Florida Keys News
Thursday, October 18, 2012
Flights to Big Apple, D.C. added to lineup

Monroe County airport officials announced Wednesday that Key West International Airport soon will offer limited direct flights to both New York City and Washington D.C.

Delta Airlines will be flying non-stop from Key West to New York's La Guardia International Airport on selected dates in December, March and April. Delta will offer flights on a 124-passenger plane on Dec. 22 and 29; March 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30; and April 6, County Airports Director Peter Horton said.

U.S. Airways will offer direct flights on a 75-passenger plane to Ronald Reagan International Airport in Washington D.C. in December and January. The service will be daily from Dec. 22 through Jan. 5. The service will continue on a Saturday-only basis from January through April, Horton said.

"These are the farthest flights the airport has ever had on a commercial basis," said Horton, who made the announcement at Wednesday's County Commission meeting.

Horton could not speculate if the flights will become permanent, but he did say that when such seasonal flights have proved successful in the past they are "repeated."

The news comes after Horton announced last month that Southwest Airlines will begin offering direct daily flights from Key West to New Orleans.

Also on Wednesday:

The commission agreed to enter into negotiations with a Lower Keys commercial fisherman, who is interested in leasing -- with the option of buying -- the county-owned Hickory House on Stock Island.

The county has been trying to sell or rent the Hickory House for about four years, but has not found an investor willing to pay the $3.1 million the county paid for it in 2006 or lease it to anyone willing to pay a substantial monthly rent.

Keys fisherman Richard Buckheim resubmitted a bid, offering to pay the county $2,000 a month for the property for two years, with the possibility of an additional two-year renewal. After four years, Buckheim would purchase the property at the appraised value of the land only, not the buildings, his proposal states.

Buckheim has offered to provide dockage to commercial fishing vessels, "allowing them to unload their fish into refrigerated tractor trailers for transport to end users." In his proposal, he says his plan would have an economic benefit for the local community and help maintain a "working waterfront in Key West/Stock Island."

County attorneys will negotiate with Buckheim on such issues as paying more monthly rent. The County Commission will decide in January whether to enter into an agreement with Buckheim. The commission will meet in Key West in January.

The commission gave final approval to a series of test rules for vessels anchored or moored off the Keys that are not in managed mooring fields. The rules will remain in effect until 2014 and could be extended indefinitely.

The rules require proof of regular sewage pump-out and the tagging of vessels at risk of sinking or becoming derelict. Vessels would be labeled at risk of sinking at the discretion of law enforcement officers based on certain criteria, such as listing, being aground, beached or taking on water.

The rules also create "no-anchoring buffer zones" adjacent to the mooring fields in the cities of Key West and Marathon, where officials have expressed concern about vessels breaking free and striking boats inside managed mooring fields. The rules for non-managed mooring fields will apply to anchorages off Key West Harbor and in Cow Key Channel off Stock Island.

The rules, which were created by Monroe County's Marine Resources Division, do not call for violators' vessels to be removed, but the owners would be warned and eventually fined if the issues were not addressed. After a first warning, a $50 fine would be levied. The fine would increase to $100 for a second offense, and $250 for a third offense. All subsequent offenses would be $250.

Owners would have 30 days between fines to address issues, according to Rich Jones, director of Monroe County's marine resources division.

tohara@keysnews.com

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