Florida Keys News - Florida Keys Free Press
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Affordable housing, new fire equipment among 2017 goals

KEY LARGO — Key Largo leaders say their punch lists for 2017 include moving forward with affordable housing, securing safety equipment and filling an open board seat, among other matters.

Traffic on U.S. 1, which has been slow going through Key Largo and Islamorada due to tourism, accidents and gaper delays, also has their attention. 

“We are either being loved to death or ignored,” Monroe County Commissioner Sylvia Murphy said regarding the recent traffic and added that “it will take a miracle” to get it resolved. 

She remained hopeful that it will soon dissipate, since her main goal for the year is workforce housing. 

“We have to finish what we started with the Affordable Housing Committee, and try to get the Plantation Key courthouse figured out,” she said in reference to the planned renovation of county offices at mile marker 88.7, bayside. “Little by little and month-to-month, we are just trying to make the county a better place.” 

State Rep. Holly Raschein, R-Key Largo, agreed that meeting the housing needs of workers is critical.

“We would be remiss if we don’t address affordable workforce housing, or rather, the lack of it,” she said. 

Raschein said her focus will be trained on allocating funds from the Florida Keys Stewardship Act. The bill allocates $5 million annually within the Florida Keys for a term of 10 years to enhance critical water quality and water supply projects as well as land acquisition. 

Key Largo Wastewater Treatment District Commissioner David Asdourian said he’d like to see progress on water reuse in 2017.

“It’s the wave of the future,” he said. “Instead of the water being pumped back into the deep injection well, we should reuse it.” 

But that, of course, is secondary to filling the sewer board seat left vacant by the recent death of Norm Higgins. The board must agree to a replacement within 60 days of Higgins’ passing.

Fellow Commissioner Andy Tobin agreed that filling the vacancy is a top priority, but added that “repairs and maintenance” will also be key issues.

Tobin said he would like to continue seeking grant monies to pay down the district’s $45 million debt. 

Key Largo Volunteer Fire Rescue & Emergency Medical Services Commissioner Bob Thomas said 15 more fire hydrants are to be installed his year. He added that the district hopes “to capture some of the one-cent sales tax that we pay to fund a new fire engine. It needs to be upgraded.” 

Thomas said he also expects to focus more on job training and recruiting county residents into the fire department.

Employee training, recruitment and retention were also on the list for fellow Commissioner Tony Allen. He said he’d like to further develop the cadet program and teach fire prevention in Key Largo schools and within the community. He also said he’d like to see AED and CPR training for county residents. 

“We need to finalize the interlocal agreement [with the county] for impact fees, installing hydrants and identifying hydrants for Phase 6,” he added. “We need a new fire engine for Station 25. We also need to renew and modify the five-year capital improvement plan. We plan to purchase 13 sets of bunker gear for firefighters and Hurst equipment for [vehicle] extrications.” 

Commissioner Dan Powers, who was elected to the district board in November, said, “I’m still just getting my feet wet. I just want to focus on making sure that we are providing the best services for the community. I’m going to make sure our money is being spent wisely.” 

David Hartman, a Key Largo Chamber of Commerce board member, says that organization has plans for a busier year.

“Our primary focus is to increase membership and our visitor center foot traffic by creating more interactive exhibits,” he said. 

The chamber board plans to leverage its involvement in community events, such as the 15th anniversary of the Spiegel Grove artificial reef, which is in May.

Fellow board member Roberto Alonso said, “I look forward to working hard in supporting the vision and the mission of my fellow directors under the inspired leadership of our chairperson, Julie Marshall. Our shared goal is to bring about a more comprehensive and effective value proposition to all our members, and as a board, we will be laser focused on commerce, community and conservation.”

tjava@keysnews.com

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