It’s a busy time for project management in Monroe County

July 20 — When it comes to new construction in they Keys, the Project Management Department certainly remains quite active. 

Cary Knight, Monroe County Project Management Coordinator, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to discuss the projects in the county. 

It’s a busy summer in Monroe County with a variety of undertakings. 

Knight said, “We love it busy. We really see these things as a wonderful opportunity. Project management isn’t for everybody. It’s something new every day and you really have to not see them as problems and see them as opportunities to make a difference and opportunities to fix something. We really kind of follow that mindset.” 

A number of big projects were completed in the last 12 to 18 months, including the Plantation Key courthouse, the detention center, the Marathon branch library and the Cudjoe fire station. 

Knight said, “None of these projects are without issues. We’ve got some growing pains into PK Courthouse where we’re fixing some AC that didn’t quite work as designed, but that’s just par for the course. That’s bound to happen as any time you put something in new.” 

Rouse Waterfront Park will have a ribbon cutting in September. 

Pine Channel Nature Park will likely have a ribbon cutting in late August. Locals call it the Swimming Hole, but at the last Board of County Commissioners meeting it was decided to formally adopt the name Pine Channel Nature Park. 

Knight explained, “The nature part of that name and the fact that it’s access to nature, by definition allows it the ability to apply for TDC (Tourist Development Council) funds. A lot of people don’t understand the brick and mortar portion of TDC funds and we actually go after a considerable amount of money for TDC and that really helps us with some of our historic properties, museums, and then beach front or nature center type parks — it also qualifies for that.” 

One of the biggest projects is the Emergency Operations Center. 

Knight said, “We don’t have and we’ve never had a dedicated, fully functional Emergency Operations Center.” 

The Hazardous Mitigation Grant had to be done in two phases. The first phase was design. The design had to be reviewed and approved by FEMA. 

FEMA approval came last month and the grant agreement for phase two was also received. 

Knight said, “With that state appropriations that we received a couple years ago, the FDOT funding, we have $31 million in funding for that building.”

The grant agreement will be discussed at today’s Board of County Commissioners meeting. 

Some prices will need to be updated because of the cost escalation over the last year. 

Knight said, “We’re hoping to break ground early October. We’re pushing. We may not make it, but we’re pushing for early October for groundbreaking and we’re really excited to see that project take off.” 

Sugarloaf Fire Station received an unsolicited proposal to enter into a public/private partnership where the entity would actually build the fire station for the county. There would be a lease back option over a number of years and it would then become county property. 

Other proposals were solicited, but none came in. 

So tonight the commissioners will decide on the original unsolicited proposal. 

Knight said, “It’s kind of a unique situation. Kind of an interesting way to do a public/private partnership. It’s kind of a fantastic way to get some more infrastructure. That location is definitely one that is in dire need of replacement. We’re just excited to see the possibility of something move forward on that.” 

The increase in costs of materials is affecting the Project Management Department considerably. Over the last two years there has been a 24% increase in construction costs. 

Knight said, “It’s really hard when you go after these grants and we’ve been very aggressive on grants. Almost 74% of the work that we do in project management is now grant funded or partially funded by grants, dollar for dollar when you look at all the projects we’re doing.” 

Some FDOT grants goes into a five-year work plan. Trying to estimate what costs will be in five years can be tough — especially when a worldwide pandemic shows up in the middle of it.  

Knight said, “You get into a situation where we’re going to have some shortfalls on some of our projects and it really limits the number of projects we’re going to be able to do. So it really stresses even more the importance of stretching our tax dollar by going after grants.” 

The Project Management Department also works closely with Facility Maintenance to develop a strong program for routine and preventative maintenance. 

Knight pointed out, “You don’t buy a car and then not change the oil. So the better we maintain our buildings and the more we look at possibly consolidation and how we use our space can reduce the cost of the emergencies and the unexpected failures down the road and then that also allows us to stretch our dollar because we’re not spending as much money on maintenance or our money on maintenance is going further.” 

Efficiency is another avenue that’s investigated quite closely in preparation for the future. 

You can see the agenda for tonight’s County Commissioners meeting here: