MARCO ISLAND — You might think that at the end of a long meeting, with the budget passed, and the millage rate set, after months of discussions and cutting, the Marco Island City Council would be able to draw a collective deep breath, go home and watch Monday Night Football. You’d be wrong.
Although the crowd had thinned considerably by the time the last spreadsheet had been displayed, and the last budget number crunched, the council still had one more piece of business to attend to.
It seems that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has taken an interest in a home on Marco Island, and wants it gone. Daphnie Ricobene, a paralegal who works in the law firm of City Attorney Burt Saunders, was tapped to make the presentation to the City Council, so they could decide how best to proceed.
“FEMA does a periodic search of their database,” Ricobene told the council, looking for properties that have had excessive flood insurance claims. This one house, located at 269 Second Avenue near the center of the island, had the potential of adversely affecting – that is, raising – flood insurance rates for the entire island. The modest home appears to have been built decades before some of its neighbors, with the floor level not raised up above the surrounding ground.
Based on their rating standards, FEMA says Marco Island residents are entitled to a 20 percent discount on their flood insurance premiums, with the island rated at six on a scale of 10. To avoid this one structure impacting the rating, Ricobene said, FEMA had contacted former city flood plain coordinator Bob Devlin with three mitigation options.
The house could be elevated, the house could be moved, or the house could be demolished, once the City of Marco Island acquired the property.
“Mr. Devlin went to the property owner, and they decided they wanted the city to acquire and demolish” the home, said Ricobene. “It probably is the most cost-effective option.” Reviewing the files, she said, her firm determined proper procedures had not been followed in the case, but FEMA was willing to provide a grant to cover purchase and demolition costs.
“We’re using FEMA’s money to purchase the property,” Council Chairman Jerry Gibson wanted to confirm. “So they’re paying for this.”
“There’s no cost to the city?” asked Councilman Bill Trotter. No, said Ricobene. FEMA would cover 90 percent with their grant, which includes a $7,000 administration to cover costs including legal fees and a mandatory appraisal.
“I’ll give you an appraisal for $7,000,” offered Councilman Chuck Kiester in an aside. In fact, said Ricobene, the city could apply for advance payment from FEMA. Councilman Larry Magel wondered about maintenance and liability costs. Mowing the property, said City Parks and Recreation Director Bryan Milk, would cost about $500 annually.
Gibson said there had been discussions with the Sunrise Rotary Club, a non-profit, to deed the property to them for a park. City Manager Jim Riviere said the City would require a deed restriction that it can never be built on again.
Despite Kiester’s concern at purchasing, even with “other people’s money,” a property valued at about $90,000 for a total of $234,000, the motion to proceed passed 7-0. Council also agreed to revisit equipping one intersection with an audible signal to accommodate a blind resident.