July 19, 2017

MARATHON — Establishing a preliminary property tax rate for the coming year, addressing the impacts on modifications to a centrifuge plant on Coco Plum and pursuing a community pool were among the items discussed during a four-hour Marathon City Council meeting July 11.

Based on the finance director’s recommendation and the city’s goals, the council set the tentative 2017-18 tax rate slightly higher than the current year, resulting in a $27 increase for the owner of a home valued at $300,000 if the council does not lower the tax rate in the coming months.

The tax rate of $259 per $100,000 of assessed property value can be lowered between now and final approval on Sept. 26, but not raised. The current millage rate is $250 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

The proposed $17.8 million budget increases reserve funds to almost the six-month mark to be used in case of emergencies such as hurricanes and gives staff raises while giving residents better service, Mayor Dan Zieg said. It also accomplishes building projects such as the maintenance building, he noted.

Among the reductions in costs staff pursued was due to putting out for bid the city’s general insurance and wind insurance needs in May, and getting more coverage for less money in one of the three responsive bids.

City Manager Chuck Lindsey said pursuing insurance rate bids had not been done for a while, and together the cost was about $471,000 per year. However, Public Risk Insurance Agency recently offered a rate of $405,000 while increasing wind coverage to $15 million. The city further reduced its property deductible from $5,000 to $1,000 and its liability from $1,000 to zero. Since 2003, the city had not shopped insurance rates, and Lindsey said he recommended going out for insurance bids every three years.

An issue that drew concern from about nine residents who questioned traffic, smells and water quality impacts was a resolution to expand a centrifuge plant at wastewater treatment plant no. 6 near Coco Plum Road to treat all waste-activated sludge generated by the city’s wastewater treatment plants. The upcoming July 25 council meeting include a workshop on this matter and residents are invited to learn more and will have a chance to ask questions.

Weiler Engineering, which designed plant no. 6, was chosen to design and construct the centrifuge plant for about $509,000, but the council postponed the vote on the resolution.

A centrifuge typically separates fluids of different densities, or liquids from solids. The centrifuge expansion cost is eligible for reimbursement by the state Mayfield grant for water quality improvements.

The project is described as “an enclosed metal building with chemical tanks and reactors for sludge treatment and a centrifuge dewatering area. A sludge holding tank and a centrate/influent equalization tank will be required as well. [It] include[s] plans for corrosion control work on the existing metal tanks and structures… and [will] investigate causes and mitigation for the settlement of the existing operation building. The city also wishes to install a larger potable water main and to coordinate with the fire marshal for a potential fire hydrant.”

Lindsey emphasized the plant is environmentally sound. 

“We’re not doing anything there that we are not doing already,” he said. “This is better for our environment and will save taxpayer money. The impact is two trucks a day, 20 trailers a year. This will reduce noise as well. To us, it makes sense.”

The council also discussed further pursuing a partnership with the Monroe County School Board to use its property adjacent to Marathon High School to build a community pool, but learned in a market analysis from the city manager that if the city has to procure its own land, it should expect to add about $3 million to the construction costs.

The school board was scheduled to discuss uses for the property during a Tuesday, July 18, meeting after press time.