2024 will be a busy time for Monroe County

Craig Cates, District I Commissioner of Monroe County, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been happening in the county.

The hurricane evacuation model will be a big discussion in 2024.

Cates said, “We have to come up with the direction the county would want to go. We have to weigh a lot of issues here. Much less the impact of all the new building and possible new building in the Keys, impact on the infrastructure, which we all know is strained right now, and can be improved, but that will take time, for sure. Impact on the environment, which is a huge part of it, that’s why we our area critical concern, and the safety of our residents and evacuations. A quick strengthening storm, the impact that that can have that we thought was going to be minor and we experienced that with Ian already a couple years ago and in the storm we had just last year that was supposed to be 40 miles an hour winds and we had gusts to 95. It’s very important.

Inclusion of Key West in the hurricane evacuation was also a discussion.

Cates explained, “That’s basically because there was two different statutes that govern the Florida Keys evacuation and the city of Key West evacuation because it was the first one to have the mandatory evacuation in 24 hours. So now they’re working together, but they absolutely have to be counted together because Key West will be the first ones to start moving because they have the furthest distance to go. They will start sooner and then the Upper Keys has a tendency to start lower. But as we all know, the evacuation model is to get to Dade County and Florida City, but what about the backup there, as we saw, in Irma, the backup all the way up through the state. So it’s very important, we have to understand the impact of that. But also the possible impact on the Keys for takings cases, if we stopped the building, and that could possibly cost the taxpayers a lot of money and the state kind of passed that on to us now because they said we can change the model and have all 8,000 permits that will be needed for every lot that’s vacant in Monroe County, which we know that would be a huge impact on many things, as we just discussed. So we’ve got to understand that, how do we balance those two and keep the public safe?”

The possibility of becoming a charter government is another discussion piece.

Cates said, “The charter government would be able to have a surtax for infrastructure. The elevating the roads is primarily what we need that funding for. Obviously, the debates through the year, at the commission level, there’s quite a few roads that need to be addressed. We did a study on all the roads in elevations of every county road in Monroe County, and I believe we have like 360 miles of county roads in Monroe County, and we can prioritize the ones that need elevation the soonest, but many of them will need to be elevated eventually. So we have to have a funding source to be able to address that. We’ll be obviously applying for grants from federal and state governments. But as that sea level rise affects many communities in Florida, so every one every one of these coastal communities are having some impact, and will be asking for grants, also. So that being said, we’ve got to also make our own path and come up with a funding line to support that, as we address our concerns and issues.”

Open communication and transparency will be key in 2024.

Cates said, “I applaud my fellow Commissioners for their concern and sincere concern for the community and our lifestyle and the safety of our residents and their property values. So they will be working very hard as myself this coming year, all the staff at the county that’s addressing these issues. We have an open door policy. Any of the commissioners all have an open door policy that we want to hear your concerns, your ideas, as we will have workshops through this year to address this. When we get all the information the residents need to make the informed decision, a decision as important as this, I would like to see it go to the voters and in the general election in November. So whether it’s a binding and non binding to help us give a direction as we move forward. It’s going to impact everyone, so it’s important that everyone has a voice.”