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Two city paving contracts approved

By Staff | Sep 29, 2015

Contractors very soon will begin repaving more than 47 miles of roadways in the city after City Council unanimously approved $7.8 million in funding for the project at Monday’s meeting at City Hall.

“I have good news,” Public Works Director Steve Neff told council members. “Like the Chinese New Year, in Cape Coral this is the year of the road. We may come up about eight miles short of everything we set out to do, but this will complete the repaving plans for 2015.”

The good news is that contractors expect to finish the project by April 2016. Contractor Community Asphalt Corp. is charged with repaving local roadways in the amount of just over $4.5 million while contractor Ajax Paving Industries of Florida has the contract for the major roadways in the city in the amount of just over $3.3 million.

“We had two bids for the local roads that were within 5 percent of each other,” said Neff. “The two bids for the major roads were within 10 percent.”

Questioned about the 8-mile shortage, Neff replied, “I am very optimistic of completing it at this point, but if we come up short, it will be added to next year’s paving plan.”

Neff added that the road repaving projects should get the city back on schedule by 2016 or 2017 after several years of neglect.

Annual analysis of city utility revenue and costs

Consultant firm Burton & Associates informed council Monday night that its annual analysis of the city’s utility revenues and costs

structure indicates no need for a rate increase for 2016. In fact, a five-year projection keeps the water, sewer and irrigation rates the same for the next five years, through 2020.

The consultant also projects that utility reserve funds could be used to reduce debt in the future. The city’s average residential utility bill continues to be one of the lowest in Southwest Florida from Venice to Bonita Springs.

The report asserted that the city should look at ways to improve its irrigation system and billing. The current flat rate of $9.50 per month recovers only about 50 percent of the cost. It was suggested the city at some point consider raising the flat rate by $1 per month or per year or begin metering the system as for water and sewer.

Fleet management audit

During a lengthy audit of the city’s fleet management practices, 66 deficiencies were identified. Of those, five were rectified within the first six months and 31 more in the months since still awaiting auditor’s review. The final 30 recommendations are in the process of being rectified, according to Neff.

The fleet department, like city roads, fell into disarray during the economic downturn. A city initiative seeks to bring the department operations back to its former status as one of the Top 100 in the nation.

Fleet manager Paul Cook showed off the department’s new database cataloging every asset the city owns, listing all activity from purchase price to maintenance costs, from value and depreciation to final auction. Cook called the database a “from birth to grave” record of all vehicles and equipment.

“We physically touched every asset the city owns,” said Cook.

“I’m very proud of what you have done,” said Councilmember Jim Burch. “You are going to win an award for this at some point.”

The next step is for the department to clean up its purchasing of parts and tracking of fuel. Cook said installing certified pumps at fueling stations will go a long way toward eliminating discrepancies between the fuel purchased and dispensed.

“We’re looking at another 12 to 18 months to get the parts process corrected with our vendor,” said Cook.

Salary range for candidates

After much discussion, council approved allowing City Manager John Szerlag the authority to offer nonbargaining job candidates up to the “third quartile” of the salary range for five open positions. These positions include an ITS director; collection and distribution manager, water production manager and water reclamation manager in the utilities department; deputy fire chief and division chief; and a traffic engineer.

The reason for Szerlag’s request stems from a city ordinance that limits him from offering a salary above the midpoint of the pay range without council approval.

Councilmembers Rana Erbrick and Richard Leon did not support the request and ultimately cast the two dissenting votes.

“Three of these positions have not even been posted,” said Erbrick. “I don’t think it is wise to approve this at this point, perhaps take them one at a time.”

“I agree with Councilmember Erbrick,” said Leon. “Let’s post the positions first, but let’s not go to the third quartile yet. If three candidates turn it down for low pay then you have documentation to show we need to go higher.”

Councilmembers Lenny Nesta, Rick Williams and Burch called the discussion micromanaging by council.

“We approved the ranges,” said Nesta. “It’s time to allow the City Manager to do his job.”

“We need to give the city manager some latitude and allow him to do his job,” added Williams. “We want to get the best people we can get, so we have to trust him. The city manager will hire people at the lowest rate possible, but we want him to hire the people he wants and trusts to do that job.”

“This is much ado about nothing,” said Burch. “It’s time to move on and get it done. We approved the ranges, so is this micromanaging, absolutely. The range is a negotiating tool and is market driven. We were micromanaging at the beginning to highlight a problem. The new ranges are set, so now the city manager has a job to do.”

The next regular meeting for council is Monday, Oct. 5.