John Bartus

Let me begin this week’s column by stating that I have the utmost respect for our current City Council. To a person, I believe every individual occupying those seats is doing their best to do the right thing for the people of Marathon.

Sometimes, however, good people disagree on what may be the best solution to a particular issue. Democracy can be a messy business sometimes, but that’s why we have multi-member councils, commissions and legislatures. People can get together, discuss and debate and hopefully come to the right decision.

It’s just the nature of government that not everyone will agree on a particular course of action. A current case in point is the recent decision by the council concerning the Quay property. As a member of the City Council who voted to purchase the Quay property, I do not believe that the project’s design — and nearly $850,000 in grant funding — should be scrapped in favor of adding another boat ramp and additional trailer parking.

The Marathon City Council of 2018 voted to acquire the Quay property to enhance the existing boat ramp as well as provide a beautiful waterfront park for our residents and visitors. The city hosted multiple workshops, got a lot of citizen input, and then hired design consultants. All this effort resulted in plans that were moving forward until the council meeting on Oct. 24. All that progress is now on hold because three council members want to put in another boat ramp at the site.

The city manager and city staff didn’t agree with this decision, and neither do I. Remember, this was brought to the residents, and the city received a whole lot of public input as to the design. The Quay site was destined to become an enticing off-highway attraction and a perfect recreational green space with stunning waterfront views — a tropical park to be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike. To throw all this away now because some want another boat ramp and trailer parking is short-sighted at best.

This is not to say that there isn’t a problem with our boat ramps. The worst times of year are always around lobster mini-season and the opening of regular season. Given that, and the occasional weekend demands of seasonal boaters, it’s still safe to say that there is no boat ramp congestion for more than 300 days in each calendar year. So why would we kill off a park that would benefit our residents year-round in favor of something that will exist primarily for Marathon and Key Colony Beach tourists?

As I mentioned previously, I was on the city council that voted to acquire the Quay property. We understood that the development of the park would take time. As former council member and Mayor Randy Mearns said, “Government moves at the pace of a dead snake.” The process of developing a property to its best use with taxpayer dollars and grants is a slow, laborious grind. That’s why things take as long as they do when the government is involved. If the current decision stands, more than four years of effort and tax dollars already spent will be thrown away in order to begin the process anew.

Starting over will put off any progress at the Quay site for likely another four years while permits are considered, grants and funding sources investigated, contractors hired, and construction commences. Let’s not forget all the resident input the city already received in those workshops — all those voices will be ignored and thrown out as well.

As a resident and taxpayer, I strongly disagree with the idea of tossing out a beautiful green space that benefits everyone and replacing it with another boat ramp that mostly benefits tourists. If you feel the same, contact your city council members — respectfully, with understanding and kindness. It’s often a thankless job to sit in those seats and make those decisions. Even though I disagree with some of them sometimes, I appreciate the effort all of them put into making Marathon a better place.

– Catch John live Wednesdays at Brutus Seafood, Thursdays at Sparky’s Landing, Saturday at the Presents In Paradise fundraiser at the Marathon Elks Lodge, and Sunday at the Skipjack Resort Tiki Bar. Find his music anywhere you download or stream your music. •

Very few towns or cities could ever claim that their Mayor was a smokin' hot guitar player. The island city of Marathon in the Florida Keys is one of those towns. While politics is a temporary call to service, music is a life sentence. John Bartus, a more-than-four-decade full-time professional musician, singer, and songwriter, continues to raise the bar with his groundbreaking solo acoustic show. It’s easy to catch John on one of his more than 200 shows a year throughout the Keys on his Perpetual Island Tour. His CD releases include After The Storm, Keys Disease 10th Anniversary Remaster, and Live From the Florida Keys Vol. 2. John’s music is available wherever you download or stream your music.