Stewardship Bill – Watching Closely

I’ve had a chance to review the agenda for the October 21 Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting.  The Stewardship Bill looks good actually.  I’m going to follow-up with an email to the BOCC and Rep. Raschein’s office to make sure it stays that way.  And I will definitely watch a recording of the meeting to make sure the BOCC doesn’t try to bastardize the thing.

The BOCC is lining up some open-ended spending initiatives – canal restoration, land purchases, climate change mitigation.  There’s nothing wrong with any of these in concept, but they are in the study phase.  At this point, they are “shiny objects”.  The BOCC currently has an extremely messed up wastewater situation to set right.  They had a rock-solid wastewater master plan and they still managed to screw up royally.  I shudder to think what will happen if they try to wing it on these other projects.  Key Largo taxpayers are already paying a heavy price for the county’s mismanagement.  So are Cudjoe Regional taxpayers, though not so much in a financial sense.  Wastewater needs to be fixed first.  Maybe the county will learn something in the process that they can apply to future projects to keep those from spinning out of control.

My main concern is that the BOCC will try to abandon the wastewater projects in an attempt to side-step the negative consequences of their poor decision-making.  The taxpayers, of course, would get stuck with the tab.  Don’t we always?  It’s so much easier to move on to the next shiny object than it is to fix what’s broken today.  If you look at the Stewardship Bill, you’ll notice that a paragraph was recently added.  That paragraph says:

BOCC Agenda 20151021

Here’s what’s interesting to me.  About a year ago, the county hired Anfield Consulting to draft this bill, presumably with input from county staff.  Yet they somehow managed to neglect funding priorities.  When it came to the Army Corps money, the county was so concerned about funding priorities – ie. putting themselves first – that they managed to place that funding source into jeopardy.  It took over a year to fix what they broke.

Rep. Raschein’s office, it seems, had to insert language into the Stewardship Bill to ensure that the wastewater projects would be funded first and in accordance with the existing interlocal agreements.  I hate to be so suspicious.  I really do.  But with the county’s track record, hyper-vigilance is necessary.  I can’t help but wonder why the county and their consultant didn’t insert that language to begin with.  It seems so basic.  If left to their own devices, I suspect the money would have been frittered away on the open-ended, partially planned projects mentioned above.  There would have been nothing left to repair the funding disparity suffered by Key Largo taxpayers or address the concerns of Cudjoe Regional taxpayers.

There’s another item I found very interesting.  There’s a sounding board item from Sherry Popham of the Duck Key Property Owner’s Association.  She is apparently concerned about declining water quality in the Duck Key area.  The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority (FKAA) completed a wastewater project there so I’m very curious as to what the concern may be.  One would expect to see an improvement in water quality not a continuing decline.  Here are my theories:

  1. The Duck Key project is not getting the job done.  This is something Cudjoe Regional customers should pay very close attention to.  If I recall correctly, the FKAA flip-flopped from gravity to grinder pumps in the middle of the project.  According to OCULUS, The treatment plant appears to be performing well, so if there is a problem it’s most likely in the collection/transmission system.
  2. It’s about water quality in the canals.  Canal restoration is one of those shiny objects I mentioned earlier.  Perhaps the BOCC is cultivating certain public input to justify the next irresponsible spending spree.  Hold on to your wallets, everyone.  Again, I hate to be so suspicious but with the county’s track record, taxpayers need to be extremely cautious.  Especially Key Largo taxpayers.  The county would like nothing better than to walk away from their existing obligations.

I’ll watch the meeting and see what happens.

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