NMU: the ‘other’ utility in town
For many on Marco Island, the entity known as the North Marco Utilities Company is either not known to them or a bit of a mystery.
North Marco Utilities has an almost 45-year history that dates back to the early 70s when a small group of commercial and residential individuals came together to form a company that would later service several hundred users as the Old Marco section of the island grew.
Old Marco would not be developed by the Deltona Corp. as the Barron Collier Co. did not own it, but would instead be in the hands of a number of other developers and property owners.
That area was originally owned by Capt. Bill Collier and when a deal couldn’t be reached with the Barron Collier Co. for the sale of the property to him, Capt. Collier went on to sell it to the San Marco Corp.
They, in turn would eventually sell it to Jacob Ruppert, a well-known New York businessman, who amongst other holdings became part owner of the New York Yankees in 1915 and become sole owner in 1923. George E. Ruppert, Jacob’s younger brother would return and join his brother in his many ventures, including the property in Old Marco, which also included the Old Marco Inn.
As time would progress, new owners would acquire parcels and begin to develop the area as we see today, with the extension of canals and of course the Old Snook Hole Restaurant/Motel, which today is called the Snook Inn.
Those owners could see the need to tie sewage treatment for Old Marco into the newly constructed wastewater plant that was built by the Mackle Brothers to service the increase in density being planned.
They initially ran a transmission line all the way to the new wastewater plant on Elkcam to service Old Marco. In the early part of 2005, North Marco Utilities recognized the need to update their aging transmission lines in Old Marco to meet the increasing demands brought about due to growth in the area.
“That was quite a project we undertook when we replaced all of the gravity lines, the force main and added lift stations and new pumps to transfer the wastewater and solids to the new wastewater treatment facilities,” said Craig Woodward, today’s president of the North Marco Utilities Company.
Woodward is familiar with the area, as he and his family lived on Edington Place in Old Marco for many years and his father, Arthur helped to create North Marco Utilities, as places such as the Marco Villas, Villa De Marco West, the, Riverside Condos, Marek’s the Suites at the Old Marco Inn and other new commercial and residential properties would seek to be developed or improved.
The North Marco Utilities Company is referred to a “bulk customer.” As such they provide their own collection lines and pump both solids and liquid to the city’s wastewater plant. That volume is calculated through a sophisticated metering system located south of the pumping station they maintain at the Pier 81 Condominium property near the intersection of Bald Eagle and Old Marco Lane.
NMU utilizes a similar formula as does the city in regards to charge backs to their customers for sewerage on the volume of water they use. The city provides the clean drinking water used by those residents and commercial users in the Old Marco area.
The city does provide NMU with a readout of the individual water usage of each customer so that NMU might calculate their sewerage charges for those users.
Previously the Florida Public Service Commission regulated the NMU, but was replaced by the Collier County Water and Wastewater Authority, which monitors all of the utility franchise holders in the county. That authority was established in February 1996.
At a recent city council meeting, a discussion was held to debate the merits of including a 20 percent credit to the NMU on its proposed city rate calculation. This reduction would be in recognition of the utility’s responsibility for managing its collection system within its franchised area.
The maintenance of that system falls squarely on the shoulders of the NMU and the city’s rates being proposed would not have taken that into consideration.
The 20 percent figure came from a calculation done in 2010 by then-Public Works Director Rony Joel, as the city was considering a new M1 rate structure for the utility. Both the M1 and M54 structures were considered, but no decision were arrived at, therefore the credit formula was never implemented by the then sitting council, although a rate consultant had calculated 34 percent city cost for the collection of waste within their own system.
The city has no other “bulk customers,” on the wastewater side, but it does sell water in bulk to Collier County for Goodland, while the city purchases drinking water for Marco Shores in a similar fashion.