ISLAMORADA -- The Village Council will once again discuss what to do about the 500 properties scheduled to be serviced by a low-pressure grinder pump system when it convenes Thursday, Sept 25.
"We have to feel our way down this path," Councilwoman Deb Gillis said Monday. "I still think that subsidy is the way we're going."
Gillis added, however, that any decision the council makes will leave some people unhappy.
"We can't win," she said.
Council members last discussed the grinder pump quandary at a workshop two weeks, but they made no decision on how to resolve the situation. Properties in less populated areas of the village are slated to be serviced by a low-pressure sewer system, rather than the vacuum system to which the majority of village properties will be connected.
Many residents in those areas oppose the proposal, in part because grinder pumps cost an average of $6,500 more than a vacuum line connection, according to village estimates.
Grinder pumps also require an electrical hookup. They eventually have to be replaced. And they stop working in the case of a power outage. Those are all issues that the property owners who connect to a vacuum line won't have to face.
But putting more properties on the vacuum system will be expensive. In a presentation at a Sept. 11 workshop, engineering consultant Tom Brzezinski of the firm Wade Trim told a packed Founders Park Community Center that it would add $6.5 million to the village's $99 million sewer project to put an extra 210 Lower Matecumbe Key residences onto the vacuum line.
Such a move would still leave 46 Lower Matecumbe residences with grinder pumps. Plus, it wouldn't deal with the grinder pump properties on Islamorada's other three islands.
A cheaper solution would be to subsidize the grinder pump property owners for the extra expense of the low-pressure line. Subsidies of $6,500 for the 500 such properties villagewide would cost $3.25 million. Council members have also discussed making the subsidies larger, in order to cover long-term maintenance costs.
Gillis said she hopes the council will decide how it will handle the situation at Thursday's meeting.
Also this week, the council will revisit the issue of a bicycle lane on Sunshine Boulevard, in north Plantation Key's Kahiki Harbor neighborhood. Two weeks ago, council members decided to add bike lanes only on Plantation Key Colony's Royal Poinciana Boulevard as part of the road repaving set to take place in the aftermath of sewer work.
But the pleas of several Kahiki Harbor residents, some of them children, at a budget hearing last Wednesday caused the council to reconsider the decision.
Five-foot bike lanes on both sides of Sunshine Boulevard would cost $99,000, according to a proposal put forward by the sewer contractor Layne, known locally as Reynolds Water Islamorada. The council sounded more likely to approve a lane on just one side of the street when it discussed the matter last week.
Also on Thursday, the council will discuss:
• Several proposed ordinances related to the village's ongoing effort to reduce red tape on construction and property improvements.
• A proposal by Councilman Mike Forster to co-designate Upper Matecumbe Key's Dogwood Lane as George Hommell Lane. The late fishing guide and World Wide Sportsman founder lived on the street until his passing on Aug. 31.