Budget Hearing and Meeting Minutes – August 31, 2023
Thursday, August 31, 2023, 9:30 a.m.
Orchid Cove Clubhouse, 25005 Peacock Lane
Naples, Florida 34114
The regular meeting of the Port of the Islands Community Improvement District Board of Supervisors and the public hearing to discuss the adoption of the fiscal 2024 budget was held on Thursday, August 31, 2023, at 9:30 a.m. at the Orchid Cove Clubhouse, 25005 Peacock Lane, Naples, Florida.
Steve McNamee, Chairman
Dan Truckey, Vice Chairman
Russell Kish, Supervisor
Kevin Baird, Supervisor
Anna-Lise Hansen, Supervisor
Neil Dorrill, Manager, Dorrill Management Group
Kevin Carter, Manager, Dorrill Management Group
Tony Pires, District Counsel
David Schmidt, District Engineer
Mitch Gilbert, Florida Utility Solutions
Pledge of allegiance
The pledge of allegiance was recited in unison.
ROLL CALL/APPROVAL OF AGENDA
4 of 5 board members were present in person with Supervisor Hansen appearing via zoom. The meeting was convened at 9:30 a.m. This is both a public hearing for the adoption of the fiscal year 2024 budget and a regular meeting of the board of supervisors of the Port of the Islands Community Improvemet District. The meeting was properly noticed. The notice and affidavit are on file with the district office at 5672 Strand Court, Naples, FL 34110.
On a MOTION by Mr. McNamee and a second the agenda was approved and Ms. Hansen’s remote attendance was accepted due to extenuating circumstances.
Approval of proposed fy 2024 general fund budget
Mr. Dorrill presented the proposed 2024 fiscal year budget. The total budget for the community for the coming year is $2,422,626. This is split between the general operating and maintenance fund, which is $611,678, and the utility fund, which stands at $1,392,548. From these amounts, the portion attributable to the non-admiral special assessment for the general maintenance budget is $455,558. The Utility Operating Fund’s part is $1,042,738. Other revenue sources include miscellaneous revenues and interest earnings on the account, which are substantially over budget year to date because of the current interest environment. The total EU rate on the general side for next year remains unchanged at $403.11. For the utility side, rates are subsidized through non-abnormal assessments. We levy two different assessments: the ERU, which is the equivalent residential unit charge for maintenance and operations, and the ERC, which stands for equivalent residential connections on utility accounts. These assessments sometimes get mixed up, but they are different and will be levied separately. We received two written comments in advance of today’s hearing, one from R. Sullivan and another from an individual referred to as JC. This morning, I’ve taken a few calls, but only two written comments were received at the office in advance of the public hearing today. We operate under Chapter 197, known as the uniform method of special assessments, which applies to all units of local government. Our interest earnings thus far for the year, through nine months, were $118,617. This was significantly higher than our initial forecast of just $2,000 for the entire year. The end of three-quarters cash on hand was $4,650,000. Of this, $3.3 million is in the primary operating account, which includes the capital reserve. The water and sewer side holds $620,000. The overall fund equity and cash positions have improved over the prior year, resulting in no proposed increase in the assessments. We also underwent a methodology review. For many years, certain parcels received no assessment. These included the commercial cell tower parcel, the Gun Club parcel, and the county Marina parcel owned by the Board of County Commissioners. We also included a residential parcel in the Lower SE part of the community that hadn’t been assessed before. We ensured that double lots, or vacant lots owned by an adjacent owner, meet the property appraiser’s requirement to be combined for tax purposes. Mr. Pires pointed out that Mr. Dorrill mentioned and provided in the agenda packet comments and objections made by individuals. Mr. Sullivan was one of them. He had further follow-up emails and objections, which will be included as part of the record. Mr. Dorrill stated that we will first see if the board has any comments. After that, we’ll turn to the public comment section of the public hearing.
Mr. McNamee began the board discussion by stating he’s reviewed the budget and highlighted areas like our engineering and legal services. Every year we see increases. Last year we allocated $12,000 for the general fund, but at Russell’s request, we doubled that to $24,000. This year we’ve already exceeded that and are proposing a similar amount for next year. He doesn’t think that’s realistic given our current projects like parcel 13 and assessments. He notes our legal and engineering expenses won’t decrease next year. Were they included in the budget workshop?
Mr. Dorrill said that yes, they were. He’s keeping a running list of revisions. For the engineering side, we spent $13,500 in six months on a budget of $24,000. The last three months saw us spending around $21,000. If he wants, we can increase the forecast by $10,000.
Mr. McNamee believes we need to adjust both the general and utility funds.
Mr. Dorrill said we’re currently looking at adjusting our general operating fund and utility fund to about $50,000 each. The combined total will be $100,000.
Mr. McNamee noticed the website budget increased from $1,200 to $2,400.
Mr. Dorrill stated This is due to monthly maintenance and added features like video archives. More is being put on the website and the maintenance fee is increasing to allow for the upload of those files.
