Comments by LEHonig

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Written on East Naples, Golden Gate fire districts take merger plans to the public:

My "point" is that Marco Island is an efficiently run government. Funny that you spend your time trolling for comments to which you can cough up your unrelated and nonsensical rants. Plus you cower in the last refuge of true cowards, anonymity.

Written on East Naples, Golden Gate fire districts take merger plans to the public:

The millage rate for ENFD is 1.5, and the article states that the new district would hope to keep that rate. I urge the citizens of Marco Island to note that for 1.96 mils, Marco Island receives not only Fire Rescue services, but also Police and the entire City administration.

Written on Marathon's Hernstadt will be Marco Island's new city manager:

Bill, that's simply not what happened. Please let me address your points one by one. And as always, I'm happy to talk if you want to call me.

1. Mr. Hernstadt was by no means the "clear front-runner." He was on the losing side of a 3-4 vote for the first two ballots in the City Council meeting.

2. I agree that the "Mister X" business was silly. But it wasn't nefarious. It was Councilor Sacher's clumsy way of protecting Mr. Hernstadt's identity, which Mr. Hernstadt had requested of Mr. Slavin, until he (Councilor Sacher) felt comfortable disclosing it. Any of us might have handled the situation differently, but in the end, no harm no foul.

3. You are absolutely, most definitely, and 100% incorrect about "politics during recess." Nothing of the sort took place. Mr. Peck independently, and without prodding from anyone at any time, decided that he was going to lose. My guess is that when Chairman Honecker flipped his vote, after the 2nd round of balloting, from Mr. Peck to Mr. Hernstadt, the handwriting was on the wall, at least as far as Mr. Peck was concerned. (Mr. Peck said that he was bowing out so that the vote could be unanimous. That was a classy move.)

Last night was an example of the City Council working together, and I believe the citizens should be proud of the process.

As for the result, that's up to you as to how you feel. I'm obviously happy (and would have been happy with Mr. Peck as well). Mr. Hernstadt is a tough-minded, disciplined, outgoing, fully open, deeply seasoned manager, and his wife is a delight. They will be assets to the community in every respect.

Written on Letter to the Editor: Skeptical:

To "liberator100" and "ajm3s," please note that it was three of the newly elected City Councilors who agreed to put a Mackle Park Community Center to a referendum. I did not. I was explicit in my view that elected representatives should make spending decisions (up to $10 million, per the City Charter). However, I agree that the three will absolutely gather at least one more vote on City Council, and thus the matter will go to referendum.

One additional point -- and it's an important one to me -- to clear up: We do not need to raise taxes to have the Mackle center, or the Smokehouse bridge, or anything else we need, within reason. I presented two schedules in a City Council meeting showing how that can be accomplished, and I will continue to press the point, because at least two of my colleagues wish to issue new debt for the bridge (and maybe for other projects), which is totally unnecessary.

Another writer above, "captnjimbo," is correct, in that Marco Island is indeed reviving since the financial crisis, plus the fiscal management of the City continues to be excellent. As Chairman Honecker put it in a Coastal Breeze interview last Friday (Nov. 29 edition), "We have plenty of cash lying around." We do. And we can add to it each year. We can do so and still maintain a strong reserve for emergencies (25% of our annual budget), and we can afford what we need -- without borrowing, and without raising taxes. No new debt, no new taxes.

One other aspect Chairman Honecker raised in the interview, with which I completely agree, is that the real debate and discussion should be oriented toward the scope and scale of the projects under discussion. We need to continue to drive the excess costs out of these projects. I think we're on the right track in that regard.

Written on Marco Island City Council passes first reading of budget, millage; discusses city manager search:

To ajm3s and naples_rocket, all my charts (unless I specify differently) are based on that particular city's published data in 2012 Certified Annual Financial Reports, and (for population, dwelling units and buildings) U.S. Census data 2010, updated by the Census Bureau to 2012. I've studied reports for well over 100 cities in Florida, so that I can try to bring some perspective as to whether various ideas, proposals and directions appear consistent with other cities' experience. I never compare cities with different types of service capabilities unless that's irrelevant to the point I'm making, And I never falsely skew my analysis by including, or excluding, our swelled season residents. For example, my Fire Rescue charts use our base population, even though if I used in-season population we'd look even worse.

As to the QRV, the Quick Response Vehicle replaces an existing vehicle which does not offer the capabilities of the QRV, and the Budget Subcommittee felt that the incremental asset cost of $58,000 was justified. Councilor Honecker was instrumental in reducing the original request by two-thirds. As for the one additional person per shift, this will make Marco Island one of the 10 highest departments in the state in terms of dwellings per firefighter, and in terms of population per rescue personnel, a step up from today's situation in which we're among the top five. We are nowhere near the levels of most of our sister cities. And of course the rationale is service. In the past 5 years, calls for service have increased significantly, as have wait times for response. The QRV will provide more patient care, comfort and safety while waiting for ambulance transport.

Finally, the boat, er, the Marine Rescue Vessel with Fire Suppression Capability. I supported this for its capability given our water-surrounded community and the number of incidents. But just on the financial side, I showed in a City Council meeting last December that the annual incremental cost of this vessel is around $5,000.

Written on Letter to the Editor: My position on the Smokehouse Bay Bridge:

Hascle asked why we can't build the Smokehouse Bay bridges for an amount per foot closer to the cost per foot of the Jolley Bridge. There are many reasons, and probably some I don't know. Here's a partial list:

1. The Jolley Bridge was "design-build," a construction approach in which one entity takes the project from design to completion. It's often cheaper than the way Smokehouse is being done ("design-bid-build"), a construction approach in which the payer (that's us on Marco, for Smokehouse) wants to control the design and all its elements. So we did all the design (and paid for it), and now a contractor will have to bid on building to that spec. (Recall that Smokehouse's design was put to the citizens to vote, and the citizens did not choose a bare-bones design.)

2. The Jolley Bridge didn't have to be done in a big hurry. We already had a bridge, and the traffic disruption was minimal. Smokehouse will be a whole different animal. Essentially it will be the construction of one bridge at a time, with traffic diverted to one lane on each bridge as the other bridge is constructed.

3. For the Jolley Bridge, we didn't have to rebuild seawalls and construct elaborate pedestrian pathways and so forth.

4. Big projects and little projects alike have to be prepped and staged and the contractor has to amass the equipment and materials and labor and plan each day and each step. If those costs can be spread out over a lot of work (in this case, a long span for the Jolley Bridge), then the per-foot cost can be reduced.

5. The economy probably played a role. Maybe when Jolley was put to bid, builders were hungry.

Written on Letter to the Editor: My position on the Smokehouse Bay Bridge:

Hello marcofriend, I wasn't comparing the bridges. I was responding to a request from a similarly anonymous writer asking for some figures. I provided them. Comparisons are up to you.

Written on Letter to the Editor: My position on the Smokehouse Bay Bridge:

26yearsonmarco asked earlier for some figures on Smokehouse and some other bridges. I appreciate the help from city staff. I will try to use apples-to-apples figures and explain important differences. It's very difficult to compare the bridges.

Smokehouse Bay Bridges. Remember, it's really two bridges, one northbound, one southbound. Taken together, it's a 114 ft. span (228 feet in total), 104 ft. wide including 8 ft. sidewalks. To date, approximately $2 million has been spent on engineering and design. Only about $50,000 has been spent on permits, and most of these do not expire soon. We do not yet have contractors' bids (due in time to discuss at the July 15 City Council meeting). The engineering estimate is $7.3 million for constructing the bridge and roadway approaches, so $9.3 million in total, or $41,000 per foot. Utility work is separate (and presumably paid for by the utility, and I do not know that number).

East Winterberry Bridge. 120 ft. span, 65 ft. wide. Cost $4.965 million for the bridge and roadway approaches, or $41,000 per foot.

Jolley Bridge. 1,600 ft. span, 59 ft. wide and 55 ft. tall at highest point. Sidewalk only on one side. Cost $25.822 million for the bridge and roadway approaches, or $16,000 per foot.

Written on Letter to the Editor: Smokehouse Bridge - What is meeting design standards?:

26yearsonmarco asked earlier for some figures on Smokehouse and some other bridges. I appreciate the help from city staff. I will try to use apples-to-apples figures and explain important differences. It's very difficult to compare the bridges.

