August 14, 2019

Islamorada, Village of Islands
Islamorada staff is looking at a possible relocation of the Indian Key Fill boat launch since the current dirt ramp is in poor condition and potentially hazardous.

Islamorada, Village of Islands Islamorada staff is looking at a possible relocation of the Indian Key Fill boat launch since the current dirt ramp is in poor condition and potentially hazardous.

ISLAMORADA — Day-trippers may one day be greeted by parking meters at the sharply reduced parking spots at the Indian Key Fill area and at Anne’s Beach park when it reopens.

Money raised by meters could go toward permanent improvements and paying staff to maintain and oversee the popular spots, Islamorada Village Council members said at a regular meeting Aug. 8.

“Key West has a great model that allows residents to use a [parking] card and collect fees on everybody else,” Vice Mayor Mike Forster said.

“Do it with other people’s money, not taxpayers of Islamorada,” Councilman Ken Davis said.

No vote was taken on the proposal but costs incurred by Islamorada during this summer’s effort to oversee and manage weekend use at “the Fills,” the scenic waterfront stretch between mile markers 77.5 and 79.8 that links Upper Matecumbe Key to Lower Matecumbe, was discussed Aug. 8 and at an Aug. 5 budget workshop.

Council members commended village staffers and department leaders for their work in implementing the revamped visitation limits at the Fills. The property along along U.S. 1 is owned by the state but a lack of regular enforcement by state agencies on excessive littering and environmental damage pushed Islamorada leaders to negotiate for more authority to set limits on parking and use.

“It happened at warp speed, the way it came together. The difference is night and day,” Councilman Jim Mooney said. “You guys really pulled it together in minutes.”

Village Manager Seth Lawless credited Public Works Director A.J. Engelmeyer for designing the new parking plan and staff “from every department” for agreeing to overtime weekend work at the Fills.

Future costs of managing the Fills on weekends with part-time employees and trash collection could exceed $150,000 annually, Lawless said at the budget review.

Islamorada staff also is looking at a possible relocation of the Indian Key Fill boat launch since the current dirt ramp is in poor condition and potentially hazardous.

In other topics at the Aug. 8 meeting:

• The village tentatively agreed to raise annual cost of residential trash collection costs to $455.65 per unit, a hike of $29.85.

Council members said keeping the cost at the current $425.80 would require a transfer of $123,800 from the village’s general fund, which could increase property taxes.

Davis fumed that Advanced Disposal, the current waste contractor, has “failed miserably. They do not respond to requests from residents. … I have noted deficiencies time and time again.”

Advanced Disposal in April agreed to a nationwide $4.8 billion buyout by Waste Management. The switchover is undergoing regulatory review.

• Council members reluctantly approved an $8,500 payout to an out-of-county resident who filed suit against dozens of government agencies over possible violations of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Juan Carlos Gil, who is legally blind, and his attorneys claimed Islamorada’s website lacks access for the visually impaired. The settlement, while distasteful, would be far less expensive than fighting the lawsuit, council members acknowledged.

“There are no regulations on this,” Mooney said. “With no regulations, there is no way to know if we’re in compliance.”

“The laws have not done good at keeping pace,” Village Attorney Roget Bryan said. “A lot of local governments are struggling to keep up with it.”

kwadlow@keysnews.com