Mr. McNamee pointed out field services, we’re proposing $10,000 this year compared to this year’s allocation of $24,000. Mr. Dorrill stated we’re paying less but retaining an allowance for unforeseen expenses. He has not had to charge at all for field services in the past 6 months and doesn’t foresee needing to charge for them for the next 6 months.
Mr. McNamee inquired as to what R&M covers. Mr. Dorrill believes it relates to plant replacement.
Mr. McNamee asked what they are going to do with only a $4,000 stormwater drainage budget. He was under the impression over $400,000 had been allocated toward that portion of the budget in the previous year’s budget. What about the stormwater drainage budget? There used to be over $400,000 allocated. Mr. Dorrill stated that’s budgeted in the capital cost center. But if you feel we should allocate funds for stormwater drainage improvements, he’d suggest placing it under capital outlay.
Ms. Hansen recommends starting with $100,000. We need to address drainage issues and educate homeowners on maintaining swales. She would like this project to start in September or October. Mr. McNamee stated he’s received numerous complaints from homeowners stating the water in the swales is not moving. He points out that the purpose of the swales is to hold the water that runs off their property, their intended purpose isn’t to move water. When the swales fill to the very end where there is an emergency drainage, it will start to go through the emergency overflow. Don’t be surprised to see water standing in the swales, that’s what they were designed for. It is their understanding that it is the responsibility of the homeowner to maintain those swales. There have been a lot of people over the years filling the swales. They are going to have to figure out who’s going to take the dirt back out, but that responsibility will not fall to the CID. Mr. Pires is working on an easement use agreement to address this issue.
Mr. Dorrill stated understood. He suggests placing the $100,000 drainage budget item under the capital outlay cost center as drainage improvements. There will be an offsetting $150,000 financing item to balance the budget.
Some questions arose concerning landscaping and sidewalk costs, Mr. Dorrill pointed out that for roads and sidewalks, we’ve set aside $9,300. If that’s insufficient, we can adjust. The board would like to adjust that to $20,000.
Mr. McNamee noted the legal advertising budget is currently at $1,000. Is that accurate, Tony?
Mr. Pires said that for utilities, a $1,000 budget should suffice.
Mr. Dorrill also points out they have also reserved the right at any monthly meeting to process a budget amendment from the contingency fund to true up any projects.
Lastly, we’ve budgeted $31,500 for mosquito spraying. The district currently sprays 3 times a week at dusk. Mr. Dorrill thinks the budgeted amount is sufficient. We’ll discuss the effectiveness of the current spraying method later.
Carol Williams, 141 Wilderness Cay, would like to know how much money is set aside for power washing the streetlights and the cement? Mr. Dorrill replied that $20,000 has been allocated for repair and maintenance of roads and sidewalks. Another $20,000 is for repair and maintenance grounds, including plant replacement.
Frank Lee, President of the Villages in Stella Maris. I commend the board for their financial work. Everyone needs to understand what’s going on. If you had trouble hearing, please raise your hand. We need a professional audio-video system. I would also like to see someone hired to sit in at the meetings to run that equipment. I suggest $20,000 for this. Thank you for listening. Mr. McNamee stated there are seats up front for anyone that can’t hear. Ms. Williams replied that it’s not about the seats. Even with the microphone, they can’t hear. They need better audio. Mr. Lee stated they are unable to hear Mr. McNamee unless he addresses them directly. We should invest in a professional system.
Scott Prevan, I’m with the Port of the Islands Marina and an existing board member. There’s a budget line item proposed today that impacts Marina slip owners negatively. We’ve faced tax hikes before and had to file a lawsuit. We need dialogue on why this is proposed and the logic behind it. Many here today represent Port of the Islands Marina. I personally have been here 9 years, many that are here have been here even longer than that. We don’t want to go the lawsuit route by any means, are simply looking for a fair proposal.
Jim Sullivan, please let me know if you can’t hear me. My wife and I own slip A-16 in the Port of the Islands Marina. We’ve been owners since November. I value being part of this community and have recently spent hours discussing with Steve McNamee and Dan Truckey. My suggestion is for boat owners to contribute to the city’s costs proportionally to the benefits they receive. For instance, funds allocated towards sidewalk cleaning or stormwater management disproportionately benefit residential areas more than boat slips. A marina slip only constitutes the submerged land. We don’t produce stormwater runoff nor require its management. Russ Weyer, a respected expert, recommended a 0.25 allocation for ERU for boat slips back in June. In my opinion, there’s no evidence supporting an increase to 1.0 ERU. We should find a fair allocation that benefits the community and avoids legal issues.
Mr. Truckey replied stating let’s start with the comparison between houses and boat slips. O&M covers administration, landscaping, roads, and stormwater management. Boats essentially rent space on water. In terms of O&M utilization, boat owners use the facilities similarly to homeowners. Comparing a 1.0 RU for a house to a 0.25 RU for a boat slip suggests an imbalance.
