City Eyes Citizen Building – Special Election April 16 - A tree in front of a house - New Town
The building on Northside Drive that has housed the Key West Citizen may become the new home for the city’s community services department. FACEBOOK

The City of Key West has long had its sights set on the building that currently houses the Key West Citizen newspaper, located at 3420 Northside Drive. A special election will be held on April 16 to approve — or deny — the city’s purchase of the property. Ballots go out this week. The reason for the purchase? The city has been seeking a permanent home for the offices and equipment of its community services and city maintenance departments for years. 

At a March 11 District 2 meeting, City Manager Jim Scholl said: “Our facilities have been fragmented — they’ve been working out of different spaces and stuck in inappropriate spots for the kind of work they do.” The staff have been in offices and work spaces from Stock Island to Palm Avenue, and the city hopes to consolidate some of its community services staff. 

“It’s important to have them on the island, rather than out on Stock Island,” Scholl said, noting the city has “done surveys and appraisals, and the flood elevation is good.” 

The other big motivation? Money. Commissioner Sam Kaufman said: “When I saw $29 million for this in our annual budget of $185 million, that was a big number. … I am all about not raising taxes.” The city could purchase the former Citizen building to the tune of $5 million, invest $1 million in renovations, and find a solution for well under their budgeted cost. 

Assistant City Manager Greg Veliz added that while some of the community services staff will continue to work out of the 627 Palm Avenue building, most of the operations and offices would be at the Citizen building. At the March 11 meeting, some citizens raised concerns about the noise it might create. 

Kaufman noted that he was a resident of that neighborhood and believed the city kept more “regular hours” than the Citizen, a news office. Veliz added, “Most of the big trucks will be based out of Palm. There would be carpenters and plumbers (at the Citizen building) in the back, but there’s not going to be heavy equipment.” 

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