On top of the budgeted funds for distribution amongst local non-profits Tuesday evening, the Marathon City Council was able to tack on an additional $5,000 from a code case settlement for a total of $95,000 distributed to 16 organizations serving the Middle Keys community.

Independence Cay, the Middle and Upper Keys only homeless shelter and soup kitchen offering transitional and inclement weather housing for up to 20 people, was the granted the largest sum of funding with the city earmarking $18,200 of the $25,000 they requested in their formal proposal.

“I’ve never seen it so bad,” said attorney Frank Greenman, who also serves as vice chair on the shelter’s board of directors. “We’re losing our middle class. If you have to make a hard choice, make the decision to reduce suffering…food, shelter, health…give those a little heavier weight.”

Just behind Independence Cay was KAIR, (Keys Area Interdenominational Resources) which was granted $16,600 of their total $20,000 request.

“We’re very thankful for the city’s support of our efforts,” said KAIR board member Terry Lynn Kelly, “and we’ll be sure to put it to the best use possible.”

KAIR’s executive director Marj Roberts noted that of the 16 organizations working so diligently to provide services across the city and competing for the funding from the city have such great collaboration and cooperation with each other.

The third-highest funded non-profit organization was Grace Jones Day Care Center. In the 2009-2010 fiscal year, the city granted the center $10,000, and this year, they increased their support to $11,000 of the total $15,000 requested.

Other organizations supported by the City of Marathon included: American Red Cross, $1,600; Be the Change of the Florida Keys (formerly Monroe Youth Challenge Program), $1,840; Crane Point Museum & Nature Center, $1,990; Domestic Abuse Shelter, $5,500; ECMC, $9,100; Habitat for Humanity, $5,140; Kreative Kids Christian Academy, $6,700; Literacy Volunteers, $1,680; Marathon Keys Center Academy, $2,500; Marathon Wild Bird Center, $2,100; Pigeon Key Foundation, $950; Rural Health Network, $5,400; and US Fellowship of Florida (Heron-Peacock), $4,700.

Councilman Pete Worthington commended all organizations that appeared before the council to plead their case.

“All these organizations are serving the community well,” he applauded. “We’re sorry we can’t fulfill all the requests.”

Mayor Ginger Snead added that when elected, she pledged to work wholeheartedly on every task the council faced, but this was the one part of her work she dreaded most.

“This is the one thing I don’t like doing, having to say no, we don’t have the money,” she offered.

In other business:
• Council made individual appointments to the Unsafe Structures Board. Vice Mayor Mike Cinque appointed Michael Dolan; Councilman Dick Ramsay appointed Chris Gratton; Rich Keating appointed Paul Patterson; Worthington appointed Jeff Pinkus; and Snead appointed George Steinmetz.

• The long-debated Tuesday morning city council agenda workshops came up for discussion again at the suggestion of Mayor Snead.

“The original intent of these meetings was so everyone could come together, be on the same page, and hear everything at the same time in the same manner,” she offered.

But the meetings, held at the Marathon Fire Station every other Tuesday morning prior to regularly scheduled council meetings beginning at 10 am, rarely see all five city council members.

Keating, a flats fishing guide, said his clients often book their trips to come to the Keys as much as a year in advance. Because the morning meeting time often conflicts with those trips, Keating said he might be more amenable to Monday evening meetings.

Worthington, rarely if ever in attendance at the meetings, has repeatedly expressed that as a commercial fisherman, he much prefers the one-on-one consultation style of past city managers.

“I kind of like the element of surprise on where other council people are on some issues,” Worthington said, suggesting that when the council discusses consenting an agenda item, the “decision’s ultimately already been made.”

Keating commended City Manager Roger Hernstadt for his efforts to contact individual council members and keep them apprised of agenda items.

“Roger has always made a point to contact me and keep the lines of communication open,” Keating said.

Cinque, with no strong convictions either way about the workshops, said without consensus on a time and location, the meetings really didn’t serve their intended purpose.

“Sitting on council is not a game of poker,” Cinque rebuked. “I think it’s good when we have consensus and are informed to make wise decisions.”

Hernstadt said that with his experience in both large and small municipal governments, the agenda briefing meetings are universal practice.

“With respect to Marathon, it’s often hard for the public to know exactly what particular items are about, and the morning meetings give them an opportunity to listen in and better understand individual items,” he offered.

Though inconsistent in recent weeks, the agenda briefings are streamed online through the city’s website. Anyone sitting in front of a computer can hear council’s discussions without interrupting his or her workday. 

After lengthy discussion, no consensus was reached, and the agenda briefing meeting time remained unchanged.

It was an honor to distribute $95,000 to our community groups that are struggling in the difficult economic times. The true givers and heroes, however, are the residents and taxpayers of Marathon. This money was available because of the taxpayers of this community. – Mayor Ginger Snead


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