John Owens, dockmaster at Port of the Islands Marina, a slip owner, and a board member of our association. Remember, the marina attracted residents here. Many boat owners also own condos and pay for those assessments. It seems unfair to charge boat owners the same as homeowners with larger properties. The marina, the largest association here, is crucial to the community. Fairness is vital.
Mr. McNamee stated this isn’t about any individual vendetta. It’s about fairness for everyone.
Mr. Pires says we have a number of residents attempting to debate with board members. I’d suggest that anyone online waiting to comment should patiently wait their turn and not interrupt. Recently, I heard someone responding directly to a comment.
Mr. Truckey would like to address someone responding directly to a comment. May I address that? I’d like to clarify a couple of things. First, I never called the county with accusations. I contacted the assessors’ multiple times to ask questions about tax codes, boat docks, and similar matters. I believe some of you aren’t paying enough, that’s clear. My belief is that many aren’t paying a fair share. This belief spurred a previous lawsuit. I’ve spoken with clean water representatives because I’d like our harbor to remain clean. The issue is that now we have many more boats. The Everglades Restoration project might further impact this. The restoration project aims to make the water flow naturally, not man-made. The details you provided aren’t accurate. I’ve prepared extensive research and attended various engineering meetings. If you’re curious about the specifics of the project, I’d gladly share more with you.
Mr. Owens stated that for the record, our marina is fully compliant with the Clean Water Act. I want our community to be aware that we do not dump any harmful substances into the water. Boats designed in recent years have gray water holding tanks. If you consulted an expert, you’d have a better understanding.
Mr. Truckey stated that he did research it. It’s not about attacking anyone. As a board member, I have concerns. I love boating, but I feel we aren’t doing everything correctly in this community.
Kurtis Molinar, a representative of the marina and rules committee, we’ve reviewed how much gray water is emitted. Only a few boats have laundry facilities. 95% of the gray water, from laundry, for example, is rerouted to our septic system. Mr. Truckey asked why are we focusing solely on gray water? Mr. Molinar said it was just to clarify that concern. Our primary focus should be on assessments and what’s fair. We’re a community. Deciding what’s fair is a matter of stripping down to essentials. What benefits does one receive, and what’s a fair payment for those? Perhaps we should rely on a professional opinion. An external expert provided insights based on multiple marinas. That might be our best guide. Mr. Truckey spoke with Mr. Weyer who indicated he did not have all the information. His opinion on the suggested ERU for the boat docks has therefore changed.
You are a condo association of boats, but when we strip down that O&M homestead doesn’t matter. We have to take it down, strip off all the extra stuff and determine what that O&M applied to. I expected an update from Mr. Weyer today, which we didn’t receive. Speaking with Mr. Sullivan, I don’t appreciate the disagreements and disputes. I have a boat slip, and I evaluated my assessments. We’re debating over relatively small amounts, given the overall needs of our community. We should consider the daily implications of these fees. With the many needs we have in the community, is it worth the contention? I want to do what’s best for our community, as discussed with Jim. Let’s have a discussion. We’ve had it before, but I’m uncertain about his capacity to make that kind of offer. We’re discussing an increase from $0.58 to a dollar, and many are upset about this change.
That amount is accurate. Reflecting on past rates, we’ve seen significant hikes. I’m speaking for myself and not the board, but I think Jim’s proposal to increase it to .5 is reasonable, especially given the concerns of those present. I urge the board to consider this. We should have more dialogue on topics like clean water and avoid conflicts like this one. Litigating isn’t desirable for any of us.
Mr. Truckey said when discussing clean water and similar topics, it was a learning experience for me. I asked many questions.
Mr. Dorrill said we’re all aiming for the same outcome. Before moving forward, let’s consider a brief break as we’ve been discussing for two hours.
Sure, after my comment. We need to address the disparities. A boat slip shouldn’t be taxed the same as a house. If a slip generates income, then maybe it should have a higher tax. We should consider all aspects and decide fairly.
Mr. Truckey said I agree. We should stand with Dan, consider potential concessions, and avoid legal conflicts. A divided community isn’t beneficial. When I suggested the rates, it was to prompt discussion.
Can we legally adopt a .5 and .25 rate? I’m not sure we can.
Perhaps we should reconvene after a short break to discuss further.
Frank Lee speaking. The method of our discussions matters. We should have come together for a solution instead of attacking one another. Let’s work collaboratively. We can’t have government by no discussion before, we need to dispense with the personal attacks, I hope after the meeting there will be some shaken hands and some apologies. I don’t want to see us reduced to shouting and screaming. Let’s be neighbors and address the issue.
Mr. Truckey said I’m curious about the board’s stance on the proposed compromise. Can we do this compromise?
We have more comments coming in. Let’s listen.
