Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Monroe county takes $1.1M loss

The Monroe County Commission on Wednesday finally accepted an offer for the Hickory House property on Stock Island, but it is $1.1 million less than what it purchased it for in 2006.

County legal staff and the buyer's attorneys still have to complete the paperwork on the deal before it is final.

The commission's $3.1 million purchase of the Hickory House has been an embarrassment for the county for years, and one of the main reasons county commissioners Mario De Gennaro, Dixie Spehar and Sonny McCoy were voted out of office following the purchase. They were the three commissioners who supported the purchase.

Commissioner David Rice has long said that the only day the property was worth $3.1 million was on the day the commission purchased it.

Commissioners joked on Wednesday about popping a bottle of champagne, as the commission has put the property out to bid six times but never received an acceptable proposal to lease or purchase the waterfront property.

"There is nothing to celebrate," Commissioner Heather Carruthers said.

The commission accepted developer Pritam Singh's offer to purchase the old Hickory House restaurant property and docks for $2 million.

"To get $2 million for that fiasco is a great recovery," Commissioner George Neugent said.

Singh plans to use the dilapidated property to expand the footprint of the neighboring Oceanside Marina, which he purchased last summer for $5 million. Singh proposes to place a large pool and tiki bar on the site, and operate water sports activities, such as kayak and personal watercraft rentals, from the docks.

The docks would also be used to pick up people and transport them aboard a water-shuttle service Singh plans to operate. The water shuttle would take marina guests to bars and restaurants along Safe Harbor in Stock Island, and to Key West.

The county put the property back out to bid in March, and Singh was the only one to submit a bid. His bid has been the most generous offer the county has received in the half dozen times it has put the property out to bid.

Commissioner Danny Kolhage, who did vote in favor of the $2 million sale, had asked county staff to research whether it would be feasible for the county to keep the Hickory House property and place a new boat ramp there. The boat ramp would cost $500,000, adding more county tax dollars atop the $3.1 million purchase, Project Management Division Director Kevin Wilson said.

"We would have the most expensive boat ramp in Florida," County Mayor Sylvia Murphy said.

Kolhage said several Stock Island residents recently asked him to look into the boat ramp idea because they were concerned about the loss of boat ramps and public access to the water on the island.

tohara@keysnews.com

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