Clean up still continues from Hurricane Ian, but business keeps going in Key West

As the city keeps working on damages from Hurricane Ian, in some respects, business as usual continues.

Sam Kaufman, Key West City Commissioner for District II, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM to talk about what’s been going on in the city.

FEMA individual assistance from Hurricane Ian has been granted for the citizens of Key West.

Kaufman said, “We’re very thankful that our federal and state officials made that change.”

Small Business Association loans have been available since the storm.

District II covers from Searstown to the house boats.

Kaufman said, “Most of the damage on this side of the island was in the water, by the mooring fields.”

Fourteen vessels broke away from the mooring balls.

It took a while to get the general shelter open.  

Kaufman said, “Every storm we learn from. Every storm is different and this one because of the forecast and the predictions was changing quickly. It was clear that as the storm was moving east that there would be flooding and there would be stronger winds and that our boats, our service workers, our families that live aboard vessels, our low-lying homes that were threatened with flood would need a shelter.”

The city manager’s office requested that the shelter be opened.

Kaufman said, “The initial reaction from the county was not to open a shelter, which most of us believed was a poor decision and not the correct decision. My view is that once the city manager, who is in charge of managing our city, makes the request that the shelter be open, that it should be open and that delay could harm people. That’s not okay. We need to correct that in the future.”

The Key West Housing Authority did have some damaged units, but the city stepped up to fix them.

Kaufman said, “Our community is a strong one. When folks in these dwellings, in their houses, cannot use their kitchens for long periods of time, we have to pull together and so the city coordinated with non-profits. All accounts are the housing authority has been doing a really good job in replacing kitchen appliances and making the units habitable. I believe all of them are now. Kudos to the housing authority for taking the quick action.”

The next Key West City Commissioners meeting will talk about the 3.2 acre site on Fort Street in the Bahama Village.

Kaufman said, “The particular item concerns the purchased homes. There are 28 homes that are going to be built and in order to lower the price for affordable housing, to make it affordable for families, there is a subsidy that is being considered to be paid from land authority funds. It is an important item. It’s unfortunate that we need to spend this money, but I don’t think we have any choice as a city to make sure that these homes are truly affordable.”

City staff are still working on the short-term vacation rental ordinance and will likely have something to present by December.

The city is also in search for a City Manager for when Patti McLauchlin retires.

Kaufman said, “I think it’s going very well. The city hired a consultant to guide the city through the process. The search committee has been meeting. The job announcement I believe is going to be made either this week or next week. It’s very soon.”

The city has been looking at Admiral’s Cut between Mallory Square and Truman Waterfront Park for years.

Kaufman said, “On the agenda is the first step for the city to consider moving forward with eminent domain to build a footbridge over the Admiral’s Cut to connect the Truman Waterfront Park and Mallory Square.”

The City Commissioners will meet on October 19 in City Hall.