Renewal of a taxing district subsidizing indigent care at Fishermen’s Community Hospital is on the agenda for the Marathon City Council’s March 14 meeting. KEYS WEEKLY FILE PHOTO

The Marathon City Council will face its most packed agenda in months at its March 14 meeting, with several hot-button community issues up for consideration.

A discussion of the Middle Keys Health Care Municipal Services Taxing Unit (MSTU) in support of Baptist Health and Fishermen’s Community Hospital will kick off the evening. The council voted to continue the special taxing district at its 2022 annual review, a decision that continued a debate among Marathon residents that’s been active since the district’s inception. 

As of March 2022, the taxing district had raised roughly $6 million. When added to community contributions of $23 million, bringing Marathon’s total contribution to about $29 million, the total funds raised exceeded Baptist’s initial ask of $15 million from the Middle Keys community and $10 million from the taxing district. 

The council heard from several community members criticizing billing issues at the hospital and the taxing district’s early switch from funding brick-and-mortar construction to subsidizing the cost of indigent care. The independent profitability of the hospital in the months since its opening has also come into question. However, the council ultimately voted 4-1 to continue the MSTU, with then-Mayor John Bartus and council members Luis Gonzalez, Robyn Still and Steve Cook contending that Marathon was still short on its taxing commitment and that voting to end the MSTU would be bad business for the city.

The council will also approve the ranking and allocations of the next round of commercial and residential market rate and affordable BPAS allocations. As currently divided, this will stand as one of the final four award cycles before the city’s remaining standard allocations are exhausted in September 2024.

With a written opinion still pending from the Florida Ethics Commission on the council’s ability to retroactively reduce and refund building permit fees over the last two years for Marathon residents – a decision that would result in refunds for four of the five seated council members – the council is set to hear Resolution 2023-32, which will at least approve a roughly 42% reduction in these same fees moving forward.

Finally, Resolution 2023-33 will provide further clarity to the city’s upcoming nonresident charges for boat ramp and Sombrero Beach usage and parking. The new resolution rescinds the original version passed by the council at the end of 2022 and re-establishes the fees, violator fines and process for exempting qualified residents and property owners.

Also on the agenda…

  • Councilman Kenny Matlock will lead a discussion of vacation rental trash issues and the potential addition of another code enforcement officer.
  • With increasing concerns on crowded sidewalks as they see more electric bike and scooter traffic, Vice Mayor Robyn Still will lead a discussion of ways to safely accommodate the electric vehicles’ growing popularity.
  • Resolution 2023-31 will amend the rates and rental fee schedules for facilities at Boot Key harbor City Marina.
  • Resolution 2023-30 will authorize the city to pursue the dissolution of an extinct church located at 500 42nd Street. With the church unused for several years, Marathon will contact the nearest church of the same denomination to determine the fate of the property for renewed use as a church or potential sale.
Alex Rickert made the perfectly natural career progression from dolphin trainer to newspaper editor in 2021 after freelancing for Keys Weekly while working full time at Dolphin Research Center. A resident of Marathon since 2015, he fell in love with the Florida Keys community by helping multiple organizations and friends rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Irma. An avid runner, actor, and spearfisherman, he spends as much of his time outside of work on or under the sea having civil disagreements with sharks.