Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
Bartus in for Snead

MARATHON -- John Bartus, who served three previous terms on Marathon's City Council, was the unanimous council appointee March 11 to fill the seat vacated by Ginger Snead.

Vice Mayor Chris Bull proposed Bartus to replace Snead, who resigned to pursue work in Jacksonville. Bull said he wanted someone who could "hit the ground running," which was also the collective stance of the council in selecting Mike Puto for the interim manager position after Roger Hernstadt resigned in January.

While other community members had stepped forward to replace Snead in conversations with council members, only Bartus's name was proferred during last week's public discussion. The council had 30 days to appoint someone to the seat; otherwise, it could have remained vacant until the November election.

Bartus was Bull's appointee on the charter review committee but cannot serve both boards, according to city rules. Thus, Bartus will miss voting on recommendations to the council at the final charter review committee meeting set for 4 p.m., March 24, at the fire station. Bartus was chair of the committee. Vice Chair Karen Farley-Wilkinson likely will step in and conduct the meeting. Bull appointed Lynda Berrigan to replace Bartus on the committee.

Bartus, who was present at the March 11 meeting, spoke briefly, saying he will not seek election in November. That was important to the council, which did not want to give any prospective candidate a leg up on the competition.

Bartus also said afterward that the charter committee had discussed most of the major topics relating to the charter that had been problematic or bantered about within the public realm, and now as a member of council, he will be able to vote on them since the council determines which items to put before the public for a vote.

The committee is expected to give a presentation of recommendations at the next regularly scheduled council meeting April 8. There is no March 25 council meeting because it falls on Florida Keys Day in Tallahassee, and various government and business officials representing the Keys will convene with state officials to lobby for wastewater funding and fair insurance rates.

Bartus said he looks forward to working with all the council members. He served on the council with Bull in 2005-06 and said he has a good relationship with the other council members.

"I've got seven months to do as much good as I can as I serve on the five-member council," he said.

He expects to assist in decisions about city hall, with groundbreaking likely before his term ends in November, as well as assist in the search for a city manager and potentially a new city attorney or attorney firm. Benefits of an in-house attorney versus a large firm are to be discussed at a future meeting. Bartus also expects to help streamline the permit and building process, due to complaints about the process from residents.

Meanwhile, a detailed presentation by several Florida Department of Transportation officials at the March 11 meeting sought to ease concerns about parking and stormwater runoff, as a project with a start date of April 28 to repave and create bike lanes alongside U.S. 1 at the west end of Marathon between the Coast Guard station and Seven Mile Bridge raised concerns of merchants.

FDOT shared three possible designs but concluded that, without electricity, French drains would not be feasible, and thus sod and slopes would work. Richie Moretti, Turtle Hospital owner, and other business owners will do a walk-through of the project area with FDOT and city staff to further solidify drainage plans prior to construction, the council decided.

"DOT has property in the area of the project that may be able to be used for drainage facilities," Mayor Dick Ramsay said. "DOT is sensitive to the fact we've spend millions preserving a state Area of Critical Concern," which the Florida Keys is designated.

Also, the local preference proposal for contractors inched forward. Added to the discussion was a clause related to modeling the law after the county's rule if non-local contractors were chosen to be responsible for a project. Council asked city staff to include language about keeping much of the work local through subcontractors as part of the proposed city law. Chris Gratton of the Florida Keys Contractors Association spoke at the meeting to ensure the consideration of this clause.

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