The Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District’s general manager’s duties are being carried out by a Marathon-based accounting firm with a long history of government contract work.
The five-member wastewater district board of commissioners unanimously approved hiring Bishop Rosasco & Co. for $7,500 a month to manage day-to-day operations until a permanent replacement is found for Paul Christian, who commissioners fired Feb. 6 with a 3-2 vote.
Commissioners Sue Heim, Robby Majeska and Andy Tobin wanted Christian fired because they say he was not honest with them on several occasions and they did not approve of his management style. Tobin has a long history of conflict with Christian and has called for his removal several times in the past two years. Christian was promoted by commissioners to general manager in 2014 and earned an annual salary of $125,000 a year.
Rosasco, a certified public accountant whose work with the public sector includes once serving as the city of Marathon’s finance chief (his firm remains the city’s de facto finance department), touted his firm’s record and his good relations with government officials in the state, county and other municipalities.
“I’m just going to keep this moving in a positive manner and deal with issues that will come up on a regular basis,” Rosasco said at the Feb. 14 meeting. He said there will likely be no major staff changes while he’s in charge, but said there “may be some things that need to be tweaked,” and he promised to “do what needs to be done for the rate payers of the district.”
Rosasco will also be a part of the process of finding a new general manager.
All the commissioners said they looked forward to the process of hiring Christian’s replacement. Since it was created, the district has been through four GMs and Christian’s predecessor Margaret Blank and Christian came up through the ranks. Heim said she’s excited to be able to find someone outside of the district.
“We’ve always inherited general managers,” she said. “We’ve never established what we wanted in a general manager.”
There will be more discussion about the process for the GM hunt in the coming weeks, after Rosasco has a better idea of the district’s workings.
“There’s no better person to tell us what we need than Peter,” Majeska said. “He can specify what we need.”
The commissioners also discussed the issue of connecting several property owners living around mile marker 112 on the 18-Mile Stretch to advanced treatment systems. The district concluded years ago that connecting the Cross Key subdivision to the main system would be too costly, and it would not get back its investment in ratepayer revenue. Commissioners asked state Rep. Holly Raschein to introduce a bill this legislative session that would take Cross Key out of the wastewater district and make sewering the area the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority’s responsibility.
All properties in the Keys were required to have been connected to advanced wastewater systems by 2015, and Cross Key and other Stretch communities are in limbo. So far, the state Department of Health has not begun to fine property owners for non-compliance, but that could soon change.
Raschein decided not to introduce the bill, and instead is relying on the district and the FKAA to come to some sort of agreement. Such an agreement relies largely on the FKAA applying for a federal grant that would go toward paying for smaller wastewater treatment systems instead of the district paying millions of dollars to pipe Cross Key to the centralized system. The district is waiting to hear back from Aqueduct Authority officials.
“She wants the Aqueduct Authority and us to try to solve it.” Tobin said. “The ball is in the aqueduct’s court.”
David Goodhue: 305-440-3204