City Council considers studies on Marco Island's post-employment compensation and Fire Station 50's renovations

After elections at Marco Island’s City Council meeting Monday, Chairman Ken Honecker, right, and Vice Chairman Larry Sacher settle into their new leadership positions. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

After elections at Marco Island’s City Council meeting Monday, Chairman Ken Honecker, right, and Vice Chairman Larry Sacher settle into their new leadership positions. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

As one of his first official duties, Marco Island City Council Chairman Ken Honecker honors Ron Weis, a 30-year city employee. Weis, who is retiring, was manager of the city’s waste water treatment plant. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

As one of his first official duties, Marco Island City Council Chairman Ken Honecker honors Ron Weis, a 30-year city employee. Weis, who is retiring, was manager of the city’s waste water treatment plant. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Deputy Chief Chris Byrne listens as Marco Island’s City Councilors discuss renovating the 20-year-old Fire Station 50 on Bald Eagle Drive. Behind Byrne is Rony Joel (in white), a former city employee, and Tom Kirstein, a member of the citizen workgroup studying the station. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Deputy Chief Chris Byrne listens as Marco Island’s City Councilors discuss renovating the 20-year-old Fire Station 50 on Bald Eagle Drive. Behind Byrne is Rony Joel (in white), a former city employee, and Tom Kirstein, a member of the citizen workgroup studying the station. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Marco Island Councilor Larry Honig, left, discusses city information with Interim City Manager Guillermo Polanco prior to Monday’s council meeting. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Marco Island Councilor Larry Honig, left, discusses city information with Interim City Manager Guillermo Polanco prior to Monday’s council meeting. Cheryl Ferrara/Eagle Correspondent

Funding a remodeled fire station, Smokehouse Bridge, a new Mackle Park Community Center and pension liabilities daunted Marco Island’s City Council Monday as Chairman Ken Honecker navigated his first meeting at the helm.

In the end, councilors vowed to let long-range planning drive the process of finding revenues for city projects. Councilor Amadeo Patricca supported the use of bonds for major undertakings, thereby spreading costs into the future to those that would benefit from them.

The meeting was not without drama. Newly named Vice Chairman Larry Sacher accused the author of a “letter to the editor” in the Marco Eagle of misinformation and deceit. Writer Bill Harris came before council to defend his letter and position.

Mario Curiale took Police Chief Don Hunter to task for failing to evenhandedly enforce ordinances controlling overcapacity in restaurants. Hunter explained his department began handling Code Enforcement within the past two weeks, and the matter would be investigated.

Regina Dayton scolded council for lack of movement in her case against the city on issues of building inspections and public records requests.

“A conclusion was not reached in the closed door session because some councilors were not there,” she said. “It is time to put these issues to rest.”

Councilor Larry Honig created a stir with an outburst, accusing council of allowing a rebuttal to his presentation on employee benefits. On Oct. 21, Honig was directed on behalf of council to research other Florida cities for compensation and unfunded pension liabilities data.

Honig presented a multi-city comparison at Monday’s meeting. Sacher subsequently presented a two-city comparison of his own. Sacher told council his brief presentation was not a rebuttal, but his action ignited Honig’s ire nonetheless.

With Marco Island’s unfunded pensions and benefits liability at $5 million, some councilors wondered whether retiring employees were being promised too much and living “high on the (benefits) hog.”

Sacher suggested at the October meeting that Marco Island employees were compensated “way above everybody.” Without clear evidence, some councilors questioned that statement.

On Monday, Honig’s findings refuted Sacher’s allegation.

Marco Island ranked among the lowest unfunded pension liabilities compared to similar Florida cities, Honig concluded. At present, Marco Island has an unfunded liability equal to 12 weeks of government revenues. In comparison, Naples’ liability equals 26 months, Honig said.

He contended no evidence showed that Marco Island employees receive excessive compensation or benefits. Honig’s data revealed fairly equal compensations with cities such as Naples and Vero Beach.

Honig asked council to pause before acting until a new city manager was hired. Sacher requested a sub-committee and possibly a consultant to investigate the city’s compensation practices. Council took no action but agreed to take up the matter at a subsequent meeting.

Fire station remodeling

Deputy Chief Chris Byrne presented the findings of a workgroup tasked with reviewing problems at the city’s Fire Station 50 on Bald Eagle Drive. The station was constructed in 1992 to house 27 personnel and equipment. The department currently has 38 personnel housed there.

Workgroup members described living conditions at the station as “deplorable” and “not suitable” for city personnel. At issue were molds, infestations, safety, gender privacy, inadequate air flow and high humidity resulting from multiple internal wall reconfigurations.

The workgroup presented three alternatives ranging from $1.855 million for mitigation only to $3.163 million for mitigation, building redesign, expansion and improvement. The workgroup recommended a middle alternative of $2.838 million that would include building renovation and construction while removing environmental health and safety problems.