Alan, an owner of 10 slips at Dock D, shares that no one lives on those slips. It’s unfair to have the same rate for those who live on their boats and those who don’t.
Mr. Truckey said your point is understood, but we can’t decide based on the amount of time one spends on their property. You have to undress everything and understand how an O&M is calculated.
Ron Westerman, Cay’s Drive. Just want to thank the board for the good work they are doing and that they are trying to equalize everything for everyone. We all enjoy and utilize the community. We’re all a community, and we should consider what’s best for everyone. Let’s not be divisive.
Catherine Kehlmeier, 314 Newport Drive and slip B-2, would like to say on she was on the board from 2016 to 2020. During my tenure on the board, we adjusted the rates. We should consider the difference between liveaboards and non-liveaboards.
We should understand the spirit and letter of the law. As a slip owner there are benefits I don’t get. Adjust the rates accordingly. 0.25 for the non-liveaboards and 0.50 for the liveaboards.
Mr. Truckey said thank you for your input. Going back to my question, how would the board feel about the compromise? Anna-Lise?
Ms. Hansen stated before analyzing it, I felt non-liveaboard boats should have a lower rate. However, O&M’s aren’t about use. It’s about things we’re paying for like drainage, landscaping, and roads. It isn’t based on usage. I own a condo in town, but I pay full taxes even if I don’t use it often. Hence, I agree with Dan.
Thank you. Russ, your thoughts?
I’d go with the compromise.
Using an analogy, we pay school board taxes, though many in this retirement community don’t have kids in school. It’s somewhat related to our discussion. I’m fine with the compromise.
Dan, your opinion?
I can support the compromise for now but might revisit it next year. I’ll consult with another professional. I think you get a lot of benefits for what you pay. For instance, everyone benefits from community infrastructure like streetlights. It might be revisited next year.
Thank you. Any more inputs?
For the record, Mr. Weyer isn’t present. But in a conversation with him, he indicated he could support a 0.5 rate for liveaboards. I sent him a text about it and he replied, he could support it if utility connections for those slips are shown. This decision isn’t arbitrary but based on specific conditions.
Thank you. Given Mr. Weyer’s input, I’m in favor of this compromise. Is there anyone who can make this decision on your side?
The board has the decision-making power. We take in inputs and dialogue, but ultimately it’s our decision.
On a MOTION by Mr. Truckey and a second the public hearing portion of the budget assessment was closed.
Resolution 2023-6 Adopting the General Fund Budget for FY 2024
Mr. Dorrill stated he initially attributed $455,558 to the non-Admiral assessments at 1 ERU per boat slip. With 118 slips at half that rate, and 57 at $100.22 at 0.25 rate, the total revenue from boat slips was $23,782.90. After revisions, the revenue for boat slips would be $574,389. The total revenue then adjusts from the previous $70,544.15 to $292,617. Therefore, the new non-ad valorem total for the operating and maintenance fund will stand at $414,545.64.
The board will consider adopting Resolution 2023-6, which adopts the General Fund budget for fiscal year 2024. This includes a revision to the amount allocated for operation and maintenance to $414,545.64 instead of the initial $455,558 mentioned in the first clause and the second paragraph. The water and sewer assessment will remain unchanged. On a MOTION and a second Resolution 2023-6 was approved.
- Resolution 2023-7 Adopting the Levying of a Maintenance Assessment for FY 2024
The purpose of Resolution 2023-7 is to levy a debt service and maintenance assessment within the Port of the Islands Community Improvement District. Some typographical errors need correcting. It should reflect that the assessment for operation and maintenance of the district will amount to $414,545.64 and the water and sewer assessment will total $1,042,738. On a MOTION and a second Resolution 2023-7 is approved as amended.
adjournment of Budget hearing
The board adjourned the budget hearing. After a quick recess they will reconvene the regular meeting.
- Formal Request from Owner, 289 Cays Drive
My name is JC Sanchez from 289 Cays Drive. Everyone knows me here. I don’t understand why I’m on the budget for formal request from owner for 289 Cays Drive. During this meeting, I expected an acknowledgment of my formal request, which Mr. Kish suggested during the last meeting. I paid a significant amount in ERC assessments this year for ERCs I’m not using. However, I’ve seen the board compromise for other members. I’m wondering why the CID doesn’t pay assessments for the ERCs they own. I’m paying for 18 ERCs that I’m not using, and this is my fifth board meeting, and this issue hasn’t been addressed. My only remedy is to give back these ERCs or to simply just choose not to pay.
Mr. Kish stated nothing is going to change this year, the plan is to address it next year. He relayed a similar situation he dealt with when he purchased his property in the 90s.
Mr. Sanchez continued, saying you gave the Alex Rodriquez contract to Case, and you aren’t requiring him to buy or pay for ERCs, it’s done, and you set the precedent. Before that I had no argument. It’s been done and I can promise you that I will go before a court and get most Judges to say, “you guys did it, you set the precedent, now you have to do it for anyone else that has a commercial property”. How do I start the process of giving my ERCs back to the community?
