Let’s check in with the City of Marathon

George Garrett, City Manager in Marathon, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the city.

A public works report and code report at a recent meeting discussed some topics relevant to the city.

Garrett said, “On the public works report course, the big issue right now is the boat ramp and some borough beach fees and how that all is working out. We’re doing pretty well. It hasn’t worked perfectly. We could have expected glitches and have seen them. Council’s not completely happy and I understand that, but I think we’re going to get there.”

There are ways for locals to exempt themselves from the fees.

Garrett said, “For those people visiting us, many of them vacation rentals or just people here for the weekend. The ramp fees are what they are and the beach as well. Ultimately what will happen is our pay stations, you’ll submit a credit card and the pay station may, give your license tags, etc. and pay the price of entry, if you will, whether it’s the beach or the ramps.”

Cameras will be installed to get those who skip the fees. Those folks will end up being ticketed electronically.

Garrett said, “I will say, much to the chagrin of somebody like even my son who now lives in Orlando and goes what? I’ve got to pay fees? It does offset our revenue for our ad valorem requirements. I think last year we estimated that the fees we would generate would be about $700,000. Actually, it’ll probably ended up being a little more, but at the end, what that does is it dropped our ad valorem by almost half a mil for last year’s millage.”

There will eventually be an app for a smart phone for the more heavily used boat ramps.

Garrett said, “I think it’ll in the long run work very well.”

The city has been adamant to get vacation rentals in line.

Garrett said, “And make sure that they’re toeing the line if you will, on all the regulations that apply, including our registration fees and licensing, etc. It’s just one of those things where we have quite a few vacation rentals in town. They definitely create traffic, they also create great revenue for the people that own property, and do vacation rentals. But it does create some stress on people that are our long term permanent residents. So we want to make sure that while people are doing business with vacation rentals that the people that live here have a peaceful environment with those vacation rentals that surround them. So we’re really strongly going to start enforcing that.”

The emphasis will be on existing ordinances.

Garrett said, “We do have a good ordinance, although it does, significantly does allow really as many vacation rentals as want to exist in the city of Marathon. Because of that, we need to make sure that we’re really enforcing the regulations with the number of them we have because we are now approaching almost 1000 vacation rentals within the city of Marathon.”

All the information can be found on the city’s website.

Garrett said, “We are stepping up our enforcement. So beware, guide yourself accordingly, and in accordance with the regulations.”

If residents applied for a building permit between December 14, 2020 and March 14, 2023, you could be in line for a refund.

Garrett said, “We’ve now processed about 200 checks. In other words, for people that have actually requested a refund. We did inform all people who received permits within that timeframe that they were eligible, but then put it back on them to actually make an application to us. We will be processing more. I’d say we’ve probably returned somewhere in the neighborhood of about $20,000. This is a confusion we see. The city of Marathon estimated the number permits that we would receive and we know the cost of our employees and the time we spend to process things. Essentially, those two things have to balance. So we estimate how many permits we get based on the past and then project the cost per permit, and again, those things have to equal each other. Then Irma hit, we had a building boom a year or so after that. So we made a lot more money than we expected to at that point. It’s not that we overcharged people, but in context of how many permits we actually ended up issuing, which was almost three times the number we expected, over about two or three years, then we had more money in the law requires that we can only have in our coffers, essentially what it would cost us to run the building department for a year. That’s not quite what the law says, but it’s pretty close. So we’re returning money and now we’ve reduced fees forward until essentially we’ve come to equity.”

Lobster mini season will begin next week.

Garrett said, “People will be streaming down the Keys. So if you’re a local and want to hide out and don’t want to go up the 18 mile stretch, that might be wise, but bottom line people will be here. Typically what happens during mini season is they mini season folks start showing up on Friday, for what probably or vacation rentals typically, dropping boats in the water.”

The city will have staff out at the meters during mini season.

Garret said the staff will be “talking to people about mini season, helping them understand if they have any questions about what the rules are and handing them a brochure. That’s a brochure that consolidates all the local rules in the Keys about mini season and all the state laws that apply…to make sure that folks that are here during the season are being good, good stewards of what they’re here to enjoy, and hopefully protect at that point.”