Long-term future of pumpout program remains uncertain
BY BRIAN BOWDEN Free Press Staff
KEY LARGO — The county commission gave the OK on a new two-year agreement with the contractor tasked with providing a free Keys-wide mobile vessel sewage disposal service for liveaboards at its most recent meeting, but following expiration boat owners could start incurring fees.
The county currently contributes $380,000 to the program which comes at no cost to individual vessel owners. The dollars used to offset the cost of the program are pulled from boating improvement funds generated via annual vessel registrations.
The commission previously gave county officials direction to develop a new program that would begin to charge customers on a per pumpout basis come 2017.
“It’s going to be hard to start charging people,” County Administrator Roman Gastesi told commissioners at the March 18 meeting.
Gastesi said his staff was still looking at funding the program through state dollars or elsewhere before the agreement expires.
“There are a lot of people who do not agree with that position,” Mayor Danny Kolhage told Gastesi.
Kolhage and Commissioner Sylvia Murphy seemed to be in agreement that a new program charging individuals at least a nominal fee would be preferable. Kolhage pointed out that the funding spent offsetting the cost of the program could be put toward the removal of several derelict vessels the county has had on its radar for some time.
Pumpout USA Inc. has had the contract with the county since 2012. It pumps out up to 1,500 vessels a month under the new agreement.
The commission also unanimously approved acceptance of a Florida Department of Transportation easement in regards to a pedestrian bridge planned for construction over Marvin D. Adams Waterway at mile marker 103. The easement, at no cost the county, will give it jurisdiction over the bridge. Construction of the bridge is expected to begin in the fall.
A design outlining a boardwalk and other amenities, including a parking lot and bathroom facilities, at the Rowell’s Marina property at mile marker 104 was unanimously approved by the commission as well.
The commission’s next meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, April 15, at the Harvey Government Center in Key West.