Ms. Hansen replied to Mr. Sanchez’s concerns stating she remembers from previous meetings that the board promised to consider this in November.
Mr. Sanchez continued; how do I initiate the process to return these ERCs?
Mr. Pires stated we have a procedure in place. You can find it on page 39 of our rules. It’s titled ‘Utility Equivalent Residential Connections’. Mr. Dorrill can provide you with a copy or you can find it on our website.
Mr. Sanches then asked what is the procedure if I choose not to pay?
The board replied that the county will sell tax certificates for taxes that haven’t been paid.
Mr. McNamee asked Mr. Dorrill if there was a specific purpose for placing Mr. Sanchez on the agenda for this meeting?
Mr. Dorrill replied that yes, the statute related to the budget process grants any member of the public the right to submit written comments in advance, whether or not they attend the public hearing. I mentioned this last month, indicating that both his comments and Mr. Sullivan’s comments would be segregated and then incorporated into the record of today’s meeting as per the statute. We also noted, and I believe the minutes confirm, that the board stated they could not undertake the ERC methodology reevaluation this fiscal year. My records indicate that we will present a proposal at the October meeting to commence this work during the first quarter of the new fiscal year. I believe the board has consistently communicated their wishes on this matter to me. The reason the two emails are in the record today is because the statute obliges me to do so and also grants the public the right to submit them.
Mr. McNamee asked Mr. Dorrill if he has replied to him in any way?
Mr. Dorrill stated that he has not replied to him in writing. He’s only communicated, during the last two meetings, that he understands this project will start in the first quarter of the new fiscal year, after October 1st. If Mr. Sanchez wants a written account of our previous comments at the board meeting and our intentions to hire a consultant to evaluate the ERC methodology, he’d be glad to provide that. Mr. Carter could probably assist with it, if necessary.
- Formal Request/Records Request from Owner, Boat Slip A-16
This item was not discussed at this time.
APPROVAL OF minutes july 2023
Mr. McNamee stated that regarding the minutes, he’s not sure where to begin. He has concerns about their accuracy. The minutes were too comprehensive to comb through, the board is unsure how to address this. In the interest of time, let’s continue.
Mr. Dorrill stated that Mr. Schmidt had some suggested edits on three pages. If you can highlight specific areas, I’d be pleased to have our transcriptionist provide some modifications or further explanations. These are from the meeting on July 21st. Following the chairman’s request, we’ll postpone these discussions for a month.
- Munibilling Update
The bills were sent out, printed, and mailed earlier this week. They are combined bills for the two previous cycles, March and June. Additionally, at the recommendation of our utility operator, they processed the August meter readings. As a result, we’ll be current with the combined bill, which includes the two previous and the current billing cycle. However, we still haven’t been approved to accept credit cards. We’ve provided all the required information to the concerned parties, but the matter remains unresolved. The majority of our customers either pay via check or set up auto-pay with their banks. The remainder either use an E-check or a credit card. The bills should be received soon.
The problem isn’t with Munibilling, but with Heartland, the vendor responsible for credit card and E-check processing. They’ve had concerns that we’ve addressed, but new issues always arise. Currently, there isn’t another authorized ACH provider recognized by Munibilling. We’re exploring options with a local bank, hoping their ACH vendor might be compatible with the Munibilling software.
If this doesn’t work, we may need to reconsider our association with Munibilling.
Mr. Dorrill stated Munibilling was the only service that offered managed care where they would manage your account, do the bookkeeping and print the bills. We went through a process back in March to pre-qualify firms that could work with Mr. Gilbert to take the meter readings.
Mr. McNamee stated that perhaps we could contemplate handling our bills internally, like Cal did. This would involve acquiring the necessary software, license and support fees, and dedicating personnel time for the task. This is something we should consider if the current situation doesn’t improve. Frank is working with a bank affiliated with our Master Association, which has its own lockbox service. This might be a viable option for us. We should also consider reaching out to the BFCC and any potential partners who could offer tailored software solutions.
Mr. Lee stated he’s been working with some people in this business for various types of organizations. They have printing and mailing ability and also do customized software. They just need to know what kind of software we are currently using in order to transfer information to their software. Mr. Dorrill asked that he provide his contact information so he can find out what the operating software is for the meter reading process. Mr. Lee said we don’t need that, we’re talking about the software currently used to transmit the data, is it excel, etc. They may not be able to submit a proposal. If he could just get that information he could maybe get them to make a proposal and present it at the next meeting.
Mr. Dorrill has reached out to the Collier County clerk to see what ACH process they use, he doesn’t have an answer to that yet but he’ll share that as soon as he has it.
