September 12, 2018

The median between U.S. 1 and Old Highway near mile marker 83 on Upper Matecumbe Key will get $22,000 in new landscaping.

KEVIN WADLOW/Free Press The median between U.S. 1 and Old Highway near mile marker 83 on Upper Matecumbe Key will get $22,000 in new landscaping.

ISLAMORADA — Fans of a Lower Matecumbe Key oceanfront park, closed for more than a year due to Hurricane Irma damage, heard good news Sept. 6.

A $1.49 million bid to make repairs at Anne’s Beach at mile marker 73.5 was approved unanimously by the Islamorada Village Council.

“So we can expect to see groundbreaking in a couple of weeks?” joked Vice Mayor Deb Gillis. “We’ve been asking for months and months.”

The actual timeline remains contingent on approval of a final contract and permitting. The bid calls for about half of the 1,270-foot boardwalk to be finished by mid-November.

Island Villa Construction, an Islamorada general contractor, submitted the lowest bid to rebuild the boardwalk, six pavilions and two parking lots, and was ranked first by an Islamorada review committee.

OAC Action, a Miami firm, submitted the second-ranked bid at $1.65 million. Three other companies all submitted bids of more than $2 million.

A request for bids earlier this year drew several offers that came in below estimates. However, all those bids were thrown out when a review discovered not one actually satisfied contract requirements.

Canopy work

A Maryland company emerged as the top-ranked bidder to replace the canopy at the Founders Park amphitheater, another victim of Hurricane Irma.

Tensile Structures Systems submitted the low bid of $119,000 to manufacture and install 1,400 square feet of white PVC membrane, and a 12-by-65-foot white canopy, for the outdoor performance facility.

No completion date was available, pending final contract talks.

Old Highway


A $22,000 plan to landscape the median between U.S. 1 and the intersection with the Old Highway near mile marker 83.3 sparked a mild debate among council members over native plant selection.

“Some of these plants grow kind of slow,” said Mayor Chris Sante, referring to the project intent to limit noise and commercial-light intrusion affecting Old Highway residents living near the recently completed Publix market.

“I don’t think we’re accomplishing what we want it to do,” agreed Councilman Jim Mooney.

The design for the plantings was drafted by Public Works and tweaked by Islamorada’s Landscape Advisory Committee.

“I’m not going to complain, but it might be made better,” said David Makepeace, a resident of the affected area. “Lignumvitae [trees] grow at glacial speed.”

Mooney said he prefers green buttonwoods over the recommended silver buttonwoods, which he described as more costly, slower to grow and have branches that “snap easily” in storms.

Board members also questioned whether some fast-growing hedge plantings may require frequent trimming.

Public Works Director A.J. Engelmeyer agreed to review the plan. The $22,000 expense was approved.

Code fine waived

Islamorada council members agreed to drop a $6,750 code compliance fine for a vacant lot at mile marker 75.6.

The site became overgrown with exotic and native vegetation after being flooded with several feet of water in Hurricane Irma, said representatives of the out-of-county owner, the Keith and Jeanette Halperin Estate.

The property also turned into an unapproved dumping ground for debris from nearby areas, they contended. The lot has since been cleared, with exotic plants removed.

Council members said code compliance officers may have been overly aggressive in the wake of the hurricane.

“People were still in a daze,” Mooney said.

Pickleball plan

Carolyn Wightman, chair of Islamorada’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, outlined plans to resurface the existing pickleball court at Founders Park and mark the nearby basketball court to create two new courts for the tennis-like sport.

No commissioners objected to the proposal.

As decribed, temporary nets and netting would be used to allow pickleball in the morning hours with the lighted court being available for afternoon and night basketball.

Garbage fees rise

A rate of $425.80 for annual garbage collection at Islamorada’s estimated 4,300 residential dwellings will appear on property tax bills for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The rate is $17.45 higher this year due to increased dumping fees charged by mainland landfills, staff said.

No residents or council members protested the hike. Commercial garbage rates are reviewed separately.