Key West Mayor Craig Cates provided his annual "State of the City" update Wednesday at the Key West Chamber of Commerce monthly membership luncheon.
Cates offered a rundown of ongoing and upcoming projects and expenditures within the city limits.
Cleanliness has become a priority, he said.
"We've divided the city into five different zones for regular cleaning," he told the chamber crowd at the Casa Marina Resort.
Obviously some areas will need more frequent attention than others, so the city will keep an eye on those areas and schedule additional cleaning when needed, he added. The mayor also discussed police and public safety issues that include the purchase of 22 new patrol cars and the sponsorship of seven new police academy cadets who will become sworn officers patrolling the city streets.
Keeping those officers here in Key West is a continuing challenge.
"By the time we get an officer through the academy, trained and on the street, we've got about $80,000 invested, so it's important that we try to keep them here working," Cates said, commending the city's drop in crime.
"We're a very safe city," he said, especially considering the size of the police force to keep safe residents as well as the estimated 2.6 to 3 million visitors that descend on the island every year.
Another safety improvement has been the installation of surveillance cameras on all city buses. The cameras show the interior and immediate exterior surroundings.
"We've also gotten a $6.8 million grant to be spent over the next three years to get new buses that will include some hybrids," Cates said.
Upcoming issues include negotiations for the city's continuing use of the Navy-owned Outer Mole pier for cruise ship docking.
"I think we'll be able to negotiate a contract for the Outer Mole," the mayor said.
The city has put the garbage collection contract out for bid.
The contract for Waste Management, which has collected the city's residential and commercial garbage and recycling for 12 years, ends in 2014. City officials are in the process of assembling a request for proposals from interested companies, but the review and selection process remains more than a year away.
"It was a difficult decision, because we all know Greg Sullivan of Waste Management," Cates said, gesturing to Waste Management's senior regional director who was at the luncheon and is a board member of the chamber. "But like I always say, business is business."
Cates also touched on the conversion of Glynn Archer Elementary School into a new City Hall, a project he has long supported over the construction of a new facility on Angela Street to replace that now-vacant City Hall.
"We've submitted a request for qualifications from architects, and hopefully we'll be able to start demolition work shortly after we officially get the building from the School District in June," he said, moving on to the 15-year-old topic of Truman Waterfront.
"We've approved a conceptual design and are currently deciding what phases we can do it in," Cates said of the 33-acre parcel the Navy gave to the city over a decade ago.
He explained the city currently has $5 million set aside for Truman Waterfront improvements.
"The commission also agreed to set aside $2 million per year for the next two years, so that will give us $9 million for the waterfront, plus we'll get reimbursement from the [Tourist Development Council]."
Virginia Panico, executive vice president of the chamber, reminded Cates that many of the people in the audience had attended countless meetings about the Truman Waterfront over the past 15 years.
"The original economic development agreement stated that there had to be an economic component to the waterfront so the taxpayers weren't burdened," Panico said. "Is the marina going to happen?"
Cates said the military has some outstanding questions about a privately owned marina at Truman Waterfront.
The marina component remains to be seen, but Cates emphasized that the waterfront plans do include an amphitheater as a revenue-generating component.
He also spoke of his support for a 24-hour homeless center on Stock Island.
"If we can invest in a homeless center, it will save the taxpayers a lot of a money" currently spent for jail and community services to care for the island's homeless.