We need that satelite office here

By Steve Estes

It was just a few months ago that the Monroe Board of County Commissioners discussed the possibility of opening a satellite building office somewhere inside the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System service area.

And now, we’re about a year away from the first hook ups being available, and we’ve made little progress toward that goal.

The commission was right when it considered the working class folks of the Cudjoe Regional. In order to apply for the necessary permits to hook up lateral lines, and in some 1,400 instances, run an electrical circuit to handle a grinder pump, most folks would have to take a day off work.

And although the building department has gotten a little better in the last year in turning around permits, it still takes an inordinately long time to get a permit out of the building office.

And many times, the applicant, which in many cases will be the property owner, will have to make multiple trips to the building office to clarify this or that, or to deliver extra paperwork.

For those who will have to go through the biological assessment process, the time could be significant.

Forcing those same people to drive 16 to 30 miles to Key West, or 24 to 40 miles to Marathon each time they need to appear in person to deliver something that requires an original signature, or ask a question of a real human face to face, that time commitment becomes more significant.

The old adage is that time is money. The property owner will have plenty of both invested before this project starts carrying the first flush to the treatment plant on Cudjoe Key.

The average price for a gravity sewer lateral has been quoted by Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority officials at about $3,000. That’s an average. There are some properties where the total will be much higher.

The average price for a grinder pump installation has been quoted at about the same amount because of the added expense of the dedicated electrical circuit to power the pump. Then the property owner pays for the permit costs, which the BOCC wisely held at $70 per unit. And then you add abandonment of the old septic tanks at about $800 per unit with Department of Health permitting fees.

Any property owner who gets away for less than $5,000 should consider themselves lucky.

Everyone in Monroe County who has been hooked into a central system has paid those homeowner costs, so this area isn’t being singled out for exorbitant costs in that regard.

But no system user in the county has been more than 14 miles from a permitting office. That’s a half hour round trip in most cases. We’re looking at a half hour one-way trip for the folks in the Cudjoe Regional.

Even if the county set up just a temporary intake office somewhere inside the boundaries of the Cudjoe Regional, it would cut down greatly on homeowner frustration.

The actual permit reviews could still be done in the already established building offices in Key West and Marathon. We’re sure most of us would be willing to wait the extra day for transport of the files to and from the location here to one of those.

Marathon and Key West aren’t lunchtime jaunts for most of the Cudjoe Regional service area inhabitants. The applications would have to be filed using time off from work.

We know it seems as though a year can be a very long time, but in the slow-grinding world of politics, a year can be gone before we realize it was here at all.

FKAA officials believe that the treatment plant will be on line later this year. Once the plant is on line, notices of availability can go out to those in the inner island system with pipes in the street.

Taking into account the county’s track record for blazing speed in the permitting process, folks might start to apply for those permits in a few months just to have them available when they receive that notice of availability.

Once we get those notices, we start getting charged a monthly user fee 30 or 45 days later equal to the base facility charge of about $27 per month. If we’re waiting on permits for 60 or 90 days, we’re paying for something we can’t use for six months after all the construction and inspections are completed.

If the construction of the Cudjoe Regional proceeds as planned, some 7,000 homes will need permits in the space of about 18 months.

It’s an issue that needed to addressed.

And now that it’s been addressed, we would like to see some solid progress being made before it some time start pulling permits.

There are plenty of empty store fronts in the Lower Keys where this satellite office could be set up to make it more convenient for the eventual users of the office.

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