As of the end of June, there’s $3,900,000 in cash. There’s a separate money market account of $687,000. The combined cash position is $4.65 million at the end of the third quarter. There were $122,000 in outstanding payables. All the expense areas on the statement of income and revenue were discussed during the budget presentation. There were unusual non-ad valorem assessments received in June. I believe this is due to certificates sold or bought at the auction in May. The General Fund had an additional $50,000. In June, interest earnings were $15,000, the highest year-to-date, with total year interest earnings at $118,600. We’ve seen year-to-date increases for chemicals related to mosquito spraying. Our total operating expenses year-to-date are below budget by $8,000. No capital expenses were incurred. Total year-to-date expenditures are $278,052 in the general fund, against a budget of almost $600,000. This is mainly due to a $300,000 year-to-date capital expense. On the utility side, total year-to-date assessments are at $1,042,000. We were slightly over budget on maintenance, but these are within the annual budget. I’m available for questions, or we can move to accept the financials.
Mr. McNamee asked what do I need to do to view the bills? I’m not seeing all the financial details. I remember we agreed on certain non-recurring expenses that are on auto pay, like FPL or insurance. If you could show the invoices in the payables file above a certain amount, that would be helpful. Some of my clients see transactions around $2,500, but what do you suggest?
Mr. Dorrill can provide a payables run showing all transactions. His priority is ensuring the most important details are presented. The major bills include Florida Utility Solutions, our engineering, legal, and our own. Our bill is a fixed $7,500 a month. Florida Utility Solutions averages $33,000 per month, and engineering and legal are usually around $10,000. We can provide these, but for minor purchases, he’d prefer not to delay payments. He will provide the board with a list of all payables and any other required details. He just needs to ensure they stay on track. The financials were accepted on a MOTION and a second.
Mr. Gilbert provided his utility operations report. All requirements were met at the wastewater plant, and they treated significant amounts of 2.3 m gallons wastewater, produced 3 m gallons drinking water, and sent out 8.1 m gallons of irrigation. They discussed equipment at the plant, some of which is no longer in use and might be disposed of or potentially used for scrap. Mr. Gilbert elaborated that the MBR equipment can be scrapped as it is no longer functioning at the plant.
At this time a five-minute break was taken to try and fix some WiFi issues that were being experienced at the meeting.
After the five-minute break the meeting reconvened and Mr. Gilbert resumed his report. for the equipment, we’ll need to replace and repair some items. He’ll get estimates and work with Dan on that at which time the board can review them. There’s no immediate rush, but it does need attention. They should also focus on getting the sprayer back. If they could secure a dedicated lock for the gate and the warehouse portion, it would help. They might need a waiver for insurance against terrorism. The lock on the container might be repurposed for this. Mr. Dorrill informed those present that following the 9/11 attacks, the Patriot Act was adopted, which enforced certain controls on banking, utilities, and water operating systems to counter terrorism. The utility operations report was accepted on a MOTION and a second.
- Easement Use Agreement – 179 Sunset Cay
We have a use agreement that the board approved. It just needs the property owner’s and chairman’s signatures. Once we get the original from the property owner, the chairman will sign.
Mr. Schmidt is with Hole Montes and is the district engineer, he prepared a report at the board’s request concerning the canal pump station and its relation to the storage tank at the water treatment plant. Upon investigation, his firm discovered an old report from several years ago regarding the system. After reviewing it and making some calculations, they’ve determined that they cannot eliminate the canal pump station. It remains necessary for ensuring adequate irrigation and fire protection for the district. They had hoped that their investigation would allow them to upgrade the existing facilities at the treatment plant, but they’re limited by the pipeline sizes. They can’t move enough water to the most remote parts of the system to ensure proper irrigation and fire flows. The report notes that the demand for fire flows has increased over the years due to evolving construction and fire needs. This demand is now greater than when the system was first conceived in the 90s. Therefore, there’s a need to upgrade the canal pump station. Their report provides recommendations on how to proceed, including evaluating current equipment elevations and considering potential upgrades to address future resilience needs. He’s available for any questions about the report. There was a projection that it might cost around $400,000. Mr. Schmidt asked Mr. Gilbert if he recalled what the estimated costs were. Mr. Gilbert replied stating he thought it was much higher than that. There’s a generator they need to replace, and they have pumps of different capacities to consider. Costs can vary based on whether they replace just the generator and the control panel, or if they opt for a completely new enclosure, pump, and tank overhaul. As far as he’s aware, they haven’t inspected the intake structure or the pumping chambers. Before they commit to significant repair and rehabilitation, they should ensure there aren’t other underlying issues. Mr. Schmidt continued the discussion stating to clarify, they haven’t been authorized to do detailed design on the tank. The district first wanted them to assess the irrigation pump station and the plant’s pumping facilities. That was phase one of their proposal. The district authorized phase one, but no further phases yet. They discussed the idea that expanding the storage tank might eliminate the need for the pump station, but that’s no longer viable. Estimates have not been provided for the tank under phase one. However, they did offer some estimates previously, and he believes there are some in the recent FEMA report they prepared for the district. If their main focus is on this topic at the moment, he has more to share in the engineers’ reports, but he can address that later. Mr. Gilbert then introduced his associate, Matthew Gillespie. Mr. Gillespie was hired to help oversee the operations part of their company due to their growth. Mr. Gilespie will be here more often than himself, but Mr. Gilbert remains 100% involved. He wants to ensure the district gets the best services from them. Mr. Gilbert was asked to share Mr. Gillespie’s contact information, including his email and any changes regarding after-hours call numbers.
