A rendering of the pedestrian bridge near Founders Park. CONTRIBUTED

A 5-plus hour meeting of Islamorada Village Council last month prevented discussion about the Florida Department of Transportation’s pedestrian bridge project near Founders Park. As a result, the dais’ first meeting of 2021 will kick off with an update on the project that’s currently in the final design phases. 

A newly-seated council sought information and answers to some questions on FDOT’s pedestrian bridge project during a Nov. 19 meeting. Specifically, the dais wanted costs incurred by the village if they elected to halt the project altogether, so long as FDOT would agree. 

In addition, council sought information and expense for a potential referendum, as well as FDOT project timetables and communications the former dais had as the project proceeded. Councilman Henry Rosenthal said a referendum would apply “much needed transparency with respect to this decision for the people of Islamorada.

In the lead-up to the council’s Dec. 17 meeting, council members were provided with a wealth of information by staff on the project’s history from its inception to its current status. But no discussion ensued as council wasn’t able to reach the topic due to a meeting that lasted well past 10 p.m. Rosenthal elected to move the topic to the council’s first 2021 meeting, set for Thursday, Jan. 14 at 5:30 p.m, to give the public an opportunity to speak. 

“The major thing is transparency. I heard it over and over, ‘We’re not being fair to a lot of people,’” Rosenthal said. 

Relocation of third-party utilities continues to make way for the pedestrian bridge. But no actual work is underway yet to build the bridge. Sergies Duarte, senior community specialist with FDOT, said during a meeting last October that work could begin by year’s end or early 2021. 

Bridge construction isn’t the only facet of FDOT’s $4.68 million project. Realigning the Florida Keys Overseas Highway Trail, widening the shoulders and constructing wall barriers will also take place. Concrete sidewalk will be installed along Old Highway, as Duarte said there’s no pedestrian connection from the bridge site to Treasure Village Montessori. Chevron pavement markings will be added to replace plastic poles on Old Highway between East Ridge Drive and South Drive. 

AT&T utilities were recently relocated to make way for the project that will see staircases and elevators on each side of the highway leading up to an elevated platform. Duarte said a Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority water main will be relocated. Costs to move the 180 linear feet of 18-inch piping are included in the state-funded project. 

Overhead and underground utilities of the Florida Keys Electric Cooperative are being located. Since the initial examination, FKEC said it was able to bring costs for overhead work, originally anticipated anywhere from $250,000 to $300,000, down to between $150,000 and $200,000. Cost estimates for underground work haven’t changed, at $700,000 to $800,000. Moving costs incurred from the elevated bridge project won’t be reimbursed by FDOT, meaning FKEC shareholders will pay. 

Before a discussion on the pedestrian bridge, a presentation will be given regarding the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District/Oxitec Mosquito Project by representatives of both agencies. Village staff members will be recognized for service for five, 10, 15 and 20 years. The committee members and staff members being acknowledged will not be in physical attendance at the meeting.

Only council members and essential staff members required to conduct the meetings will be at the council chambers inside the Founders Park Community Center. The general public is invited to virtually attend and otherwise participate in council meetings using Zoom. More information is at islamorada.fl.us.

The public is encouraged to watch the meeting on Monroe County’s MCTV Comcast Channel 77. Alternatively, the public may view the meeting streamed live on the Village website from their personal computer, tablet or phone via the following link: www.islamorada.fl.us/departments/communications/live_village_broadcast_meeting.php.

The public may provide public comment on items of a general nature or items specific to the agenda. Below are the guidelines for submitting public comments:

Option 1: Email your comments.
1. Public comment should be submitted via email to: [email protected]islamorada.fl.us
2. The email should contain “Public Comment” in the subject line.
3. The name and address of the submitter shall be included in the email.
4. Public comment should be submitted by 9 a.m. January 13, 2021. Public comment will be sent to the Village Council members for consideration prior to the meeting. Public comments will not be read during the meeting.
Option 2: Call in During the Meeting.
1. If phoning in, dial 301-715-8592 and enter the webinar ID: 911 0656 4166 followed by #. When the Mayor opens public comment pertaining to the agenda item you are interested in dial *9 to be recognized by the Zoom meeting monitor. The Monitor will call you by the last four digits of your phone number. Please be sure to unmute your phone when you are called upon.
2. If watching online via Zoom: Open the Zoom webinar link zoom.us/j/91106564166
and follow the prompts to join the webinar. When the Mayor opens public comment use the “raise your hand” feature to be recognized by the meeting monitor. Public comments will be heard in the order in which they are received.

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