NAPLES — Beachgoers heading to about a dozen of Naples' popular beach ends soon may be able to leave their quarters at home.
Naples City Council on Monday gave staff the go-ahead to begin looking at upgrading the parking meters at the city's beach ends.
The project would replace parking meters at beach ends that have more than 25 spots with pay-by-space meters that accept credit cards and dollar bills, similar to ones already installed at Lowdermilk Park and Naples Pier.
The city also would replace meters at smaller beach ends throughout the city with tamper-resistant meters that take coins. But city officials said Monday they haven't ruled out putting in meters compatible with credit cards at those locations.
"I support doing this," Mayor John Sorey said. "I think it makes a lot of sense."
The project was one of the big-ticket items that got tentative approval during a discussion Monday about the city's annual capital improvement plan. The five-year, $84.5 million capital plan outlines proposals for the next five years, but isn't a commitment to do the projects.
The parking meter makeover evolved from a plan to spend $60,000 annually for the next five years to upgrade beach end meters to tamper-proof ones, said Ann Marie Ricardi, the city's finance director.
Ricardi said once she began talking to staff members about the proposal, the city decided it may be better to replace some meters with pay-by-space meters, which accept credit cards and dollar bills.
The proposal would cost $340,700 — including the $60,000 already budgeted for improvements — and would add 16 pay stations at the city's larger beach ends, such as Broad Avenue South and Fifth Avenue South. A pay station also would be installed at Naples Landing, and additional stations would go at Naples Pier and Lowdermilk Park.
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The city would replace 472 small meters at the city's smaller beach ends.
City Manager Bill Moss said the city could look into replacing the small meters with ones that accept credit cards as well.
The parking meter project wasn't the only one that got the OK Monday. City Council also tentatively approved setting aside about $620,000 to replace the air-conditioning system at City Hall.
David Lykins, the city's community services director, said while the city hadn't budgeted for the project in previous years, the building is in dire need of a new system. Lykins said the current system is original to the building and the city has been trying to address minor repairs over the years, but to no avail.
"We have done everything we can ... to keep it operational," Lykins said. "It is on the very last leg."
Council members agreed to budget the money, but also asked staff members to evaluate the life span of the 35-year-old building.
"We should have a detailed conversation about putting that kind of money into this kind of building," Councilman Gary Price said.
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Council won't have to wait long before discussing the project. Staff members on Wednesday plan to ask council to award a contract to design and engineer the project.
While some projects were approved Monday on the first go-around, Naples police Chief Tom Weschler found the second time was the charm when it came to his requests.
The city's police department was allowed to keep a $135,000 request for a new twin engine police boat in its fiscal 2012-13 budget. The boat would replace one of the city's two police boats, which Weschler said has a 2-year-old motor, cracked floors and seats. Weschler is proposing the city replace it with a 25-foot twin-engine boat.
The department made a similar request last year, which council rejected.
The city's fire department wasn't as lucky, though. A request for a $350,000 fire boat — down from a similar request of $500,000 last year — was rejected, as was a request to spend $400,000 in fiscal 2012-13 to begin designing a new fire station in downtown Naples. City Council did, however, set aside $500,000 to put toward construction of the new station, which will cost an estimated $4 million, in the future.
While capital improvement projects monopolized much of the meeting, City Council also came to a consensus to set the maximum tax rate at $1.18 per $1,000 in fiscal 2012-13. That decision keeps the tax rate the same as the current year's rate.