Despite a dangerous shortage of rain this spring, the Marathon City Council voted on Tuesday evening to approve a contract to refurbish the Community Park soccer fields to the tune of $166,325.25.
“We have soccer players that hope to go to college on scholarship, and they won’t play on this field because it’s too dangerous,” Mayor Ginger Snead, also owner of Advantage Rehab and Physical Therapy. “If we spend this money and save just one child from coming into my office with a torn ACL, then it was worth it. It’s not just an aesthetic issue, it’s a safety issue.”
Vice Mayor Dick Ramsay admitted the fields were in worse condition than a public facility utilized by the community’s youth should ever be, but he expressed concern over the timing of the project.
“How desperate is it that we do it right this second?” Ramsay asked. “Can it wait until we get our water reuse system online?”
He further suggested an aeration, fertilization and overseeding process for an estimated $5,000 to “see if it works in a few weeks.”
“This money will have to come from capital reserve funds as it’s not currently appropriated in our budget,” he added. “Our goals are to not raise taxes right now, but if everybody wants it, let’s do it.”
Councilman Mike Cinque said that if the city was going to foot the bill for the project, it should be done right the first time.
Community Services Director Susie Thomas reported that the wastewater plant that would serve the community park, which will also include a grey water reuse system for watering fields, would not fully operational until December.
Former councilman and soccer coach Chris Bull rallied several players to come to the meeting to speak to the council, but grandmother Diana Jones was the only one to speak to the issue.
“Thanks for accepting this tonight,” Jones applauded. “It’s just horrible reading about what all they’re taking away from our kids, and I for one am ready to say let’s stop paying taxes!”
In other business:
• Fire Chief William Wagner spoke to the council to dispel rumors that the Monroe County Fire Rescue arrived on the scene of a deadly house fire in Crane Point Hammock before Marathon Fire Rescue.
According to his report, sheriff’s office dispatch records and notes indicate Monroe County Station 17 arrived 14 minutes after Engine 14 from Marathon Fire Rescue arrived on scene.
“This is so ridiculous and misguided, it hardly warrants a response,” Wagner noted, adding he’d also appeared on a morning radio show to clear up any misinformation. “What’s unfortunate is that this rumor circulated, and not one person called me, the Fire Chief. I responded and was on scene within 35 to 40 minutes from my home in the Upper Keys, and I couldn’t have been more proud of my crew and their response with limited staff.”
Pete Worthington reportedly received several emails questioning the validity of the rumors and then forwarded them to City Manager Roger Hernstadt.
“Some people just need to get a life,” chided Cinque, who thanked Wagner for his report.
• The developer of a gas station and drive through Dunkin’ Donuts got the go-ahead to move forward with development of the former Miami Subs property between 73rd and 74th Streets.
Planning Director George Garrett told the council there had been a significant effort on the part of the applicant to work FDOT to maintain curb cuts and proper access to the property, but Cinque asked the council for more time to review the plans.
“I just got this last night, and I think we need more time to review this. In the past, we’ve had some poor development and bad decisions.”
He contended that only one entrance into the property from U.S. 1 would challenge ingress and regress from a high-traffic fuel station.
“I see no reason to rush this,” Cinque pointed out.
Speaking on behalf of the applicant, Micah Issac clarified that the only differences between the previous site plan and the one before the council was one entrance off U.S. 1 instead of four.
• The Community Image Advisory Board, responsible for spearheading the effort to install trees in the U.S. 1 median between Aviation Blvd. and 107th Street, responded to the council’s request to schedule a community workshop to hear feedback from residents on how they would like the community to look for visitors.
The CIAB suggested Tuesday, May 17 at 5:30 pm, but Ramsay said he couldn’t make that date and said he’d rather see the meeting scheduled for a Saturday.
After considerable discussion, the council opted to go back to the CIAB for proposal of another date for a meeting.