The Marathon City Council on Tuesday will focus on two ordinances that involve water and irrigation within the Marathon city limits and an important review of long-sought financial documents from Baptist Health South Florida, key to the funding for the rebuilding of Fishermen’s Community Hospital.
There is also a resolution on the council’s agenda to approve an agreement between the City and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) providing funding for the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery Infrastructure Repair Program (CDBG), along with and a property redevelopment agreement between the City and Marlin Bay Yacht Club.
Ordinance 2021-07 proposes stringent irrigation restrictions. It was pulled from last month’s agenda because City Manager George Garrett wanted to have a Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority representative on hand for insight and details. It is back on today’s agenda with an FKAA speaker scheduled and is expected to be a heavily debated discussion among council members.
The City’s goal with this ordinance would be to ensure that water and landscape irrigation conservation is consistent throughout Marathon, although the language is very restrictive and specific. Many forms of irrigation, from public parks and athletic fields all the way down to individual homeowner properties, could be affected by this legislative action. The ordinance would essentially make it unlawful for any person to irrigate their property with potable water except during approved hours, even in the absence of drought conditions.
This ordinance would charge the South Florida Water Management District with far-reaching authority to regulate the consumption of water, even for the City of Marathon. At least one of the five council members, Mark Senmartin, labeled this ordinance “ridiculous” before the March council meeting.
Another water-related ordinance on the agenda is Ordinance 2021-10, which would potentially approve The city’s “10-Year Water Supply Facilities Work Plan” as Required by the State Department of Economic Opportunity. The ordinance, if approved, would update water demand projections, identify alternative and traditional water supply projects, and outline conservation and reuse levels needed to meet future demands.
At last month’s Council meeting, commissioners shared concerns regarding the city obtaining financial documents from Baptist Health South Florida before the May 1 deadline for the City to review these financials and decide whether to vote to opt-in or opt-out of the Municipal Services Taxing Unit (“MSTU”) to help pay for the rebuild of Fishermen’s Hospital. Residents voted to approve this special taxing district in 2018 after Hurricane Irma heavily damaged the hospital in 2017.
Two hearings of whichever ordinance the council decides to pass must occur before May 1 for transmittal to the county. The first hearing will be today and if the City decides to opt-in, a second hearing may not be necessary at a special call meeting on April 27. However, if the City chooses to opt-out, it’s likely a new ordinance will need to be drawn to officially remove the City from the MTSU.
A Baptist Health representative is scheduled to give a presentation on the hospital construction progress as well as to reiterate the needs for the funding. The financials Baptist submitted to the city summarized Fishermen’s Q1-4, 2020 Indigent Care Summary, which was the basis for the establishment of the special taxing unit. The MTSU is wholly predicated on Fishermen’s need for the tax revenue because of the high number of uninsured or underinsured it serves in the Middle Keys.
Per an email from City Manager George Garrett to the five-member commission, “Baptist Health and the Foundation will be prepared to make a full presentation concerning the financials as well as the progress and projected opening of the new hospital at your April 13, 2021 meeting”.
Monroe County created the Middle Keys Health Care Ordinance to ensure the availability of hospital services within the Middle Keys area.
Councilman John Bartus is also planning to update the group on the state’s increasing appetite to limit local decision making and steer more of that to Tallahassee, as was done recently regarding vacation rentals.