Monday, September 21, 2020

Letter to the Editor Letter to the Editor: Response to Swiacki Addresses Goodland Road

 

 

Dr. Swiacki, I understand you are running for City Council and as such I read, with great interest, your Letter to the Editor regarding Goodland Road. I have to offer many corrections to the assertions you have made, and I hope you take these corrections in the spirit of getting a better understanding of the facts.

I am a native son of Collier County – going back to 1963. I am also a professional civil engineer with 25 years of experience in the state of Florida; having owned a civil engineering and land surveying company that has continuing engineering and surveying contracts with various municipalities. Our firm has provided roadway design, surveying and construction layout services for many roadway projects within the State. I believe I am qualified to offer some insight and provide actual facts concerning Goodland Road.

The first issue you raise is your contention that the City has been and is “maintaining” Goodland Road. Since there is no definition in the interlocal agreement with the County of “maintain” I direct you to the Florida Department of Transportation’s Green Book definition (The FDOT Green Book – The Manual of Uniform Minimum Standards for Design, Construction and Maintenance for Streets and Highways – is the bible for both State and local highway designers, contractors, maintenance entities, etc. AND is incorporated by reference into the City of Marco Island’s road design standards). The definition of maintenance is as follows: “Maintenance:  A strategy of treatments to an existing roadway system that preserves it, retards future deterioration, and maintains or improves the functional condition”. If you honestly believe that the City of Marco Island has made a good faith effort to meet this standard, I’m afraid you are misinformed.

The only significant maintenance effort for the roadway performed by the City of Marco Island in the last 4 years was the spreading of #57 stone along the shoulder areas on a majority of Goodland Road. It should be obvious to anyone reading this why spreading loose stone along a roadway is not sound practice – so much so that it is even prohibited in the City of Marco Island’s own Right of Way Manual.

Now let’s move on to the now famous Hydrology Study. Your assertion that the County has failed to fund the required hydrology study is flawed in many ways. In a December, 2014 joint meeting with the City of Marco Island and Board of Collier County Commissioners, two items of great importance were covered:

The first issue posed to the County attorney and also to then City attorney Burt Saunders was whether The Conservancy of Southwest Florida had any authority over the 100 foot right of way known as Goodland Road. The County attorney’s response was an unequivocal “NO”, and when the question was then posed to Attorney Saunders, his reply was “I would have no reason to disagree with the County Attorney’s position.” To give you further information on this point, Goodland Road was a recorded 100 foot right of way well before the Mackle Brothers ever set foot on Marco Island. So to make any assertions that somehow Collier County relinquished development rights of the right of way to the Conservancy (or any other agencies) during the Deltona Settlement Agreement is befuddling. Please remember the existing roadway only occupies approximately 65 feet of the 100 feet of total available right of way. [As a side note: State Statute recognizes the need for local agencies to widen roadways for safety concerns and has provided exemptions when the situation involves providing for the health safety and welfare of the public.]

The second issue to come out of the joint meeting was that the cost of the hydrology study was above the State Statute limit for competitive bidding (for your and others’ information please refer to Chapter 287 of the Florida Statutes). Mr. Nick Casalanguida, the now Assistant County Manager, explained in no uncertain terms to the City Council members, as well as Mr. Hernstadt and Mr. Pinter, that Marco’s plan to award the study as a sole-source contract would be a violation of Florida Statutes. The only legal reason to award a sole source contract of that amount is if a Consultant has a special skill set that is unique and unable to be obtained through other sources. Despite this warning however, the City did not put the study out to bid and awarded the contract to their consultant of choice.  This consultant used the most widely used civil engineering surface water model in the State of Florida, used by a vast majority of the civil engineering companies (Interconnected Channel and Pond Routing Model), and did not strictly define the drainage basin (so any conclusions are very suspect). In addition the study methodology and purpose was never vetted with any regulatory agencies that you cited as ‘concerned’ in your letter. Please note: there are a large number of consulting engineering firms that are qualified and could have provided this service that was sole sourced by the City of Marco Island.

Now on to your assertion that the County is not reimbursing the City for the “County Portion” of the hydrology study… Set aside the above facts (that County staff understands the Conservancy was not within their rights to demand the hydrology study and that Marco Island risked violation of State Statutes in awarding the contract to a sole source). Even more relevant is the fact that the only reason a study of this sort is needed would be to study the effect of the existing road on isolated wetlands (south and west of Goodland Road). There is NO isolated wetland on the County owned portion of Goodland Road, so any contribution from the County for this project would be to offer aid for the City of Marco Island owned portion.  There are other issues with the hydrology study, but I’m sure space in this paper is limited.

As far as roadway design projects are concerned, I wholeheartedly disagree with your statement, “Further, there are right of way issues that come into play during construction which are very complicated”. This is, as the late Justice Scalia once said when hearing a case, “jiggery-pokery”. This design is no more complicated than other Florida road projects involving wetlands, done throughout this State every day.

To address your contention that the worst part of Goodland Road is on the County portion, my response is that there are areas that suffer significant flooding within both the City and County portions – making both portions equally hazardous. Please refer to Mr. Barry Gwinn’s article in the last Coastal Breeze about delayed emergency response. As a medical Doctor I am sure you can agree that it is a moot point as to which section has worse flooding in a case where an ambulance is delayed by standing water. The difference, in my view, is that Commissioner Donna Fiala and County staff are addressing this situation head-on and are trying their best to convince the City to do the same. Of course, City Councilman Honig sees all of this clearly and has been advocating to keep the City of Marco Island out of a contentious and expensive lawsuit, while avoiding worsening your admitted desired relationship with Collier County. He seems to have the support of Councilman Rios, but there are Councilors who seem quite content to spend taxpayer dollars in a fight with their own County over their right not to maintain a dangerous road.

If one of your platforms is improving relations with Collier County, I hope you will also share their sense of urgency and start supporting their desire to finally address this serious roadway condition and put an end to the “jiggery-pokery.”

Steven J. Morgan, P.E. Goodland, Florida

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