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Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Saturday, October 27, 2012
City workson wish list

Friday morning the canal behind business owner Mike Jolly's house was clear and not awful-smelling, thanks to cleansing winds from Hurricane Sandy.

But for weeks and sometimes months at a time, the Sunrise Lane Canal reeks from trash and decayed vegetation, its malodorous stench wafting across the lawns of nearby homes.

"Nobody seems to be able to do anything about it," Jolly said of the canal, whose banks were deeded to the city nearly 50 years ago. "It's absolutely awful and it gets pretty rank."

Cleaning up the canal is just one of the items likely to appear on the wish list Key West city commissioners are preparing for presentation to the attorney who lobbies the state Legislature on the city's behalf.

Discussions of specifically what goes on that list will take place in front of the public 6 p.m. Monday at Old City Hall, 510 Greene St.

City Manager Bob Vitas said his staff is still working on a list of projects for presentation that will be added to those commissioners will introduce as important to the people in their respective districts.

"The list will include former priorities that were not addressed or funded to date at the federal and state levels," said Vitas. "To that list we will add new priorities for consideration by the mayor and the City Commission."

A priority that will unquestionably be high on the list is the city's persistent attempt to get residents lower windstorm insurance premiums from Citizens Insurance, the state's last-resort insurance company that is practically the only option in Monroe County.

"The one priority we all have is for wind insurance; that's what we are going to focus on, because that affects everybody," Mayor Craig Cates said.

Commissioner Clayton Lopez would like the city's lobbyists to be on the lookout for money to complete or pay for programs like those involved with the Truman Waterfront, as well as for affordable housing opportunities and potential employment.

""If we can get movement on one of these, it becomes easier to connect the dots as to how the other wish list items would be accomplished," Lopez said. "Training for the currently unemployable, or prepping those in dead-end jobs for advancement in their fields. Our city streets would be cleaner, illegal activity might not be eradicated, but could be drastically reduced."

Attorney Ed Scales coordinates or performs much of the city's lobbying efforts in Tallahassee as well as in Washington, D.C.

Less critical issues the city's government has asked the state to address include last year's commissioning of the Schooner Western Union as the official Florida flagship.

And then there are the more directly local issues, like the Sunrise Canal.

Commissioner Billy Wardlow said requests for the project, which has not been included in the city's own budget, have been in the legislative funding pipeline for years, but that so far no help has emerged.

"We were turned down for a grant last year," Wardlow said. "This year I would like to see our lobbyists work on that, to get that cleaned up ... . The seaweed backs up in there and the fresh water can't flow. Silt and debris builds up over the years and it needs cleaning. It would cost about $75,000 to do this project. It's not a big project, but it needs to be done. It's polluting the area."

Meetings at Vitas' office are expected to continue through Tuesday morning as more priorities are discussed.

Bigger-picture issues such as insurance and road projects will command a lot of attention at Tuesday's meeting, but heed will be paid to the more local issues, Cates said.

"Mostly I'm going to listen to what people say the priorities should be."

jdesantis@keysnews.com

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