FLORIDA KEYS -- The Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District, the city of Marathon and village of Islamorada have formed an alliance to secure government funding for their respective sewer projects.
The group plans to complete an interlocal agreement by September that spells out how they intend to divvy up a much-anticipated $50 million second installment of a $200 million state grant.
The agreement, when signed, will be given to the group's lobbyists and state Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, who will again make a pitch for funds to pay down debt from state-mandated sewer system construction. The Florida Keys were unsuccessful this past legislative session in securing the funding after the state's Republican leadership refused to issue money that didn't directly create jobs.
"The governor told me to pitch this as an unfunded mandate," said Key Largo district Chairman Robby Majeska. "I will call every state representative, if I have to."
Last year, a similar interlocal agreement spearheaded by Monroe County was being negotiated when county officials added payment for a "super-lobbyist" to the agreement, to be paid for mostly by Key Largo, which was expected to receive $20 million of the $50 million grant.
The Key Largo district, which already had a lobbyist working on the funds, refused to sign the agreement, which delayed negotiations among the district, county and municipalities for weeks. When the terms were finally worked out, Majeska said the Keys had no unified front in Tallahassee.
"Different people were meeting about their own issues," he said."It wasn't about a group as a whole."
An alliance between Marathon and Key Largo is not surprising as both use the same accountant, Peter Rosasco of Marathon, and both have mostly completed sewer systems and face large debt payments.
Majeska said Islamorada Mayor Ken Philipson and Village Manager Ed Koconis were interested in joining the alliance as Key Largo tries to draft a new funding formula based on capacity. The village, which has just begun its sewer infrastructure work, is running a pipeline to Key Largo's plant where its sewage will be treated under contract.
Officials from the three areas are expected to meet again this month.