Marco Island property owners avoid thousands in utility assessments, 6 percent rate hike

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— About 100 people packed into the Marco Island community room to let City Council know Monday night whether they preferred to have residents or vacant property owners bear more of the burden of anticipated utility cost increases.

As Marco resident Pat Santiago put it, for the most part "it was all about me." Residents didn't want another utility rate hike after two consecutive years of approximate10 percent increases. They were facing another 6 percent increase effective October 1. Undeveloped lot owners were facing water and sewer assessments that combined in amounts exceeding $10,000 in many cases.

Council chose to put both sides at ease-- at least for now.

"I find these two ordinances to be repugnant and move to table," said Councilman Frank Recker of the vacant lot assessments.

Later, council also chose to delay any decision on the 6 percent utility rate hike, saying if there's a hike at all, it would not need to be that high due to a combination of refinancing and budget cuts.

The prospect of assessments could come back at any time if any of the councilmen who approved tabling the issue, which councilmen Chuck Kiester and Bill Trotter did not, decide to bring it back up for vote or discussion.

Meanwhile, city staff was directed to come back with a lower or zero rate hike proposal. If there is an increase, it will have to come after October to provide proper notice, said Finance Director Patricia Bliss.

The standing-room-only crowd swiftly left the meeting when they learned council was tabling the hot-button issue of assessments on vacant lots.

Andy Rimes was among the undeveloped lot owners who making his way to his car when he learned there would be not assessments as of Monday night.

"It's great," Rimes said. "Let's be fair. Let's not single out the lot owners. Let's spread it out if that's what we've got to do," he said.

Trotter indicated he didn't think spreading it out would be necessary either. "Cancel the 6 percent. It's never going to happen anyway.

"Do we want to make any increases until we redo the rate structure," he asked rhetorically regarding another ongoing utility adjustment.

"Why stir people up before we've thought this through," he said.

All seven council members agreed.

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Comments » 7

condoseller writes:

How did this get on the City Council agenda if so many of the Councilmen opposed this? Was this a proposal that originated with the city administration? If so, who initiated it?

happy6 writes:

ask jerry gibson

NobodysFool57 writes:

This was pretty much a no-brainer. Utility rate hike battles were traditionally fought between single family homeowners and condo owners. With the formation of the M.I.Homeowners Association these two factions are now aligned against the City, time for a new scapegoat. The vacant lot owners, it's all their fault! The lot owners are making a lot of noise right now, but when the snowbirds come back in a few months, there will be plenty of public support to "steamroller" them.

JohninMarco writes:

in response to happy6:

ask jerry gibson

I think Wayne was also involved.

u2cane writes:

How about cut costs? Nobody wants to lay anyone off, but if you have to, you have to. I'm sure there are plenty of ways they can reduce their expenditures.

softy writes:

who is responsible for the idea? Ask Bill Trotter who has so many budget meetings he is driving city staff crazy. Control freak, and trust me, Trotter, Magel and Waldack are going through the budget line by line and costs are being cut, attend one of the many meetings, 1 or 2 a week, MI Homeowners has been there along with others

PBH writes:

Seems like the council members who were initially in support of this "backed off" as a result of pressure from the lot owners. With vacant lots being only 20% of Marco's property owners I don't know why this didnt get more support.
Many of the lot owners are sitting on the sidelines and letting the home and condo owners pay for the infrastructure upgrades, street paving, etc. In the end, that will make their properties that much more valuable, and it didn't cost them a penny. Then, when it's all paid for, they can come back and build or sell their appreciated property. Not a bad deal for them. For a City Council that is always complaining about not having enough money, they really missed the boat on this one.

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