Council asked the workgroup to consider a project midway between $1.8 and $2.8 million. The issue will be discussed at council’s meeting on Dec. 2.

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Comments » 7

RayNetherwood writes:

Marco Island MUST move from a defined benefits plan for any and all employees, to a defined contribution plan.

We can not become a "Detroit" or wind up like municipalities in CA. The time to make the change is NOW!!!!

ajm3s writes:

The Station 50 proposal is NOT a remodel..it is an EXPANSION including 14 individual bunk rooms on the second floor. This is starting to look more like a hotel expansion...NOTE: a bunk room design is the most expensive for sleeping accommodations design options.

Speaking of hotel rooms, this is the latest dealings with a dispute of housing county EMS..solution hotel rooms:

http://m.jems.com/article/news/rent-d...

Interesting, because I believe most emergency responses are medically related (I believe near 70% of calls or is it incidences?). I hope council member, Mr. Pettricca can convince the county to provide additional EMS vehicles and staffing....and given the Bonita Spring challenge to Lee county...it may be cost effective to house EMS at the hotels on Collier.

Or let's expand (remodel per the city's perspective). This is how the message is distorted by the city....to make claim this is simply a remodel....

Is this city proposal as titled a true example of misinformation? Proposal title: "Fire Station Remodel Project FY 14 CIP"

http://www.cityofmarcoisland.com/modu...

And I thought the Marriott was the only hotel expansion in the city. Can we expect an expanded conference room in the fire house to compete with the Marriott Convention Proposal?

Or am I the misinformed?

And let us not forget Station 51 currently under repairs for roof leaks etc. I guess when the city transferred an engine company to Elkam Station 51 in 2010, we did not reduce the need of beds at Station 50. I did not see that in the proposal...I guess it did not help in promoting the cause for more beds at Station 50.

I will be expecting a proposal for Station 51...it will simply be a cut and paste of this current proposal to justify "remodel" of Station 50 instead of Station 51...

Stay tuned!

harrisbill239#279036 writes:

Councilor Honig gave a very good presentation at the 11/4 meeting, showing that Marco Pension and Compensations are in line, or below, other comparable cities. HOWEVER, I'm not particularly concerned with other cities. As I iterated to the Council, we obviously can NOT afford the salaries and benefits that we currently offer to city employees, including Fire and Police departments. If we could afford them, we would not be FIVE MILLION DOLLARS underfunded just in the Pension funds. It is distinctly not fair to these employees that the city has made promises and commitments that when they retire, the promised funds will be there. But, at the rate we're going, there will not be funds to pay those pensions and benefits. We do not want to be another Detroit, where we only pay 15 or 16 cents on the dollar to those employees at their retirements!

harrisbill239#279036 writes:

Another note on the salaries and benefits, particularly as related to the Police department. My understanding is that three members of the Police department (Chief Baer, Lt Spina, and Lt Guerrero) are prohibited by regulation from being part of the Police Union. Therefore, these three did not receive the same raises as the remainder of the department. So, the City Council then proceeded to give these three the same raises. I have to wonder - if these three are prohibited from the unions, how can we then do an end-run around the rules? Also, as I mentioned in the Council meeting, my understanding is that the Council is prohibited by the City Charter from taking part in the hiring, firing, promotion, demotion, or pay of any city employee (other than negotiating and approving terms of the union contracts, and hiring the City Manager). Those responsibilities fall under the purview of the City Manager. Another end-run around the rules - we're not calling this a "raise" or "pay increase", at the urging of the City Attorney, we're referring to it as just making their compensation commensurate with the rest of the department, or some other such wording to get around the limiting requirements of the City Charter. Even Steve Stefanides of the Sun Times refers to this as a raise ("to correct an oversight regarding the 2 percent raise issue and extended it to the three exempted employees within the department" [from the Nov. 5th edition])

August8 writes:

in response to RayNetherwood:

Marco Island MUST move from a defined benefits plan for any and all employees, to a defined contribution plan.

We can not become a "Detroit" or wind up like municipalities in CA. The time to make the change is NOW!!!!

Why, what's your reason for something like that or are you just a frustrated cheap island dweller like many? Your comparisons are beyond meaning and extremely silly.

Konfuzius writes:

"As I iterated to the Council, we obviously can NOT afford the salaries and benefits that we currently offer to city employees, including Fire and Police departments."

There is an easy solution. Go rid of MIPD and merge the fire department with Isle of Capri and East Naples. Before the city is on his last legs rob Peter to pay Paul.

August8 writes:

in response to Konfuzius:

"As I iterated to the Council, we obviously can NOT afford the salaries and benefits that we currently offer to city employees, including Fire and Police departments."

There is an easy solution. Go rid of MIPD and merge the fire department with Isle of Capri and East Naples. Before the city is on his last legs rob Peter to pay Paul.

I don't think you have the nuts to show up at a council meeting ?

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