Guest Commentary: Why not a referendum – Please let the people speak

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!

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Comments » 12

ajm3s writes:

Halleluiah!

Now let's await the rebuttal from Ms. DeScuillo. She can be quite spirited, at least in email format.

For a review just a few months ago, there were other commentaries and articles and it seems the Taj Mahal presses on today.

http://www.marconews.com/news/2011/ma...

http://www.marconews.com/news/2011/ma...

Beware, the new catch phrase is public-private partnership, as a means to market this project.

Well, where I come from this is nothing new, most if not all public facilities are built by private contractors. The new public-private partnership that best describes Gilbane/Marco Island is how a private company can now act as the financier with a higher cost associated with one stop shopping (non-competitive financing and construction in one neat package). Sounds like another scheme to me.

dc5799 writes:

Do you think Gov. Scott know's what goes on here on MI.No referendum.raising taxes, out of control water and sewer rates, no layoff's, new hires, building and leasing community center when we own the one we have.
Two fire stations on this small island.Maybe we should invite the Gov. here to see how paradise operates. I'm sure he could help us the overtaxed [old]seniors who live here.
Maybe he can show our manager and council how it is done because they do not have a clue.

Seawaller writes:

Someone has decided that he/she wants a new building at Mackle Park and come hell or high water they will get it. Same was true of the water plant, sewers, bike paths, dog park, Marco Man, City Hall, Fire station(s), Disney lights on Collier Blvd., museum, tennis courts, soccer fields...jeeze the list is too long. Taxpayers be blasteded, you have no say just get with the program!

dc5799 writes:

Dog park was built with private donations, no taxpayers money though the city was looking for way's to confiscate some of the donated money. Waldack wanted owners to pay to license their dog's. Gibson wanted to "get some money from the tourist who visit". Everything else we paid for, I use the term WE loosely

marco97 writes:

DC, what was the cost of all the tall palm trees that were planted at the dog park, just curious.

dc5799 writes:

in response to marco97:

DC, what was the cost of all the tall palm trees that were planted at the dog park, just curious.

there is an endowment for the upkeep of the park. how much did the trees cost all around the park and veterans park/ Who paid for those?

marco97 writes:

DC my point is over the years the park has lost about 6 mature palm trees that lined the walkway. When I asked about getting them replaced I'm told there is no money in the budget for them. So when my tax dollars are used to put $5,000 worth of palms in a fenced in area for use by dog owners I feel like I'm getting screwed.
I usually agree with you but on this I think the dog park people should have paid for the the palm trees or at least some should have been placed around the park.

dc5799 writes:

in response to marco97:

DC my point is over the years the park has lost about 6 mature palm trees that lined the walkway. When I asked about getting them replaced I'm told there is no money in the budget for them. So when my tax dollars are used to put $5,000 worth of palms in a fenced in area for use by dog owners I feel like I'm getting screwed.
I usually agree with you but on this I think the dog park people should have paid for the the palm trees or at least some should have been placed around the park.

I think but I am not sure the money was taken from the endowment. If not where is the endowment money being used?
There is money for everything else on this island, why not that? The signs alone on the bike path must have cost more than $5000.There are at least 8-10 signs at the intersection 's to the path.What about fireworks, St Patricks day parade extra police on duty?
If you are getting screwed as you so aptly put it, it is the city screwing you. Not the dog lovers of this island.

ajm3s writes:

in response to dc5799:

I think but I am not sure the money was taken from the endowment. If not where is the endowment money being used?
There is money for everything else on this island, why not that? The signs alone on the bike path must have cost more than $5000.There are at least 8-10 signs at the intersection 's to the path.What about fireworks, St Patricks day parade extra police on duty?
If you are getting screwed as you so aptly put it, it is the city screwing you. Not the dog lovers of this island.

Can I elaborate on your point? Here is how the city dupes citizens to expand services and expenditures:

The city will tell you they have no money for a specific request, in an attempt to garner more support for city programs or capital expenditures. The city is more than happy to spend taxpayers money for special interests.

This results in every interest group, now clamoring to the city for something to be done, from trees on a walkway, to bike path expansion, to tennis court remediation, to creating a gymnasium, to more services for the children, to more hotels in Market Center, to special crosswalks, ad infinitum.

The dog park folks, have shown the city what special interests can do without asking the city to pay and eventually increasing taxes. Kudos to their efforts and showing a different approach.

All the while, the basic infrastructure on Marco Island is burdened with the effects of incompetent planning and implementation of a sewer works project in terms of capacity. Now that is what I call waste.

Address the basics, the planning of the past is scary and has burdensome consequences. I hope we can go forward maintaining a healthy dose of reality gained from this experience. And speaking of maintaining, can we maintain what we have, because so much stuff is getting shabby, i.e. sidewalks.

Please, let us not repeat this fiasco.

marco97 writes:

DC thanks for the clarification, I was told the City paid for the trees for the dog park and I'm glade to hear the dog park paid for them. I just wish the City would replace the ones lost around the park.

Fossil writes:

Marco Island puts the lie to the statement that Govenment does not provide jobs. Contractors and their employees have made millions of dollars off our taxpayers. When is our Governor going to come down here and learn how to increase the work force of this state.

marcojerry writes:

I'm sure the city isn't worried about budgets, I watch every city council meeting and they are wanting to privatize the water department now and layoff all the employees, privatize mackle park and layoff the city employees, privatize parts of the citys finance department and even privatize the landscaping too. We worked so hard to make marco island a city run island and now everything is going to be privatized, just like rick scott is doing to florida and all the contracts will be handed out to "friends" of you know who. rick scott is destroying the state this way and now marco island is following suit. i have lived here over 20 years now and have seen it go from county run to city run and now its heading to privately run where they will just care about the money, not the people and our services will go to crap. why is the city going to become a rick scott model, tell me this please, i have lived here long enough to see this is not right for us

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