KEY LARGO -- The Key Largo Wastewater Board will once again schedule three regular meetings per month in 2014, even though agendas have sometimes been razor thin of late.
"We're a business," Commissioner Andy Tobin said of the utility. "We decide collectively how much we want to be involved in our business. You want to come once a month? We're not going to be very involved."
The issue of how many meetings to hold is touchier for the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District than for other local utilities and governments because commissioners get paid by the meeting rather than by a flat stipend. The pay for each of the five board members is $390 per meeting, but for no more than three meetings per month.
So far this year, the Key Largo board has held exactly three meetings in all but one month. The district met just twice in March.
In contrast, the boards of the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative, which serves from Marathon through Ocean Reef, and the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority, which serves the entire Keys, schedule just one regular meeting monthly. Additional meetings are held as needed. The Key Largo district spans only as far south as Tavernier and doesn't include the Ocean Reef Club.
Speaking at the Oct. 15 wastewater board meeting, Commissioner Steve Gibbs called a meeting the board held the week before "ridiculous."
The only action item on that agenda was the approval of minutes from the Oct. 1 meeting. Staff also delivered two reports at the meeting, although board Chairman Robby Majeska and district General Manager Margaret Blank were on a lobbying trip in Tallahassee.
In addition to the expense of holding a meeting, preparing for it burdens staff, Gibbs noted.
"I want to make sure that we're not wasting our time and our staff's time when the item on that particular meeting could be discussed elsewhere," he said.
The remainder of the Key Largo board members, however, argued that having three meetings a month provides them more opportunity to have a back-and-forth with staff and to exchange ideas among themselves.
The importance of that latter point is especially clear now, said Majeska, in light of a probe the State Attorney's Office is conducting into potential violations of the Sunshine Law by Key Largo board members who attend Fair Share meetings organized by Gibbs.
"This gives us a chance to sit and talk," Majeska said.
Commissioner Norm Higgins pointed out that even that Oct. 8 meeting ended up taking an hour and a half. So, despite the short agenda, there was plenty to discuss.
"I think three meetings is perfect," he said. "I don't like to be overburdened with an overwhelming agenda."
The board instructed district Clerk Carol Walker to schedule three meetings per month next year with the understanding that meetings can be canceled if they are not needed.