Marco Island City Council: Millage max set, bridge bids nixed

JIm Molnar of TY Linn, left rear, and Public Works Director Tim Pinter discuss bridges with the council.The Marco Island City Council met Monday evening, going over bids for the Smokehouse Bay Bridge, and setting a maximum millage rate for property taxes. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

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JIm Molnar of TY Linn, left rear, and Public Works Director Tim Pinter discuss bridges with the council.The Marco Island City Council met Monday evening, going over bids for the Smokehouse Bay Bridge, and setting a maximum millage rate for property taxes. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

JIm Molnar of TY Linn, left, and Public Works Director Tim Pinter discuss bridges with the council.The Marco Island City Council met Monday evening, going over bids for the Smokehouse Bay Bridge, and setting a maximum millage rate for property taxes. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

JIm Molnar of TY Linn, left, and Public Works Director Tim Pinter discuss bridges with the council.The Marco Island City Council met Monday evening, going over bids for the Smokehouse Bay Bridge, and setting a maximum millage rate for property taxes. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

David Abercrombie pushes a plan to build a tunnel rather than a bridge. The Marco Island City Council met Monday evening, going over bids for the Smokehouse Bay Bridge, and setting a maximum millage rate for property taxes. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

Photo by LANCE SHEARER // Buy this photo

David Abercrombie pushes a plan to build a tunnel rather than a bridge. The Marco Island City Council met Monday evening, going over bids for the Smokehouse Bay Bridge, and setting a maximum millage rate for property taxes. Lance Shearer/Eagle Correspondent

— After Monday’s City Council meeting, Marco Islanders don’t know what their property taxes will be, but they know the maximum they can be. They have no clue, though, what they will pay for a bridge to go over Smokehouse Bay.

The seemingly endless saga of a replacement for the Smokehouse Bay Bridge consumed most of the time at the meeting. Where T Y-Lin International, the winning design for the project, estimated the cost of the proposed bridge, with a set of swooping arches, at $7.9 million, when bids came in, they ranged from $11.47 to $13.13 million.

Council members took turns beating up on T Y Lin vice president James Molnar and Tim Pinter, the city’s public works director, exchanging ideas and attempting to redesign on the spot the bridge, which has been in the works for five years and consumed $2,000,000 to get to this stage.

“I’m trying to salvage our $2,000,000 we’ve flushed down the toilet at this point,” said Councilor Ken Honecker

“Mr. Pinter, I’m expressing extreme dissatisfaction,” said Councilor Larry Honig. “We have $1,650,000 of alleged costs and don’t know what that is.”

Pinter, with occasional assists from Molnar, pointed out that landscaping came much higher than estimated, street lighting was not included in the original proposal, and the largest factor, an increase in steel prices of 100 to 500 percent. Behind these numbers is the resurgence in the nation’s economy and construction sector, with suppliers and contractors not as desperate for work as in recent years. Necessity for repair of the surrounding seawalls added more dollars.

Four years ago, the city held a design competition, with engineering firms vying to create a bridge that would serve as a signature and a showcase for the city, with architectural flourishes and public park space attached. At Monday’s meeting, councilors put forth ideas to create a Smokehouse Bay Bridge that will get motorists, and hopefully pedestrians and cyclists, from one side to the other as cheaply as possible.

“We’ve got two million in it. If we can spend $100,000 to slice three million out, that’s worth it,” said Councilor Amadeo Petricca.

Honecker proposed sending the bridge specs out to fabricators. “Put it out as a design/build, let them give us the best bridge they can, and take the lowest bid,” he said. Since the engineering firm had “screwed up a little bit, maybe they’d like to do a redesign for nothing,” suggested Petricca.

Public comment added more variety to the possible fixes. Touting his experience managing water systems, Jack Markel stressed the importance of performing due diligence. David Abercrombie suggested that rather than a bridge, the city create a tunnel under Smokehouse Bay, at a cost he estimated at $16 to $30 million.

Former councilor Bill Trotter said “it’s critical to keep this moving forward.”

“I always hated those arches,” said Kay Battaglia.

Finally, on a motion by Councilor Chuck Kiester, the council voted 7-0 to reject all bids received, including that of low bidder Zep Construction, whose principal also took questions at the meeting, and explore cost-cutting measures, with the aim of finding a less expensive bridge this autumn.

