Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Thursday, November 7, 2013
City to talk KOTS shelter locations

City commissioners will begin scouting out a new location for its overnight homeless shelter at a public workshop set for Wednesday, Dec. 18 at Old City Hall.

The 6 p.m. workshop was scheduled by the commission at its meeting Wednesday and it marks the first step Key West is taking to relocate the Keys Overnight Temporary Shelter (KOTS) in order to settle a 2011 lawsuit by condo owners who live next-door.

City Manager Bob Vitas was directed by the panel Wednesday to compile a list of possible sites for the shelter, which the city has operated on county-owned land used by the Sheriff's Office for nearly a decade.

"I've said all along, this is a county problem," said Commissioner Mark Rossi. "Make sure you've got Monroe County property on there."

Commissioner Tony Yaniz asked if this was a repetitive exercise for the city.

"I just want to make sure that we're not replicating work that's been done ad nauseam," Yaniz said. "We're looking for a site. Did we not explore all the sites?"

Commissioners Jimmy Weekley and Teri Johnston confirmed that the city hasn't yet done a site selection for a homeless shelter.

"We did a site selection before for a location for City Hall," Johnston said.

Sunset Marina owners demanded the courts shut down KOTS over how hastily the city built it in 2004. The city fought the suit but in September hashed out a settlement to the slow-moving case, one that hinges on Key West eventually moving KOTS somewhere else.

The city has about three years to make the relocation of KOTS happen. Sunset Marina has the option of refilling the legal action if the settlement deal doesn't go through.

Also on Wednesday the commission:

• Ratified the city manager's "emergency declaration" to spend $77,466 on two portable restroom trailers, one for the Frederick Douglass Gym in Bahama Village and the other at the Police Athletic League's gyms at Truman Annex.

City staff bought the two trailers during the last week of September. The city manager may make purchases of up to $20,000 without the commission's approval. But Vitas cited state code related to health and safety.

Margaret Romero, who has tried twice to unseat Mayor Craig Cates, told the panel Wednesday that the restrooms have been badly needed for at least two years yet this purchase became an "emergency."

"Why wasn't this brought up at the Sept. 17 meeting?" Romero asked, during her three-minute comment time. "Why aren't we following proper procedures?"

Commissioner approved the purchase without comment, 7-0.

• Learned that the newly created assistant city attorney position has attracted some 60 applications since it was first announced about 1 ¬½ weeks ago.

"We continue to accept applications," City Attorney Shawn Smith said.

• Showed blanket support to place a Diana Nyad monument at Smathers Beach to honor the world record-setting open swim from Cuba to Key West that Nyad accomplished in her fifth and final attempt this summer.

"Worldwide recognition, national recognition, state and city recognition; something needs to be done," said City Manager Bob Vitas. "Something to recognize the historical significance of that event for generations to see."

Vitas asked the Art in Public Places committee to start work on a monument plan.

Michael Shields, the committee's chairman, appeared Wednesday night to acknowledge the movement afoot.

"This was as significant an event as I've seen in 20 years in Key West," said Shields, whose committee has suggested launching an international design contest for the monument.

Commissioner Yaniz compared Nyad to baseball heroes Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and Cal Ripkin while Shields says the swim champ's Key West landing is in the same league as aviator Charles Lindbergh.

But Commissioner Clayton Lopez asked that the city not forget about the plan to build a statue to honor Bishop Albert Kee, an idea that has been on the shelf since 2007.

Kee, a pastor and man about town known for his Conch salad at Goombay and his seashell selling business at the Southernmost Point, died in 2003.

Margaret Romero blasted the Nyad monument plan as overkill and overlooks the longtime plan to pay tribute to Kee.

"What about the one for Mr. Kee; that needs to come first," Romero said, adding that Key West locals deserve such recognition before Nyad. "I don't think we need something for Diana Nyad. Yes she persevered. But how about the people who died in the powerboat crashes or people who die in car accidents?"

gfilosa@keysnews.com

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