Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
Village won't pay for condo, business pumps

ISLAMORADA -- The village won't pay for and install grinder pumps for condominium complexes of five units or larger, council members decided at an April 23 workshop.

"Trying to equalize for everybody, I'd say that category shouldn't be included," Vice Mayor Deb Gillis said.

The council also decided against paying for and installing grinder pumps for businesses.

"They can write if off where our residents can't," Councilman Dave Purdo said.

Last week's workshop came on the heels of a tentative Village Council decision on April 10 to include 58 properties that have duplexes and small apartments in the grinder pump program at an estimated cost of $1.25 million.

The council held firm on that decision on April 23, noting that its goal is to provide financial assistance to property categories in which, on average, the owner would have to pay more than $3,500 in grinder pump installation costs per hook-up.

The figure of $3,500 is what the village says is the average installation cost for the majority of Islamorada residents, whose central sewer service will come through a vacuum line rather than the low-pressure/grinder pump system.

Those 58 properties will be joined by a revised figure of 379 single-family properties in the grinder pump installation program. The village's engineering team from the firm Wade Trim had previously said that approximately 500 homes will be serviced by grinder pumps. Still, because Wade Trim also revised the estimated price of each installation upward, the overall price of the program for single-family properties rose $200,000 to an estimated $3.45 million. The estimate doesn't include grinder pump maintenance, which the village plans to provide on an ongoing basis.

Official prices are expected by May 22 in the form of a contract proposal by contractor Layne, which is also known locally as Reynolds Water Islamorada. Layne could begin pump installation as soon as June.

If the village ends up signing off on an approximately $5 million grinder pump program for the small apartments, duplexes and homes, it would bring the overall cost of the sewer project to $129 million.

In deciding against installing grinder pumps for the 18 condominiums and 103 businesses that will need them, the council spared taxpayers an estimated $3.6 million more in costs.

The logic against subsidizing the larger condo buildings came out of the Wade Trim figures. On average, the firm concluded, each condo owner would be paying $2,500 for their share of a building's grinder pump installation and hook-up, already less than the $3,500 threshold that the village set as the target number to produce equitability.

The council's decision not to provide for condo buildings drew sharp condemnation from Gretchen Luff, a resident of Islamorada South Condominiums on Lower Matecumbe Key, who called the move "flawed and unjust."

"Where's the equity?" she asked council members at a meeting last Thursday, a day after they held the grinder pump workshop. "Are we second-class citizens?"

The council, though, didn't turn its back on businesses and large condos entirely. It instructed the village's sewer team to look into less direct forms of assistance.

Among the ideas that council members floated were buying the grinder pumps in bulk in order to take advantage of lower prices and then selling the pumps at-cost to businesses and condo owners; including condos and businesses in the grinder pump maintenance program; and facilitating low-interest loans.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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