MARCO ISLAND — Monday evening, the Marco Island City Council dug back into the sewer issue, with a proposal to grant relief to homeowners whose connections to the city’s lines are blocked through no fault of their own. While most of the agenda items were disposed of quickly and unanimously, paying for these hookups generated some discussion and disagreement.
Public Works Director Tim Pinter led the discussion of a requested change order, providing an additional $69,000 on a not-to-exceed basis to contractor Quality Enterprises, to pay for the additional expense required. There are 46 homes along North Collier Boulevard whose path to connect to the city’s sewer lines is blocked by a storm drain, Pinter told the council.
“There are 46 residents impacted. If we don’t do it, we’re basically cutting off their sewer. I’m not sure we can ask homeowner to pay for this,” he said.
“Have we been in touch with these 46 people?” Councilman William Trotter asked. Yes, he was told, and there had been no negative responses from those impacted. Asked why the numbers were presented as a flat fee – $1,500 per required connection – Pinter explained the bulk of the cost is the same for each.
“We don’t know how far out the laterals go until we go out and dig it up. The connection to the main sewer is the most costly part,” he said. In some cases, the city’s pipe might go almost to the homeowner’s cleanout, but the cost will be “pretty uniform on all 46.” At about $1,500 apiece, this is cheaper than we’re getting right now. We’re getting a little price break.”
Councilman Chuck Kiester observed that “there are probably more than a few slightly used septic tanks they can tie into,” and reminisced about a municipal employee in his former home who figured out how to guarantee his future employment. “They couldn’t let him go because he was the only one who knew where the water lines went,” he said. “Talk about job security.”
Councilman Joe Batte asked why these 46 homes were being treated differently.
“People are paying for their own” sewer connections, he said. “Why not these?”
“We basically caused the problem by installing the storm drain. This was really our fault,” said Pinter. “Our records were not as accurate as they could have been.” And there was no simple alternative. “If I moved to the other side of street, I would have impacted 46 on the other side.”
Councilman Wayne Waldack moved to approve the $69,000 change order, and the motion was amended to add the not-to-exceed language. Before the vote, public comment came from the chairman of the utility advisory board, and one candidate for a vacant position on the board.
“I was hooked up to the STRP. I did not ask for it, it was shoved down my throat,” said Jim Wilson, the applicant. “Now I have to pay for it … Sorry fellas, I’m not with you on this one.”
Ken Honecker, UAB chairman, said “I don’t know why we can’t just let them connect. Public works caused the problem. You keep taking money from the utility, that’s why the utility has to keep raising rates.”
With City Council Chairman Frank Recker absent, and Councilman Batte voting no, Change Order number one for North Collier Boulevard, drainage phase three, passed 5 to 1.