Federal grant may encourage Marco Island to spend more on new bridge

TY-Lin’s bridge design won City Council support in October 2009 in a 5-2 vote with Vice Chairman Frank Recker and Councilman Chuck Kiester opposing the decision to enter a contract to pay up to $248,000 for engineering from TY-Lin. The firm’s estimate to replace the Smokehouse Bay Bridge was the least expensive at $7.5 million and was, according to a city survey, Marco residents’ third favorite of the five preliminary designs created by five firms.

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TY-Lin’s bridge design won City Council support in October 2009 in a 5-2 vote with Vice Chairman Frank Recker and Councilman Chuck Kiester opposing the decision to enter a contract to pay up to $248,000 for engineering from TY-Lin. The firm’s estimate to replace the Smokehouse Bay Bridge was the least expensive at $7.5 million and was, according to a city survey, Marco residents’ third favorite of the five preliminary designs created by five firms.

— 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.

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Comments » 19

GFonda writes:

I recommend that the first choice be reconsidered instead of the third choice based on the city survey if substantial funding is provided by non-City sources.

drk239 writes:

This is CRAZY! When money is tight you don't spend more than you have to get more for your buck. If everyone did this then our federal taxes would keep going up to cover all this grant money--do you think it just grows on trees in Washington? Just because everyone else does it doesn't make it right. Fix the bridge but do it right and at the lowest cost possible to the taxpayer!!

happy6 writes:

here we go....FREE MONEY...spend more...get more from the money tree...after all...it doesn't cost us anything...just like no new taxes....what a joke....council should be embarrassed to even consider such a devious scheme.....shoot, let's add 6 more lanes to the jolley bridge and maybe we can get an extra 100M....you gotta' be kidding.

dcrain writes:

Let me try to understand this. TY Lin charged $350,000.00 to design a $9.75 million dollar bridge, a percentage of 3.5% of the overall cost and now they want to charge $252,237.00 or 23% of the increased cost add of $1.1 million dollars? Somethings not right.

ajm3s writes:

in response to dcrain:

Let me try to understand this. TY Lin charged $350,000.00 to design a $9.75 million dollar bridge, a percentage of 3.5% of the overall cost and now they want to charge $252,237.00 or 23% of the increased cost add of $1.1 million dollars? Somethings not right.

Oh that dastardly change order with a committed vendor.

multi_million_heir writes:

in response to happy6:

here we go....FREE MONEY...spend more...get more from the money tree...after all...it doesn't cost us anything...just like no new taxes....what a joke....council should be embarrassed to even consider such a devious scheme.....shoot, let's add 6 more lanes to the jolley bridge and maybe we can get an extra 100M....you gotta' be kidding.

YES!!! Shadow, you are finally coming around to the prevailing attitude. 6 lanes all the way around the island. I love it! Get the heck out of my way!!!! 60 mph right to the front door, er, cave opening. Just like we do it UP NORTH!!!!!!!!!!!!!YAHOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!

sailingby writes:

The article reports "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.

And yet MITA does not support the CRA which is an investment in the redevelopment of the Marco Island Community Redevelopment Area (CRA) using tax dollars returned to Marco Island from the County.....

Take a closer look at this reasoning MITA and you might finally support the CRA.

tiredofitall writes:

Petricca is the guy that stands up and tells you at every council meeting what an expert he is about accounting but can't figure out if the govt wasn't taking so much of our money in taxes that we'd have more in our pocket to stimulate the economy the way WE want it stimulated.....this is the same guy that wants to raise water rates over 50% on Marco and is the new expert on utilities.....get the Feds out of our pockets and force local govt to start spending smarter and less of our money......the MITA group has now turned into a sham....

blogsmog writes:

thank God for Mcdonalds on the island or I would have starved to death years ago.

PBH writes:

If we can get "free" money to build the bridge, why not build the one selected by Marco Islanders in the bridge poll. As I recall the Ty Lin design was the fourth choice among five, but Rony and his boys still got it through. Why does the city bother to conduct polls if the results of the poll don't matter. Less than 20% of the people voted for the Ty Lin arch design that looks like a bad ad for McDonald's. Give the people what they want...they sure don't want this ugly bridge.

OldMarcoMan writes:

How much do we have to spend before the Bridge is free?

PBH writes:

Is it guaranteed that the City will get the grant if they get the price of the project over $10 million? What happens if they decide to go ahead with the increase in spending and then don't get the grant? I guess the taxpayers are left holding the bag again and we end up paying for something else we don't need. How much longer will these games keep being played by our "leaders"?

loscabos writes:

Now let's think this one through..The taxpayer supplies the revenue that is deemed grant money..(now follow me) the taxpayer supplies the revenue for the "basic" bridge..Now the taxpayer can supply more money in order to take advantage of the increase in the taxpayer supplied money for the grant monies that our city leaders think is a gift from the state? Boy, are we all crazy or what?

happy6 writes:

EXACTLY loscabos...all the money comes from the "money tree"...located somewhere in washington dc....wait 'til the property owners down that smokehouse canal suddenly have an increase in property taxes due to the new higher bridge....their property is now called "semi-direct access....which has to be more valuable than indirect.

ajm3s writes:

Stop the spending even if its "other" people's money. When Americans can look themselves in the mirror and actually see someone always going along when its "other" peoples money.

Is that why we have representatives in Washington, DC to see how much money they can bring back to their constituents.?

When this cycle is broken we will be a better nation. So let's start acting like it is our money and quit being two-faced about it and stop this crazy spending. It's an ante-up game.

Seawaller writes:

This bridge looks like it is meant to go across Chesapeake Bay! It's only going to span less than a couple hundred feet! Good grief.

Yankee writes:

I agree with Seawaller. It is such an insignificant bridge which allows traffic over basically, a canal. Just build a simple, no frills bridge!

34145 writes:

Don't we have bigger things to worry about than this bridge? Put those dollars where they are needed most. An arch over a canal is inconsequential next to the travesty in the Gulf.

NobodysFool57 writes:

I'm positively thrilled at the prospect of saving some $8 million of our money on this project. However, I have little doubt Rony Joel is busy cooking up an $8 million "emergency" for when the money is available.

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