“The future is not bleak,” said Marathon City Manager Chuck Lindsey at Tuesday’s City Council meeting in an update about Hurricane Irma recovery and the city’s financial position.
“It’s a little nerve wracking going into this season but we are by no means destitute,” Lindsey said of the city’s financial situation.
The city has submitted claims for $32 million in damage to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement, $12 million of which was for debris removal.
“Projects like the beach, parks, the things that we need funding for are still kind of on hold until we see money from FEMA, and in the FEMA system we have numerous projects which have been submitted” for reimbursement, he said. FEMA has obligated, or approved, $700,000 for Marathon, which must now be sent from the state.
City Planner George Garrett said cleanup of the canal at Key by the Sea in Marathon is complete, along with two others as part of the county’s Natural Resources Conservation Service grant.
Also, a half-sunk houseboat in Dodge Lake has been made a priority for cleanup, he said.
According to a weekly progress report from the county, more than 645 cubic yards of debris were been removed from the Key by the Sea canal. The total volume of marine debris removed Keyswide is nearly 1,600 cubic yards. In Marathon, 17 canals were severely affected by the storm.
The county is also working on submitting documentation to the Natural Resources Conservation Service for a number of additional canals, 10 of which are in Marathon. An NRCS grant is being used for the cleanup.
In other matters, a new agreement was presented to the council concerning the new Middle Keys hospital tax, after council members requested it be reviewed each year rather than it being “automatically renewed” as written in a previously approved ordinance.
The council agreed it should be reviewed at the first March meeting of each year, but Councilman Mark Senmartin voted “no” when it was time to call the roll.
“I have serious reservations about entering into this with the county without having a contract in place,” he said, adding that the county would most likely have a finalized contract with Baptist Health South Florida by October.
The Board of Monroe County Commissioners-approved taxing district was first approved in June. The tax will be .05 mills or less for a maximum of 10 years. The county commissioners approved it for a second time in July, unanimously.
The goal is to raise about $15 million from the tax, which encompasses the stretch between MMs 40 and 63, with proceeds going toward indigent care.