ISLAMORADA -- The Village Council last July tapped the nonprofit Islamorada Foundation to build a quiet park, featuring walkways, benches and shade structures at the city-owned Southwinds property on central Upper Matecumbe Key.
But last week village Wastewater Program Manager Greg Tindle announced an idea for a different type of amenity there: a sewage pump station.
"I'd like to work with them and come up with a classic win-win situation," Tindle said of the foundation at a Village Council workshop last Thursday.
Some local park advocates aren't exactly pumped by the concept.
"This is the center of our town. And you're going to build a pump station there?" said Elizabeth Jolin, a former member of the village park's and recreation committee who lives across the street from the 1.1-acre, mile marker 82.1 site. "It's just so painful to think about the lack of vision we have for our town."
The Southwinds pump station would be one of five that the village says it must build as part of an estimated $110 million project to sewer all of Islamorada, other than the already completed north Plantation Key area.
Tindle also proposed pump stations on the corner of Lakeview Drive and Gulfview Drive near Angelo's Country Store on Lower Matecumbe Key; on U.S. 1 and Lysiloma Lane, just north of Boardwalk Pizza on Plantation Key; and at the site of the existing wastewater plant on Plantation Key. That plant is targeted to be decommissioned as the village works to send all of its sewage north to Key Largo's mile marker 100.5 plant.
The wastewater manager proposed citing the fifth new pump station either on the south end of Founders Park, behind Village Hall, or in a hammock on the Sands of the Keys property, at mile marker 86.5, bayside.
Tindle said using properties, such as Southwinds and Founders Park, which the village already owns, is a good way to save money.
Councilman Dave Purdo objected, saying he doesn't want to mar parkland. But other members of the council were either silent or expressed support for the savings.
"If we can save 500,000 or three-quarters-of-a-million dollars by using our own property, I believe we should be mindful of that," Councilman Don Achenberg said.
In an interview last week, J.C. Mikula, director of the Islamorada Foundation, was diplomatic about the proposal to put a pump station on the Southwinds site. Village drawings show the proposed station in an area the foundation had designated for parking.
Though the Village Council has verbally committed to turning development and day-to-day control of the future Southwinds Park over to the foundation, the parties have yet to enter into a signed agreement.
"It is what it is," Mikula said of the pump station proposal. "That said, it would be my property location of last resort if it all possible. But it is obviously village-owned property. I wish I had more influence, but unfortunately the foundation doesn't own the property and we'll do our best to be good stewards of it."
Pump stations can present difficulties with noise and odor, but they don't have to, said William English, a project manager for The Haskell Company, which constructed early portions of the Key Largo wastewater system.
"When you do this type of construction, you're going to get both of those by-products," Williams said. "But if you address them properly, they shouldn't be a problem."
On a recent Friday morning, no odor emanated from the village's lone existing pump station, located off U.S. 1 at the entrance to Sunshine Drive, just a short distance south of Tavernier Creek.
However, a dull whir of machinery could be heard and the station made periodic sucking noises loud enough to draw the attention of people, if it were in a park setting.
Former village Utilities Director Myles Milander, who resigned last year, said the sucking sound was likely the noise that the station makes during its regular vacuum cycle, which occurs approximately every 10 minutes, depending upon flow.
But though there was no odor that morning, the north Plantation Key pump station does draw complaints from neighbors. John Miller, who lives immediately next door, said he's considering suing the village over grievances about both noise and smell.
"It's atrocious," he said of the odor, which he said emanates several times a week. Miller also complained that generators sometimes turn on in the middle of the night, awakening him and his family.
Milander said that maintenance is critical to holding down noise and keeping pump stations odor free. Filters need to be replaced regularly, the generator should be set so it only turns on at designated times and components inside the vacuum pump must be kept in proper condition.
The proposed Southwinds pump station isn't the only one that has generated opposition.
At last week's meeting Purdo said he's opposed to the potential Sands of the Keys pump station site in a south Plantation Key hammock.
"What I'm worried about is setting a precedent for any other construction firm to come in here and clear hammock," he said.
Village Manager Ed Koconis countered that it wouldn't set a precedent, since the village would have to cut a special deal with the state to clear the hammock and could only do so by establishing that the move was in the public interest.
Still, Purdo suggested the village consider a nearby property owned by businessman Monte Green that is already cleared and is well off U.S. 1.
"It's so far inland that you couldn't see it with a pair of binoculars," said Purdo of the potential pump station. Purdo's longtime domestic partner Barbara Edgar is the listing agent for the Green property, according to the sales sign at the site.