Marco mythbuster: Chairman Magel on the facts, plans for the future

Marco Island City Council Chairman Larry Magel stands beside the city's flag, a symbol for which he has great respect, representing a community he clearly believes is the best place to live. Cheryl Ferrara / Eagle Correspondent

Marco Island City Council Chairman Larry Magel stands beside the city's flag, a symbol for which he has great respect, representing a community he clearly believes is the best place to live. Cheryl Ferrara / Eagle Correspondent

Larry Magel has a short time to get a lot of things done.

With Marco Island’s City Council elections moved to November, his term as chairman will be brief, only nine months long. His first order of business has been an investment in returning trust to City Hall.

“I care a lot about this city and think there’s no place better to live,” Magel said during a recent interview. “When I heard people degrading the city with misinformation, I knew I either had to get the facts out or bite my tongue.”

Magel decided to speak out, visiting local organizations with one message: If you want to be an informed voter, you need to know the facts about the city’s financial health.

“People who say the city is $400 million in debt are not using a fair comparison. When you talk about what you owe on your mortgage, do you include the years of interest you will owe? When you budget, do you show what you owe but ignore the income you have to pay for it?”

In group presentations, Magel delineates the city’s finances using 2011 audited numbers: $12.9 million in general obligation, $179 million in utility debt and $38.8 million in Septic Tank Replacement Program debt that will be repaid by the districts.

“That puts total debt at $218,745,833; not the $400 some people are claiming,” he said.

To look at it another way, Magel compared millage rates.

“Goodland pays 1.72 mils just for fire protection. Isles of Capri taxes itself 2.0 mils for its fire district. Marco Islanders pay 1.89 mils for the entire city and all the services it provides.”

As chairman of the budget committee for the last two years, Magel made a conscious decision not to raise the island’s millage rate.

“I could see the financial duress some taxpayers were under,” he said, “particularly people who moved here 20 years ago, made Marco Island their retirement home and live on fixed incomes.”

He focused on life and safety services within what the city could afford, issues that still have his eye today.

“When we lost our emergency facility I became concerned. We have one ambulance allocated to Marco Island on a permanent basis. I wanted to know what we could do, if anything, to increase medical services.”

Magel and City Manager Jim Riviere plan to open discussions with the county’s two hospital providers to assess whether the island can support a 24-hour-a-day care center.

“We’ll never have a trauma center,” Magel explained. “We understand it’s not cost effective.” There’s a level of care he believes can be an option for city residents.

“My job is to develop the facts and then have the discussion with council and the citizens. It may require going to the voters for a referendum if we need a special taxing district to subsidize it.”

Magel also hopes to find a solution to the city’s utility debt. The idea of pursuing a public-private partnership intrigues him.

“One consultant we had who assessed our utility operation said communities are using these partnerships, and a smaller utility on the East Coast contracted for $50 million.”

The consultant, Gerald Hartman of GAI Consultants, suggested the city consider a public-private partnership conceding operations to an investor while retaining ownership of land and facilities. Operations would be controlled on a contractual basis. He estimated the city could reduce its utility debt by half using the partnership.

“That would mean we could possibly contract for $100 million. It sounds too good to be true but private companies use these contracts to shelter income and protect parent companies – all within the tax codes of this country.”

Last, but not least, Magel said he inherited swale parking as an issue he hopes to resolve in his term.

“We’ve asked the Planning Board to get involved and get back to us in 90 days. I intend to have a workshop with city council because it’s a problem all over the city: At the Esplanade, Old Marco, South Beach and Veterans’ Park.”

It’s a long agenda for a short term, but on Tuesday, Magel seemed confident he could get through it.

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Comments » 16

OldMarcoMan writes:

Nine Months to long for this Puppet Doof.

deltarome writes:

once Arceri graduates from Ave Maria law school, he will be back...

RayPray writes:

Whither Moe & Curley?

ed34145 writes:

First, let me say that I personally do not care for Larry Magel. But, I have to give him credit for what he is trying to do. Unfortunately, it will be lost on the ignorant, negative factions on Marco.

Pursuit writes:

Magel stated he inherited the swale parking issue that is a no brainer easily solved LET THE PROPERTY OWNER CONTROL THEIR OWN SWALE This is the only fair way and should be instituted

Ocram (Inactive) writes:

Not so easy benjaron, the swales are owned by the city and the property owner has no legal right to "control" them.

Pursuit writes:

in response to Ocram:

Not so easy benjaron, the swales are owned by the city and the property owner has no legal right to "control" them.

