Marathon city leaders have long been at odds with Monroe County about how much attention it pays to the Florida Keys Marathon Airport.
The city officials claim the county is not doing enough to bring commercial air service to the Marathon airport.
The County Commission will be giving the airport plenty of attention at its Friday meeting, when it will discuss two separate proposals for it.
The commission will discuss having a private company run the airport. It will also vote on putting out to bid the construction of a Customs and Border Protection facility there.
The customs facility project will cost some $1.1 million, and be half-funded by Florida Department of Transportation grants. The remaining portion will be paid for through the Federal Aviation Administration's airport improvement funds earmarked for the Marathon airport, and passenger facility charges at the Key West International Airport, Airports Director Horton said.
"Projects at Marathon in the past have been paid by Key West," Horton said. "It is a two-airport system."
The city of Marathon has not put any money toward the project.
Despite not having commercial service at the Marathon airport, local business and city leaders have called for a customs facility, which also could handle boaters coming in from other countries, supporters say.
The discussion about having a private company manage the airport started several months before Marathon airport Manager Reggie Paros retired in June.
The County Commission in March directed county staff to draft a request for proposals (RFP).
If the county privatized the service, it would not have to pay for employees' health care, retirement and other benefits.
Paros' annual salary was $87,500 but the county spent $109,430 on him including benefits. An administrative aide makes $38,760, which is $54,500 with benefits. Similarly, a $44,360 maintenance supervisor actually costs the county $62,920, and a $31,400 maintenance technician ends up costing $47,630. Figures are rounded off.
The savings in salaries are not the biggest and only benefit to bringing in a private company, which can also bring in carriers and generate business.
The Marathon Chamber of Commerce and other business groups have lobbied the county for subsidies to attract commercial service, and also have sought the customs facility.
The Marathon airport has been without commercial service since the departure of Cape Air in 2009, and Delta before that in 2007.
The county had a contract with Delta to provide air service for one year. However, ridership was so low in the off-season that Delta, which offered a 40-passenger non-stop flight to Atlanta, canceled the contract 5½ months after it started. The airline's goal had been to fill 30 of 40 seats, but it couldn't.
The commission was slated to vote on a request for proposals for a private company last month, but County Mayor David Rice contended the proposed RFP would not generate any interest as written. It required too much insurance, he said.
County Administrator Roman Gastesi then proposed the county put out what he called a "RFI," or request for information, which would be more general than an RFP.
The county could advertise in trade publications that it was looking for ideas or proposals on partnering with a private company to run the airport.
Also on Friday, the commission will address several issues tied to the theft of 52 stolen iPads and iPhones. The equipment was reportedly stolen by former county Technical Services Director Lisa Druckemiller and sold to county employees.
The commission will discuss the wording of a reprimand letter for Gastesi, as he purchased one stolen iPad and four iPhones.
The commission will also discuss the contracts for former county Judge David Kirwan and retired Sheriff Rick Roth to review the "iThefts" and recommend what punishment, if any, should be doled out for employees who purchased the equipment or had any other involvement in the case.
The commission meets Friday at the Marathon Government Center. It's schedule to talk about the Customs and Border Protection facility at 10:30 a.m.