After some phony tough talk, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) decided to kick the can down the road when it comes to canal restoration operating and maintenance costs. Due to their inaction, county-wide taxpayers will continue to be saddled with expenses for a project they never wanted and does not benefit them.
Here is a hilarious excerpt from the Citizen’s story.
Deciding whether just canal-front property owners or all county property owners should pay has been tricky, because there is no science or data to prove that poor water quality in canals impacts the nearshore waters.
Uh…it’s actually not tricky at all. If you don’t benefit, you don’t pay. Very simple.
Look, there are some things you pay for and never use. I don’t live in Key Largo anymore but I still own property there. I pay a sewer assessment. I pay for fire and ambulance service. I pay for schools and roads. But those things benefit me as a property owner, even though I don’t use them. The sewer system provides clean water to swim, fish and boat in. Fire service means my property is protected should the worst happen, even if I’m not there. The schools are a basic and necessary part of any community, as are roads.
But I don’t own property on a canal. I don’t have regular access to any canal. I don’t swim, fish or boat in any canal. Even if I did, I’m sure I’d be chased off unless I were an invited guest. So why am I being asked to pay a steep price to improve water quality for a few canal-front properties? Doesn’t the county have more urgent priorities?
Unlike the wastewater projects, these canal restoration projects are not state-mandated. Unlike the wastewater projects, there is no evidence of a Keys-wide benefit. Even the bozos at the county are finally admitting that out loud. So why are they spending millions in taxpayer dollars on these projects? It makes no sense.
Let’s think back for a minute to who really benefited from the reckless over-spending on Cudjoe Regional. It was not the citizens of Cudjoe Regional, who have recognized and fought back against the many deficiencies of the project. It was not Monroe County citizens in general, who heavily subsidized the project at great expense to themselves. It was the contractors and subcontractors who were paid $196 million for a $147 million project.
The Keys face many serious issues.
- A wastewater program that is way off track. Enormous budget overruns. Negligently unfair funding inequities. In some cases, an ongoing failure to meet effluent quality requirements. And lets not forget, some projects have yet to be completed.
- A promising paving program that seems to have been abandoned for the sake of hyper-expensive projects that, again, benefit very few people.
- The affordable housing effort seems to have collapsed in order to make way for large resorts instead. I guess affordable housing wasn’t such a “crisis” after all.
In light of all that, I don’t see how the BOCC can possibly justify the enormously expensive canal restoration projects, which benefit only a very few. Well, they don’t even try. They passed the buck to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). I’m not sure how the DEP became responsible for doing the county’s homework, but somehow they did.
The County Commission was hoping a state Department of Environmental Protection representative would be able to answer that question when she addressed the commission on Wednesday, but she could not.
The DEP plans to continue researching the question and may have more answers within the next year, DEP representative Julie Espy said.
Here’s the scary bottom line. Neither the BOCC nor any member of county staff can explain the county-wide benefit of these projects. They cannot explain why county-wide taxpayers should foot the bill to clean up canals that they cannot use or access. When cornered, the BOCC dumped their responsibility onto the DEP. Absolutely pathetic.
What was the county hoping to accomplish aside from squandering huge sums of taxpayer money? I have no idea and neither do they. Then again…
I downloaded all the bid tabs and awards I could find for these projects. I’m still combing through it all but, of course, some familiar names are already popping up. Charley Toppino & Sons. DN Higgins. There was only one response to the RFP for engineering services. More to come as time allows.