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Marco Island City Council approves $2.25M purchase of Medical Arts Center building

The Medical Arts Center is pictured, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020, on 1310 San Marco Rd., Marco Island.

Marco Island City Council unanimously approved the purchase of the Medical Arts Center building next to City Hall for $2.25 million during Monday's meeting.

The approximately 9,100-square-foot building would become a service center for people requesting permits from the building and growth management departments, City Manager Mike McNees said.

The departments are currently located in the City Hall building which was acquired by the city in 2001.

"You can't walk through there in the middle of a work day because there are too many people," McNees said.

The city would make the purchase using equal amounts of reserves from the building department funds and general funds, McNees said.

Following council's approval, the city will continue inspecting the building and complete other procedures before the purchase becomes official, McNees said.

McNees said renovating the first floor of the building will cost $200,000 to $300,000.

City hall campus at Bald Eagle Drive and San Marco Road.

More:Marco Island City Council to consider $2.25M purchase of Medical Arts Center building

City Council Chairman Erik Brechnitz said the purchase is a good deal.

"For a commercial building, that is an exceptionally good value at this point in time," Brechnitz said.

City Council Howard Reed said the purchase is an investment.

"This is the exact opposite of spending money," Reed said. "This is investing money."

City Council Vice chairman Jared Grifoni voted in favor of the purchase but said the city should begin to divest from parcels of land that are "relatively useless to the city and the citizens."

McNees said the city has been looking into declaring $3 million-worth of utility department properties as surplus which could offset utility rates.

Growing demand led to hiring more staff

The need for more office space did not happen overnight but instead took almost two decades.

"Over the course of the last few years their staffing has ramped up to deal with the demand for permits," McNees said last week. "They really don't have proper space."

The building and growth management departments had 11.5 full-time equivalent employees when the city opened the City Hall building in 2001, said Laura Litzan, city clerk. The departments now have 24.5 full-time equivalent employees.

These departments are now processing more cases than they did two decades ago, according to Daniel Smith, director of community affairs.

For example, the building department evaluated 3,725 permit requests in 2001, compared to 8,023 last year, Smith wrote in an email last week.

Smith wrote that 2018 and 2019 were "high-spike years" because many structures needed repairs after Hurricane Irma made landfall on the island in 2017.

"On average we are about 6,000 cases per year," he wrote.

Other departments would benefit

The Medical Arts Center would also temporarily house firefighters as the city builds a new $10.4 million to $11.7 million fire-rescue and emergency center, McNees said.

The demolition of the fire-rescue building may start in the first quarter of next year, Fire-Rescue Chief Christopher Byrne said last week.

In the long run, the Medical Arts Center building could also accommodate the information and technology department, McNees said.

"The city really would be set up in perpetuity for whatever flexible space or office space we need to accommodate the future," he said.

Contact Omar at omar.rodriguezortiz@naplesnews.com, and follow him on Twitter as @Omar_fromPR. Support his work by subscribing to Naples Daily News.