Jan 062017
 

by Margaret Blank…….

Dear Editor,

Monroe County Administrator, Roman Gastesi, wrote a letter to the editor touting all the county’s accomplishments this past year. Unfortunately, Gastesi steadfastly refuses to address – or even acknowledge – the county’s many troubling, and very serious ongoing failures. This fundamental dishonesty undermines what is supposed to be a positive message and continues to erode trust in county government.

Since Danny Kolhage joined the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) in 2012, long-term debt has sky-rocketed. Despite his posturing as “fiscally responsible”, long-term debt has increased by $165 million on his watch. As I said in the linked post…

It’s inevitable that the sewer projects would drive up long-term debt. Unfortunately, the BOCC spent way beyond what was necessary on the sewer projects and other capital projects besides. There’s the $49 million overage on Cudjoe Regional, of course. There’s also that $38 million overrun on projects that include Bernstein Park and the Upper Keys courthouse. That’s a combined total of $87 million.

Gastesi either doesn’t grasp this fact or is intentionally trying to keep it quiet. Sky-rocketing debt, of course, is related to the ongoing problems with the county’s capital projects program. Projects continuously exceed budgeted amounts or go horribly wrong in some other waysometimes both. Yet there is zero accountability, and as a result, there is zero improvement. In fact, the county repeatedly brags about its “accomplishments” without ever acknowledging – much less correcting – its mistakes. The BOCC believes that Gastesi is doing a terrific job. One might assume they are simply clueless, but when you look at the commissioners active support of overspending it becomes clear that the BOCC is more than just an enabler. They are a major part of the problem.

Gastesi also touts the canal restoration projects as a great achievement. I completely disagree. In my opinion, they are just another BOCC boondoggle. It is foolish and irresponsible embark on additional water quality projects before correcting the many missteps on the wastewater projects. For one thing, the ongoing failure of Big Coppitt to meet effluent quality requirements would undermine any water quality improvements achieved by canal restoration in the area. Now Duck Key is having problems as well. What good do these very expensive canal restoration projects do if poorly treated wastewater effluent, which is high in Total Suspended Solids (TSS) and/or fecal coliform is repeatedly being released into near shore waters?

There are a multitude of ongoing issues at Cudjoe Regional – the FKAA is undermining the settlement agreement regarding the deep well and there is still an unresolved lawsuit. And, of course, there is the ongoing, negligently unfair funding disparity suffered by Key Largo, which has yet to be fully corrected.

I suppose Mr. Gastesi wrote this letter because his bosses on the BOCC told him to, but let’s not ever forget who’s really in charge here. The BOCC answers to the taxpayers and the voters.

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Margaret Blank
Margaret Blank is the former General Manager of the Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District. Read more about Margaret, her experience, her research, her opinions on sewering the Keys and more in her blog: therealpoop.
 January 6, 2017  Posted by at 12:54 am Issue #200, Letter to the Editor  Add comments

  6 Responses to “About the County Administrator’s Letter to Editor”

  1. GM Margaret, U’ve read my rebuttal to Roman. I did Hand Delivered a letter to Roman Putting him On Notice that until he DIRECTS His CONTRACTOR Kurt Zeulch General Contractor for the CRWS to follow the MANDATE in the Counties Own Ordnance and provide me with a Gravity Connection at the Property Line IN THE ROW any attempt to bill me for services that is Impossible for him to provide I will consider this ILLEGAL and will act accordingly. More taxpayers impacted by this apparent Fraud need to get off their collective asses and fight this Outright Theft. If you got a Bill From Winn Dixie for buying Nothing, Would you just rush out and pay it, So, just because you received a Bill for services that is IMPOSSIBLE for the County to supply on an FKAA letter head U’ll just rush out and pay it because THEY SAID you have to. Has anyone actually seen the Law, Ordnance , Codes, or any LEGAL action that gives them the Right to do this or is this THE COLOR OF LAW??? Well, I’ll see when I get my first FKAA bill for County Sewer service how fast I can get to the court and file my lawsuit.
    Now Margaret, your comment at closing said the BOCC answers to the Voters/taxpayers which is true in Theory, however as long as we have County Wide Voting The BOCCE Dances to the Machine–evidence–District #2 voting records over the past 5 terms of King George. Any time anyone challenges the Machine Candidate the Machine Media trashes the independent candidate. Until the Taxpayers of this county take responsibility to stop the county abuses they’ll consider your Inaction as Approval for their policies. Unfortunately this is unlikely to happen in a country of Shepple.

    • Agree that county-wide voting for commissioners is a real problem, and prevents any meaningful accountability and oversight. Single-member districts are needed. That, term limits, and an elected board for the FKAA might actually turn things around.

      In the mean time we’ve spent millions on ww systems that don’t work. The BOCC scratches their heads when water quality doesn’t improve. Now they want to spend many millions more cleaning up the canals. Then wonder some more why water quality isn’t improving. I’m sure another grotesquely expensive project will follow along after that.

      As you pointed out, the FKAA is the contractor for the county on the wastewater projects. The county technically owns the facilities and leases them to the FKAA. Where is the accountability? Why isn’t the county monitoring and overseeing the performance of these failing systems?

  2. Speaking of canals, a commercial landscaper trashed our canal yesterday with grass cuttings. Covered the whole width of the canal for several hundred feet. Called Code Enforcement and left a message. No call back. So much for responsive county government.

  3. Margie,

    The SUFA experience with the BOCC made it clear that the County sees their world through rose-colored glasses provided by Gastesi – never through the green lenses of tax-payer dollars. I could never decide if Carruthers and Murphy were simply stupid, lazy, or both as they gobbled up the pablum fed to them by Neugent, Kohlage and Gastesi.
    Perhaaps nothing is more telling of the BOCC blindness than a video presented by former county employee Matt Gardi to the BOCC and then-clerk Kohlage in which he clearly and calmly demonstrated how staff was stealing computer equipment…only to met with blank stares and a request by Neugent to get on to the next agenda item. Not sure what the answer is but term limits might be one…thank goodness that at least KWTN isn’t part of the media machine…

    • Hi LindaG,

      I really feel like the SUFA incident is a window into how the bubba system operates in the Keys. I appreciate KWTN also. There are a lot of stories that would never reach the light of day without them.

      Back when Matt Gardi ran for Clerk of Court, he pointed out that Kevin Madok falsely claimed to be a CPA. Madok’s California CPA license had expired years earlier and he did not yet have a Florida CPA license. Fast forward four years later, certain local media outlets (not KWTN) were still pretending that Madok had a CPA license for over 20 years. It was a bold lie. Easily debunked. Yet they shamelessly repeated it more than once.

      With Madok in charge, the Clerk’s office will go back to being a tool of the bubba system. Makes me wonder who the next SUFA will be. And how much that witch hunt will cost the taxpayers.