A New Perspective 3-27-0: Moratorium Construction Slump

Golden Gate Gazette

March 27, 2001

How will Golden Gate residents be affected by North Naples sewer woes that brought about a moratorium on new construction north of Golden Gate Parkway?
With so many dump trucks, cement trucks and tractors parked in Golden Gate Estates yards, it’s obvious many residents are employed in some aspect of the construction industry.
The Collier Building Industry Association (CBIA) lists 28 members with businesses headquartered in Golden Gate, but there’s no telling how many skilled and unskilled construction workers live in Golden Gate and are employed in the construction industry.
Craig Morris, of Golden Gate-based Corey Construction, says his drywall business will definitely be affected if sewer hook-ups in North Naples are not allowed until next year.
His company has about 100 employees and he anticipates many of the unskilled and semi-skilled employees, who make $8 to $15 an hour, will be out of work for six to 12 months if projections are accurate.
But he also says it could hurt the big contractors.
“It’s going to take the huge contractors down to nobodies,” he maintains. “The only people that are going to make out are the bankers.”
Fortunately, he says there are still construction opportunities in Lee County, which does not have a sewer capacity problem. Morris predicts some construction employees will head there. He says others will find construction work in the Golden Gate Estates, where septic tanks are the means of sewage treatment.
Naples Concrete owner Mike DelDuca calls the sewer problem “double bad news” for the Collier building industry as it comes in the midst of an economic slump.
There’s no question that we’re probably off about 20 percent,” he says. “We are definitely on a downward cycle.”
He says there were already people lined up for jobs in the building industry in Collier County before the sewer problems were made public two weeks ago. He refers to the situation as an “unlimited source of employees.”
DelDuca employs 260-270 people in form work, masonry, and steel reinforcement construction. If sewer plant hook-ups are delayed until next February or March, he says he sees possible lay-offs for some of those employees.
“There’s just no question, it’s going to hurt us,” he says.
He says the current sewer crisis is especially unfair to the construction industry considering the county began doubling impact fees for waste treatment over a year ago. He maintains the county has had the money to expand the plant but just put off construction.
County sources have maintained the county was searching for better loan conditions before borrowing the money to add five million gallons of capacity to the North Naples Treatment Plant.
“They’re grossly negligent in the whole thing,” DelDuca maintains. “They’ve known. They totally mismanaged the planning.”
The ultimate impact will be to the high-end of the development market, local attorney and contractor David Bryant says.
A native of the panhandle, he says he was attracted to Collier County because it seemed recession-proof. Not only does he now agree that the county is in an economic decline, he finds it almost unimaginable that the county could let the sewer system run out of capacity.
“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know if there’s not the capacity there’s going to be economic fall-out,” he says.
And it doesn’t bode well for the county’s reputation as a quality, upscale community, he maintains.
“It really affects the credibility that the county has to deliver the lifestyle it has for years,” Bryant says.
On a more positive side for Golden Gate companies, Creative Homes, Creative Excavating and American Homes do nearly all of their business in Golden Gate city and the Estates, areas not served by the county’s sewer system. Golden Gate city residents are either hooked up to Florida Governmental Utilities Authority (formerly Florida Cities Water) or septic tanks.
County staff has met with DEP to find ways to solve overflow problems, associated with the influx of winter tourists.
They hope to solve the problem with a plant expansion scheduled to be finished by next March, a proposed connection to the Naples sewer plant and plans for a line to be constructed between the North Collier and South Collier plants.