Very unfair situation the city can dictate what you can or must do with the swale directly in front of your property Property owner spend's the money to comply with city ordinance as to landscape /maintainence drainage etc. & then any stranger can park on what you have accomplished This must and can be changed It's up to a competent city administration to do. Let's hope for some changes & get some real lif people in place

Ocram (Inactive) writes:

in response to Pursuit:

Very unfair situation the city can dictate what you can or must do with the swale directly in front of your property Property owner spend's the money to comply with city ordinance as to landscape /maintainence drainage etc. & then any stranger can park on what you have accomplished This must and can be changed It's up to a competent city administration to do. Let's hope for some changes & get some real lif people in place

Benjaron,

You are absolutely correct!

loscabos writes:

I agree with the unfairness concerning the swales. However; somewhere in the original owners contract to purchase the property, the owner agrees to all the citys' codes and restrictions on the property or the property could not have been purchased.

Sparky100 writes:

Chairman Nagel, with only a nine month term, I hope you would concentrate on two main issues.
First: Water / Sewer rates. Water is the life blood of any community and should be available to all at a FAIR price. A gallon of water out of my faucet should cost the same as a gallon of water out of someone else’s faucet. Effluents costs are were adjustments need to be made, higher rates should be charged to the largest users namely hotels and restaurants with lesser rates for condo’s and single family homes.
Second: Swale parking. There is now a long history of inaction by MI government on this issue, it will not go away. Unfortunately it will come to a head when someone is seriously hurt or killed stepping out from between illegally parked cars. Hopefully you realize the city liability and possibly homeowners exposure(as the swale owners) for not enforcing existing city parking laws. I am sure the ambulance chasers will include us in any legal action and guess who will have the deepest pockets, we will.
Best of luck on your next nine months.

Ocram (Inactive) writes:

Loscabos,

That does not mean that the city should ignore the swales or allow the destruction by other parties without holding the parties that are doing the damage responsible for repairs. It does not matter who owns the property, but it turns out to be the adjoining homeowner who ends up footing the bill.

Ocram (Inactive) writes:

in response to Sparky100:

Chairman Nagel, with only a nine month term, I hope you would concentrate on two main issues.
First: Water / Sewer rates. Water is the life blood of any community and should be available to all at a FAIR price. A gallon of water out of my faucet should cost the same as a gallon of water out of someone else’s faucet. Effluents costs are were adjustments need to be made, higher rates should be charged to the largest users namely hotels and restaurants with lesser rates for condo’s and single family homes.
Second: Swale parking. There is now a long history of inaction by MI government on this issue, it will not go away. Unfortunately it will come to a head when someone is seriously hurt or killed stepping out from between illegally parked cars. Hopefully you realize the city liability and possibly homeowners exposure(as the swale owners) for not enforcing existing city parking laws. I am sure the ambulance chasers will include us in any legal action and guess who will have the deepest pockets, we will.
Best of luck on your next nine months.

Right on!

deltarome writes:

Sparky, you have got to be kidding on asking Magel to lower homeowner water and sewer rates.
Magel represents only one group, the condo owners. All others have increases in rates while condo's were lowered and condo and hotel reuse water was held constant.

Ocram (Inactive) writes:

Magel claims he will represent all everyone. He hasn't said equally. He was voted in by a slick method called bullet voting and that is all there is to it. The condo owners voted him in with this method and that is who he favors.

Egual rates for all does not take a brain surgeon to figure out! All this time to figure uneven rates favoring condos and hotels takes a great deal more time.

In plain English the favoritism to the condos and hotels stinks!

ajm3s writes:

in response to Ocram:

Magel claims he will represent all everyone. He hasn't said equally. He was voted in by a slick method called bullet voting and that is all there is to it. The condo owners voted him in with this method and that is who he favors.

Egual rates for all does not take a brain surgeon to figure out! All this time to figure uneven rates favoring condos and hotels takes a great deal more time.

In plain English the favoritism to the condos and hotels stinks!

Now fast forward, and pay attention to his perspective. When Mr. Magel speaks, keep the bullet vote scheme in the back of your mind when you assess his words.

In my world, history matters, and from my perspective his methodology both past and present has not changed. Its essentially the end justifies the means. And now he is the Chairman, what a surprise.

Somehow, I feel like I am watching a shell game. And it always ends with the man showing we picked wrong, again. And again.

He voted for density transfer, so that he could see the proposal from potential hospitality investors. Now that is interesting, since, I thought he would have voted for it because it was in the interest of residents who want to maintain a small tropical town? OOPS! Did I mean he would have voted against it? I guess, some constituencies are not being represented, like homeowners outside of a gated community.

Do we need more business on Marco Island to elevate the quality of life of residents on this island? Or is to offer a nightly stay for businessmen who visit the island, or low cost accommodations, or what? How does density transfer add quality on this island?

Again, the end justifies the means. And the end goal is redevelopment for its own sake. In spite of existing vacancies in the Esplanade.

All the while residents are dismissed as misinformed or at best ill equipped to understand the intricacies of maintaining a small tropical island.

1Paradiselost writes:

The article should heve been titled.....

Marco Myth buster: Pinocchio on the facts, plans for the future!

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