On Oct. 11, the Marathon Weekly Newspaper and Marathon Chamber of Commerce hosted a forum for six candidates competing for three seats on the Marathon City Council. With the election less than a month away, candidates distinguished themselves by answering a dozen questions on a range of topics from the economy to the environment. The event was held at City Hall and a big audience listened intensely. Below are two of the questions and the candidates’ responses.
In 2018, the City of Marathon sent a resolution of support to Monroe County, which levied an ad valorem tax on Middle Keys homeowners to support indigent care — which means unpaid hospital bills — at Fishermen’s Community Hospital. Is that something you will continue to support?
Since the City of Marathon assumed control of Sombrero Beach in 1999 when it incorporated, it has discouraged profit-seeking entities from operating at the beach. In the past, Marathon City Council has issued waivers for organizations putting on events for charity and profit. And, some businesses such as the ice cream truck and kayak tour companies do use the space without issue. Are you in favor of allowing for-profit or commercial entities to operate at Sombrero Beach?
After Irma, Baptist could have pulled away but they showed a commitment to our community and the community needed to show a commitment to the hospital. It will be reviewed on an annual basis. We get a chance to look at the books every year. The hospital is just one of the more critical areas. I will support that taxing district for as long as it is needed.
The deeds that are on record do not have restrictions. However, in the documents I saw, Switlik did donate Sombrero Beach to the county and was specific that it not be used for profit making ventures. I am old enough that I remember that when it was transferred to us. I do not support the use of Sombrero Beach for all sorts of willy nilly profit ventures. I do not support paid parking. The beach should be a passive recreation facility for our kids, families and visitors. I would allow for nonprofits to put on events there. But otherwise, I draw the line. No.
I would support it. I am going to keep supporting this. We need growth for our city. We need fire department and police department, and we need the security a hospital gives us. If you have no hospital, that’s pretty much the death knell of the vacation industry. Originally, some of the messaging was unclear and there was inaccurate commentary. With the ad valorem tax, we are getting a hospital three or four years earlier than we would have had it.
This is such a tough topic. We did find there were no deed restrictions to whether we could make a profit or not on city property. But because that has been there for so long as a thought, we should try to honor that a little bit because it was a gift. The parking meters, we don’t know what that could turn into, it was only a discussion. We need to look at it and see if it really works for us. I’ve gotten lots of emails. People like it, people don’t like it. But profits could be moved around between all the city properties.
Having Fishermen’s Hospital and Baptist is a great asset to the city. I hope when the new facility is built, that Baptist sees they don’t need the money and that we don’t have to vote on it, hopefully. I would not support it.
I would put a resolution in place and govern accordingly so it’s not just “him” or “them” out there making money. If there are standards in place, and they are licensed through the city, that way we get the licensing money out of it. Why not?
We definitely need the hospital. Vacationers will come here with the hopes that we have a hospital in place. City Council worked well with the hospital to get it built quicker. I would support it, 100%.
Yes, I think we need some revenue from the beach. Food trucks would be wonderful, I think that would make a great addition to the beach especially the ice cream trucks; every kid likes ice cream. We have a playground going up and that’s exciting. I do feel like we should make something back.
Only a fool would say they don’t support a hospital. What we really need to see … is do we need to impose the tax. We need to see how much Medicaid money is going in, what grant money goes to the parent company, we have to see if they are making a profit or not. I want to see the money and then decide at that point if we need to impose the tax.
I don’t have a problem with food trucks being there. If we get money to give food trucks a license to operate, that’s money for the city. Plus there’s tax money for selling food and ice cream. So, yes.
I am in favor of the MSTU. It gave us a good negotiation position with Baptist, and to have a MASH facility so workers could come from the mainland and our own workers could return after Irma. The MSTU shortened the build time from six years to two years. And you need to be cognizant, that three-quarters of this tax is paid by nonresidents and vacation rentals. The hospital is essential to our future for our residents and real estate values.
There has been a story that goes around that the deed to the city came with title restrictions and we found that not to be true. After Irma, we have $32 million in debts. I tried to identify further income or revenue that would be paid by tourists, not residents, to balance our budget. We need all the help we can get now. I would like to identify revenue systems.
To see the whole video, click here.