Smokehouse Bay Bridges. Remember, it's really two bridges, one northbound, one southbound. Taken together, it's a 114 ft. span (228 feet in total), 104 ft. wide including 8 ft. sidewalks. To date, approximately $2 million has been spent on engineering and design. Only about $50,000 has been spent on permits, and most of these do not expire soon. We do not yet have contractors' bids (due in time to discuss at the July 15 City Council meeting). The engineering estimate is $7.3 million for constructing the bridge and roadway approaches, so $9.3 million in total, or $41,000 per foot. Utility work is separate (and presumably paid for by the utility, and I do not know that number).

East Winterberry Bridge. 120 ft. span, 65 ft. wide. Cost $4.965 million for the bridge and roadway approaches, or $41,000 per foot.

Jolley Bridge. 1,600 ft. span, 59 ft. wide and 55 ft. tall at highest point. Sidewalk only on one side. Cost $25.822 million for the bridge and roadway approaches, or $16,000 per foot.

Written on Letter to the Editor: Thank you Petricca, Honecker and Batte:

Hello ajm3s, you've not got it quite right, and of course Mr. Constantino has it pretty much wrong. My motion May 20 (which failed 3-3, with Batte/Honecker/Petricca opposed, Honig/Kiester/Magel in favor, and Sacher absent) was to "direct staff and the City Attorney to evaluate the proposed contract ... provide a range of financing alternatives with their concomitant impact on (fiscal years) and present findings to Council." We're pretty much going to do all of that anyway. My motion was simply to keep the process moving along. That's going to happen. My motion probably failed because of the heat of the moment, rather than because of its merits. Welcome to politics. I'm doing my dead-level best to figure out how to work with my colleagues, all of whom I respect, within the confines of the sunshine laws, which mean of course that I can basically talk with them only when everyone is looking on. Fine, but sometimes it keeps me from 'splainin myself.

As I noted in Council on May 20 when this came up, the proposal for a new Mackle Park Community Center as presented by City staff (in what I felt and said publicly was an excellent response to requests and input over the past few months) has met or exceeded all of the requests of City Council, including mine (which when I ran for office included "reduce the cost, reduce the scale"). Councilor Honecker investigated and found a responsive construction company, for which I applaud him.

And there is no "rush." Chairman Batte was very clear and forceful, stating that he wanted to make sure that citizens had a very ample chance to weigh in. Whether the Mackle Park Community Center goes to referendum or not, who knows. I'm on record that it does not need to. Others may disagree. But the vote on May 20 did not speak to that issue. Batte / Honecker / Petricca did not in fact vote against the proposed center. That vote is yet to come. We as City Council still need the legal and contract assessment, and we still need to understand and discuss the funding.

Finally, to ajm3s, as to your assertion that I "need to show a commitment to the citizens," I applaud you for attention to detail. Yes, I wanted us as City Council to show such a commitment. Since the original Community Center was built, the population of our Island has increased just shy of 100%. The center is not up to code on any significant aspect (electrical, hurricane, plumbing, Americans with Disabilities Act). I think the various push-backs to the "Taj Mahal" Community Center have given rise to a much more modest and community-consistent proposal that should be presented to City Council after vetting as I specified and as Councilor Honecker advocated as well, and then voted up or down by City Council. We have enough information. We have enough input. Time to vote.

Written on Letter to the Editor: Weigh in on new city manager:

Hello "marcofriend," and thanks for your comments. However, let's get the record straight. I never said, ever, that I felt "totally qualified to make decisions for its people and didn't need any input from anyone." I did say that I don't favor using the referendum process for certain matters that City Council is empowered to decide in our representative type of government. I assure you I am always eager for input, advice, suggestions and arguments. I do tend to be forceful, but that's not a mask for arrogance -- it's indicative of my passion for preserving and enhancing our way of life on this spectacular Island.

Written on Guest Commentary: By Larry Honig - My city manger evaluation:

To WizeOlMarco -- I did in fact give the city manager his review in public, at the city council meeting March 4. I made all the points covered in this article. I also presented in chart form the general fund spending comparison among the four city managers. You can review the videotape on the city's website.

To ajm3s -- In the city council meeting during which the Fire Rescue vessel was approved, I demonstrated that the new boat will cost the city approximately $5,000 per year more than the current boat, because of the high cost of maintenance for the current boat. Prior to the vote, I discussed with the county and the coast guard their response capabilities and satisfied myself that they would not be of help beyond a minimum level, and this point was covered by Chief Murphy in his presentation.

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