MARCO ISLAND — Marco Island city leaders are looking for a loan to replace the dilapidated Smokehouse Bay Bridge.
The City Council discussed last week whether to use financial reserves or take out a loan to come up with the rest of the money to pay for the estimated $8.8 million replacement of the bridge on Collier Boulevard.
Borrowing money while keeping reserves high looked to be the preferred choice among most of the council members. While officials are to put the project out to bid to get a more specific cost estimate and look into loan options before council votes on the matter, this much remains certain — the bridge needs replacement soon, City Manager Jim Riviere said.
“It’s absolutely, totally obsolete by anybody’s standards,” Riviere said.
It’s unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists to use it and concrete rocks have cracked off and fallen into the water under the bridge, city officials reported.
A state inspection revealed the bridge had a structural rating of seven on a scale of one to 10, Riviere said. There are two standards, structural obsolescence and functional obsolescence. It’s functionally obsolete, he said.
T.Y. Lin International is the design engineer for the dual span Smokehouse bridge on Collier Boulevard near the Winn-Dixie.
So far, designs are preliminary with final work under way toward a goal of putting the project out to bid in about four months, Public Works Director Tim Pinter said.
The council is expected to further consider how to pay for the bridge next year, when more certain lending options and cost estimates are gathered.
Councilman Bill Trotter and Larry Magel agreed that low debt and high reserves are their goals.
“The total debt of the city, forget the utility, is $7 million, which is low by any standards,” Magel said. “Interest rates are low through 2013. I’d like to borrow as much as we can because that bridge will last 20 to 30 years.”
Reserves are relatively high at $6 million, Trotter said.
Councilman Joe Batte was the most reluctant of the seven council members to take out a loan.
“It forces council not to be able to pass low millage rates,” Batte said.
The design could be complete by December 2012, Pinter said.
Then construction would begin in April 2013 and be complete about 18 months later.
There is $3.1 million set aside for the bridge so far. Combined with a $600,000 grant, council is working on having about $5.3 million set aside by the end of 2012.
If council chose to give the voters the final say on how to pay, it likely would be by referendum in November 2012, Pinter said.