BRIDGE JUMP STUNT GETS THE GREEN LIGHT FROM THE MARATHON CITY COUNCIL

Concerns about the structural integrity of the south side of the Boot Key Bridge dominated a discussion about the viability of a stunt jump over the open span of the bridge. ALEX RICKERT / Weekly Keys

If his team can satisfy a long but reasonable to-do list, famed stuntman Travis Pastrana will return to Marathon next month.

At its June 14 regular meeting, Marathon City Council gave conditional approval for an event permit that would send Pastrana over the open span of the Boot Key Harbor Bridge in a heavily customized car while a helicopter hovers in the space below.

The talking point was brought up by Mayor John Bartus after a request by Hoonigan Industries to perform the stunt in January was denied by city staff, citing liability issues and doubts about the state of the bridge.

With a presentation to the board highlighting the vast experience of Hoonigan’s crew and their safety record accomplishing similar feats, Hoonigan producer David Wells noted the stunt’s potential to provide increased global exposure for the city of Marathon.

“The Gymkhana series is the most-watched motorsport movie on the internet,” Wells said. “The latest film recently surpassed 50 million views since its 2020 release. … The real hero is the location and its community. … The film is a postcard of the city, a map that will be seen by millions of people.

Wells also offered a $30,000 donation from production company People First Media to be used by the city for youth programming.

While city attorney Steve Williams said he would personally like to see the one-off stunt performed, questions about Marathon’s ability to protect against risk kept him from officially recommending the filming. One of Williams’ main concerns was the possibility of rendering ships with deeper drafts unable to leave Boot Key Harbor if debris from a crumbling bridge blocked the western entrance to the harbor.

“The short version is, we asked (our insurance company) in anticipation of this meeting, ‘What would we need to get these people covered if they accidentally hit the bridge or something went wrong? ?'” Williams said. “Our insurance company wouldn’t even give us a number. Without proper insurance, my answer is 100% no, the city shouldn’t be doing this. »

Public Works and Engineering Manager Carlos Solis echoed Williams’ sentiments, adding that the bridge’s last FDOT inspection in 2008 found 100 percent loss in some columns.

“That was 14 years ago, so we have no idea what’s out there now,” Solis said. “My biggest concern, even if something doesn’t happen now, is that if you have an accident, is that going to further degrade this bridge? And then we end up with this bill because it’s been a year and a half and everyone’s long gone.

Claiming that the structural elements of the bridge responsible for absorbing the impact of the car landing are in good condition and that the stress of the 3,000-pound car is a tiny fraction of what the bridge was built to withstand , team engineer Eric Helt said the jump was very unlikely to cause significant damage.

“The dead load of the bridge itself, compared to the car, is peanuts,” he said. “We put 3,000 pounds, so you’re talking about 1% of the load. If that bridge is there now, adding 1% isn’t going to make or break that thing.

Although Hoonigan’s crew members said they expected a full partnership with FWC, Marathon Fire Rescue, the Monroe County Sheriff, and the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure safety throughout the process, several organizations told the council and Keys Weekly that they had not yet been contacted about the delay.

“I would definitely like that to happen, and I think the way we do that is to try to make sure our collective conditions are met,” Bartus said. “People putting this stuff on have an incredibly good reputation. … You hear it from a lot of people who are part of this business.

“I grew up with Evil Knievel and I love watching jumps. But I think we’d be fools not to listen to our city attorney and our city professional engineer,” Councilman Dan Zieg said.

With Zieg and Councilman Luis Gonzalez voting against the stunt, the council granted conditional approval for the jump, scheduled for July 11. In order to receive the green light, the production company must name the city on its $10 million insurance policy and provide the city with a written operational plan.

The production company must also coordinate with, have commitments, and pay necessary expenses for the services of Marathon Fire Rescue, FWC, Coast Guard, and MCSO personnel. He must enter into a written contract with Marathon Seawalls and Docks to be ready if debris falls into the channel after the jump. Before the stunt, the company will also pay for a five-ton load test on the landing side of the bridge to ensure its ability to absorb the car landing.

IN OTHER NEWS:

  • The board unanimously approved a $30,000 donation to Keys AHEC to support medical and dental care for vulnerable young Keys.
  • The council directed City Manager George Garrett and Chief Financial Officer Jennifer Johnson to enter negotiations with Key Colony Beach officials regarding the balance of the two cities’ contributions to fire relief and EMS expenses. Noting that the assessed values ​​of Marathon and KCB properties are roughly in a 4:1 ratio, but Key Colony’s contributions to fire and EMS expenses are less than that same ratio, Zieg said. that KCB Administrator David Turner was “very reasonable that Marathon subsidized KCB residents.
  • Code Director Ted Lozier informed council that the city has contracted with Deckard Technologies to help identify and possibly cite illegal vacation rentals in the city that are advertised online. The service should be operational at the end of June. Lozier also pointed out that the city’s new traffic sign ordinance passed in March has undergone state-level review and is now in effect.
  • The council voted unanimously to reject a settlement sent by the state Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) regarding its February issuance of a Notice of Violation (NOV) to the city. The NOV was issued when the city issued building permits for limited units of a development known as the 39th Street “Boatworks Project” while other units of the same development were subject to approval. a call from the state. Garrett said city staff will travel to Tallahassee on Monday, June 20 to resolve remaining issues with the DEO surrounding the NOV. City staff will also work with the DEO to resolve lingering questions regarding the city’s new permits, Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed in May.
  • In the interest of reducing wait times for resident permits, council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance shortening the city’s permit application review period from 30 days to five. .
  • Council voted unanimously to pass an ordinance establishing a tow zone along both sides of Sombrero Beach Road from the beach to Spoonbill Drive, as well as a second zone along the golf course side of the boulevard. Sombrero.

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