Marathon leaders are setting a laundry list of goals for the new year that include protecting residential areas, adding amenities, creating more workforce housing and more. “We are planning to work with [state Rep.] Holly Raschein and [state Sen.] Anitere Flores to regain more control of vacation rentals to help our residential neighborhoods,” Mayor Dan Zieg told the Free Press. Zieg said the city also plans to revamp its sign ordinance to beautify Marathon and standardize enforcement. On a lighter note, he observed in 2017, “We will have numerous Christmas decorations and ornaments to make us more attractive for the Christmas and new year season.”
Addressing housing needs will remain a city priority, according to Vice Mayor Michelle Coldiron. “Due to the efforts of many, our city has made dents in workforce housing needs with 271 units opened in the past few years and another 136 on the horizon,” she said. “The Florida International University study [suggested] 700 are needed and we are diligently working toward that goal. “My wishes and goals for 2017 are all family-oriented and strive to continue to make Marathon the best place to live,” she added. “They include forming a swimming pool committee that can look at the possibility of having a community pool as a private/public partnership and/or in collaboration with other institutions [so] as to not financially burden our citizens. “The city will continue to encourage the school board to do something with the Marathon Manor as it still remains vacant and has great possibilities. I also look forward to the completion of a ‘master plan’ for 33rd street with the hopes of a large community events building with a youth recreation center and senior citizens center.”
Continuing to strengthen Marathon’s relationships in Washington, D.C., and Tallahassee with the efforts for Florida Keys Stewardship money and Everglades restoration projects is another priority, Coldiron said. “Lastly, with the opening of the customs office in Marathon and the changes in Cuba and our government’s position on travel to Cuba, I think it is time to start creating a game plan for Marathon to be a part of this exciting change,” Coldiron said. “I am sure there is much more in store for 2017, but these are the ones that come to mind.”
City Manager Chuck Lindsey said city staff has been working hard in December to set its goals for the new year and intends to share them with the council and residents at an upcoming council meeting. Marathon’s business community, as represented by the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce, has also set goals for 2017, according to Daniel Samess, chief executive officer. These include continuing to get affordable housing developments approved and moving forward. “Like the county and other municipalities in the Keys, we have a huge need for additional affordable housing inventory here in Marathon and the Middle Keys,” he said. “With our recent and continued growth, it is imperative we increase our stock of such housing.” Samess served on the city’s affordable housing task force, which made its final recommendations to the City Council in 2016.
The chamber also seeks to continue the success and growth of its educational endeavors that benefit its business-members, including continuing education grants and its educational seminar program. “We doubled our budget from $5,000 to $10,000 to further assist and connect our business members to educational opportunities so they can grow their knowledge, skills and abilities which results in more successful local businesses,” Samess said. “And, our annual educational seminar program will focus on cyber security and social media marketing in 2017. “[Since] most businesses are now online and use online accounting and payroll software, and with the threat of online hackers, the Marathon chamber wants to ensure our business members are in-the-know and prepared to combat this and, most importantly, prevent it. Additionally, with the influence and high volume use of social media, we want to empower and educate business members on effective strategies and methods to maximize their use of social media to promote their business, product or services.”
The chamber also plans to continue the success of its annual business beautification grant program in which it awards 10 business members up to $2,000 each to beautify the exterior or façade of its facility to further improve Marathon’s visual appeal. “2017 will be the program’s seventh year in existence,” Samess said. “We have awarded over $90,000 in business beautification grants to chamber members thus far. It’s something we are very proud of.” Lastly, the chamber intends to establish a new event, the Florida Keys Business Expo & Job Fair. The goal is to showcase local businesses’ services, products and job vacancies to residents and interested visitors.
BY JILL ZIMA BORSKI Free Press Contributor