by Margaret Blank…….
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 way – sometimes 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.