Marco Island contractors speak up on proposal to prohibit seawall manufacturing

Duane Thomas, owner of Duane Thomas Marine Construction, speaks during a Marco Island City Council meeting on Aug. 17, 2020.

Marco Island City Council approved unanimously on Monday a motion instructing staff to write a new ordinance about on-island seawall manufacturing to be voted on first reading next month.

City Council had been expected to vote on an ordinance prohibiting the manufacture of seawalls on the island's residential lots but it did not after local contractors spoke up during the meeting. Current rules allow seawall manufacturing in residential districts and prohibit it in commercial ones. 

City Councilor Howard Reed questioned whether that ordinance, which was set to take effect immediately upon adoption on second reading, would interfere with trade as companies may have signed contracts months in advance using quotes that did not factor in the prohibition.

"Are these contracts going to be null and void?" he asked.

City Councilor Charlette Roman requested city staff to bring back data regarding the number of contractors authorized to manufacture seawalls on the island, the number and type of violations in the past three years and whether the companies were fined or given warnings. 

Roman and Reed said contractors told them the prohibition would cause a 20% to 25% increase in seawall costs. Roman also said it would cause an increase in truck traffic.

Daniel Smith, the city's director of community affairs, said he gave contractors a couple of months to present their business plans and show where the cost increase would be coming from but nobody did.

"I received nothing," he said.

Steven J. Sokol, owner of Blue Marlin Marine Construction & Services, speaks during a Marco Island City Council meeting on Aug. 17, 2020.

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Steven J. Sokol, owner of the island-based company Blue Marlin Marine Construction & Services, said he doesn't foresee an increase in costs if companies are prohibited from making seawall panels on the island. 

Sokol, who is also a member of the city's waterways committee, said manufacturing panels off-island would decrease the number of concrete and steel deliveries to the island while also decreasing the number of laborers needed on work sites.

He said the problem is that manufacturing seawalls on empty residential lots affects the people who live next to them.

"I don't think anybody wants to spend $2 million or $3 million to live next to a factory," he said.

Duane Thomas, owner of Duane Thomas Marine Construction, said something needs to be done to protect the water quality of the canals.

"If we don't do something about the bad seawalls that we have, which continue leaching and putting that garbage in the water from the pesticides every time it rains, we are going to have no fishing here at all," he said. "This is going to be nothing but dead water."

The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Sept. 9.

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