County seeks permitting facility here for sewers

By Steve Estes

Mayor George Neugent Wednesday asked county staff to start the process to find a facility somewhere between the south end of 7-Mile Bridge and Cow Creek Channel where he might locate a permit office for residents of the Lower Keys who will need to start pulling plumbing and electrical permits in the not-too-distant future.

Neugent said he feels as though it is unfair to ask residents of the Lower Keys to drive either to Marathon or Key West to apply for and pull permits for the plumbing and electrical work the county will require when the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System pipes are ready for hook ups.

“All of unincorporated Monroe County between the south end of 7-Mile Bridge and Cow Creek Channel is un-served by our current facility structure,” said Neugent. “We’re going to ask a lot of people to drive at least 30 minutes one way from almost anywhere to take care of permitting we are requiring of them.”

There are areas of the Cudjoe Regional that will be ready for hooking in to the central pipes by late 2014, nearly a year, but Neugent said he’s too well aware of the slow pace at which government can move, “So we need to start the process now.”

Neugent said he feels as though a permitting facility closer to home will help streamline the process for the 7,000-plus homeowners who will need permits to hook into the central system.

“I’d like to see something centrally located if possible, but let’s just take a little tie and look for a piece of land, or a building, maybe something we already own or something we can rent, that makes it easier for our residents to access permitting services,” he said.

The county owns buildings on Big Pine Key, but a scattered few elsewhere in the Lower Keys.

Neugent says the ideal solution would be to find a location where permitting services for the county could move, at least a few personnel, and possibly share it with the Department of Health, “because everyone will also need a DOH permit to abandon the current septic systems.”

Oh, and while they’re at it, Neugent also asked county staff to maybe look for a site large enough where some or all of the county’s Public Works facility could be moved.

“The way it works right now, our people have to fight the traffic getting into Key West to pick up their work and then drive back out to go to work if they’re inspectors and such,” said Neugent. “I think we could realize a cost savings in not burning two hours of their time every day just in getting on the job.”

The county has permitting offices on Stock Island, and a Public Works facility at the Key West Airport.

“We don’t support permitting for Key West. It’s our folks that need the service,” he said.

The county does have Public Works functions in Key West at the airport, the county offices in the Gato Building on Simonton Street and at Higgs Beach.

“We will try to get a plan for you at the next meeting (November) of what staff we could move and what staff we need to keep in Key West for efficiency,” said County Engineer Kevin Wilson who also serves as the division director for Public Works.

Given that the cost of the central sewer system has gone up by about $13 million with additional areas and equipment changes, Neugent said he’s not sold on the need to buy anything as that money would probably come from the county’s infrastructure sales tax, the same pot for the sewers.

“It’s just something we need to look at,” he said.

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