Sunday, October 20, 2019

Letter to the Editor: Swiacki Addresses Goodland Road

 

 

At the June 6th Marco Island City Council Meeting, our Council discussed how to respond to Collier County Commission Chair, Donna Fiala’s May 25, 2016 letter. The letter requested that the City of Marco agree to escrow $2 million in County money owed to Marco Island for road maintenance. It also requested a renegotiation of the 2002 Inter-local Agreement. In that agreement, Collier County agreed to pay the City $1 million a year for 15 years. In exchange the City agreed to MAINTAIN all the roads in the City and take ownership of Collier Blvd, San Marco Rd, and Goodland Rd (the portion of Goodland Road that is within the City’s boundaries). The key word is “maintain”. Until the present time, the City of Marco Island has spent over $52 million on all roads.

For many years, the citizens of Goodland have complained about their road that frequently floods and becomes impassable. The worse part of the road is that which the County still owns in Goodland. In good faith, the City agreed with the County to pay for a $70,000 hydrologic study to create an elevated road. So far the County has not paid their share for this study. During discussion at Council, Councilor Honecker reviewed the history behind the Inter-local Agreement and pointed out many environmental issues. The Conservancy of Southwest Florida has consistently maintained that they must have a vote on the future of the road. Further, there are “right of way” issues that come in to play during construction which are very complicated. The expected cost of building an elevated road will exceed $4 million. This cost as well as clearance from numerous state agencies and environmental organizations will increase the cost and delay the project for years.

Initially, Councilors Honig and Rios spoke in support of being conciliatory with the County and to negotiate a new Inter-local Agreement in which the City would forego the $2 million owed to the City in hopes that the County would assist in building a new elevated road. A motion to do this was defeated 5-2. Councilors Batte, Honecker and Sacher then proposed that the City Manager and the City Attorney draft a letter to the County in response to Commissioner Fiala’s letter in which the City agrees to abide by the 2002 Agreement to maintain all roads, including “MAINTAINING” Goodland road. It also requests that the County pay the $500,000 that is presently holding in escrow and to complete payment of the $1.5 million owed to the City in the future. This motion passed 5-2. I support this motion.

Improving relations with the Collier County Board of Commissioners is one of my key platforms in my candidacy for Marco City Council. As many know, the City is preparing an application for its’ own COPCN with Collier County. The City presently experiences 3,500 emergency 911 calls each year. The County, because of its’ control of EMS, stations one full time ambulance on Marco Island and a second part-time ambulance for only five months. According to Fire Rescue Chief Murphy, there are frequently four emergency calls at the same time, requiring off-island departments to respond and frequently exceeding the County’s goal of 8 minutes or less.

These two issues reflect the importance of “home rule” for Marco Island. We need to determine what is best for our citizens. We should co-operate with the County but NOT at the expense of our community.

Dr. Jerry Swiacki

Marco Island

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