Florida Keys News
Wednesday, April 3, 2013
City extends bridge kiosk permit

MARATHON -- The Marathon City Council voted unanimously last week to extend Friends of Old Seven's kiosk permit for another year.

The non-profit group obtained a permit from the city last year to place the information booth at the entrance to the historic bridge. Members of the group staff the kiosk, handing out leaflets and answering questions.

The group collects approximately $10,000 per month in donations and, after paying overhead costs, is left with about $2,000 for community outreach.

A representative from the group told the City Council that an economic impact study, funded in part by the city, should be ready for review in a couple of weeks. The study analyzed the financial benefits the community could reap if the old Seven Mile Bridge is repaired and restored.

Two weeks ago, the Monroe County Commission gave staff approval to investigate the possibility of restoring the old bridge. The Florida Department of Transportation has agreed to pay for half the cost -- estimated at $18 million -- if the county takes over maintenance of the structure. According to County Administrator Roman Gastesi, annual maintenance would run about $70,000 and painting the bridge every 10 years would cost $3.5 million.

The city's Parks and Recreation Department announced that it will begin a new program called "Classics in the Park." Classic movies will be shown on the community park's large outdoor screen. The first will be "Gone With The Wind" and all are welcome. Concessions will be available and the Marathon Youth Football League will sell french fries. Attendees are invited to bring chairs and blankets.

The city has accumulated a stockpile of old metal signs. Public Works Director Carlos Solis received the council's approval to scrap the signs in exchange for cash and donate the proceeds to the Relay For Life. Solis estimated, based on the weight of the scrap metal, that the signs will generate $300 to $400.

During last week's meeting, the council directed staff to make an additional $50,000 available to first-time homebuyers through its Homebuyer Assistance Program. A funding plan will be brought forward for discussion and a vote at the next council meeting.

The program offers a $10,000 down payment loan to those who qualify. The loan has a 30-year period without interest or payments. Repayment is due at the time of sale. However, if the homeowner remains in the home for 30 years, the principle is forgiven.

Twenty-one applications were received and 16 qualified for the program last fiscal year. Six of those 16 applicants purchased a home using the program, for a total expenditure of $60,000. The fund still contains $30,000 and the city has accumulated another $48,000 in its Workforce Housing Fund.

In other action, Councilwoman Ginger Snead asked the council to consider regulating the city's taxi cab companies. With at least four companies providing service in the Middle Keys, she wants the council to adopt regulations ensuring that cab drivers are properly licensed and carry insurance.

"We need to make sure our families and residents are safe," she said.

Mayor Mike Cinque said it's the responsibility of the Department of Motor Vehicles and local police to enforce driver license and insurance laws, but he allowed that requiring cabs to register with the city might be a good idea. "Maybe a sticker indicating that they're licensed and insured" would make people feel more comfortable, he said.

Vice Mayor Richard Keating said he didn't want to "hamstring" local businesses but agreed that staff should come forward with recommendations.

The Council will review staff's list of recommendations regarding regulation of the city's cab companies at a future meeting.

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