MARATHON -- The Marathon City Council's charitable spirit was on display last week as it made donations to two groups and agreed to revisit its new pet pig ordinance in response to concerned citizens.
During the Jan. 8 meeting, Councilman Chris Bull suggested the city donate $8,900 to "Save Old Seven," a group dedicated to restoring the old Seven Mile Bridge.
The group plans to have an economic impact study performed to analyze the financial benefits to the town if the bridge were to be repaired and restored.
Save Old Seven applied for a non-profit grant from the City Council and received $1,100 toward the total cost of $10,000 for the study. Bull suggested that the City Council fund the remaining $8,900 out of its contingency funds. The council voted unanimously to donate funds, provided they are used exclusively for the economic impact study.
With close to 30 U.S. injured soldiers taking part in a rehabilitative bicycle ride through the Florida Keys as part of the annual Wounded Warrior Project's National Soldier Ride, Councilman Dick Ramsay recommended the council donate $1,000 to the group and present them with a plaque at the appreciation dinner that was held Sunday in Key West.
Vice Mayor Richard Keating supported the idea, saying, "They gave the ultimate sacrifice and it would be great if we can somehow show our gratitude."
"Have we ever given them money before?" asked Bull. "I know we provide police resources and things like that but have we given money?"
Ramsay replied money had not been donated in the past.
Mayor Mike Cinque expressed his support, saying, "They have a long, dark life ahead of them in some cases. We need to support them."
The council voted unanimously to donate $1,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project.
Ramsay reintroduced the town's new pig ordinance for discussion, making it the third meeting at which the subject was discussed. In late November, council members voted unanimously in favor of a new city ordinance that allows residents to keep domesticated pigs as pets. Owners of pigs are now required to buy an annual license and tags, in addition to getting the appropriate vaccinations for their pets.
"I've had many phone calls from concerned residents," Ramsay said. Neutering, maximum weight and standards for how the animals are penned were some of the issues Ramsay mentioned. He recommended the council review the ordinance with the city's attorney, give the public another opportunity to comment and reconsider the ordinance at the next meeting, making changes as appropriate.
Cinque suggested the council express its concerns to Planning Director George Garrett, who could then put together a list of recommendations for discussion. Councilwoman Ginger Snead agreed, adding that the council could go through the recommendations one by one, voting on each, rather than "having a long discussion and picking it apart piece by piece."
In other action, Wastewater and Stormwater Utilities Manager Zully Hemeyer reported that all facilities are in full compliance.
Ramsay, however, said he has received complaints about "bad smells" from the airport plant that have upset neighbors. Hemeyer was asked to look into the issue and report back to the council.
The council also agreed to procede with an eviction should Monroe County Sheriff's Sgt. Jake Brady ignore a 90-day notice issued to vacate a city-owned property.
In November, the council discussed the status of the property at 2130 Sombrero Beach Road that was originally intended to be used as a way to attract new officers to Marathon. The three-bedroom home was available for a new officer and family at $500 a month, plus utilities, for a year or two to help them become established in the community.
City Manager Roger Hernstadt, however, reported in November that the original lease had expired in 2003 and has continued as a month-to-month basis ever since.
The council unanimously voted to give notice to Brady, inspect the property, make any needed upgrades and lease it to a new tenant. Last week, the council was notified that Brady has not responded to the town's 90-day notice.
The council also agreed to award 65 of this year's hotel room allocations to four applicants: Courtyard by Marriott, Faro Blanco Resort, Tranquility Bay and Bonefish Bay Motel. Council members expressed their appreciation to the businesses that have decided to invest in the local economy.
Ramsay also reported that within two to three weeks the final architectural drawings for a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility at the Florida Key/Marathon Airport will be ready for submission to the Department of Homeland Security for approval. He expects the drawings to be accepted without issue but warned that the federal review process may take a long time. The drawings illustrate how the city plans to modify the existing facility in an effort to become a port of entry.
In closing comments, council members expressed hope that residents will turn out for the capital infrastructure meeting to be held at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 17, at the Marathon Fire Station. The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the city's five-year capital plan, specifically a new city hall and public works building.