There were groans from the public in the Marathon City Council chambers Tuesday night when it was mentioned a rehabilitation project on the old Seven Mile Bridge won’t be done for another four years.
The 2.2-mile span going from Marathon proper to Pigeon Key, a popular running spot and place to watch iconic Florida Keys sunsets, has been closed to foot traffic since July 2016 when construction project started.
Florida Department of Transportation engineering manager Pablo Orozco gave an update to the council about the second phase, which involves the bridge. The first phase, being done by the state Department of Environmental Protection, includes renovations to the underpass that acts as a walkway from the old bridge on the bayside down steps under the new span to the oceanside.
It should be done soon and DOT work will start in August on the 2.2-mile span of the bridge that leads to Pigeon Key, Orozco said.
It includes restoring the bridge’s structural capacity, repairs to concrete and steel, a new pedestrian railing, signs and pavement markings. The cost of the rehab is being shared by DOT, Monroe County and the city of Marathon. DOT is paying $57.2 million, the county $14.24 million and Marathon $5.34 million. Marathon’s share is for annual maintenance.
Last month, the council asked City Attorney David Migut to draft an ordinance to move forward with the process of replacing the city Code Compliance Board with a special magistrate, or hearing officer. Council members say personalities and possible relationships would be taken out of the decisions on code violations.
The magistrate would preferably be an attorney from outside of Marathon.
“I think it’s near certain we’ll hire two and one will be an alternate,” Migut told the Keynoter.
The ordinance, which requires one more vote of approval from the council, was given a thumbs-up Tuesday by everyone except Councilmen John Bartus, who voted against it, and Steve Cook, who was absent. It included a clause that the special master or masters receive a performance review after one year.
The next step, should it be approved one more time, will be to determine who the special magistrate(s) will be and how to hire him or her.
Mayor Dan Zieg proposed amending the City Council meeting schedule to one meeting per month instead of two. Monthly meetings are held on the second and fourth Tuesdays, and Zieg said that since the Nov. 8 election, there has been only one month where two meetings were held.
Councilman Mark Senmartin said he is “very much in disagreement with the idea” and that people count on the meetings. Since January 2016, he said, there have only been six canceled meetings out of 33 scheduled.
“We’ve always had the ability to cancel a meeting if we don’t need it, but I don’t approve of changing the policy of the meeting schedule. I have a big problem with it,” he said.
Bartus agreed and said he had talked to people who asked him if council members were trying to slack off.
“I think the meetings serve a purpose and help us to be more responsible to the public that we serve,” he said.
Zieg said he’d bring it back up for discussion at the next meeting, which is set for July 11, while the second meeting in July was canceled and replaced with a workshop to talk about city property at 104th Street.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219