The Marco Island public works director took heat Monday night from City Council over natural gas plan.
Councilors said they were not prepared by staff to discuss a natural gas utility franchise agreement even though first reading to authorize the ordinance came before them.
"I'm uneasy that this matter has been going on for about a year now, and I have no staff opinion and nobody has mentioned it to council and it's already come into the area," said Joe Batte, council vice chairman.
Tim Pinter, the public works director, said he had been working with Peoples Gas System, a division of Tampa Electric Company, for nearly a year on plans to bring natural gas to the island. The company recently completed an extension of its gas line under the Marco River to a point just south of the Judge S.S. Jolley Bridge on Collier Boulevard.
TECO prepared the franchise agreement and Burt Saunders, city attorney, reviewed it. The franchise would provide the city with monthly revenues of 6 percent of the company's gross revenues, less expenses, from the sale of natural gas to customers within Marco Island's city limits.
The city ordinance would allow TECO to place 6-inch high pressure gas lines in the city's right of way from the bridge to the Marco Hilton near the intersection of Collier Boulevard and Winterberry Drive. Leroy Sullivan, Jr., the company's regional manager, said TECO plans to supply natural gas to businesses along the route. The company said it had identified 75 potential customers.
Councilors questioned right-of-way damage, indemnification of the city in the event of an accident, and construction requirements. Pinter assured council the first two items were addressed in the document.
Sullivan told council TECO was negotiating with Heritage Propane to purchase its gas line already embedded under Collier Boulevard. Even without the purchase, new lines could be installed by November.
Councilors approved the franchise agreement on first reading by a vote of 7-0. Second reading was scheduled for Marco Island City Council's next regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, April 16,
Delaying fate of water and sewer debt
Councilors tabled discussion on water and sewer debt refunding, effectively eliminating the possibility of a referendum. The city currently has $157 million in outstanding water and sewer debt.
The referendum would have allowed debt repayment from customers through ad valorem taxes, taking the capacity charge off their water bills. Council needed to approve the referendum by April 16 to give city staff and the Supervisor of Elections enough time to get it on the Aug. 14 primary election ballot.
Hideaway Beach special taxing district
Council unanimously approve a resolution reauthorizing Hideaway Beach's special taxing district created to fund the gated community's beach renourishment, maintenance and related activities.
The resolution allows the district to levy ad valorem taxes to pay for general obligation bonds not to exceed $2.9 million. The levy will be placed on the Aug. 14 primary election ballot and must be approved by a majority of Hideaway Beach residents.