Wielding bright yellow signs and led by a prominent local attorney, a dozen or so residents from Grassy Key appeared at Tuesday night’s regularly scheduled meeting imploring the city council to “SSOB”.
Richard Warner spoke on behalf of the groups protesting the proposed site of a sewer treatment plant in Area 7 on Grassy Key. Residents implored the council to “Stop Sludge on Bailey” Street located between Kyle Avenue and Parrish Drive. Warner said he was representing not only the concerned citizens, but also his father-in-law who lives in the area.
“These people feel they’ve been stabbed in the back without fair notice,” Warner said passionately, adding, “The people of Monroe County are cashless and hurting. We’re asking that you put this plant somewhere so it doesn’t impact the people of this subdivision.”
Warner said the group was not only protesting the site of the treatment plant but the inevitable odors associated with having a sewage treatment plant within 60 feet of some residences.
Ed Castle of Weiler Engineering, the city’s contracted engineering firm, suggested the plant would be a minimum capacity facility only capable of treating 10,000 gallons of water per day. The proposed setup includes tanks that are only six feet tall, and plans include burying those tanks at least three feet underground with sufficient landscaping, comparable to other facilities like Tranquility Bay, to camouflage the treatment plant.
Warner told the council that Planning Director George Garrett “was candid enough to admit to me that it [the treatment plant] would give off odor,” but Vice Mayor Mike Cinque, who said he owns a much larger package plant within 50 feet of Annette’s Restaurant, contended that the smell from the treatment plants was negligible.
Cinque motioned that the resolution to award the bid to Caribe Utilities of Florida, Inc. be postponed until the approval for the site’s conditional use came before the council following the city’s next planning commission meeting Monday, Dec. 15.
In other business:
Marathon: a gold star in Tallahassee• Mayor Ginger Snead reported on a recent trip to Tallahassee in which she, Garrett and interim city manager Peter Rosasco traveled to appeal the state-mandated deadlines for sewer package plant construction completion. Snead said the contingent felt they should receive “extra kudos” for Marathon’s progress on the sewer construction project, adding that a speaker during the discussion called the city “the gold star of the Florida Keys.”
Snead also reported that after speaking to several environmental groups in the state’s capital, the city got a nod to pursue funding from Florida Forever to purchase the island of Boot Key.
Rosasco added that several officials had encouraged the city to come forward with their request for funding.
“If we have funds delivered to us within six to 12 months, that would give us plenty of time to negotiate with Boot Key sellers,” Rosasco added.
Councilman Pete Worthington said he would approve staff move forward with seeking state funding to purchase the island as an eco-preserve, “But in these economic times, I don’t want to see our taxpayers have to foot the bill for that purchase.”
Cinque said his view has been that preserving the island for eco-tours would serve as an anchor for Marathon’s tourism commerce.
City Manager Search
• Rosasco presented council members with the 99 applications for the city manager post vacated by Clyde Burnett. The council is still in the process of developing an objective rating system to cull the list of applicants. Cinque suggested preparing a contract to be submitted to the top 20 applicants after the rating system is established, but Worthington expressed concern over placing a salary cap on the position.
“Someone who’s worked somewhere else for $130,000 may not be willing to accept this job for less money though he’s been a phenomenal manager,” Worthington said. “It may limit our negotiations.”
The council discussed placing a range on the proposed salary and agreed to come back at the next regularly scheduled meeting with an appropriate rating system to help narrow the list of applicants.
• The council denied a request from Dockside Lounge owner Lance Becker to act as the anchor sponsor for the upcoming Boot Key Harbor boat parade, saying they did not want to open the door for other community organizations to request primary sponsorship for their event.
Becker requested $2,500 sponsorship that could include in-kind donations. Vice Mayor Cinque said he felt the council should support community-based events like these, but Rosasco said it has been the policy to waive fees for events as a way of showing support.
• Bettye Chaplin of Chappy’s restaurant requested a permanent certificate of occupancy for her family’s waterfront restaurant on Knight’s Key. Since opening, the Chaplins have only held a temporary certificate while they worked to meet requirements for proper buffering and landscaping around the property.
“We’ve met all the requirements at the state, federal and city level,” Chaplin said, adding that extensive conditional use requirements occurred because of former neighbor.
“It has been a very hurtful thing to me, and after all we’ve been through, I want a C.O. with no blemishes.” The City Council agreed and granted the C.O.
• As part of the continued eminent domain proceedings, the council voted to terminate the development agreement with Marathon and Maranu Luxe Bungalow Resort and Spa, also known as the Knight’s Key Corporation, Inc.