The previous plan of our City Council was for the new Mackle Park Community Building to go to referendum, as reflected in the fiscal year 2011 capital budget (currently posted on the city’s website).
Somehow, the sentiment of the majority of our current council seems to have shifted to avoid a referendum by having the City enter into a design-build lease back arrangement.
There are numerous problems with this approach, some of which include:
1. The current lease-back plan will cost our taxpayers around two million dollars more than a referendum-approved bond arrangement – a total of around $8 million dollars for a $4 million dollar building
2. No thorough business case analysis has been done on the total cost of construction (including independent engineering requirements; staffing of the new facility – e.g., for each City employee, the costs are: Their salary, plus 25 percent of salary for benefits, plus 5 percent for their retirement fund and then the city match of 7.6 percent for FICA requirements).
Additionally, operations/maintenance costs (including utilities) along with the details of projected/expected revenue generation have not been provided even though this information has been requested several times for our city staff.
3. Proponents of the Mackle Park building also say that “this facility will not result in additional taxes to the citizen of Marco” – it is only a rethinking of city priorities.
If this is true that the City has $8 million dollars in low priority expenditures in future budgets, then the city budget should be reduced by that amount of dollars.
4. In the most recent MICA Survey of over 5,000 residents, 91 percent responded that this proposed new facility should go to referendum. Furthermore, the majority of respondents said that the city should focus on infrastructure as the highest priority for any additional expenditures. Also, the Marco Island Homeowners Association secured over 1,000 signatures that this issue should go to a referendum. Why is the City ignoring this feedback!
5. In a time when other municipalities are cutting back their budgets to reflect only essential expenditures, we do not seem to get the message.
Use your own imagination to figure out how much more the taxpayer will have to pay for new personnel to run/man the proposed facility. That is a very large number any way you look at it! And this does not include maintenance, utilities, engineering costs during construction!
Some proponents of this project say that they can raise substantial donations to help defer the cost. It has also been suggested that “perhaps we will get a corporate sponsor.” If that is the case, then these monies should be raised/secured first – prior to any commitment or financing arrangements are finalized.
On one hand, we hear that the people really want this facility and Bryan Milk has over 100 signatures reflecting just that. However, this group feels that this extremely important issue for Marco’s taxpayers does not need to go to a referendum. Try to follow this logic –100 signatures versus 91 percent of over 5,000 MICA members and over 1,000 members of the Marco Island Homeowners Association. It should be noted that the MICA Survey question on Mackle Park did not include any dollars, confirming my conclusion that the taxpayers of Marco Island do not want the new Mackle Park facility no matter what!
In addition, how objective can our city staff be regarding this issue when the City Manager Jim Riviere is the vice president serving on the Board for the Foundation.
We all need to come together and realize that “times are really tough” right now, and the city needs to “tighten the belt.” Some council members say “they want to know what the citizens think and what they want” and others say they promise that they will be “fiscally responsible.” The time is now!
This commentary is not a personal attack on any one particular individual or group, and certainly not an attack on our city and/or City Council.
We need to stop spending when it is not necessary to do so. The “nice to have” certainly can wait. Citizens of Marco are really, really hurting right now and our Council needs to understand that reality. Let the taxpayers speak – it is their money!
Finally, simply ask the taxpayer “if they want it.” It is the right thing to do. They deserve to have a voice in this matter.
People on Marco do not want this “pushing” of the Mackle Park issue to be a key debate for the November 2012 City Council election along with the upcoming City Council policy issue of setting new water rates!
Marco taxpayers need to stay informed and thus engaged!