Regarding the drainage issue near Newport Dr. and its proximity to US 41, there’s a discrepancy in ownership. I recommend getting some title work done to clarify. It might cost around $150. The board would like to invest the $150 toward resolving this matter. Regarding the FEP permit renewal, it’s submitted and is under review. There’s a warning letter related to it that addresses compliance issues. We also need to address the erosion around the flushing hydrants. For the Stella Maris parcels, responsibilities vary. In the North, we handle the roadway and utilities but not drainage. In the South, we’re only responsible for utilities.
Mr. Lee spoke up stating there’s contention from Stella Maris regarding these findings based on previous agreements and potential conflicts of interest from past representations. To add on, the previous board, attorney, and the current engineer presented the case for our planned unit development. We never ventured into stormwater management. Our ponds are part of your system; for the past 20 years, you’ve emptied your vacuum trucks into our pond instead of disposing of it properly. The dilemma here is that you have the franchise from the government to handle this business. I can’t avail the benefits that the government offers like you can. I can’t compete because you’ve taken the franchise. We can’t approach any other governmental entity since you’re here.
Considering our discussion today, we should revisit this topic in a future meeting.
Is Richard DeBose the attorney for Stella Maris?
Mr. Lee replied that he believes Mr. DeBoest has just retired. Currently, they are represented by Jonathan Huffman of Goldman Richie.
There was a recent piece of correspondence about a public record request for a road involving Stella Maris. However, it doesn’t specify if it’s Stella Maris North or South.
Ms. Hansen stated, for clarity, the only responsibility the district has is for utilities. I presume Stella Maris is dealing with their piping issues and thus, they’ve engaged an attorney for protection. I believe their focus is on transferring road ownership to the district. They only recently acquired the road. Should we, along with our engineers and managers, work on this road conveyance?
Sam LaShere, Stella Maris South, regarding the road issue, the problem is that the road is not owned by our association. The road is still owned by the developer. We aim to either take ownership of the road or have the CID assume ownership, similar to Stella Maris North. Mr. DeBoest is working on this, not the code violations. Our separate engineer is addressing that.
Mr. Pires suggests following up with what Mr. LaShere said. Have Mr. DeBoest put together a package of what he outlines as the route to go to transfer the title to the district. The onus is expected to be on that association to come up with a concept or process to give present to the board. He will have a short conversation with Mr. DeBoest relaying the boards desire to look into the process.
In terms of the FEMA memos, did everyone get a copy? We received these late last Friday. Are these the technical memorandums you mentioned? Mr. Truckey stated that after the last board meeting, he sought firms for well-field piping testing. A company using smart ball technology gave a quote of $57,000. However, other firms offered conventional leak detection services for around $5,000 to $6,000.
Mr. Schmidt continued and stated they’ve been collaborating with payment consultants and have submitted reports for four grant projects, totaling about $5.6 million. Regarding U.S. 41, it branches off. They can’t currently provide fire protection and irrigation at the same time. But they have a 10-inch pipe in place. Why do they have this pipe? Was it for anchoring? How does it divert? His analysis suggests the 10-inch pipe led to substantial pressure loss across the system. Is there a spot where they could place that pump near an electric source, eliminating the need for a backup generator? Their primary pump station is powered conventionally, but given its role in the fire system, a backup generator is essential. Another concern is the canal pump station. They’re debating replacing some components. They recommended checking the FEMA elevations. They aim to ensure our equipment aligns with FEMA standards, possibly even elevating it further for added resilience. If the board agrees, they can draft a proposal. It might be more efficient not to proceed phase by phase. At the very least, they should reach the end of the design phase. From there, they can decide whether to move on to bidding or pause before starting construction.
Mr. McNamee stated this decision might hinge on their last agenda item today. Mr. Schmidt was asked for an update on the records requested at the last meeting. He sent a brief summary of the documents in his possession, including plans and easement papers. Compiling a comprehensive inventory will take effort. In the event we don’t continue as your engineer, we will probably have to charge for the time it takes to compile those records. There should already be documents from the previous manager that are in the districts possession.
- Former Management Emails
Mr. Pires has not filed a lawsuit yet but will work on that and make a final demand for the records. I’ve got about two or three binders I printed out in the bankruptcy that I retrieve that help paint some of the former history also.
No new business was received at this time.
