MARATHON -- During last week's Marathon City Council meeting, Councilman Dick Ramsay said the state highway agency may be more amenable to adding signs on the traffic light mast arms at Sombrero and Coco Plum boulevards directing motorists to Marathon's beaches.
Originally, the Florida Department of Transportation responded to the council's request with a letter indicating additional signage was unnecessary.
Ramsay's reaction to that letter -- directly contacting FDOT officials rather than going through the city's liaison -- upset Councilwoman Ginger Snead at a previous meeting. FDOT later sent three traffic engineers to Marathon to inspect the mast arms and assess the situation.
Ramsay and City Manager Roger Hernstadt met with the engineers who agreed to prepare drawings and develop a plan to resolve the issue. Ramsay said that although the review and plan development process normally takes three months, the engineers assured him the city will have it within one month.
While they had FDOT's ear, Hernstadt raised the issue of the roadside sign at the entrance to the Florida Keys that indicates the number of miles to Key Largo and Key West but doesn't mention Marathon. Despite the council's previous efforts to get FDOT to update the sign by including Marathon, the signs have remained unchanged. The council is hopeful that this additional reminder will spur the state agency to update the signs to include Marathon.
In other action:
• Marathon High School teacher Katie Bayless requested financial assistance from the city to help fund a student field trip to Tallahassee. Students planned a tour of the state capital and the Florida Supreme Court, where they were going to conduct a mock oral argument, and a visit to the Governor's Mansion.
Bayless emphasized the importance of the opportunity and stressed that no student who wanted to attend should be left behind because of financial limitations.
The council voted unanimously to donate $500 toward the cost of the trip.
• The council heard that volunteers removed six dump-truck loads of garbage and debris from 15th Street on March 1, as part of a continuing effort by the city to clean up the area. Members of the city staff, fire department, Sheriff's Office and the community participated in the effort.
• Rick Turner was been nominated as the city's Benevolent Volunteer Firefighter of the Year and, as such, is in the running for the county nomination. Fire Marshal Adam Geaneas was nominated as the city's Career Firefighter of the Year and, likewise, is in the running for the county nomination.
• The city recently hosted three workshops to help qualified residents apply for grant money that may be used to fund sewer connection costs. The free workshops, conducted by Meridian Community Service Group, were held at City Hall during the day.
Councilman Chris Bull suggested that another workshop be held during the evening to accommodate those who work during the day and were therefore unable to attend. Mayor Mike Cinque supported the recommendation and asked Hernstadt to follow up with Meridian to schedule an evening session.
• The council voted unanimously to amend an ordinance to provide additional homestead exemptions to residents over the age of 65 who have lived in their Marathon home at least 25 years, provided their property is assessed at less than $250,000. The amendment impacts "a small population of property owners," said Hernstadt, "and has little to no affect on our budget."
• Cinque briefed those in attendance about his recent trip to Washington, D.C. He and Hernstadt spent five days in the capital and met with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, and Congressman Joe Garcia, D-Miami, as well as with representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Discussions about funding to save the Old Seven Mile Bridge and help with wastewater projects were held.
"Everyone's in our tent," Cinque said. Marathon "is in pretty good shape all the way around."