EVENT PLANNING CAN BEGIN IN ISLAMORADA

Islamorada Village Council prepares to start the May 20 meeting inside Founders Park Community Center. Plexiglass screens were installed between council members. Staff members including Acting Village Manager Maria Bassett attended via Zoom. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

Large-scale events within Islamorada can enter planning and scheduling stages, Monroe County’s top health officer told the Islamorada Village Council during a May 20 hybrid meeting.

A freeze on temporary use permits for events took effect last August, when the former council voted to cancel events through October as a COVID-19 protection measure. Following election victories, a completely new council extended that event prohibition through April 1, and again, during a Feb. 25 meeting, through June as spring break loomed. Actions by both councils came following recommendations from Bob Eadie, health officer with the Florida Health Department. 

On May 20, Eadie again joined the dais via Zoom to provide the council with an update and the recommendation that the village could resume events such as the Gigantic Nautical Flea Market next year. 

“They can not only be planned but scheduled and conducted as they have in the past,” he said. “There’s still cases being transmitted every day. We may need to adjust what we do, but right now, I think we can start to move into the post-COVID period of our lives.”

Council members verbally agreed to let the special use permit prohibition sunset at the end of May.

Daily cases in the village have averaged in the single digits for a while. COVID-19 cases in Islamorada are around 260 since the pandemic began in March 2020. 

Village council members moved into a list of agenda items that included a proposed amendment to an agreement between the village and its solid waste collection provider. The village contracted with Advanced Disposal in 2013 for residential and commercial solid waste, yard waste and recycling collection and disposal services. Since then, two amendments were made to the agreement to reflect pricing for commercial equipment that compacts small containers, as well as increased disposal costs. 

A third amendment to the agreement with Advanced Disposal, acquired by Waste Management last October, came before the dais requesting a 7% rate hike in commercial rates to compensate for increased customer service costs. It also adjusts the start of commercial services to 5 a.m., which is due to an increase in traffic and difficulties for trucks to bring collections to the transfer stations by closing. 

Council members David Webb and Mark Gregg expressed their confusion over which company the village would be dealing with going forward, as language within the contract named Advanced Disposal. But Waste Management officials joined the meeting to discuss service and contract details. 

It was later learned that Advanced Disposal is a wholly owned subsidiary of Waste Management. Village Attorney Roget Bryan affirmed the information to the council and noted that the acquisition of Advanced Disposal by Waste Management was complicated — taking roughly 18 months and going through federal regulatory hurdles.

A few residents take seats inside the community center as Islamorada Village Council meets on May 20. A large plexiglass divider separated the gallery from council members and staff.

“For village purposes, we still have a contract with Advanced Disposal, a wholly owned subsidiary now of Waste Management and being operated as such,” he said.

Greg Sullivan, local manager for Waste Management, told the dais the company is working to change logos on trucks nationwide. 

“There’s no underlying reason not to change them,” he said. “It’s just the simple fact of time and getting people to do it.

“We are acting under the same contractual obligation and we take all solid waste and recycling to the Monroe County Transfer Station, the same as Advanced Disposal had been doing for the last two years,” he continued. 

Gregg was critical of the proposed 7% increase in commercial customer services in Islamorada and asked Sullivan what the advantage was in going along with such a raise. 

“I don’t think Waste Management will go out of business if they don’t get a raise, but I do know a lot of merchants in Islamorada who aren’t going to appreciate the rate increase after the pandemic,” Gregg said. 

Sullivan attributed the hike to the cost of business in the Keys, rising prices on tires, steel and fuel and paying employees a living wage. 

“We’re in the same boat everyone else is in to keep employees,” he said. “The garbage business is not one of the most glamorous jobs. We have people who get to the trucks to start at 5 a.m. to pick up trash.”

Webb relayed criticism over company workers removing items within the containers and throwing it on the road in front of residences because it wasn’t in the appropriate container. Calling it “unacceptable,” Webb said workers should be able to look inside the can and slap a red tag if there are items that don’t belong. 

“Then the resident can work it out how it’s going to be picked up,” he said. 

Sullivan said the issue was addressed immediately and shouldn’t happen again. 

The proposed amendment to the agreement was tabled for further clarification and discussion. Islamorada Village Council’s next regularly scheduled meeting is set for Thursday, June 10 at 5:30 p.m. Residents can attend in person, watch via Zoom or view on channel 77.

Jim McCarthy is a Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, mixed martial arts and golf. He loves to hit the links and play some softball with his Make A Play team. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.