The item was hardly finished being read into the record before the Monroe County Board of Commissioners agreed to extend the lease to the Pigeon Key Foundation for the management of the tiny island in the middle of the 7 Mile Bridge.

The island was originally leased to the nonprofit in 1993 for 30 years. The new lease runs through 2033, with an option to renew for an additional 10 years.

Foundation director Kelly McKinnon thanked the county staff and commission.

“We’ll make sure Monroe County is proud of Pigeon Key and continue the work we are doing out there,” he said.

The county also revised the amount of the cost of the wooden Pigeon Key ramp renovation to $2.4 million, an increase of almost a half-million dollars. Staff said the change was needed due to a plan error for steel weight calculation in regards to structural needs.

The commission was not so understanding, however, after hearing from a representative from the 208-unit affordable housing project in the Lower Keys, the Quarry. He was requesting an additional $84,000 to build a structural retaining wall to support a road.

So far, Monroe County is paying the developers of the project almost $1.5 million — to create a new access road to reduce loads on neighborhood streets, complete wastewater connections, build a bike lane and add buffering landscape. The additional $84,000 would improve the road that would revert back to Monroe County ownership. It was also too much for commissioners Heather Carruthers and Danny Kolhage.

“This was a strategic error,” said Kolhage of the request for extra funds.

“Is it worth it? Eighty-four thousand dollars? After everything we’ve provided to you guys?” Carruthers asked of representative Bart Smith.

Commissioners Michelle Coldiron and David Rice soothed the waters.

“This is for a retention wall to protect a road that will be turned over to the county eventually; this is an investment for the affordable housing that we all want,” said Coldiron.

Coldiron, Rice and Kolhage agreed to pay the extra $84,000, while Monroe County Mayor Sylvia Murphy and Carruthers voted no. The motion carried.

In other news:

  • There will be a public hearing on Thursday, April 25 at 5 p.m. in the Marathon Government Center to review the land management plan of state lands, leased to Monroe County. The update is required every 10 years, and statutes require a public hearing now that Monroe County manages more than 160 acres. Coldiron is one of the members of the public advisory board.
  • The commission gave the go-ahead to County Attorney Bob Shillinger to investigate the possibility of bringing misdemeanor probation services in-house and the costs associated with the move. In the past, the contract has been outsourced to various organizations such as the Salvation Army.
  • The commission approved the purchase of two lots on Big Pine Key for affordable housing, and one for conservation.
  • Finance Director Tina Boan informed the commission she had received another $666,000 in FEMA reimbursements. She anticipates receiving another $11 million for debris work by the next meeting.

The commission also asked for an update on the appeal of the $6 million costs for a base camp during Hurricane Irma that FEMA has denied. The county attorney drafted a letter to the state Department of Emergency Management. “I’m encouraged and optimistic,” said Shillinger. County Administrator Roman Gastesi told the commission that the state director of Emergency Management has told him verbally he has to take care of Hurricane Michael’s effects on the Panhandle before he can turn his attention to the Keys.

  • Legislative Affairs Director Lisa Tennyson briefed the commission on happenings in Tallahassee. (See page xx for details on bills.) She outlined various “pre-emption bills” — designed to remove authority from local governments and grant it to the state. She said she’s hopeful that the vacation rental bill, allowing nightly rentals in residential neighborhoods, is stalled. And she warned commissioners about SB 1730 and HB 207, legislation that would deny local governments the ability to negotiate affordable housing provisions when granting permits for new developments.

“All of these pre-emption moves seem to be happening in a wave,” said Kolhage. “Where is this stuff coming from?”

  • The commission approved the purchase of five “less than fee” transactions, that would remove the building rights from privately owned lots. The move lessens the county’s exposure in takings cases come 2023, when the state will no longer grant new development rights in the Keys, while the homeowner continues to pay taxes on the parcel that can no longer be used to build a new home.

Local contractors invited to apply

The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners approved requesting proposals from companies and vendors to provide a variety of emergency services in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster. Monroe County Emergency Management and the Monroe County Attorney’s Office will work with companies on standby contracts.

“These contracts are only activated in the event of an emergency, like a hurricane,” said Assistant County Attorney Cynthia Hall. “This is the critical response needed from day one to day 120 to facilitate rapid and effective recovery after a storm.”

Emergency services needed include plumbing, roof repair, catering, janitorial and mold remediation. The complete list of needed services is noted on the county’s Request for Proposals (RFP). The RFP will be on Demand Star starting on Saturday, April 20 at www.monroecounty-fl.gov/demandstar. Proposals are due by May 29 at 3 p.m.

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