Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Council Tries to Understand the Numbers

Fire Chief Murphy (left) and Deputy Chief Batiato at the Marco Island City Council meeting. Photos by Steve Stefanides

Fire Chief Murphy (left) and Deputy Chief Batiato at the Marco Island City Council meeting. Photos by Steve Stefanides

On one side of the dais, you had a fire chief looking to finalize a contract and move forward to have a station built to replace one damaged from a 2016 fire. On the other side of that dais, you had a city council faced with paying for something, but wanting a better understanding of the finances. This was especially the case, seeing that they were $851,000 short for a project that was first estimated at $2.2 million in August of 2016, but which rose to $3.1 million in August of 2017, and was now sitting at just over $3.6 million.

Station 51, damaged in a 2016 fire, will be rebuilt.

Station 51, damaged in a 2016 fire, will be rebuilt.

In July of 2016, while fire crews were out responding to another call, the unthinkable happened; they had a fire in quarters at Station 51, which did considerable smoke damage. Although those facilities were old and dated, they still assisted in reduced run times to calls in the island’s central areas, especially during season.

The then city manager and Chief Mike Murphy leveraged the city’s lobbyist in Tallahassee and received a grant for $250,000 to proceed to have plans drawn for the replacement of that facility. The following year another grant of $750,000 was received for construction costs, however the insurance carrier was balking at paying for more than damages, and for the last 18 months the city attorney has been negotiating to obtain a settlement.

The clock has been ticking on the grant monies and they must be utilized for this project or repaid to the State of Florida. A new updated contract for $3,231,062 was before council at the February 5th meeting. Another proposed contingency escalated that contract to $3,617,168 for the 8,645 square foot facility proposed to be built by DeAngelis Diamond Construction.

The original contract had a 2% contingency, but it was recommended that be raised to 10%. Monies would also be needed for interior furnishings and finishes to the interior of the building, accounting for the difference in the final cost.

The city manager would advise council that he was not in favor of a “design-build” style of project and felt the numbers were somewhat elevated in his opinion, but they were too far into the project to make a change now due to time constraints.

Murphy would also comment that they were at a “crossroads” regarding escalating costs. Some of that was directly related to post-Irma increases in material costs that impacted the project.

The city attorney did advise that the insurance company had offered to pay for the repairs to the room involved in the fire, but not for the replacement of the building. Since the fire, the city opted to tear down that facility in preparation for the rebuilding of the structure.

City Manager Niblock offered his opinion that he saw no potential for making up the $851,000 shortfall needed from the insurance settlement.

Council Chairman Grifoni questioned the wisdom of proceeding with a $3,000,000 project of this nature at this time. He was concerned that the project was spiraling out of control and questioned whether a rebid of the project might be in order.

When asked where the monies would come from, Chief Murphy reported that he would draw down their Fire/Rescue Impact Fees which amount to $224,000. They would also draw down monies for the fire station design for Station 50, valued at $350,000, and also would remove the other necessary monies from the capital replacement funds for apparatus to cover the shortfall.

After a continued extended debate it was agreed to reduce the total contingency to 5%, therefore reducing the total value of the contract to $3,452,727. Council would vote 7-0 to award the contract.


The language that would be placed on the August ballot, regarding the residents’ desires moving forward on the issue of the COPCN, was discussed and agreed to be placed on a future agenda for consideration.

Councilman Bob Brown commented that no matter what was done, the verbiage should be short and concise. Comments were also made that it should not be formulated to “sell the issue.”

Councilor Charlette Roman was concerned we were not being as transparent as we might be regarding all aspects of the proposals. Those concerns were echoed by Councilman Howard Reed, who was concerned with the costs, as was Roman. “I’ve been asking for answers and haven’t heard them. Voters need clear answers as to what they are voting upon,” said Roman.

Council will bring back the issue of verbiage and content at a future meeting.

The next meeting of the Marco Island City Council will be held on Tuesday, February 20th at 5:30 PM in Council Chambers. A Tuesday meeting is necessitated due to Presidents’ Day falling on the third Monday.

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