Rosasco calls grant distribution “unilateral” effort
For Marathon Finance Director Peter Rosasco, the numbers just don’t quite add up.
City Manager Roger Hernstadt recently received a request from Monroe County to review distribution of $200 million Stanley Mayfield grant monies to fund construction of state-mandated wastewater projects across the Florida Keys.
Hernstadt told the council Tuesday evening during their regularly scheduled meeting that though the money had been put in place legislatively, it was never made available in the budget until this year.
Monroe County Manager Roman Gastesi said in an email that the current governor’s focus is job creation. The first $50 million in the grant’s four year cycle, with $30 million going to unincorporated Monroe County for construction on Cudjoe Key and $20 million for the Village of Islamorada, Gastesi wrote, will produce approximately 1,100 jobs for three years and 60 permanent jobs.
Rosasco contended Tuesday night that under their proposal, the county would receive the major bulk – $73 million – of the total $200 million authorization. Key West had $23 million, distributed over years two, three and four, earmarked for stormwater construction.
“The way I understood how they put this together was for stormwater money, and it was to be used exclusively for wastewater,” Rosasco continued.
He further contended that the original report prepared by the Monroe County Engineering Division in 2007 at the request of the Florida House of Representatives Environmental and Natural Resources Council was the foundation for authorizing legislation that was passed.
Though he only verified the EDU estimates in the report for the City of Marathon, Rosasco added that the distribution in Islamorada appeared to be based on build out.
“Regardless, there’s a very significant disconnect between what the county’s proposed and what was intended when the legislation was passed,” Rosasco continued.
Mayor Pete Worthington agreed with Rosasco’s suggestion to return to the original language of the legislation.
“I fully support the county and Islamorada getting their programs off the ground, but Marathon has seen minimal state funding come down, and we’ve been pounding the sidewalks in Washington, D.C.”
Councilman Mike Cinque asserted that the county and Village of Islamorada proceeded with construction of new government buildings where Marathon’s city hall offices were still located in mobile trailers.
“It seems like we’re getting penalized on the side, and our citizens deserve state support,” Cinque said.
In proceeding with the state-mandated construction, Councilman Rich Keating said Marathon had provided jobs in the last few years when a lot of other people were leaving town.
“I fully support our manager getting together with other communities and sending a message that it’s not ok for the county to continue treating us this way,” said Councilwoman Ginger Snead. “That’s why we incorporated, right?”
• In other business, Snead again added the issue of tow truck companies operating under questionable circumstances at the old Quay property.
“I had a call from a lady who was sitting in her vehicle eating her lunch when a tow truck backed up to her car,” she recalled. “I want to get this on the agenda for the next meeting so we can put an end to this once and for all.”
Vice Mayor Dick Ramsay the majority of the complaints from the public have been against Florida Keys Towing, and pending legal cases against them may discourage their overzealous practice.
“We can, if we’d like, say something to the effect that you can’t have a blank sheet of paper from a property owner,” Ramsay suggested. “Each time, they must have owner or owner agent approval [to tow a vehicle]. At Winn Dixie, when cars are parked for sale, they must first confirm and speak with a manager.”
Ramsay suggested Snead set up a meeting with representatives from the sheriff’s office to explore how other municipalities manage their tow truck operators.
• Utilities Manager Zully Heymeyer requested the council require sludge haulers operating within the City of Marathon be licensed to do so.
In response to Cinque’s concern over duplicating licensing requirements for the county, Hernstadt said the aim was to address a very specific concern.
“We want to make sure none of them are taking any short cuts by putting their sludge into our drains,” he elaborated. “It’s extremely difficult for us to catch those activities in the act.”
Heymeyer continued that a sludge hauler, hired to clean septic tanks and grease traps, was an out-of-county operator who was behind on their licensing requirements.
“We had to work with other agencies, and it took a little time to get that information,” she explained.
Mayor Worthington said he’d heard of sludge being dumped in systems through vacuum pits, and that the investment of staff time and effort was well worth the effort to protect the city’s infrastructure.
The proposed ordinance requiring a Marathon license for sludge haulers operating in city limits passed on the first reading and will come back before the council for a second public reading.