Marco City Council sets legislative priorities for Tallahassee lobbyist, seeks over $1M

Marco Island City Council approved Friday a motion to set legislative priorities for its Tallahassee lobbyist.

The motion instructs the city's lobbyist, Ronald L. Book, to prioritize two water projects, the replacement of fire station 50 and the Veterans' Community Park for the 2020 Legislative session. If successful, the city would receive more than $1 million in state dollars.

City of Marco Island lobbyist in Tallahassee, Ronald L. Book, said revenue estimators have painted a less than perfect financial picture for the state. "When you cut (taxes) and you have a slow down on sales taxes you just have less (money) to spend," Book said during a special City Council meeting on Sept. 26.

A tide leveling and flushing project will improve the water quality in two large basins separated by San Marco Rd., according to the city. 

"The project will install dual 48-inch pipe culverts as well as inlet structures between the two basins under the roadway and through existing easements," a city document reads.

The cost of this project is estimated at $750,000 and the city is requesting $425,000 from the state of Florida.

The second water project is a study to identify the source of elevated nutrients affecting the water canals on Marco Island. City Council approved the project's request for proposal (RFP) in September but water testing did not made the original list of legislative priorities.

The work will be performed on a fixed-price basis with a specific amount and payment program that will be determined through contract negotiations, according to the RFP.

More:Waterways approves RFP to identify source of nutrients affecting Marco Island canals

The Eagle reported on Aug. 29 that Florida's Department of Environmental Protection put the city of Marco Island on notice that its waterways are impaired and in need of a corrective plan.

Councilor Howard Reed said he was interested in adding the water testing to the legislative priorities.

"I would love to get some of the enormous amount of money that we send to the sate back on behalf of our citizens," Reed said.

City Council also set as a priority a $200,000 Parks and Recreation Department grant for Veterans' Community Park, according to the city document. The money would help pay for trails, shade structures, restrooms and parking areas.

Planning and site preparation are also eligible elements for funding.

The Eagle reported on Aug. 22 that City Council approved the scope of services for the Veterans Community Park consultant for approximately $595,000.

More:Marco Island City Council approves scope of services for Veterans' Park consultant

The last legislative priority involves a new fire station to replace fire station 50, which would include a new emergency operation center, according to City Clerk Laura Litzan.

The original proposal, which originally requested $650,000 from the state, focused on a regional response center for emergencies and special events but this kind of project has been vetoed by governor Ron DeSantis, according to Book.

"My concern [...] is he vetoed every one of the emergency operation center projects and I don't believe based on what we heard that would be different," Book said. "I would encourage if we could [...] take the words emergency ops out."

The Isles of Capri Sanitary Sewer Collection System Design was unanimously dropped from the list of legislative priorities amid a room full of Capri residents that oppose the project

The $700,000 design project would lead to the creation of a sewer centralized construction system for the Isles of Capri, a community located within the city's wastewater service area.

City Councilor Jared Grifoni said during a special meeting on Sept. 26 he wanted the Isles of Capri sewer collection system proposal to be removed from the city's legislative priorities. "It didn't seem proper for the city to be pushing that specially without having any conversation with the county," Grifoni said.

"Most of the single-family homes are on septic systems with limited filtering capabilities between the drain field and receiving waters," the city document reads. "Nutrients in the effluent of septic systems help promote algae blooms, which have a negative impact on receiving waters."

Ann Hall, a Capri resident, said she only learned about the special City Council meeting two days in advance.

"We are not against sewers," Hall said. "We want to know what the science says and we want to be involved."

Councilor Howard Reed said science needs to come first.

"I think the science needs to come first and this puts the science in the back end," Reed said. "I think we need to hear from Isles of Capri before we do anything."

"It didn't seem proper for the city to be pushing that specially without having any conversation with the county," Councilor Jared Grifoni said

Revenue estimators have painted a less than perfect financial picture for the state, according to Book. 

"Florida is healthy but premium taxes are down, sales taxes are down," Book said. "In addition, nobody should lose sight of the fact that for 20 plus years [...] we have spent a lot of time [...] reducing taxes." 

"We have continued to cut and so when you cut and you have a slow down on sales taxes you just have less to spend."

Marco Island City councilor Larry Honig said at a special meeting on Sept. 26 he is against the Isles of Capri sewer collection system proposal. "Marco Island has no business pushing this for the Isles of Capri, none, zero," Honig said. Following his remarks, more than a dozen residents from Isles of Capri applauded in support.

All proposals for local bills must be drafted in bill form and mailed or delivered to representative Bob Rommel of District 106 before Oct. 18 at noon, according to a letter sent by the Collier County State Legislative Delegation.

The delegation, currently chaired by Rommel, scheduled a public hearing for local bills and budget requests at 9 a.m., Oct. 30 in the North Collier Regional Park.

The other members of the delegation are senator Kathleen C. Passidomo of District 28, representative Byron Donalds of District 80 and representative Ana Maria Rodriguez of District 105.

Chairperson Erik Brechnitz was absent during the City Council meeting as well as councilors Sam Young and Charlette Roman. 

Florida's regular legislative session is scheduled to convene on Jan. 14.

In case you missed it:Marco Island looking to sell naming rights to help fund Veterans Community Park