An overflow group of Marco Islanders attended a meeting on May 29th called by City Manager Jim Riviere to discuss the proposed “outsourcing” permitting functions to Collier County. Mr. Riviere led off the meeting by stating that city and county representatives had held talks about “shared services”. The goal was to avoid duplication and save money. City council Chairman Larry Magel and members Jerry Gibson and Wayne Waldack attended the meeting but did not comment.
Mr. Riviere dispelled rumors that there was a deal in place between the city and the county to begin on June 2nd. He said that there was no deal in place, and went on to say that he did not want to “disrupt’ anything and to, “Those I offended I apologize; to those I didn’t I’ll explain.” He detailed the financial nature of the building services operation as an Enterprise Fund, meaning it had to produce revenues to cover its expenses, and is not funded by ad valorem taxes. In support he offered a chart showing the fund had a balance from a low in 2002 of $712,000 to a peak of $2,596,000 in 2006, to a fiscal year 2011 balance of $948,450. (Numbers are rounded). His expressed concern was that declining revenues might produce a shortfall in the fund, and he was attempting to plan ahead to avoid problems. He added that new permitting fees adopted by the city council last October did not go far enough.
The audience of several hundred builders, general contractors, hotel operators, electricians, plumbers, seawall contractors, architects and residents unanimously opposed the proposed outsourcing. Architect and community icon Herb Savage began the comments with the observation that it’s “o.k. to raise fees to preserve the code” and that we “Must pay attention to our own community and use our own people.” His comments
were echoed by a wave of speakers. They challenged the proposition that the fund would run out of revenues, and urged continuing using the city’s inspectors who were continually praised as outstanding, and helpful on pointing out potential problems as well as important in the plan review process. That service, they contended, would not be available under outsourcing.
John Slocum, a builder with 41 years of experience, noted that the city’s contractors do a very good job, and that transferring permitting functions away from the city would result in massive time and money losses for contractors.
Representatives from the Marriott Resort challenged the financial analysis, pointing out that declining revenues occurred in recession years, and that new building is already underway as the economy recovers. General Manager Rick Medwedeff said that the Marriott has more than $15 million in projects ready to move ahead, and that the Marriott would rather pay increased permitting fees than endure the losses caused by having to secure permits from the county. He stated that working with off-island inspectors had delayed a simple bathroom project for six months. Marriott’s substantial projects are very time sensitive and the proposed transfer would result in taking hundreds of rooms out of inventory and cripple operations.
Small company owners repeated their support for the city’s inspectors; electrical contractor Don Condee said that his company pulled 500-600 permits per year and that Marco Island has the best and most helpful inspectors; architect Bill Lewis added that there has not been a single comment about anyone wanting to go back to the county; and builder Alex Parker thanked the city manager, “for affording the opportunity to gather and respond to the huge ripple impact on contractors” from the proposal.