MARCO ISLAND — The old adage that it takes money to get money is about to be tested on Marco Island.
If Marco taxpayers cough up at least another $300,000 to expand the scope of the Smokehouse Bay Bridge replacement plan, the city may become eligible for up to $10 million in federal grants, government officials said.
Amadeo Petricca, a Marco Island Taxpayers Association board member, said he was OK with building a more elaborate bridge if the bulk of the total price tag could be paid for with off-island tax dollars.
“When you’re spending someone else’s money, this is how nice you do it,” Petricca said.
City Council members are scheduled to decide Monday night if they think it’s a good idea.
In October, council selected a design by TY Lin to replace the dual span bridge, trimming the cost by eliminating a bay walk connecting Veterans’ Community Park on one side of Collier Boulevard to the Esplanade on the other side.
U.S. Department of Transportation grants are available for bridge construction projects valued between $10 million and $25 million.
Public Works Director Rony Joel suggested council add bay walks back to the plan to make the project eligible.
The bridge without the bay walks is projected to cost $9.75 million, he said.
However, in December, then-City Manager Steve Thompson had reported in a Weekly Update that the bridge cost without bay walks was about $10.85 million.
Neither Joel nor the city finance department could immediately explain the differing amounts.
Using Thompson’s data, the bay walk would cost $750,000 to $1 million.
By expanding the project by as much as $1.3 million, the city stands to save 80 percent of the total project cost.
It’s a win for the Marco Island taxpayer, Petricca said.
Government watchdog Bill McMullan of Marco was skeptical.
“I am against adding any fluff to essential services and projects until the future is much brighter,” McMullan said.
It will cost $252,327 to hire TY Lin, the firm selected to develop the earlier plan, to design the bay walk, Joel estimated.
Another $15,000 is needed for technical assistance to prepare the grant application due by July 16, he reported.
So far, the city has spent $350,000 on design plans for the bridge.
A fishing pier, which Thompson had reported in December was estimated to cost between $100,000 and $300,000, isn’t proposed as of now.
Joel had reported that the Smokehouse Bay Bridge needed to be replaced in 2013 or 2014 to ensure the safety of boaters and motorists.
The bridge will have a higher boat clearance and walkways under the bridge.
“In the long run, this will save the (Marco) taxpayers a lot of money,” Petricca said of the grant opportunity.