By comparison, the setting of the maximum rate for ad valorem taxes was handled expeditiously, although councilors were essentially unanimous in their opinions all evening, saving their wrath for staff and suppliers. Assessed valuations for the city’s tax rolls will be up $1.8 million next year, the council was told by Finance Director Gill Polanco.

The tax rate, which City Council can lower but not raise once they vote on proposed millage rates, was set by unanimous vote. Councilor Larry Sacher urged his colleagues to “give yourself more of a margin.”

Honig said that “2.07 gives up plenty of breathing room,” and that’s where it ended up. General operations mills were set at 1.96 with Hideaway Beach Special Taxing District millage at .1163, with those being the maximum levies allowed.

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Comments » 6

ajm3s writes:

Thank you Mr. Honig and the entire Council for probing and recognizing the lack of professional management by the city at several levels from the City Manager on down.

Again, I finally feel proud of our elected members of council. It is refreshing to hear council challenge the city instead of telling the citizens we are misinformed.

I for one am confused why an affluent community requires Taj Mahal type infrastructure and buildings, coupled with (in my view) excessive services from the government. It took council leadership to pare the cost of the Community Center rather than the city managing and evaluating cost effective solutions.I will give up if and when I hear that the city requires a community pool.

So again, the council must now act as city manager and public works director to pare the cost of the Smokehouse Bay bridge and deal with estimates that did not include major associated costs.

The presentation by Mr. Pinter was the most pathetic argument prepared by the city, especially the rationale of an increase in cost that simple confounds me. The increase due primarily to the cost of steel??????

As a first step, the council must review all expenditures for NEED!!!!!!! Not the dribble of spending because of more emergency calls, more traffic, more recreational amenities, more more...without a single review of all government assets (including county and state). Probe to find out what has changed to alter the needs of the city. Or is this just another marketing ploy to expand without due diligence.

This city in its brief history has failed to demonstrate prudent management of resources, to now wasting money in replacing existing infrastructure with glitz that is promoted via charrettes. Charrettes are effective in promoting wants rather than to evaluate the needs of a community. This was so apparent with the Midtown District Development/CRA and Smokehouse Bay. We are now seeing the results of such an approach when matched with sub-par city management.

When considering compensation for future city manager, please review the existing salary structure for existing directors and managers...for the salaries DO NOT match the level of competency in some instances.

All the while a single damaged flagpole lies in Plummer Park awaiting to be raised under the direction of Mr. Pinter and Mr. Milk since last removed from the bridge entrance last December (I believe). Quite a management team. Neighbors are grateful that it no longer lies in the right of way. On a positive note: I guess we should be thankful that progress has been made.

God help us all!

ajm3s writes:

NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH: *****UPDATE*****

The flagpole lying in state at Plummer Park has been move BACK to the right of way (ROW).

I guess this is symptomatic of a city that cannot even address the simple things like installing a flagpole. So why are we surprised with Smokehouse Bay bridge cost estimates and the rationale to support such crap.

I implore the Council to really take notice because as Code Enforcement is beefed up to address noncompliance of residents/businesses, I STRONGLY DEMAND the city adhere to the same standards it requires of its residents.

I seriously believe Mr. Murphy will be requesting more personnel and equipment to respond to a city hall 911 call for emergency treatment.

And the spiral of diminishing returns with increase spending marches on to the motto of the city: "We are here to serve you"

God help us all!

26yearsonmarco writes:

I remember an old saying that went something like this:

"As goes General Motors, so goes the market", or something like it.

If ”We the People” do not wake up, the saying will go something like this:

As goes Detroit, so goes Marco Island, into bankruptcy.

mhs513 writes:

Off with their heads!! And while your at it, put a provision in the city charter that All city employees must be reguired to be city residents! Maybe they wouldn't waste as much of their own money as they do ours!

26yearsonmarco writes:

in response to mhs513:

Off with their heads!! And while your at it, put a provision in the city charter that All city employees must be reguired to be city residents! Maybe they wouldn't waste as much of their own money as they do ours!

TEN FOUR

WMissow writes:

in response to mhs513:

Off with their heads!! And while your at it, put a provision in the city charter that All city employees must be reguired to be city residents! Maybe they wouldn't waste as much of their own money as they do ours!

Just think their heads stuck on polls outside city hall. It would be a better vision than seeing Tucker's name out there!

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