Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Council discusses money matters, sewer pipe repairs

MARATHON -- An unprecedented return of funds to the city was ceremoniously performed at last week's Marathon City Council meeting.

Sheriff Rick Ramsay presented the council with a check for $169,750, which was local taxpayer money his department did not spend out of its 2011-12 budget.

"It's easy to spend it all," said Ramsay, as he explained his department's focus on frugality.

Also last week, a representative from Conch Records, which presented the Music Video Fest in January, asked the council to waive the $2,250 it owes the town for the use of the community park and amphitheater.

There was confusion on the part of Conch Records regarding the fee for vendors at the event and the company did not pay in full.

The president of the local art guild also requested a fee waiver for an event held at Gulfside Village because it was poorly attended.

The requests regarding fees prompted a discussion about how much the city charges for various events. The council agreed to review the fee structure at its next meeting and revise it, if necessary.

Marathon Finance Director Peter Rosasco spoke to the council about an amendment to the Florida Constitution, which passed last November, that allows disabled veterans who were not Florida residents prior to entering military service to qualify for a discount on their property tax.

Councilman Chris Bull asked how many residents of Marathon would qualify for the exemption.

"How will this impact other taxpayers?" he asked. "What are other parts of Monroe County doing?"

The council asked city staff to provide an analysis of the fiscal impacts of the amendment and details about how other parts of the county are dealing with the issue at the next council meeting.

In response to a request from the council at a previous meeting, Utilities Director Zully Hemeyer provided an updated protocol for damaged sewer "candy canes," so named because of the shape of the air intake pipes.

The pipes, which are located in homeowners' yards, enable the sewer's vacuum system to function and must be kept free of debris. If candy canes are damaged, the sewer system cannot operate properly.

The new protocol calls for homeowners to either hire a contractor or the city to fix the pipes as soon as damage occurs. For $150, the city will repair the device to code. But its the city's preference that homeowners hire contractors to do the work.

However, if the city notices damaged candy canes are not being fixed in a timely manner, it will do the work itself and bill the homeowner.

The council also approved March travel plans for Mayor Mike Cinque, City Manager Roger Hernstadt and Rosasco. They will visit Washington, D.C., to lobby for additional funding.

While past visits were not fruitful, Rosasco said the current environment is the most favorable yet.

The much-discussed pig ordinance will be reexamined at the next City Council meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 5.

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