Cudjoe Connection “Crisis”

From KeysNews:  Cudjoe residents question FKAA at meeting.  Snerk.  I won’t lie.  I sort of enjoy watching the FKAA live in the hell they have created for themselves.  They and their partner, Monroe County, fed the money creature, now they get to deal with it.  Forever.  Bwahahaha.

When it comes to operating costs, it’s much harder to scam the taxpayers to make up for a lack of financial responsibility.  I won’t say it’s impossible, because nothing’s impossible.  But pretty close to it.  It doesn’t mean they won’t try.  I’m sure there will be talk of the county using taxpayer money to somehow subsidize rates for the Cudjoe Regional area.  That would most definitely be legally questionable, but if there’s a way the county will find it.  I base that statement on past performance.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kolhage or Carruthers raised this issue at the next Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) meeting.  I’ll be watching for it.

Here are a couple basic concepts about tie-ins and rates.

  1. The system is incurring costs whether anyone is tied in or not.  The plant and collection system have to be staffed.  Equipment needs to be maintained.  The electric bill has to be paid.  There are administrative costs, too.  Who pays for all this?  Why the system users, of course.  That was certainly the case in Key Largo, Islamorada and Marathon.
  2. Keep in mind, those three communities also pay for the capital cost of their projects out of rates.  Cudjoe Regional customers were subsidized by the taxpayers from those communities and others throughout the Keys to an extraordinary extent.  Therefore, in addition to paying lower assessments, they pay nothing for the capital cost of their project out of rates.
  3. Waiting to bill people until they connect to the system only provides incentive for people to NOT connect.  Blue sky is blue.  Green grass is green.  It’s so obvious, I almost didn’t even say it.  But I felt I should for the sake of completeness.

That said, mailing connection notices to 1,100 customers at once is a lot.  In Cudjoe Regional the county has managed to foster a very sturdy sense of entitlement enhanced by toxic mistrust.  Quite an accomplishment!  Especially when you consider the enormous subsidies Cudjoe Regional customers have received.

Even so, it probably would have been better to start with a smaller group.  My guess is that the plant is now ready to receive flow and FKAA wanted to send notices to everyone who has infrastructure in place.  Ironically, I bet they were trying to avoid claims of unfairness.  Impossible at this point.

Some interesting comments from the article:

FKAA board member Cara Higgins, who attended the meeting, criticized Zuelch for partnering with a private property owners association, which gives the appearance that “certain groups get preferential treatment from the FKAA,” Higgins wrote in an email to Zuelch prior to the meeting.

My understanding is that Cudjoe Gardens is in this first round of notices so I doubt there’s any preferential treatment.  But the point about “perception” definitely stands.  The District hosted a multitude of informational meetings about tie-ins over the years.  They were usually held at a neutral location like the District’s office or the library.

It seems to me that if we were going to partner with anyone, it should have been with Monroe County. I certainly understand why there is confusion among residents ….

The FKAA’s “partnership” with Monroe County has done plenty of damage already. It’s bad enough that the county over-involved itself in the construction of Cudjoe Regional to the extreme financial detriment of taxpayers Keys-wide.  Let’s not compound that error by adding operation issues into the mix.  Operations should be FKAA’s responsibility 100%.  They’re offering their services up and down the Keys, claiming they’re the very best there is.  Time for them to quit leaning on the taxpayers and show us their wastewater talents.

“It’s not fair to make people pay for a service they are not receiving,” Cudjoe Key resident Joe Bozik said.

It always makes me giggle when folks in Cudjoe Regional complain about fairness.  Here’s where the county might want to step up with a public information campaign.  Where’s that Public Information Officer already?  A little truthful information can change a money creature into a normal citizen pretty quick, but that’s not how the county rolls.  They lie so much they’ve completely lost track of reality.  They need to straighten themselves out before they can straighten out anybody else.

Zuelch and FKAA finance director Kerry Shelby said that the fees are necessary to cover the costs of operating the plant. Once all islands are connected, the base charge could be reduced by as much as 20 percent, Shelby said.

This is very, very, very interesting.  Base charge reduced by 20%, eh?  That certainly shoots another hole in the already shaky argument that Key Largo supposedly pays lower rates so it’s perfectly okay go ahead and rip us off on the capital side.  Here’s how the reduction would change the rate picture.

FKAA_20% Reduction

Key Largo needs to be aware that the money creature will almost definitely be knocking at the county’s door again.  It will show up with a list of demands in one hand, and a lawsuit in the other.  The county will be anxious to spinelessly hand over your tax money as they’ve repeatedly done in the past.  You know this is coming.

If the county even tries to fold this time, I hope Key Largo raises hell.  I’ll be watching the agendas for it.

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