Do not miss the service for fallen law enforcement officers today at Bayview Park

Jim Scholl, Monroe County Commissioner for District 3, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the county.

A service for law enforcement officers who have fallen in the line of duty will be held today at 5 p.m. at Bayview Park.

Scholl said, “That’s an annual recognition for those first responders who certainly deserve our remembrance and our respect for what they’ve done.”

The trash removal service discussion at the commissioner’s meeting this week brought some public comment.

Scholl said, “The cost of everything is going up for a lot of reasons in our economy. But the issue there is we have a contract and it’s currently with Waste Management Corporation and they do a very good job nationwide, but certainly throughout the keys, but their costs have gone up like all of us and what we need to do and our solid waste coordinator for the county is still working on trying to decide if there’s going to be some amendments going forward, that would provide opportunities to reduce costs. But right now there’s too much uncertainty. We just don’t know what the final details will be. So because we have to establish a maximum rate that could be charged to the customers at this time, and the contract will go into effect until October, there’s a lot of uncertainty as to what the outcome will be. The original staff recommendation was 10%, but that probably wouldn’t have covered even the increase in costs that we already know. So the commission voted for a 20% maximum and that’s just for the truth in millage requirement that we have to put out and for those types of services, we can always lower that, but we can’t raise it once we approve a tentative rate. So I don’t expect it will be 20%, but there’s a lot of time between now and when the contract would renew and if we artificially set a low rate that we now couldn’t meet, then the additional costs would come out of our working reserves within the county. So at least that gives us the opportunity to have a fair rate to cover all the expenses should it be more than 10%. So we still don’t know what it’s going to be but at least we have the opportunity to make sure that we’re not caught off guard with unforeseen cost increases at the time that contract is approved.”

Tourist Development Council funds are being sought by the Board of County Commissioners for affordable housing. Assuming the governor approves that move, which had legislative approval, Monroe County will get $35 million for affordable housing.

Scholl said, “That went through the legislature this session, and we’re waiting on the governor to sign that particular bill. But because it is a state statute that created the Tourist Development Councils, they didn’t contemplate using the tax funds, those tourist tax funds for housing at that time. So that that was the legislative change that went through to say yes, for Monroe County, they could do this one time use of funds. So I think it’s important to understand, though, the hospitality industry, our whole tourism industry down here, relies on its workforce, the employees that provide those services, so it certainly makes sense to be able to invest those tourist tax dollars, that increment that goes to the Tourist Development Council, to use that for housing, because that is what helps keep the tourist industry going as the employees. So again, we’re awaiting the approval, and then we’ll go through the process to determine which projects we will fund and have those earmarked for tourism employees.”

The County Commission did approve the purchase of 28 affordable housing units in Key Largo.

Scholl said, “We’ve been fortunate to find developer partners that will work with the county and different county elements, whether it’s the school district or the county itself, or Habitat for Humanity, there’s a lot of opportunities to build new housing, and have it be able to be deed restricted, workforce affordable going forward in perpetuity, essentially, because of the type of partnerships that will make these things happen. So we’ve been very fortunate, and I think we’ll have plenty of opportunities to properly invest the TDC funds that will be earmarked for housing.”

Two meetings yesterday talked about the replacement of the Seven Mile Bridge.

Scholl said one meeting was “for public officials and one for the public at large for the Florida Department of Transportation’s project for the replacement of the Seven Mile Bridge. That certainly is an important component of US 1 here in the Keys and certainly a critical element of our evacuation plan for hurricane evacuation. So I made a comment yesterday because they said their initial planning and looking for alternatives would be for a two lane road. I asked him if they would consider four lanes or at least three lanes, one lane in and two lanes out just to help facilitate the flow of traffic, should an evacuation be necessary. The rest of the US 1 has elements that could be improved to improve traffic flow all the time. So it’s an important element and it’s going to be years before that gets approved and going, but something that everybody needs to pay attention to.”

Graduations for high schools in the Keys are underway.

Scholl said, “I would say congratulations to all the high school students that are going to graduate this year. I think it’s the final week of school for the school year and in June, we will not have a county commission meeting in June. So our next meeting will be in July. But everybody again, congratulations to the graduates and we look forward to all of them having a great future with the foundation that they’ve gotten here in the Florida Keys.”