The Weekly Editorial: Putting out the Fire

The Weekly Editorial: Putting out the Fire

This past Thursday morning, Key Colony Beach commissioners decided to repeal their vote to contract with Monroe County for fire service and stick with the city of Marathon – ending months of speculation and concerns over the costs of public safety.

For more than seven years, Marathon has provided fire and EMS services through an Interlocal Agreement, and with the current contract set to expire in September, city manager Roger Hernstadt was directed by Marathon’s City Council to enter into negotiations with Key Colony Beach.

In a letter dated, June 3, Hernstadt issued an initial proposal requesting a back payment of more than $800,000 because the current contract “inadvertently excluded building, equipment, and vehicle replacement,” to cover costs from the 2007-2010 fiscal years. The letter also contained a portion of the Interlocal Agreement which required Marathon to provide a formal 90-day notice of termination of service “if the parties are unable to come to mutually agreeable terms,” for the fiscal year 2010-2011 and beyond.

On Thursday, KCB commissioner Geraldine Zahn said, “Lets put aside the way the first offer that was presented,” adding the initial proposal sparked the KCB commission, “to find out what an alternative service might be.”

On July 22, KCB voted 3-2 to enter into negotiations with Monroe County that proposed a two-man crew operating out of Key Colony Beach. During the exploration, the Insurance Services Office, Inc. (ISO) determined that the switch from Marathon to Monroe County would negatively impact the insurance rating for every property owner with the city’s limits.

“Even by adding firefighters in our neighborhood, it will impact us negatively,” said Commissioner Mary Schmidt, who also accused Marathon of using “guerrilla tactics,” to scare KCB residents.

“Did we have all the answers? No,” she said. “We did what we thought would protect our citizens.”

Earlier this week, Marathon responded to Mayor Sutton’s request with a proposal that dropped the catch-up provision for past equipment shortfalls and would set a fixed annual rate of $525,000 per year for the next five years.

“They do know there was a rough start with negotiations this year, and they are trying to rebuild faith between the two cities,” said KCB Mayor Ron Sutton.

City Attorney Thomas Wright was then instructed to enter and sort out the details of the agreement with the city of Marathon attorney and, “to see peace return to our little valley,” as stated by Commissioner Zahn.

KCB Commissioner Jeff Vorick said he will only be satisfied when he has knows, “how expensive it is to make a call to Key Colony. Health and safety is my primary concern. I know the County budget was not accurate, and I know that Marathon is not accurate, but again, we have to live with it. I just don’t like being held hostage.”

“If we can have a contract for five years that locks in that figure,” said Zahn. “I would certainly want a five year contract.”

Marathon Mayor Ginger Snead, “I am absolutely thrilled that they have decided to accept our offer. Key Colony Beach is not just a city, they are also our friends and neighbors.”

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