It’s celebrations and a 64-item meeting in Key West recently

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the city.

A notable birthday for Anne McKee happened recently. The art patron turned 100.

Johnston said, “I had the opportunity to join Anne and several of her family members, grandchildren, as well as County Commissioner Jim Scholl in honoring Anne McKee yesterday. She has been a driving force in the arts community in the city of Key West and in Monroe County since 1971.”

McKee served as chair of the Monroe County Fine Arts Council. She was a trustee of the Florida State Cultural Commission. She was a director of the Florida State Cultural Alliance and she served as a charter member of the Key West Cultural Commission and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Johnston said, “People will recognize Anne primarily for her Anne McKee arts organization in the city of Key West, but Anne also organized the Christmas concert at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church every year, that’s been running for 30 years, where we have the leading performing artists in the city of Key West perform every year. She’s just been the grande dame of the arts. Yesterday, I had an opportunity to have a couple of conversations with her and she is sharp as a tack. She reads the Key West Citizen every single morning. When I introduced myself, she said, oh, I know exactly who you are. She said I read about you every day. It was a fascinating conversation. A wonderful group of people were there to recognize and honor Abbe McKee for her service and her contributions to not only the city of Key West, but Monroe County as a whole.”

The retiring city manager of Key West, Patti McLaughlin, was also honored last week.

Johnston said, “It was a wonderful celebration. Very, very fitting to Patty. Forty-seven years. Who lasts 47 years in any career anymore? She has seen lots of changes. We’ve been through lots of ups and downs in the city of Key West and Patti has been here through them all. It was a really touching tribute. The directors and staff did a video for patty. She was presented with a royal crown and a cloak. It was just a really great day. She richly deserved it and she also richly deserves her time off. She’s got two grandsons that she loves dearly and is going to have an opportunity to spend time with them. She’s got sisters, and a wonderful son and daughter-in-law that she’s going to spend time with. She’s going to spend some time in Fort Myers and she just has a great retirement laid out in front of her and well deserved.”

The last Key West City Council meeting saw 64 items. It was split into two meetings.

Johnston said, “But we got to hear, I think nine presentations and all nine of those presentations were requested by members of the City Commission.”

One of those presentations was on wave attenuation.

Johnston said, “And how important the coral reefs are two breaking up the waves that do damage on the shores of Key West.”

Another presentation came from Captain Dave Dipre of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Johnston said, he “laid out our challenges in the city of Key West and derelict vessels. The one thing that can help us out and remove these vessels more rapidly is some help from the city of Key West. So Al is taking a look at that, manpower required to do that, and Al will make a decision there.”

A presentation from the Saint Leo University focused on adult education.

Johnston said, “They have a wonderful education program, particularly for adult education. And there’s a lot of online courses. There’s a lot of information that’s available for adults to continue their education in Key West, while we’re normally working our one to two to three jobs. That’s a valuable resource that we have here to help our adults continue their education.”

The presentations were in the morning meeting and in the evening meeting, the city commission took a look at ordinances.

The Staples Avenue bridge was also discussed.

Johnston said, “Many people don’t understand the importance of Staples Avenue bridge to us here in the city of Key West. Every single week, over 6000 pedestrians and bicyclists go over that Staples Avenue Bridge. That really is one of the major thoroughfares for our workforce to get in and out of Key West, particularly from Stock Island. I’s one of the safest ways that we can get our workforce to their jobs and back home safely. So it’s important that we make an improvement to that bridge. The design is incredible because it’s widening the bridge. It is going to allow for a pedestrian side, as well as a bicycle and e-bike lane so that both of those modes of transportation can stay safe. We’re moving forward on that. It’s a great project. That’s how our labor force gets in and out of Key West on a day to day basis.”

The entry sign into the city of Key West was another topic at the meeting.

Johnston explained, “We have held two publicly held meetings and they were very well attended by the public on ideas as to what our entry signs should look like, what it shouldn’t look like. We took input from the community. But I believe there was a misconception that the Rotary Clubs were not notified of that. That’s just an incorrect statement. In fact, we have several of the Rotary Club members that were in attendance at the meeting and gave great input as to what they would like to sign to be.”

Two $100,000 grants from FDOT have been received for the sign. The City of Key West will also provide funding.

Johnston said, “We would like a formal entry sign welcoming people to the city of Key West and allowing them somewhere where they can take a safe photograph coming in. We’re also talking about what we would like as people leave Key West because we truly would like to thank them for joining us, and hope that they come back and visit us again. So we’re taking a look at a lot of different options. But we’re moving forward on that project to beautify the entrance of Key West for everyone.”

The 3.2 acres in Bahama Village was also up for discussion.

Johnston explained, “There was there was a late discovery on the monies because the City Commission approved moving up over $4 million of our land authority funds that are dedicated to the city of Key West in order to make those 28 homeownership units affordable. That land was transferred and was given to the city of Key West to benefit the residents of Bahama village and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do. But we ran into a little hiccup there. We have given the city manager direction in order to identify some funding sources. We’re going to work with the land authority a little bit more closely. The funds that we are dedicating from the land authority, the homeowners that move into those 28 units have to income qualify every single year. If they happen to make more money, the possibilities could be that they would have to move out of that unit. So that certainly was not our intention, and we’re going to work diligently to correct that situation.”

Police contracts have come up for negotiation in Key West.

Johnston said, “We have our negotiating team that has been negotiating with the PBA now for quite some time. We are going to have a closed session as the City Commission so that Al and the city attorney, and our bargaining team can update us on the status of the negotiations. So we will be going into closed session on July 24 right before our first budgeting meeting.”

After a meeting with 64 items, the staff meets the next day to go over everything that was discussed.

Johnston said, “While it’s fresh in everybody’s mind, they go over every single one of those items that we discussed and Al assigns direction who is going to handle this, and then it goes on a flowchart. That’s the way that Al operates to make sure that nothing drops through the cracks. If there’s a request from the Commission, it is being handled, and it’s being handled in a timely fashion. So I certainly appreciate those efforts and the effectivity of that system.”