Islamorada Village Council members meeting virtually April 16 to consider approved a proposed sublease agreement with the state over the Indian Key boat ramp.
Among the resolutions approved was a sublease for the parcel containing the area known as the Indian Key Fill ramp. The sublease allows the village to manage the area, currently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for a five-year period with two five-year options to renew. The parcel, owned by the state, is 7.38 acres of mostly submerged land, which includes Indian Key boat ramp.
Costs to maintain and monitor the Fills were discussed during budget meetings and included in the 2019-20 budget. A total of $47,600 was included in the Public Works Department’s budget for personnel costs for one full-time Fills facility attendant. An additional $30,000 was included in the budget for rental portable toilets and operating supplies needed for the area.
Vice Mayor Ken Davis said he believes the sublease is good for the village in the way that it’s restricted parking and people at the Fills so far.
“The costs of reducing people and trash has already saved us a huge amount of money,” he said.
Councilman Jim Mooney said he’d like to see a program similar to that of an adopt-a-highway, where people or groups maintain an area of the Fills, such as Indian Key boat ramp, in return for a sign.
“You put your little badge up and you maintain it once a month or a week with a cleanup. You’re also defraying the cost to the taxpayer by letting citizens maintain that area,” he said. “I think I got someone who might do the big one at the boat ramp area.”
The Cow Key Bridge repair project has begun, with single lane closures now occurring, but in an unlikely bright spot amid the current health crisis, the work is not causing the anticipated traffic headaches during the safer-at-home directive. But drivers are urged to use caution when navigating lane closures. No left turns onto U.S. 1 are allowed from the south end of College Road.
The Key West City Commission will hold its second virtual meeting on Tuesday, April 21 with the agenda available at the city’s website.
In other news, Key West City Manager Greg Veliz on April 14, explained the recent illegal rental violations against a repeat offender who had accrued $1.2 million in fines among his three properties. Those fines were converted to a lien against the properties.
“Everybody was screaming on social media about why the city doesn’t just take his properties,” Veliz said, explaining that the Key West city charter prohibits the city from acquiring any property without a voter referendum. “So I can’t foreclose on the property because that would lead to an acquisition, which I can’t do. I’m only allowed to give property to another government agency. I cannot sell or acquire property without voter permission,” Veliz said.
“Also, just so everyone knows, despite rumors to the contrary, the city has not ‘walked back or withdrawn any of the Notices to Appear that were issued to illegal renters and/or rental agents.”
In other Key West city news, District II City Commissioner Sam Kaufman recently named Key West resident Marilyn Brew to the Key West Planning Board.
Originally from Louisiana, Brew retired to Key West after serving as an educator in Detroit. She is a former Army officer who served in the Army’s medical department as a clinical laboratory scientist and health care leader. She is also a graduate of the Key West Ambassadors Academy, states a city press release.
Brew fills the seat vacated by Ed Russo, who stepped down after Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed him to a state board that regulates ports and harbors.
It’s been a month since the City of Marathon declared its state of emergency on March 16. That means all decisions right now are in the hands of the Executive Policy Group comprised of the city manager, city attorney, fire chief, etc. There are tentative plans to schedule the first virtual meeting on May 12.
“There is nothing pressing to put on the agenda at this time,” said Mayor Steve Cook, “so we opted to wait.”
City Manager Chuck Lindsey said IT staff and the attorney are researching the most secure virtual platform for the public meeting, especially considering the ransomware attack on the city’s computer system reported by the Keys Weekly on March 12. Lindsey said the virus has been eradicated, but the city is still purchasing hardware for a planned upgrade that was moved forward by weeks.
The city continues to process permits but has temporarily halted new applications. “We are working on an effective process with the current restrictions and will resume taking them very shortly.” The code department continues to make inspections, and has posted notices on almost all of the known vacation rentals in the city, warning of the governor’s edict banning such.
Lindsey said the city is also planning for the future.
“I’m not saying that we need to reopen, that’s not what I am recommending. What I am saying is that we need to have a plan ‘on the shelf’ so when the time is appropriate or we are directed to, we can do it methodically.”
One way to do it, he said, is to reopen in the order things were closed. For example, beaches and parks could open. And then restaurants could operate at 50% capacity for dine-in customers. The checkpoint, he said, needs to be handled very carefully so the “flood gates” don’t open. He also stressed the need for the county and Keys municipalities to collaborate and move in concert.
Overall, the city isn’t in dire straits, Lindsy said.
“I’m proud of the way we’ve managed public safety while balancing the protection of our economy. This event really demonstrates what an exclusive community we have. When we have crisis or disaster, we take all the measures necessary to protect our residents, our economy and people’s investments,” he said.