Marathon: Coldiron elected mayor

Council also hears about debris removal and beach restoration

Michelle Coldiron was selected as Mayor on Tuesday. SARA MATTHIS/Keys Weekly

The first order of business at the Marathon City Council meeting: elect Michelle Coldiron as the new mayor and John Bartus as the vice mayor. After the most recent election, the council decided to approach naming the city’s “top spot” in a different manner. Previously, the council debated and voted at a public meeting. Now, there is a resolution that suggests a specific order to determine the mayor — length of service and, if two council members were elected on the same day, number of votes. The intent was to de-politicize the process of electing a mayor. However, some argue that not everyone is qualified or wants to be the mayor.

The votes for mayor and vice mayor were both 4-1, with Councilman Mark Senmartin voting “no.”

“I’m voting ‘no’ in protest. I don’t agree with the system that we put in place,” said Senmartin, who also voted against the resolution when it was put in place.

Other news:

  • Marathon City Manager Chuck Lindsey updated the council about the debris yet to be collected along the U.S. 1 right-of-way.

“The state Department of Transportation has told us verbally that they will not pick up any more debris along the highway,” he said. “I need that in writing.”

Lindsey said once he has the letter, he will then apply to FEMA for reimbursement should the city become responsible for that debris. FDOT has not formally said why it would not assume this responsibility, but it was suggested at the meeting that the agency ran through its emergency fund taking care of other parts of the Keys.

“Since it’s not city property, there’s a question whether it’s eligible for FEMA reimbursement,” Lindsey said. “I don’t want to pick it up now, and then have FDOT change its mind and take care of everyone else except Marathon. But the highway is the ‘face’ of Marathon. We need to do it right, and we need to do it quick.”

Lindsey told the council that 85 percent of the debris collection is complete in Marathon. And of that 85 percent, almost all of it has already been trucked to the mainland. It is still exploring options on how to reduce the vegetative debris. Burning, which has a success rate of about 97 percent, is out. The city is considering grinding the material, which has a 4-to-1 reduction rate.

In light of all of the upfront expenses associated with Hurricane Irma that are supposed to be reimbursed by FEMA, the city is cutting its spending. Staff has agreed to forgo raises for six months and the city will not fund nonprofits this fiscal year. Typically, it gives out $90,000 to a handful of applicants.

“It’s my recommendation, but I don’t like it,” said Lindsey. “But these are belt-tightening measures … until we get a better handle on our financial situation.”

  • About 1,200 permits associated with Hurricane Irma have been issued by the City of Marathon. (Some addresses have multiple permits, for electrical, plumbing, etc.) The city has waived $360,000 in permit fees, respesenting about $18 million in improvements. The fees are set to resume again on Dec. 1. Also, businesses will be required to take down spray-painted wooden signs by Dec. 1.
  • The city is considering how to stage, or phase, improvements to Sombrero Beach. The sod may not be replaced until sometime next year, and it’s possible there will be more beach area with the dunes recreated further back toward the road. The west end of the beach may open in as little as two weeks.

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Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes weird and wonderful children (she has two); and occasionally tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.