- Engineering Bid Update
Mr. Dorrill stated we received these late after the agendas were distributed. Now we must evaluate these two companies. Florida law has specific procedures for procuring professional services related to architecture, engineering, and land surveying. We received three requests for the RFP, but one was unresponsive due to missing the deadline. We ran a legal notice in the Naples Daily News and issued an RFP in June. Four firms got copies, three inquired, and you have two proposals. Both firms have significant district experience and are located in North Naples. They have strong relationships with Collier County and other agencies. Based on our criteria, I need each of you to rank them. If we fail to come to terms with the top-ranked firm, we have the option to negotiate with the second-ranked one.
Some of the board members have not had the chance to review the proposals. After a brief discussion, they decided to table the topic for the next meeting and will suggest the potential firms attend to discuss in person. The board members will submit their rankings at the next meeting.
- Update on Email Records Request from Prior Management
This topic was already discussed under the Old Business agenda item.
- Landscaping Update (Soto Landscaping)
Robert Soto from Soto Landscaping was introduced to provide an overview of their services, seasonal activities, fertilizations, turf and shrub maintenance, pruning and other specific services. Mr. Soto stated they’ve been serving this community for the past 13 years. He prepared a report outlining a schedule maintenance items and the frequency of each service. General maintenance doesn’t happen every week; some tasks are done annually. For example, we push back the Brazilian pepper in the fall. We also provide mulching services every February. The rain patterns have been unpredictable, they often turn off the irrigation system in the summer and resume when it gets dry. The gumbo limbo tree on Newport Dr. needs attention. The power company pruned it heavily, causing an imbalance. He’ll submit a proposal to reshape the tree to prevent any future issues. In conclusion, he expresses his gratitude for the opportunity to serve this community. Soto Landscaping always strives to provide the best service with their well-trained and dedicated team.
- Mosquito Spraying Update (Kish Pest Solutions)
The board discussed their concerns as well as some of the residents’ concerns with the efficacy of the current mosquito solution. They agree that since they are located in the Everglades it’s impossible to eliminate mosquitoes completely. The current solution is organic and breaks down in a day. Mosquito Joe’s product is synthetic and last longer by killing mosquitoes on the leaves. Mosquito Joe charges around $60 a month while the district currently pays $65 a year per homeowner. The spraying is only needed for certain months out of the year. The district typically halts spraying in December through February and resumes in March. One board member asked if we can consider a hybrid approach? Using a more effective solution when needed and a less expensive one when not. They can’t use this approach because it requires a different method, with permission to go on properties and spray under leaves. There has also been some discussion between residents on Next Door that there is a conflict of interest with Russ doing the spraying. While the cost will increase with an outside person doing the spraying, there is a prohibition of doing business with one’s own agency. While it’s being done to save money, it needs to be looked into. The board will explore other providers and Mr. Dorrill will reach out to the Mosquito Control District for recommendations. This topic will be discussed further at the next meeting on September 15. On a MOTION and a second, the board will sponsor a resolution in support of the special act by the Mosquito Control District to expand their boundaries to include this community.
- Dissolution of the CID
There has been talk about disbanding the CID. Before being elected, Mr. McNamee said he would investigate the possibility. Based on his research, CID can only be disbanded under very limited conditions. He’s not sure if he’s understanding correctly and asked for Mr. Pires to clarify.
Mr. Pires doesn’t have the exact portion of the statute with him. However, there’s a process involved in terminating a district. For instance, Collier County terminated a district because it had no infrastructure. But if a district like ours is terminated, the board of County Commissioners would create a replacement district. They will be the ones appointing the supervisors. This has happened before, like in Pelican Bay. The community would then be responsible for financing the new district. The transfer of all community services would mean the district gets terminated. However, the county would still need to agree. If they do, they can create another level of government. This means the community would only be able to elect one county commissioner. They might even impose additional costs for maintenance and services.
There is concern over the amount the community currently pays in taxes. They feel they aren’t getting adequate services in return. The community’s taxes have increased significantly. The county is taking a lot of money from them and not providing them with enough services. For example, their fire bill is extremely high. They pay three times what others in Naples pay. They feel they are not getting good value for the money they are paying to the county. The board will consider inviting Commissioner Locastro here to explain the tax discrepancies, ideally to the October meeting if possible. Developers who don’t agree with the impact fees can provide an alternative analysis to the county, but it’s not a cheap option.
Lindsey Case reached out and wanted to know if the board could help expedite his project with the county. The delays by the county are costing us a significant amount monthly. Can we do something about it? The county manager is the one who can expedite things. We can request their assistance, but perhaps a direct conversation with them would be more impactful. A direct conversation with Commissioner Locastro, with Lindsey present, would be beneficial.
Mr. Dorrill said on another note he needs everyone to sign their ranking forms. We’ll be making decisions based on the written proposals, not verbal presentations.
The next meeting will be September 15, 2023, at 9:30 a.m. On a MOTION and a second, the meeting was adjourned at 2:03 p.m.