PAHOKEE — In 2018, Florida Department of Environmental Protection cited problems at the Pahokee Marina. They’re still trying to get some of the problems resovled.
In an Oct. 31, 2022 email to the Lake Okeechobee News, Alexandra Kuchta of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) stated “the city continues to make progress with completing the necessary repairs/replacements of the structures and have secured a contractor. Under the terms of the correction action plan, the work must be completed by April 2023.”
An April 22, 2022 letter from Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) to the City of Pahokee details the problems which were first documented by FDEP more than four years ago.
• On March 28, 2018, FDEP inspected the submerged lands adjacent to the Pahokee marina and discovered the city failed to maintain the leased premises in good condition, keeping the structures and equipment in a good state of repair in the interest of public health, safety and welfare, in violation of the lease with the state.
• On April 28, 2021, FDEP again inspected the submerged lands adjacent to the marina following notice of a harmful algal bloom in the marina. The inspection found the violations discovered during the March 28, 2018 inspection had not been resolved. The city failed to maintain the premises in good condition. Specifically docks D, E and F were in a state of disrepair.
• On May 21, 2021 FDEP sent a Compliance Assistance Offcer (CAO) letter, and requested additional information. The letter gave the city 15 days to respond. The deadline passed with no response. FDEP sent another letter but again received no response.
• On June 9, 2021, FDEP sent the city a warning letter giving the city five days to arrange a meeting to discuss the violations. On June 18, FDEP received a partial response but the city failed to schedule the requested meeting.
• On July 15, FDEP sent another letter seeking additional information about the marina repairs. Again the city failed to provide the requested information. Only Aug. 4, FDEP requested a status updte and the city failed to send one. On Sept. 4, Sept. 28 and Oct. 13, FDEP contacted the city for additional information. On Oct. 19, the city responded but the response was incomplete.
• Although 11 boats were listed as liveaboards during the time period specified by FDEP, the city provided FDEP with pump out logs for just four boats with a letter indicating these were the only logs they had.
• A July 15, 2021 letter from FDEP to the city states: “Public restrooms are made available at the marina for vessels should they prefer to use them, however sewage pumpout records indicate irregular use of pumpouts from extended stay vessels. For example, the vessel owned by Robert Cartlidge has been docked at the marina from 2009 to present day. The past 18 months of pumpout records were provided to the Department, but Mr. Cartlidge has only used the pumpout twice over the last 18 months, both in the month of May 2021. It appears that this, and other extended stay vessels (Folger and Hanshaw), have only recently started using sewage pumpout.”
• On Oct. 20, 2021, FDEP sent another request for information. On Nov. 3, FDEP asked the city for a status update and on Nov. 5, 2021 FDEP spoke with the respondant and sent a follow up email to clarify the additional information requested. Again the city failed to submit the information to FDEP. On Nov. 18, 2021, FDEP again contacted the city. On Nov. 24, 2021, the city finally provided an official response to the request for additional information.
Upon reviewing the city’s responses to the FDEP’s requests for information, FDEP found:
• The city failed to maintain the leased premesis in good condition.
• The city failed to ensure the liveaboards moored on the submerged lands are not inhabitated by a person or persons for more than 6 months in a 12 month period as required by the city’s lease with the state. FDEP noted 11 liveaboards had been moored or were currently moored at the facility that were inhabitated for more than 6 months in a 12 month period.
• The city failed to implement a process to ensure the wet slip occupants comply with the requirement to use the sewage pump out facilities.
On Jan. 4, 2022, FDEP contacted the city requesting additional information about the ways the city will mitigate and resolve these violations. FDEP requested the city provide a schedule or work including a completion date, when docks D, E and F would be completely repaired or replaced. As of April 22, 2022, the city had failed to provide this information.
According to FDEP, of Jan. 25, 2022 the city had failed to inform the wet slip occupants of the requirement to use the pump out equipment.
In the April 22, 2022 Final Order Document, FDEP threatened to fine the city $2,500 for the first offense and $1,000 per day for noncompliance of the lease. The letter states FDEP would not impose the fines if the city complied with the corrective actions within 20 days.
On May 9, 2022, the City of Pahokee filed an appeal, citing the City of Pahokee’s unusually high number of turnovers in the city manager position.
Over the course of one year, the Pahokee city manager position changed hands six times. Former city manager Chandler Williamson, who had held the post for six years, resigned in March 2021, giving less than a week’s notice. At that time, the Pahokee City Commission appointed Jongelene Adams, the city’s economic development director, as temporary city manager. After advertising the position and conducting interviews, the commission then hired Rodney Lucas as interim manager. In August 2021, the city commission fired Lucas, and then-city attorney Gary Brandenburg served as interim city manager for one meeting. The commission then hired Greg Thompson as city manager. On March 25, 2022 the city commissioners fired Thompson and brought back Adams as temporary city manager. At the next meeting, they voted to rehire Lucas.
FDEP agreed to the extension and continued to request information from the city.
On Oct. 28, 2022 Victoria Caba of FDEP emailed Lucas with a reminder that the July 28, 2022 request for information was past due. Lucas responded with a request for a 90 day extension, which was granted.