As it was with sewer, so it is with fire service. Monroe County squandered enormous amounts of taxpayer money on Big Coppitt and Cudjoe Regional. They forced taxpayers from the rest of the county to make up the difference. Now it turns out that neither one of those systems works very well. Big Coppitt has long been failing to meet effluent requirements, and now reports are surfacing that Cudjoe Regional is suffering excessive start-up problems.
It also turns out that Monroe County has the most expensive fire service by far. Now they would like taxpayers from around the Keys to subsidize that as well through a new sales tax proposed by Comm. Heather Carruthers.
As usual they’ve got a litany of excuses – geography, insurance discounts, blah-de-blah – but I don’t buy it. A lot more information about this is needed, so I submitted a couple of public information requests.
I asked for a list of fire department employees – name, salary and title. One of the reasons that county fire service could be so costly is that it serves as a jobs program for bubbas. To my surprise, the county did provide that list and it is certainly very long. Research continues.
I also asked for more information about this “insurance discount” that somehow results in higher costs. I don’t get it. If the county built and operated the costly fire service system in such a way as to provide a discount to property owners in that area, why are further subsidies appropriate? Shouldn’t the excess operating costs be offset by the discounts enjoyed by the property owners in that area? Do residents in other areas benefit from this same discount? Lots of unanswered questions.
The county also needs to substantiate the claim that 60% of the sales tax is paid by tourists. Every time the BOCC wants the voters to impose another sales tax on themselves, that number is used to justify it. I’d really like to know where it comes from.
On my second attempt, the county responded by saying that no records were available to support the claims made in the “white paper”. After some back and forth, I finally got some of what I was asking for. Persistence pays off. Here is a link to that correspondence.
I post about my public records request “adventures” because how an entity responds says a lot. Even if they provide no information – especially if they provide no information. This latest experience hasn’t taught me anything new. The county often makes up numbers to con the taxpayers, and then stonewalls them when they try to sort it all out. It’s standard operating procedure.
That $1 million check that the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District (District) got the other day took a years long battle. And it’s only a drop in the bucket. There is at least $25 million more to go. The ESS is a new front in the same old war.
Blogging, guest columns, letters to the editor – these are the most effective ways to keep the county in line. Sunshine really is the best disinfectant. But the county will try to yank the curtains shut. Don’t let them.