December 6, 2017

ISLAMORADA — Thursday’s meeting of the Village Council will include an update on Hurricane Irma’s cost to the village after the last estimate came in at $1.78 million.

That estimate, provided by Village Manager Seth Lawless at the Oct. 27 council meeting, was for debris cleanup. The deadline for all village islands to be cleared was Nov. 13, so it doesn’t appear likely that figure will increase much.

Maria Bassett, the village’s director of finance, said in October that she expects the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse the village 75 percent of its recovery cost, and that the state is expected to cover an additional 12.5 percent. 

Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection will cover the cost of canal cleanup, work which will be coordinated between DEP, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Monroe County.

The “Hurricane Irma Financial Update,” as it is described in the agenda released late Friday, may include other Irma-related financial considerations beyond debris cleanup costs. Bassett and a staffer from Lawless’s office are scheduled to present the update to the council, after which more will be known about the potential financial impact Irma has had on the village.

The council will also discuss a resolution to amend the village’s budget for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

 

Property fines decision

Islamorada Boat Center and more than $1.23 million in fines its owners have racked up since 2001 sparked a lengthy discussion at last month’s meeting about how much to cut the total fines assessed if the new owner brings the property up to code.

The new owner, Phil Sena, has a solid reputation, according to Vice Mayor Chris Sante and other council members. Sena wants the fines reduced to $250,000, while the council expressed big concerns about the precedent that reducing such an assessment by nearly 80 percent would set.

Sante pointed out that the village often gets “25 cents on the dollar” in such situations when owners ignore fines for years and the village is forced to settle down the line.

The council tentatively agreed to set the fines at $350,000 for the property and is expected to make a ruling Thursday. Sena may later appeal to further reduce that total to $250,000 contingent on his progress bringing the site up to code over the next year if the agreement passes as discussed at last month’s meeting.

“We’re still rewarding people who have ignored us for years and years,” Sante said then.

Parking presentation

John Paul Weesner of Kittelson and Associates, a transportation engineering and planning firm that is helping the city with a “parking master plan” that remains in development, is scheduled to update the council on the plan’s progress.

The village recently announced a website with information about the process and a survey that asks questions about residents’ thoughts on a possible park and ride and safety issues concerning pedestrians and U.S. 1, among several other questions.

Parking plan open houses held Dec. 6 and 7 at the Founders Park community center are also likely to be discussed as the village and Weesner’s firm continue to collect public feedback and other data.

“We are really driving this plan through community input,” Weesner wrote in an email last week.

Who’s the ‘boss?’

The council will appoint a new mayor and vice mayor Thursday, as they do every year. The positions are largely ceremonial, though Islamorada Mayor Jim Mooney and others in “unofficial” roles throughout the Keys found themselves dealing with leadership pressures in a time of widespread chaos as Irma made its historic landing in September.

The Village Council has received a good deal of praise from villagers during meetings since the storm. The council will change mostly on a cosmetic level, as the result is mostly a shuffling of seating arrangements at the council table, with the new chosen mayor moving to the central seat and taking over the task of generally ushering the meeting along.

The election is scheduled to happen immediately after the Pledge of Allegiance.

cwickenhofer@keysnews.com