No new trucks, hydrants for Marco Island, council to study issue further

— In the face of public opposition to its $6 million price tag, and uncertainty over city staff’s plan to pay for it, City Council chose not to move forward with either the installation of new fire hydrants or the purchase of a new tanker pumper truck for the fire department.

Instead, council voted to table the issue until October. At that time a decision will be made at a special workshop with public input.

At previous City Council and utilities advisory board meetings, Fire Chief Mike Murphy proposed adding a pumper tanker fire truck and three firefighters to staff it. The truck is meant to be a response to a secondary problem pointed out by a previous utilities study: The fact that many island residences are located outside the recommended distance from a fire hydrant

Fire Chief Mike Murphy confirmed that approximately 300 island homes are out of the recommended range of 500 feet. A cost-saving compromise proposed by the utilities advisory board would use a standard of 1,000 feet instead.

Adding new fire hydrants and water lines is a three year, $6 million project. According to city staff, the installation of fire hydrants is a water and sewer department expenditure, but no water rate increases are anticipated as a direct result of the project.

Ken Honecker, chairman of the utilities advisory board, has previously recommended borrowing money from the general fund and using water and sewer operating funds to repay it.

A conservative estimate for the recommendation that council purchase the tanker, add staff and authorize construction for new fire hydrants comes in at almost $7 million. An expenditure that some island residents find difficult to justify given the current economic climate.

“This has been an existing situation for the entire 40 years since I came across the bridge, and it seems reasonable to put off for a couple of years while the economy recovers and/or appropriate lines and hydrants are put in place,” said Bill McMullen, an island resident and author of Eye on Marco, a newsletter he describes as normally apolitical. He’s raised this issue in the current edition out of concern over city spending and the proposed tax increase.

“I can find no state or federal law that requires 500 feet,” he added. “It’s a nice to have.”

Councilman Bill Trotter felt confident that the city would need to borrow minimal funds and would resolve an important safety issue, pointing out, “city code says we should have hydrants at 500 feet. By doing the hydrants at 1,000 feet we will impact over 1,000 properties who are either out of the 500 or 1,000 range.”

He added that even a pessimistic view of revenue from the water utility would cover a short-term loan.

Several council members questioned city staff budget projections for the project. “It feels rushed,” added Councilman Chuck Kiester.

Councilman Larry Magel also expressed a negative view of the math produced by city staff. “I don’t understand how you can spend 6 million and have it have no impact. Especially if we don’t have a 1.98 millage rate. Are you robbing Peter to pay Paul? I just don’t see it. I’m concerned that we are reducing emergency reserves.”

The revenue to cover the project is based on rate increases that are already required as part of the water utility bond issue. Patricia Bliss explained that paying for the project would assume rate increases through 2014. Any changes to the rates would impact the city’s ability to pay for the project.

Although almost the entire council acknowledged the legitimate safety issue, Councilman Joe Batte summed up the economic challenge the project presents. “People are not afraid their house will burn up, they are afraid they won’t be able to afford to stay in their house. All the gods would have to line up for us to pay for it.”

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Comments » 15

happy6 writes:

hey larry...are you crazy....the way they plan to pay for it is through the water utility...you must have slept through a few sessions....DUH????

multi_million_heir writes:

Murphy says 300 homes are outside of 500 feet. How many of the 300 are outside of 1000 feet? Trotter says this will impact over 1000 homes outside of 500 or 1000 feet. Which is it? 300 homes or over 1000? Are we looking at the same study? Can you post the study please?

JohninMarco writes:

Here is a thought. Cut the FD salaries by 6% like the city of Naples. Take that money and use it for hydrants over a period of time. Lets see what Murphy says. If he is so worried about the residences or himself.

polcat writes:

Why don't we just put in dry hydrants being tied into the canals or bays that are around the island. In locations up north that have no hydrants but a lake or pond, the city splits the cost with owners to have a dry hydrant installed. With all of our water on the island we should have this covered.

