Florida Keys News
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
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Council opposes changes to advisory boards

MARATHON -- Councilman Chris Bull urged the Marathon City Council last week to review the duties and output of each of the town's advisory committees.

Bull said the Citizen's Advisory Task Force, the Land Acquisition Board and the Unsafe Structures Board haven't met since 2011. He said the Charter Review Committee hasn't met since 2002.

Noting that the Parks and Recreation Committee is supposed to meet monthly, Bull said it hasn't met since last September because of problems getting a quorum.

"I think they're frustrated," Bull said. "They don't know what to do and need more direction."

Bull's colleagues disagreed with his assessment.

"Some of this information is useful," said Councilwoman Ginger Snead, "but it may not be accurate."

Added Councilman Dick Ramsay, "The existing structure is fine. I think we should leave it alone."

Each of the Council members ackowledged the efforts of committee members, who are volunteers and donate their time for the benefit of the community.

Mayor Mike Cinque said some boards only meet as needed.

"The Unsafe Structure Committee is a legal board. It's called to meet when necessary," he said. "I was on it for six years and we were only called once."

Rather than directing what each committee should be doing, Cinque said the council members should get out and attend the meetings to provide input and assistance.

"We shouldn't be required to go [to committee meetings]. That's why we delegate," countered Bull. "We're supposed to review what they're doing every year."

The majority of the council, however, disagreed with Bull and decided to leave things as they are.

In other action, the council voted unanimously to change the town's special event permitting ordinance. Current language requires the city to charge $85 for any event that attracts more than 250 people over the course of the event, which is a burden for the city to monitor because a city employee has to attend the entire event and count heads.

City Manager Roger Hernstadt suggested the ordinance be changed to charge $85 for events that attract in excess of 250 people "at one time." This change will reduce the burden on city staff and level the playing field for event organizers.

The council also empowered Hernstadt to waive the fee for non-profit organizations rather than bringing each exemption request before the council for approval.

In the wake of last November's general election vote on amendments to Florida's Constitution, the council last week voted unanimously to adopt a tax exemption for low-income seniors who have lived in their home for more than 25 years.

While the impact of the loss of property tax revenue is minimal to the city -- approximately $5,500 a year -- Snead, who expressed support for the amendment, cautioned the council "to be careful of this slippery slope" of amendments, which over time could have a bigger financial impact.

During her report to the council, Utilities Manager Zully Hemeyer was asked where the city stands on wastewater reuse. She said four out of the five stations have reuse capability but the city lacks any takers. Public Works uses some of the treated water for landscaping, but not in large quantities, she added.

Hernstadt said staff is working on a plan to use the treated water at the city park for irrigation.

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