Conversations over a project to build employee housing for Monroe County Sheriff’s Office staff near headquarters on Stock Island were heated Wednesday at the Board of County Commissioners meeting in Marathon.
The project is in its infancy, but it will take years for the plans to come together.
Part of the reason is that the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter is nearby and a new location for the shelter needs to be found. That was supposed to happen by September, but after several extensions from the county, which owns the property, commissioners said at the July 18 meeting no progress has been made. KOTS has been there for 14 years.
Before the commission agreed to give KOTS an additional year to relocate, Key Largo Commissioner Sylvia Murphy had some things to say.
“Remember, Key West is part of Monroe County. We’ve always recognized that – Key West only recognizes it when there’s something in there they want,” she said. “This is apparently one of those times.”
In what she called a “slap at the city of Key West,” Murphy said, “You have thumbed your nose at the County Commission, especially for the last year, but you really said ‘Go to hell’ to the Sheriff’s Department and that bothers me, because they are in this county far more important than the five of us sitting up here. To take up all their space for years, and not move when you’re asked to do so within a year I think really is shameful.”
Key West Mayor Craig Cates, after the meeting, said he was thankful to the commission for the extension, while at the same time agreeing to work together to solve the problem. However, “I was very disappointed that Commissioner Murphy needed to attack the Key West City Commission and staff and accuse us of incompetence when she obviously does not know or care how complicated this issue is,” he said.
Mayor David rice said moving KOTS off the property is not an easy task.
Sheriff Rick Ramsey said KOTS needs to get off the property so it can be readied for development.
“We can start doing legwork in preparation for the time when we hopefully can bring in this project,” he said. “I don’t want to drag it out.”
However, should the potential 136-unit project go to public referendum, that won’t be able to happen until 2020 unless there is a special election. It’s too late for the referendum to be put on this year’s primary and general election ballots.
Ramsey also said while there are no official designs yet, the units will probably be two-bed, one-bathroom units.
“Or maybe an open layout with four or five bedrooms and a common area shared,” he said. “We want to make them reasonable for younger officers or younger families.”
He said he has about 50 open positions within the Sheriff’s Office.