Hmmmm. Well, its actually worse than that. The county has engaged in some very questionable behavior with regard to Army Corps funding. This is only the latest discovery.
I’ve struggled with whether to write about the county’s behavior when it comes to the Army Corps money.
I’ve written several posts and then deleted them. Part of me thinks this is all in the past so why dredge it up. Another part of me wonders how to paint a complete and accurate picture without discussing it. This latest revelation just tore it for me. I think its better that I at least tell people about this, especially Key Largo taxpayers. Then they can form their own opinion.
The FKAA’s decision to add the Army Corps logo on a draft environmental assessment certainly has the potential to mislead people into thinking that the Army Corps actually participated in preparing the document when they did not. I do not believe that this was the FKAA’s intent. The County chose to explicitly state that the Army Corps actually did prepare the environmental assessment in an official document. That really is a problem. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “fraud”, but it certainly is misleading and it risks alienating the Army Corps, which has provided much needed funding for Keys sewer projects – over $50 million to date.
Early on, before I arrived on the scene in 2005, the entities of the Keys struggled with how to divide up the $100 million in Army Corps money. Eventually, they came to an agreement. Here is a link to the Army Corp’s Program Management Plan for the Florida Keys Water Quality Improvement Program (FKWQIP). Table 3-3 explicitly details the distribution amounts for each project. You’ll have to scroll down to page 43-44. At the time, the only project in the unincorporated area that was ready to proceed was the Key Largo project.
Typically Army Corps money trickles in, maybe $1 or $2 million per year which is then parceled out to the various entities. However, when the recession hit and stimulus money became available that situation temporarily changed. The Key Largo, Key West and Marathon projects were ongoing and had invoices ready to submit for reimbursement. As a result, we all got a large amount of money in a short period of time. The District has received about $16 million in total from the Army Corps. About $13 million of that was stimulus money. Right place, right time, doing the right thing.
I must emphasize one more point. Even with the Army Corps money, Key Largo taxpayers still pay more for their project than the taxpayers in the other unincorporated areas. The federal money helps to alleviate this disparity but does not fix it altogether. It’s important to keep this fact in mind. Please refer to the District’s Wastewater Funding Analysis for more information.
The County, apparently thinking the stimulus would be an ongoing windfall, decided it had to get in on the action. The most painless way to explain what happened is to simply share an email with you. See below. I wrote this email to the BOCC to express my dismay at the inaccurate way county staff chose to portray their involvement. I’m sharing this now because I think that together with the misleading statements about the environmental assessment document, it shows a mindset and a pattern of behavior that is detrimental to the Keys and Key Largo taxpayers in particular. Something really needs to change.
Here’s a link to that email: Gmail – state of the county part 2