Two items on the Feb. 8 Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority board meeting agenda raised eyebrows and drew harsh criticism from nearly anyone who pays a water bill in the Florida Keys.

If approved, the proposals, which initially were included on the consent agenda and set for rubber-stamp approval without discussion, would have provided free health insurance for life to any FKAA board member with at least eight years of board service, as well as their spouse or domestic partner. 

The second proposal would have extended the same insurance benefits to the utility’s top executives, even after their employment contracts end.

The board deleted the two proposals from the agenda at the start of their meeting and did not discuss them at all. 

Board member Cara Higgins told the Keys Weekly before the meeting, “The staff proposal to give board members and their spouses health insurance for life needs to be fully and openly discussed by the board. I do not support this item as presented and will not vote to approve it.”

Longtime Key West business leader Virginia Panico addressed the concerns of many when she spoke during the public comment period.

“Thank you for pulling these items,” Panico told the board. “I also suggest that you have an actuary look at what this would cost. It’s interesting that this even came up, especially after the county in the 1990s eliminated benefits for life due to the cost. In the 2000s, the mosquito control board also ended it. 

“These proposals were quite shocking to a lot of people. The phone calls I received were angry. I hope this doesn’t turn into you guys instead including the benefits for life into employment contracts. People want to be sure this doesn’t happen.”

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.