MARCO ISLAND — Most of the cases dealt with by the city’s Code Enforcement Board these days are cut from the same pattern – island residents who failed to connect to the city’s sewer system, and didn’t respond to the “Code Compliance” efforts. As they find out, compliance, or lack of compliance, brings on code enforcement, with the prospect of heavy fines which must be either “mitigated” or paid, if the property is ever to be sold.
Cases not involving sewers are mostly foreclosures, with neglected homes distressing the neighbors and hurting property values. But sometimes, the CEB gets hold of a genuine safety issue, causing them to virtually step into a nearby phone booth, and emerge as Marco Island’s answer to the Justice League.
One such case came to the board on Tuesday at their regular monthly meeting in the City Council chambers, brought in by Code Compliance Supervisor Liz Carr. The item was a last-minute addition to the agenda, after it had been printed, concerning a fuel tank that had been moved to stand within the city’s right of way at a storage facility. There was also debris sitting outside unfenced, another violation, but the focus was on the fuel tank.
“This is considered a public safety issue,” said Carr, requesting “immediate action or fines up to $500 per day.” A storage tank at Marco Self-Storage, behind 940 Chalmer Drive, off Bald Eagle, was illegally placed next to a building. When Carr warned the owner of the violation, she said, the tank was moved away from the building, but into the city right of way. She had seen employees of Eli Contracting, the owners of the tank, fueling vehicles from it that morning, she said.
“This is a fire hazard. There’s nothing to stop anyone from crashing into it,” Carr told the CEB members. Whereas many CEB cases drag on for years, this case had been on her radar since October, and the board was ready to take quick action.
“Can we do an expedited kind of deal?” asked member Steve Stefanides. “If a car goes into it, you’ll have a massive explosion. This tank needs to be removed immediately.”
“I’m not sure the Code Board has that jurisdiction,” demurred Chairman Lou Prigge.
“But the city can,” said Carr. “I will ask Chief Murphy. She volunteered to speak to the Fire-Rescue chief immediately after the meeting, but any delay was too much delay for the board. Murphy was reached by telephone next door at the fire station, and came over minutes later with Fire Marshal Ray Munyon.
Saying they were aware of the tank, and it had been two thirds full of Diesel fuel at last inspection, Murphy and Munyon agreed to get right on it, tagging the violation and giving the owners 24 hours to correct it.
After three days, the $500 a day fine would kick in, said city attorney Burt Saunders. “I think that’s going to get their attention.” Both Marco Self Storage and Eli Contracting were cited.
The CEB continued to chip away at the backlog of cases, although Carr said after the meeting that new cases come up faster than they can be disposed of.
“We’re not beginning to clear the backload,” she said. “It’s ridiculous. I haven’t touched foreclosures in months. Every department in the city comes to Code Compliance.” She has another inspector starting in the coming week, she said.