Marco Island’s City Council met Monday, with the question of seawall repairs front and center.
First, they took care of some other business. In the community forum portion of the agenda, homeowner Toni Jessen complained about contracting work, including seawalls, being conducted near her house. Councilman Jerry Gibson asked City Manager Jim Riviere to look into her concerns.
Bryan Milk gave a report on City Parks and Recreation special events procedures. A special events team, he said, has met for six months, to update policy for public events at Veterans, Mackle and Winterberry parks.
“We want to know if there is a wedding on the beach over 25. My goal is to have the City Council approve our policy,” said Milk.
Chairman Frank Recker said the plan is ambiguous and vague. “ I can’t support this. I want more specificity, and as little government intrusion as possible.”
“It blew my mind when I first looked at this. I don’t think we need 18 pages of guidelines on this,” said Councilman Chuck Kiester of the public events policy.
“This needs some serious work. We’re going to send this back to the team. I don’t like government having the discretion to interpret something the way they want to,” said Recker.
The council took up several issues having to do with new construction, maintenance and repair work on an increasingly crowded Island. First up was the second reading on the proposed seawall repair ordinance.
City Planner Kris Van Lengen took the council through a discussion of changes proposed to the ordinance on its first reading. The 120-day permit for using a vacant lot as a staging area is to be used for active seawall work, not storage. A six-foot high screen fence is to be erected around the area to remove seawall materials if it is not in a container, and barges are limited to 15 days idle at one location.
The issue led to some sharp exchanges between the councilmen.
“I would like to see this burned up,” said Frank Recker. For a homeowner receiving notice, it is a nightmare, referring to it as 120 days of hell. “Contractors love it, vacant lot owners love it. I would like to see the marketplace decide how much money will be saved by not using these vacant lots as factories.”
“You’re suggesting we don’t need an ordinance?” asked Kiester.
“I think you’re being a little hysterical when you call them factories,” added Gibson.
Brian Gilmore, of Collier Seawall & Dock, said, “We’ll be happy to follow any rules you guys want. If it’s red-tagged, if it’s failed, it’s gotta be done. The cost is going to skyrocket.”
“How many times have we gone through this? I think tonight is almost a disgrace,” said civic activist Faye Biles, who bought a crate just to hold documents relating to seawall replacement.
Marco resident Franklin Lacy made a sales pitch, touting his invention, which he said would make a seawall that would last to the year 3000. “I figure you can build these for about half the cost of present seawalls. I’m a problem solver,” he said.
On councilman Wayne Waldack’s motion, the ordinance was approved 5-2, with Councilmen Magel and Recker opposed.
Use of vacant lots for construction on adjacent or nearby lots also provoked argument.
Some sites, because of unique shape, require special consideration, said Van Lengen. With a pie-shaped lot, things get backed up into the street, or you might be trying to protect a heritage tree. Off-site staging can be allowed with written permission of property owner and notification of nearby residents.
Once again, Chairman Recker had strong concerns. He proposed limiting the ordinance to lots within 150 feet of the construction they are supporting, and the language was added.
“I can’t believe you have staging for 24 consecutive months” when building a house, commented Councilman Larry Magel. The ordinance was voted on, and passed unanimously.
Patricia Bliss, city finance director, led discussion of budget re-appropriation for fiscal year 2009-10, a loan application to the State Revolving Fund, and paying off a $405,000 bond.
Councilman Trotter urged getting better at budgeting upfront, rather than reconciling afterward. Magel asked why the city is sitting on $32 million, while borrowing money at the same time.
Trotter introduced an item requesting the MPO to add widening of San Marco Road to the 2035 Long-Range Transportation Plan, which was adopted unanimously.
Contracts were awarded on sewer construction for two additional districts, with Kiester dissenting. Prices for the work have come down significantly, said utilities director Rony Joel.
Public works director Tim Pinter said the Hernando Bridge is in an emergency situation, with temporary pilings holding it together. He recommended awarding of a contract to repair it, after engineering and nine bids received. The low bid of $355,000, still 20 percent over the engineers’ estimate, came from Anzac Contractors.
“It seems a heck of a time to start bridge construction,” said Recker. Waldack suggested putting off the work until April. With that stipulation, the motion passed.
Contracts were also awarded for water treatment consulting services, and purchase of quick lime for the water treatment system. The city uses 1,500 tons per year.
Fire Chief Mike Murphy reported that Collier County EMS has agreed to provide three firefighter/EMTs, one per shift, to augment Marco Island’s safety personnel. Along with a fire truck and emergency transport vehicle, said Murphy, this represented a $300,000 to 400,000 savings from the city’s budget, while providing improved service.
The additional staff and vehicles would be housed at Station 51 on Elkcam Circle, which would be improved under the plan. Exhaust fans and new doors would help deal with exhaust problems, and windows would be upgraded. Collier County has agreed to share the cost of the renovations, Murphy said.
This would reduce Marco’s dependence on outside agencies, and reduce response times. Seasonal call volume has already increased, he said. Promotions for three drivers and three captains associated with the move would cost approximately $115,000 per year.
“Why do I have to have these promotions?” asked Magel. The answer, said Murphy, is the responsibility and liability the firefighters take on. Councilman Joe Batte said it rubs him the wrong way having promotions in just the fire department, with none in other city departments.
“You’re still serving the same need,” said Riviere, just splitting that need between two stations. Council, with Kiester dissenting, asked Riviere to provide the service at minimal expense.
“My job,” said Riviere, “is to spin gold from straw.”
After being called to order at 5:30 p.m., the meeting adjourned at 9:55. The last council meeting of the year is scheduled for Dec. 6.