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Marathon punts for now in considering outside finance department

A decision on whether to bring the city of Marathon’s Finance Department in-house won’t be made until at least October.

Three of the five City Council members indicated Tuesday an unwillingness to seek a request for qualifications for the service until the city is through its budget season, concluding in late September.

On April 22, the council directed staff to investigate the pros and cons of in-house financial services. At the same meeting, longtime Finance Director Peter Rosasco resigned that post in response to concerns voiced with his involvement in a Florida Keys Country Club hotel project.

His Bishop Rosasco Co. accounting firm has been (and for now at least, still is) the city’s contracted finance department since 2003. The city paid Bishop Rosasco an average of $499,629 per year from 2008 through 2013.

“The correct time to do this kind of search is after we get through with our budget and not a moment before,” Councilman John Bartus said.

Vice Mayor Chris Bull agreed, arguing the city has “a lot of things in flux.” He referred to new City Attorney Lynn Dannheisser taking over for John Herin, the “situation” with interim City Manager Mike Puto and his contract, a planned new city hall and $17 million in new sewer projects to plan.

“To change horses right now and starting that process would be wrong. We can go out to RFQ like we normally do when the contracts are up and may the best firm win at that point,” Bull said.

Councilman Mark Senmartin has been unhappy with how long it’s taken city staff to produce a report listing the pros and cons of continuing to outsource the financials. He also has been demanding detailed expense reports about miscellaneous costs and credit card charges made by Rosasco.

Senmartin’s goal is to obtain a true cost for the contracts, while staff argued it takes time to sift through some “4,000 pages” of information.

“I took it upon myself to go out and do the research,” he said, sharing a list of four similarly sized Florida cities with fellow council members. Each has an in-house Finance Department that, like Bishop Rosasco, also oversees wastewater and stormwater funds. They were:

– Cape Canaveral: Population of 9,987 with four employees totaling $283,453 in costs.

– Indian Harbour Beach: Population of 8,406 with two employees totaling $110,406.

– Lighthouse Point: Population of 10,401 with two employees totaling $206,250.

– St. Pete Beach: Population of 9,353 with four employees totaling $347,063.

Senmartin pointed out that in 2013, the city paid Bishop Rosasco more than $500,000.

“To me, this really seems like a no-brainer. I submit that we are overpaying. I’d like to see us go out and get some real numbers for a proposal,” he said.
Bishop Rosacso’s current expires next year.

“Based on the input I just got, I would like to ask the manager to have conversations with Bishop Rosasco and come back with some sort of negotiated figure as to what Peter feels he might be able to save us. I think it would make me feel a whole lot better,” Mayor Dick Ramsay said.

The council unanimously approved a motion for Puto and Ramsay to meet with Rosasco and report back at a future meeting.

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