Let’s check in with Mayor Craig Cates

Craig Cates, Mayor of Monroe County and Commissioner of District 1, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been happening in the county.

The county created an online permitting system recently and it was discussed at the Contractors Examining Board meeting.

Cates said, “We had staff there to listen. A lot of it was communication and knowing how to do it properly.”

The issues are being worked on through the software company to take care of the concerns.

Cates said, “I thought it was very well-received from both sides working together and I look forward to a lot of these things being smoothed out pretty soon.”

Legislation passed in 2021 in Tallahassee that ended up revoking some of the local government’s abilities to license some trades people, could be changed.

Cates said licensing is “very important for the safety of our residents and the security that they know that these people are licensed and insured. We need to get some of them back in place. It’s important to protect our citizens.”

Affordable housing continues to be an issue in Monroe County as are the Rate of Growth Ordinance units.

Cates said, “That’s very important, I believe, and I think our commission supports that. We were a part of the discussion because we wanted to make sure it didn’t have a negative effect on our 24-hour evacuation period because it’s important for the safety of our residents that that stays in place. There’s 48 hours evacuation for certain affordable housing projects, certain workers that would be living there is doable and can safely be done, so I’m glad they’re moving forward with that.”

The county is also asking the state for funding requests, including the Stewardship fund.

Cates said, “The governor already has the $20 million in his budget that the Keys would receive and then would be split with the municipalities also.”

The county is also asking for $6 million from the state to help with the short fall on the Emergency Operations Center.

Cates said, “It’s getting traction and is moving forward. I haven’t heard yet if it’s come out of the committees yet or not. We will build the project. We will build the EOC, but some of the things we had to take out that would have been beneficial to the community and the first responders, we’d love to put them back in and finish this project like it was originally designed.”

The funding is also important for the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority.

Cates said, “Obviously after the problems we’ve had with the pipe breakage, we see the importance of it now and the priority to repair that. It’s going to be an expensive project and it’s going to take quite a bit of time. The sooner we get started on that, the better. I’m sure this is going to be a priority for a long time.”

The 200th anniversary celebration of the county will kick off on March 25.

Cates said, “It’s very exciting. Two hundred years, it’s hard to believe that, but when you look back at the history of the Keys, how it’s developed and what it is today, it’s pretty amazing.”

In the beginning, there were no railroads or roads. Everything had to be moved through the Keys by boat.

Cates said, “It’s a great part of the history. It’s going to be a fun evening and when the 250 drone show comes on there after dark, it’s going to be amazing.”

On March 27 a meeting between emergency management departments and the Coast Guard will be held to talk about evacuations of live aboards.

Cates said, “We had a little issue with Ian because we did not evacuate them early enough because we didn’t have a policy to evacuate for a tropical storm. We’re going to change that just for them. We have to look at live aboards on the water a little different because it’s not as safe out there.”