A ridesharing service that transports locals and guests to and from locations in Islamorada could expand with help from a state grant. 

During the early portion of the Nov. 17 village council meeting, Maria Bassett, finance director, informed the dais that she was able to secure a Florida Department of Transportation Public Transit Service Development grant, which pays roughly half the costs associated with the service from Freebee. Serving Islamorada and portions of Tavernier near the plaza, the village must expand service hours and add more vehicles if it  receives the grant. 

Overall costs for the service, which would expand to seven days a week at 17 hours a day, would total $553,000 for the year. The village would pay half the cost, $276,665, which is less than the roughly $371,000 it currently pays for the service. 

A six-month trial with Freebee began in November 2018 when village council approved $80,000 for the service. What began with golf carts grew to vehicles and vans after the village council approved a two-year agreement in May 2019 at an annual cost of $317,280. A new one-year agreement was approved last May 12 at a cost of $371,000. Freebee currently operates two Tesla X vehicles, which can hold seven passengers, and one large van. 

If the village opts to accept the FDOT grant to fund 50% of the increased cost of expanded services, the village and Freebee would need to enter into an agreement for services effective July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024. No decision was made by the outgoing council on the grant and service. A new council will decide the next direction for Freebee in Islamorada.

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.