Despite a 12.5 percent decrease in property values across the city, Marathon Finance Director Peter Rosasco said the city has proposed “a very austere and yet solid budget for the coming year.”
During their regular council meeting Tuesday evening, the city council voted unanimously to set the millage rate for the 2010-2011 fiscal year at 1.8458. In other words, a homeowner in Marathon with a $500,000 residence would be looking at a tax bill of $923.
“It will actually exceed rollback,” Rosasco said of the budget, clarifying it is 2.5 percent below rollback. ‘We were able to do so while still maintaining in excess of six months of reserves for operations in our general fund.”
The millage rate of 1.8458 mils, unanimously approved by the council, is $24 less than last year’s rollback rate of 1.8931 mils. Rosasco clarified the proposed overall budget for the city is just under $52 million; $8.7 million of which is the general fund where ad valorem taxes will be collected.
“In our general revenue service fund, we’ve reduced spending four years in a row,” Vice Mayor Mike Cinque commended. “We provide good services and run a very tight ship. I think we can be proud of that.”
The remaining majority of the meeting was spent discussing waste, sewage and its proper disposal.
Cinque, who admitted he was normally opposed to any further mandates on residents concerning sewer connections, added an item to the agenda for discussion about the mandatory installation of a backflow valve.
“I believe when we built this system, for around a $50 valve, we ought to make it mandatory that it’s installed in your laterals to protect your home against sewage backup from your neighbor’s house,” he suggested. “It’s very minor, but very needed.”
Mayor Ginger Snead said though she didn’t know exactly what a backflow valve is, “I certainly don’t want my neighbor’s waste in my bathroom, but I don’t want to trade one problem for another,” she said about any maintenance of the system.
Both Councilmen Pete Worthington and Rich Keating expressed concern that the system’s installation was not already mandatory.
Building Official Ron Wampler said a quick survey of local plumbers showed they would prefer the backflow valve installation remain optional. After a bit of research, Wampler added that more affordable valves, some priced as low as $30, could be damaged if a pipe snake is used to clear clogs in the system.
He continued that though the valve would require infrequent maintenance, they would prevent sewage from backing up into grade level homes if a flood occurs. Residents in Key West placed sandbags around their homes to prevent Hurricane Wilma’s floodwaters from invading their homes, but the resulting sewage that backed up into their homes was also trapped inside.
Cinque likened the valve’s installation to an airbag in a car. It can save your life in an accident, and after it’s used, it then needs to be replaced.
Councilman Dick Ramsay supported Cinque’s motion, adding that the vice mayor had done his research.
“I believe this is a life safety type issue, and it’s certainly a health issue,” Ramsay offered.
Wampler briefly touched on the fact that there are at least a dozen valve models from which to choose, to which Cinque responded that $50 is a minimal cost to protect homeowners against such a catastrophe.
Following last week’s centrifuge demonstration in the Service Area 4 wastewater treatment plant, council voted to award a bid for purchase to Centrisys Corporation for the purchase of a machine designed to separate liquid and solid waste matter at treatment plants and essentially reduce the cost of hauling sludge out of the Keys.
Worthington supported the purchase noting that it would reduce overall operation and maintenance costs for the city when it assumes control of the utility in the coming months.
Ramsay added that though he supported the purchase, he asked the council to hold off on deciding who would operate the equipment.
Fruit Stand Woes
Worthington raised concerns over an alleged Cease and Desist Order delivered to the operators of the weekly fruit and vegetable stand from the Florida Department of Transportation. The order included photos of violations from 2007 and 2008 in which customers at the stand parked their cars on the bike path in front of Crane Point.
“I guess one of the things that surprised me is that I sit on council, and I didn’t hear anything about this,” Worthington raised, adding that his issue is focused on how the incident took place and not the response by city staff. “I think we need to do what we can to support that group.”
Snead said she found the notice “almost offensive if not funny” and asked Keating, recently appointed the city’s liaison between the FDOT and Overseas Heritage Trail project coordinators in Tallahassee to ensure clear lines of communication.
Get to the Meeting
Council moved to begin their regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 12 at 4:30 to allow more time for non-profits to plead their cases for funding from the city. They also voted to cancel the Dec. 28 meeting due to the Christmas holiday.