August 16, 2017

MARATHON — The Marathon City Council last week discussed environmental issues and determined parking citywide needs to be addressed. It also heard from a couple residents who are opposed to the plan to centralize a wastewater centrifuge system near the Coco Plum neighborhood.

Regarding parking, Planning Director George Garrett said the city needs to rework some of the Land Development Regulations dealing with parking on vacant lots. When the city incorporated and formed its laws, it was liberal in grandfathering existing uses into the code, according to City Manager Chuck Lindsey. 

“Our interpretations have benefited business,” he said. 

Garrett said when a new business arises or an older business renovates, the planning department tries to bring it into compliance with the current parking regulations.

Under council items, Councilman John Bartus and Vice Mayor Michelle Coldiron shared their concerns about negative environmental impacts. Bartus said his father was a proponent for nuclear power until one of his last assignments involved working with Westinghouse to clean up a Savannah River site that stored 13 tons of plutonium. Not only did all the residents of Ellenton, S.C., have to move, the contaminated storage area won’t be considered harmless for 240,000 years, Bartus said.

He related the harmful effects seen firsthand by his father in order to garner support for a resolution opposing Florida Power & Light’s plan to pump reactor wastewater deep underground from two proposed new units at the Turkey Point nuclear plant. Although Councilman Mark Senmartin was absent, the council agreed to support such a resolution at a subsequent meeting.

Coldiron said although the potential costly legal fight against prohibiting the use of plastic bags in Marathon’s stores is problematic due to state law, she named sources of free re-useable shopping bags and suggested people sign the Better Bag Challenge led by the Middle Keys Action Network. A signature sheet to pledge foregoing plastic bags was available at the council meeting as were free re-useable bags.

During public comment time, a couple of Coco Plum residents spoke against centralizing wastewater centrifuge in their neighborhood, Service Area 6. Jean Tarleton suggested there could be cost savings if there were individual sludge dewatering centrifuge units at each of the six wastewater treatment plants rather than hauling waste to the Coco Plum plant and treating all the sewage there. Water quality impacts from increased discharge into Service Area 6 injection wells and eliminating the daily trucking of sludge to Plant 6 eliminates environmental and neighborhood impacts, Tarleton said. 

“At around $700,000 each, the cost of the centrifuge unit for each wastewater treatment plant approximates the estimated [plant’s] design and construction costs,” Tarleton said.

No matter what the city decides to do — and it has already approved a contract with Weiler Engineering for design and engineering costs — a $17 million Mayfield Grant will cover the costs.

Additionally, City Attorney David Migut introduced his summer intern, Dustin Werling of Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University. Funded through a grant program of the Florida Bar, Migut said he put Werling to work on aspects of switching from a code board to special magistrate system previously approved by council, as well as on the placement of marijuana dispensing facilities in the city. On second reading, the temporary moratorium of 180 days on the opening of any marijuana dispensaries was approved.