The Key West city commission will be making some tough — and potentially costly — decisions in the coming weeks.

First up is the city commission meeting on Sept. 1, when officials will discuss the upcoming special events calendar in light of the alarming COVID uptick. Mayor Teri Johnston urged event organizers to come to the meeting armed with recommendations to keep their events as safe as possible.

City Manager Patti McLauchlin held a Zoom call on Aug. 25 with about 20 event organizers — from Fantasy Fest and boat races, to the Zombie Bike Ride and Key West Brewfest.

McLauchlin asked each organizer about their plans to keep people masked, socially distant and otherwise protected as much as possible.

“My goal was to hear you first,” McLauchlin told the group, reminding them that the city’s special event permits now include a sentence stating the organizers are aware that the permit may be revoked due to circumstances involving COVID. “I don’t have any indication what will happen on Sept. 1, but I know there will be discussion and there are concerns on the part of commissioners. I think we all should be concerned about what’s happening in our community and everywhere. Obviously, the more people we get vaccinated and the more people we can get to wear masks, the better things will be.”

Most event representatives, including Nadene Grossman Orr, Fantasy Fest producer, pledged to include masking messaging in all promotional materials. Others said they can spread out seating arrangements and provide hand sanitizer.

Grossman Orr also told the group that some Fantasy Fest events have already been scaled back due to people’s concerns. She said there are currently only 12 float applications for the Fantasy Fest parade, which typically has at least 50 floats. 

In answer to a question about whether the commission will make a final decision on Sept. 1, as the topic is listed as a discussion item on the agenda, McLauchlin said the decision may not come down to a vote.

“The commission may just discuss it, listen to you and make a decision at the following meeting, or they could give direction to me about what to do, so I do urge you to attend and to sign up to speak,” McLauchlin said.

In other news..

The commission just received the results of a compensation study conducted by Evergreen Solutions consultants.

“This study was undertaken to compare city salaries with the local market,” McLauchlin wrote to the commissioners in an email with a spreadsheet of current and newly recommended salaries attached. “The study will provide a framework for a compensation plan that will provide a salary structure that is internally equitable and competitive within our local entities.”

If the recommendations are fully implemented for the 508 positions evaluated, the new pay plan will cost the city an additional $2.8 million, and would involve an average annual increase of $5,417 per employee.

City salaries have long lagged behind those of Monroe County and local utilities, often making it difficult for Key West to find and keep qualified workers. City officials soon will consider whether to implement the new pay plan in one fell swoop, or spread out the increases over time. Finance Director Mark Finigan in budget meetings has cautioned against spreading it out for too long, as the costs of living and housing will continue to rise each year, thus contributing to a continuing disparity.

Stay tuned to keysweekly.com as we take a closer look at the compensation study and its recommendations.

If you would like to have the Weekly delivered to your mailbox or inbox along with our daily news blast, please subscribe here.

Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. She's married to a saintly — and handy — fisherman, and has been stringing words together in Key West since 1998.