between midnight and early morning is the highest demand due to irrigation, he said.
That is why the utility is increasing water pressure at the plant at night. The increased water pressure will increase bills by about $3 to $4 per month, Thompson reported during a council break.
Patricia Bliss added that some customers have been moved up to a higher usage and cost tier making bills increase more dramatically than that for a couple residents.
She is working with those residents to bring those bills down to an acceptable amount for the customer and the city.
Burchett and Joel both reported that projects planned in the next four years will rectify the problem and the water pressure at the plant will be able to go back down to 70-72 PSI down from 78 to 80 PSI spikes now used at night.
Projects include new pipeline leaving the south water plant, a new water tank at that plant, and pipeline upgrades in the 14 areas with below minimum standard water pressure.
Joel said for two or three days, they raised pressure to about 85 or 86 PSI, but then lowered it. That was during the consultant's review, he said.
The water tanks will allow more volume to help manage the pressure, he added.
If kept at 75 PSI as it was before December, then the city can't maintain minimum requirements.
Before this, Joel reported significant complaints about pressure being too low. A report that at least one local sprinkler serviceman also verified in a phone interview on Friday.
"We now have a defined issue and a defined solution," Joel said.
Councilman Jerry Gibson questioned why there were reports of residents with water pressure over the reports Joel has said.
"When you leave the plant at 80 pounds there is no way in Newton's Laws of physics that it can go higher."
Joel later added that condos do use devices, booster pumps, to increase pressure in their properties.
Gibson asked about mechanisms to install to lower the pressure.
Joel said a back flow preventer will decrease water pressure by 10 PSI, but some will find that lowers the water pressure too much not allowing a toilet to be flushed.
Flow constrictors may be installed at a cost of $250 to $300, he added.
"I am thrilled we have water now because I was concerned if anyone's house caught fire, we were screwed," said Debbie Roddy of the Estates are of the Island.
Resident Amadeo Petricca was concerned about spending more money on consulting services for former finance director Bill Harrison. He also said all but one city vehicle goes off Island and he doesn't believe it fits IRS laws on government vehicle use.
Council failed to approve a request to construct a linear park at their meeting earlier in January with a tie (3-3) vote. The project is to construct the trail from San Marco Road to Mackle Park at a total cost of $375,000. Trotter, who is a member of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, said it's an important project part of a broader attempt to have bike traffic connectivity throughout the Island. It's the number one priority project identified by the MPO at this time. The cost to city could be as much as $205,000 with $40,000 of that being for design. Florida Department of Transportation is offering a grant of $200,000.
Trotter said he was relatively confident it could come under bid leaving less expense for the city.
Waldack motioned to approve and Trotter seconded.
"I'm going to have trouble supporting this because of this economy we're in," Forcht said.
"We need it, we want it, but I don't believe we can afford it."
Marco resident Fay Biles said it sounded good, but had questions.
"The concept of a linear park, bicycle path sounds wonderful. I've never seen one person on that (Winterberry) path. If it's going to be pebbles, people don't use it. Wait until we have the money to do the whole thing," Biles said.
Joel agreed with Biles about the Winterberry trail made of shell, but said the plan for this trail is for it to be a solid material.
Al Musico of the city's bike path committee urged support of the project.
"I recognize that budgets are tight, there is a limited amount of money, but I've heard many times that Marco is a donor community... This is bringing some of that money back," Musico said.
Kiester said if it's turned down, the money will never be available from FDOT again. "But at the same time we only got it because other communities turned it down."
Forcht voted "no." The project was approved 5-1.
Veterans' Community Park memorial
VFW Post 6370 Commander Dave Gardner requested the city spend $39,000 to design the veterans' memorial at the new park. Kimley Horn helped create the master plan for the park and was requested to design the memorial, Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Milk said.
Council questioned whether the design fees were high and if other designers should give an estimate.
The area is 29,000 square feet for the veterans' portion of the park, Milk said.
Waldack said there is a memorial at the cemetery that could be moved to the park. "I know the kids that built that memorial would also be enthusiastic about having it in the park."
Milk said it could be done.
Gibson said as a veteran he wondered why the dog park was built by community donors but not this. "As much as I respect the fact that it's the veterans I'd like to see the veterans out there on Wednesday selling flags..."
Gardner said there about 16 people in the post and most are in their late 70s or 80s without the ability to go out and raise money on the street.
"Basically this $39,000 will eventually be spent anyway. If you're going to build anything in that park, you're going to need a plan."
Gardner said the design will help get grants. "In other words, it's shovel ready."
"The main point is this, I don't think we'd be here sitting in our chairs talking about money. I don't think this Island would be here if it weren't for out veterans.
"Almost every city in this country has a monument to its veterans...."
He said WWII veterans are lost every day. "I'd like some of them to see this monument."
Resident Sal Sciarrino said the $100 bricks for the other monument could raise money for them (veterans.) He said if it was moved from the cemetery it would be more visible and raise more money.
"These bricks, they'll sell like hot cakes with your name and the number of the branch you were in."
Resident Steve Goldberg said tax dollars shouldn't be used and that everyone knows veterans are the reason we are here.
"I wish they wouldn't bring that up every time they want something," he added.
Forcht recommended partial funding.
Kiester said $39,000 seemed like a lot of money but that Veterans' Community Park was going to be a "first class act" and that the veterans' memorial should be the centerpiece. He agreed with Goldberg, who stated that veterans aren't all elderly, but rather range in age from 19 to 90.
Council approved to spend $39,000 for Kimley Horn to design the memorial in a unanimous (6-0) vote. Popoff was absent for the second meeting of the evening.
Mackle Park Phase 3B is the last part of improvements approved by council earlier in January. Total cost for both project is to cost up to $430,000 and comes with a $200,000 matching grant from the Florida Recreation Development Assistant Program that expires April 30. This phase includes new irrigation, 10 new benches, concrete pads and landscaping along the lake pathway, as well as irrigation and new Bermuda turf on one-third of the existing soccer field.
Waldack motioned to approve seconded by Recker.
"This goes back to need to have and nice to have.... I already spent too much money tonight for my comfort," Kiester said.
Recker replied: "It's hard to say yes it's harder to say no."
Forcht and Kiester voted no. The motion was approved 4-2.
Forcht said the Island is under perpetual construction. Forcht asked about the mausoleum. Thompson said money remains a challenge. Forcht expressed support for the idea.
City Manager communication
Thompson said new user fees will be discussed in February. Also, Feb 16, the water pressure issue will be discussed as well as environmental water conservation and supply issues by South Florida Water Management District.