Islanderguy239 writes:

in response to JohninMarco:

Here is a thought. Cut the FD salaries by 6% like the city of Naples. Take that money and use it for hydrants over a period of time. Lets see what Murphy says. If he is so worried about the residences or himself.

that makes absolutly no sense at all, its not the firefighters fault. they were asked to come up with a solution to the problem and they did, its up to council to decide if they want to address the problem now..

mymommd writes:

No more spending. Enough is enough.

happyhorowitz34145 writes:

Does anyone get what the council is doing?
Put it off until October and get more public input.
This means wait until the snowbirds start coming back so that we can shove down the throats of the full time residents!!!!!!
ASSeri has taught them well.

marcofriend writes:

We need a consultant to explore what the UAB has presented. The UAB obviously can't be trusted to make a recommendation. It's the ONLY way. Should only be about another $50 grand.

happyhorowitz34145 writes:

in response to islandeye1#236971:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

You are right.
This way here they get to use the scare tatic that without new hydrants and more firemen, thier houses will burn down and that thier lives might be in more danger.
The timing is a win for Murphy and Joel.

JohninMarco writes:

in response to Islanderguy239:

that makes absolutly no sense at all, its not the firefighters fault. they were asked to come up with a solution to the problem and they did, its up to council to decide if they want to address the problem now..

It makes perfect sense. It a THOUGHT, and an idea on how to get a budget under control. The city is drowning in debt, over 200 million, at least smell the coffee. Cape Coral has less debt, a larger population, and the roof is starting to fall in there.

deltarome writes:

this is not a solution looking for a problem.
Those who jump to conclusions on this should realize that those too far from a hydrant probably told their insurance company that they were within 500' of a hydrant.
Should they file a fire claim, it might be declined as their premiums were based on the hydrant distance.
This needs to be rectified by at least paying higher premiums until they get a hydrant within 500' or at least within 1000'.

Islanderguy239 writes:

in response to JohninMarco:

It makes perfect sense. It a THOUGHT, and an idea on how to get a budget under control. The city is drowning in debt, over 200 million, at least smell the coffee. Cape Coral has less debt, a larger population, and the roof is starting to fall in there.

everyones so worried about cutting everyones salaries..cutting the working class salaries...nice.....

ajm3s writes:

When you are talking to your insurance agent, ask him of all the monies that go to paying the premium for coverage of your home which includes liability, flood, wind, fire, theft, etc.; ask the risk professional if fire is the major or minor portion of that premium.

Answer: Fire is a minor portion. Hmmm? why is that? And this from an industry that basically sells risk protection.

Now Mr. Magel offered an alternative, let me add more options. Has anyone considered cisterns, dry hydrants, creating an emergency water source map (that is what they do in some rural areas, i.e. Pomfret, CT).

There was an individual during the public comment segment of the Council meeting who asked to "think outside the box". I ask the Council to simply think as if you did not have the money, how would you address the risk? There are many low cost solutions, because there are communities that have addressed this concern without reaching into a reserve fund.

To Mr. Recker et al (Gibson, Trotter, Waldack) an increase in millage to replenish a reserve fund is testimony that you cannot address cost effective solutions. I will even go further, you cannot even prioritize risk. Let's see, if we need to create a reserve, should it be for Oil Spill or recent discovery of hydrant location. Council's answer: lets just add to the reserves.

Just the fact that you created an Oil Spill reserve fund is more then enough to convince me that you cannot prioritize risk. But you are efficient at creating fear and then rationalizing a reserve fund increase to support lack of management skills.

Mr. Batte, Mr. Kiester and Mr. Magel will need the support of the folks to convince the "fiscally" responsible Mr. Recker et. al. that creating reserves with our money simply encourages poor management behavior. Perhaps it is a crutch for lack of vision.

"CRISIS management" from these folks: Mr. Joel, Mr. Murphy is pathetic and Recker et. al support is pandering to fear.

ajm3s writes:

in response to Klabautermann:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

If I understand your comment, the insurance company will not pay the claim because fire hydrants are NOT in the city ordinance?

If so FALSE> Most Americans live outside of a fire hydrant and have fire insurance. i.e. Rural communities etc.

Who is "we" in the comment that "we can not pay your damage"?

deltarome writes:

Rural communities pay a higher fire insurance premium to make up for the fact that water is not easily available or the fire dept takes longer to get there, etc.
When you got your insurance, you most likely were asked how far away is the nearest fire hydrant. If you said "within 500'", you get a lower premium cost. If it is really 1200', and you file a fire insurance claim, they could decline the coverage as you cheated them out of a premium surcharge. The insurance company could legally just pay back the premium collected that year and not pay off the claim.
Now that this is out in the open, those in the cul de sacs and in deltona part of marco are the ones at risk. they should at least adjust their coverage to reflect actual distance to fire hydrant.

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