MARATHON -- The Marathon City Council did not hesitate when renewing the Monroe County Sheriff's Office contract to provide another year of law enforcement for the city for about $1.5 million at last week's meeting.
It spent much more time on the matter of a new contract to operate the city's sewage plants, ultimately deciding to forgo rebidding the contract and to stay with U.S. Water Services Corp., details to be hammered out later.
"I would like to continue to work with U.S. Water," said Councilman Mike Cinque. "I don't want to change the jockey in the middle of the race,"
U.S. Water presented the council with three options -- only one with a price tag. Option 2 would cost the city about $1.2 million annually. As a company representative explained, the increase is due to several factors -- all of the plants are up and running, there's more sewage flow and higher costs associated with man hours and chemicals.
U.S. Water agreed to bring back detailed summaries of the other choices, complete with financial data.
City Manager Roger Hernstadt said he would favor a "toggle" option in the contract, where the city could resume ownership of some aspects of the work, such as purchasing chemicals or paying utilities, if the situation would benefit the city financially.
In other news:
• Councilman Dick Ramsay reported that there probably isn't any advantage for the city to bid on the Monroe County contract to manage the Marathon airport.
"I've read the draft," Ramsay said. "One reason [Marathon shouldn't bid] is that Monroe County would retain total control and whoever the manager is would have little power. The second reason is that there's no money involved. [The monies generated] at Key West airport fund both airports, and there's no way of tapping into that to feather our own nest. And there's no way to turn it into a real engine for Marathon's economy."
Council member Ginger Snead agreed.
"It makes zero sense to manage something if we're not going to make any money on it," she said.
Ramsay suggested that the city withhold a formal decision on responding to the bid requests at this time. He also discussed asking Monroe County for Middle Keys representation on the selection committee for the airport management.
Ramsay also wants to include representatives from surrounding regions, such as Duck Key and Islamorada. Snead cautioned about approaching Monroe County about the makeup of the selection committee, adding that her first priority would be to ensure a representative from Marathon.
• There was a brief discussion about adding the word "beach" with an arrow to the mast arms of the traffic signals at Coco Plum Drive and Sombrero Beach Road. Ramsay said it would be good to identify the town's assets. The council agreed to talk to constituents about sign "clutter" before pursuing the matter.
• The council approved the consent items on the agenda, including changing the name of Coco Plum's Avenue A to Pescayo Avenue and authorizing a grant application to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for up to $58,000 to operate and maintain the vessel pump-out program.