MARCO ISLAND — In the last meeting before elections, Marco Island City Council voted to see how competitive individual bids would be for the estimated $8 million replacement of two bridges at Smokehouse Bay on Collier Boulevard. On Monday, the vote fell short of actually funding construction, leaving that decision to the council seated after elections in November.
In a 6-1 vote to approve seeking bids, council grappled with how to extend the life of the bridges without replacement. Council Chairman Larry Magel suggested repairs totaling $650,000 could keep the bridges serviceable for another five years.
"It's a band-aid approach. That's what the county and FDOT have been doing for years," said Tim Pinter, public works director.
The Smokehouse Bay bridges, northbound and southbound, were built in 1963. Their expected life was about 45 years, Pinter said. Independent engineers assessed and rated the bridges, finding structural deficiencies and deterioration to the point of concern.
The bridges are integral to the island's hurricane evacuation route and could be damaged in a catastrophic event, consultants noted.
Engineers found concrete bridge decks deteriorated by nearly half, cracked and corroded bulkheads adjacent to the bridges, and rotted timbers meant to prevent bulkhead movement. Newly installed water and sewer lines under one bridge were shored up with concrete bags.
Although the consultants found these areas extremely concerning, they did not recommend replacement as the only option. Their report suggested remedial steps could forestall rebuilding the bridges for the near future. The bid results are expected to help drive the decision.
$400,000 fire boat moves forward
Council did authorize the city manager to execute a contract and acquire funding for a new vessel for the Marco Island Fire-Rescue Department. The boat is estimated to cost $400,000 and would be purchased on a lease-to-buy program. Councilor Bill Trotter opposed the purchase in a 6-1 vote.
The boat will allow on-the-water rescue personnel to float injured victims onboard through a water-level entrance rather than over gunwales, the only method available with the current rescue craft. Two stretcher bays will be accessible to EMS for emergency medical treatment from the time of rescue to onshore transportation.
Many of the department's calls are personal watercraft accidents, said Captain Tom Bogan of the fire-rescue department. The most common injuries are head and neck, requiring extreme caution when retrieving victims to prevent further injury, he said. An accident involving two personal watercraft earlier this year resulted in one death.
"The quality of this boat is phenomenal," Fire Chief Mike Murphy said on Tuesday. "The citizens are going to get the best value and a long-term investment for their money."
Council considers impact fee relief
In other actions, Council moved to consider impact fee relief for new owner-occupancy and renovation projects of existing retail space. The relief would mirror Collier County's plan. Restaurateur Mario Curiale, who hopes to open an Italian-style pizza restaurant at 845 Bald Eagle Drive, asked council to consider the relief.
Curiale is planning a 150-seat facility in the 1,979 sq. ft. vacated by a retail store. In Collier County and under certain conditions, he would receive impact fee relief as an incentive for filling vacant but occupiable space.
Council voted to ask staff to create an ordinance for the island similar to the county's plan. Council will consider it at a future meeting. Conditions include no changes to the facility outside the exiting square footage, no demolition and reconstruction projects, and a previous occupancy in the space of at least three years.
South Beach renourishment
A report by Gary McAlpin of Collier County's Coastal Zoning Management Department addressed south beach's renourishment project. Work on rebuilding breakwaters and sand replacement received permits from all agencies, and the project has been sent out to bid.
McAlpin cautioned that when work commences rebuilding structures will require 12 hours a day during 6 days a week. Sand placement will continue for 24 hours a day and seven days a week. The affected area is located at the end of south beach from Cape Marco to in front of the Apollo Condominium.
By deviating from the schedule, costs would increase and the work would bump into turtle nesting season, McAlpin explained. He asked councilors to approve the work hours, and they did so unanimously."I would like to see it done as quickly as possible," said Councilor Wayne Waldack.
"This is the first I've heard of the 24/7," said Councilor Jerry Gibson. "It's crucial that we have reins if we start getting complaints."