Beginning Wednesday, Oct. 1, the City of Marathon’s wastewater plants will be under new management. Severn Trent has been awarded the new contract to operate three of the five wastewater plants. The city already operates the Grassy Key plant and will soon take over the Coco Plum facility as well.
“The most important point for our customers is that they will not notice the difference. If anything, we hope for improved customer service,” said Zully Hemeyer, utilities manager.
City officials say the switch has two benefits: a lower per-plant-operation cost and a move toward self-sufficiency.
“I support the city taking over plant operation in a logical fashion,” said Mayor Dick Ramsay. “But I think we should continue to outsource the field maintenance to local contractors.”
The old contract with U.S. Water cost the city about $1.4 million including after-hours service calls, or about $350,000 per service area. The new contract with Severn Trent came in at $935,153, or $311,000 per service area.
Earlier this year, the City of Marathon took over the operation of the Grassy Key wastewater facility. Hemeyer said the plant has very low maintenance because its design — a low-pressure force main with individual grinder/pump stations for every two or three houses on Grassy Key — has fewer moving parts. The wastewater plant on Coco Plum is a vacuum collection system with a small service area.
Its likely the City of Marathon will have one of the most technologically advanced wastewater systems in the Florida Keys. In the near future it will spend $17 million on infrastructure, monies provided by the state Mayfield grant specifically to build wastewater facilities. Because Marathon’s system had already been constructed, the funds will go for equipment, but not to pay down debt the city has already incurred. Hemeyer said the city will probably bid for an engineer’s services to determine exactly what systems and monitoring equipment is needed.
The city has already contracted with the firm Raftelis to provide financial consulting to develop a rate structure for the utility as it relates to “R&R” — or repair and replacement — of existing equipment. At a recent meeting, the council emphasized the need for a plan so as not to have a budget shortfall when systems reach life expectancy. Rate hikes — likely to be just a few dollars a month — will be addressed in early February at a city workshop.
IMPORTANT PHONE NUMBERS
Sewer Emergencies – 305-517-6764
Office Phone – 305-289-5005
Editor Sara Matthis thinks community journalism is important, but not serious; likes small and weird children (she has two); prefers target practice with a zombie rat poster; and looks best with saltwater dreads. Occasionally she tortures herself with sprint-distance triathlons, but only if she has a good chance of beating her sister.