KEY WEST, FL – The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners selected David Rice to become the County’s new mayor on Tuesday at the Commission meeting at the Harvey Government Center in Key West. For the past year Rice served as Mayor Pro Tem.
Rice took over for George Neugent, whose one-year term as Mayor expired. Neugent enters his 20th year serving on the County Commission.
“Thank you for your service the past couple months that have been challenging beyond anyone’s imagination,” Monroe County Commissioner Heather Carruthers said. “People don’t see all the work you did personally. I really have to thank you for your commitment to the community.”
The sentiments were echoed by Neugent’s fellow commissioners Rice, Sylvia Murphy and Danny Kolhage.
“This Commission has benefitted greatly from your experience, especially in this last year,” Kolhage added. “You’ve set the bar and we have a standard now to live up to for whoever is the mayor during an emergency, such as the one we just went through. We owe you a great debt.”
The Commission also selected Sylvia Murphy as the new Mayor Pro Tem.
Here are some highlights from the BOCC meeting:
Yard Waste Processing Services
The County entered into a contract with Brownie Companies to process yard waste at a rate of $64.75 per ton, which will save taxpayers about $450,000 per year. The County currently is paying $79.50 per ton.
Processing yard waste involves taking it from the County transfer stations to the mainland, where it is turned into mulch or compost. Brownie Companies’ proposal maintains the County’s recycling rate of 100 percent.
Brownie Companies currently is the subcontractor for yard waste processing services, which will make for a seamless transition.
Update of Marine Debris and Derelict Boat Removal in Canal Waters
Due to lack of resources, Monroe County requested that the state Department of Environmental Protection lead and conduct the removal of hurricane marine debris and derelict vessels in canals.
The County is close to entering into a mutual aid agreement with DEP and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for the removal of hurricane marine debris and derelict vessels in canals in unincorporated Monroe County. At this time, plugged canals are not included, but the County is working to address debris removal in them at a later time.
Each of the Keys five municipalities also may enter into their own agreements with DEP and FWC for hurricane marine debris and derelict vessels removal in canals. The County has laid the groundwork for the municipalities to participate in the same process. Each municipality needs to enact an ordinance allowing the debris removal from canals, similar to the one the County approved in September.
The County’s current hurricane land debris removal contractor DRC Emergency Services will perform the work, under a contract with the State. Once the mutual aid agreement is reached, which is expected to be soon, DRC can start the hurricane marine debris removal within 72 hours.
DEP will pay for the marine debris removal and FWC will pay for the derelict boat removal. Both will seek reimbursement from FEMA. Monroe County is not required to provide any payment.
Lease for use of former Big Pine Key Road Prison
The BOCC ratified a lease with the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund of the State of Florida for use of the former Big Pine Key Road Prison for hurricane recovery operations, which could include the placement of FEMA trailers.
FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers are evaluating the 11-acre site for use as a site to place FEMA trailers for people displaced by Hurricane Irma. The site evaluation will review floodplain regulations, historic resources and vegetation, as well as provide a cost analysis for the installation of above ground utilities. FEMA also is reviewing the amount of need in Big Pine Key for FEMA trailers.
3rd Quarter Employee Service Award
Michael Basham, Monroe County’s Supervisor of Solid Waste and Recycling, was presented the 3rd Quarter Employee Service Award for rescuing a woman from a truck she had driven into the water at the Blimp Road boat launch.
Before reporting to work one morning, Basham noticed the truck and notified the Monroe County Sheriff’s office of the situation. He waded out to the truck and brought the woman safely back to shore, He remained on site until law enforcement arrived to secure the scene.
Protecting the Endangered Key Deer
During a “Sounding Board” segment at the BOCC meeting, members of “Save Our Key Deer” expressed their concern about the recent deaths of Key Deer due to downed fencing from Hurricane Irma and asked for the support of Monroe County. The fencing along U.S. 1 is the responsibility of the Florida Department of Transportation.
Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi sent an email to FDOT Secretary of District 6 Jim Wolfe requesting FDOT address the immediate need to replace the fencing and the Key Deer warning signs.
Wolfe responded: “We are aware of the urgency of replacing the fencing and the Key Deer warning signs. Staff is preparing a status report for me which we will share with you.”