Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
City manager, commission hammer out wish list
Officials set funding priorities for city

More surveillance cameras on local streets, money for the proposed Truman Waterfront park and pier upgrades are among the projects Key West officials want to see supported by federal and state dollars.

City Manager Bob Vitas on Monday presented the city's preliminary legislative wish list to commissioners. The list was drafted after several weeks of discussions with city department heads and individual meetings with commissioners.

The workshop Monday evening gave commissioners and city staff an opportunity to discuss the list in detail. It will be up to the city's state and federal lobbyists to get the attention of lawmakers in Tallahassee and Washington to help implement some of the city's stated desires.

"These items represent our final foray, about 10 items that we have identified," Vitas said.

Among the items commissioners and staff discussed:

• Federal help for a water quality improvement program.

• Additional U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel to aid in cruise ship arrivals

• State money to help fund construction of a new City Hall planned for the historic Glynn Archer Elementary School.

• Storm water management money from the state

• Re-nourishment of Rest and Smathers beaches.

Commissioners also brought up other suggestions.

Commissioner Tony Yaniz said he would like to see a state law allowing the Keys to make special use of the so-called "bed tax" for cleanliness of tourist areas and other projects that might be a benefit.

Attorney Ed Scales, a former city commissioners who also does lobbying work for the city, told commissioners that it would be possible to exploit Key West's designation as an "Area of Critical Concern" to increase the potential for a change in how that bed tax is spent.

Paid by hotel guests, the money is largely dedicated to the promotion of the area as a tourism destination.

"Using the bed tax for anything other than promotion, it raises the eyebrows of some folks and hair on the back of the neck," Scales said. "I would certainly suggest that some legislation be geared toward areas of critical state concern, and specific uses, such as job creation."

Commissioner Jimmy Weekley agreed that use of the bed tax might be appropriate for some activities in the Keys.

"Beautification, cleanliness and public safety," Weekley said. "There would be some job creation opportunities there."

The desire for money relating to surveillance cameras stems from the Key West police department's desire to cover the entire city with a wireless network and video surveillance within the next five years. Phase I of the program calls for installation of 25 cameras, at a total cost of $850,000. By 2014, the record reads, the city is expected to have 60 cameras.

"The cameras will be placed in various areas of the city to assist with monitoring and responding to criminal activity," the statement regarding the program reads, noting that the city has already been funded for 25 cameras. "Using the new system the police department will be able to cover more ground with the same amount of officers."

jdesantis@keysnews.com

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