I just saw this very exciting item on KeysNews.com. After a vague attempt to renege and tons of other nonsense, Monroe County has finally made it’s first million dollar payment to the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District (District). I hate to be so cynical and suspicious but I wonder what prompted that. They certainly didn’t do it out of the goodness of their hearts.
In any case, this is very positive. It’s a long time coming. And I am very glad to see it. Once that first payment is made it’s harder to back out. So this is very, very good.
For some reason the news coverage of this issue always seems to put an inaccurate glaze over the truth. I’ll take this opportunity to sort some of that out.
“We come bearing gifts,” Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi said.
I’m sure this was said in jest. It goes without saying that this is not a “gift”. The county is merely holding up its end of a deal that is very favorable to them. The county is, in fact, very fortunate that this money is available to address the damaging funding disparity that they created with their negligently irresponsible handling of the wastewater projects.
Monroe County accepted the district’s $17 million portion of the second $50 million allocation of the $200 million Mayfield Grant Fund — which by law the district cannot use to repay debt for its already built system. Monroe County is using the funds to pay for current construction on the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System.
The law as originally written does allow for Mayfield money to be used to refinance the sewer projects. It was written that way specifically so that the sewer projects could go forward in a timely manner without being financially penalized for doing so. These were state-mandated projects. It makes zero sense for the state to push the entities to go forward and then financially punish those that do.
Years later, when the money actually started to come through, it was suddenly decided that refinancing wasn’t allowed after all. Strangely enough, this benefited the budget-busting-sewer monster known as the Cudjoe Regional project; and left the Key Largo project out in the cold.
I very much doubt that the state took it upon itself to make that bizarre, counter-productive change. They undoubtedly had some input from sleazy local officials – who sometimes buy stolen iPhones on the cheap for cash. I’ll let you fill in the blanks. There was probably lots of razzle-dazzle about how many “jobs” Cudjoe Regional would create – spin jobs, snow jobs, con jobs – all kinds of jobs.
In return, Monroe County will repay that $17 million to the district at no interest over the next 10 years. This also will allow the district to receive its share of the Mayfield Grant Fund and to repay its wastewater construction debt more quickly, which also will save money on interest.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times – it’s not just about paying down debt. Paying down debt is a means to an end. It is about providing financial relief to the ratepayers of Key Largo who are paying way too much for their project because of the huge funding disparity created by Monroe County.
Speaking of, there’s still no word from the District on how all that’s going to work aside from this hostile freak-out in response to a few logical questions. Not encouraging. At all.
Bottom line, this first payment is a sign of good things to come but folks in Key Largo need to make sure they benefit from it. It’s been a long slog already and I’m sure it won’t get any easier.
It’s very typical of the county to make some small insignificant gesture designed to keep people’s anger in check. Key Largo needs to remain vigilant so that they see meaningful results. One million dollars is a start, but all by itself it won’t even make a dent.