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Marco Island City Council hits pause button on sidewalk maintenance program

Marco Island City Council put on hold the city's program to take over the maintenance of approximately 240 miles of sidewalks during the city's capital budget meeting on June 8. 

Several city councilors said they did not support the program for fiscal 2021, which starts Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30 of next year.

City Councilor Charlette Roman said City Council instructed staff to develop a plan to take over sidewalk repairs before knowing the potential impact of COVID-19 on the city's budget.

"I support it in principle, but for this year I would pass," Roman said.

City Councilor Greg Folley said he would support the program only if the city could pay for it without raising taxes. Chairman Erik Brechnitz and City Councilor Howard Reed concurred.

"I think longer-term the city is destined to take over the sidewalks, but it will be expensive," Brechnitz wrote in an email Tuesday. 

City Councilor Larry Honig said he "enthusiastically" supports the program.

City Councilor Jared Grifoni said Thursday that he supports the proposed sidewalk maintenance program if adopted in a "fiscally responsible manner."

The city can do that by not raising taxes and supplementing the funding with some of its share of the county's 1% sales tax increase voters approved in 2018, Grifoni said.

City Council would have to incorporate additional funding for sidewalk repair and maintenance into the fiscal 2021 budget. The annual estimated cost of the program is $486,554. 

It is now unclear whether the program will start in fiscal 2021, according to Timothy E. Pinter, director of public works.

On Marco Island, most homeowners are responsible for the maintenance of the sidewalk immediately in front of their property, according to the city's code of ordinances. 

Sidewalks associated with new construction and commercial buildings would not fall under the city's responsibility, according to Pinter.

The city would identify sidewalks in disrepair and property owners would have to repair them before they become the city's responsibility.

To make these changes, City Council would approve a new ordinance for sidewalk repairs, and public works would develop procedures for inspection, inventory and repairs.

City Council instructed City Manager Mike McNees on March 2 to provide an estimate of the city's expenditures if it chooses to take over all city-owned sidewalk repairs.

City Council also instructed McNees to immediately implement a temporary program to assist property owners with sidewalk repairs until the city takes over the responsibility of fixing the sidewalks. 

The city would issue annual bids for the various types of sidewalk repairs and subsequently provide a list of pre-qualified vendors to the property owners from which they could select, according to a city report

"This would help lower prices for the property owner who is currently trying to price one small repair, as well as assist off-island owners in identifying vendors," as stated in the report.

It is unclear what progress, if any, the city has made on such a program.

"I wouldn’t expect to see anything formal to move forward with this for at least 2-3 months," McNees wrote in an email Tuesday to Marco Eagle.

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