When it comes to being busy, Key West just might have the tiger by the tail, so to speak.
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.
The Soldier Ride with the Wounded Warrior Project was an incredibly poignant event this weekend.
Johnston said, “It was a wonderful event. I was fortunate enough to be one of the speakers at Bayview Park. We had a wonderful ceremony. The whole event was just so well organized.”
A number of military organizations were in attendance.
Indeed, the chief executive officer of the Wounded Warrior Project, Mike Linnington, was in the Keys as well.
Johnston pointed out, “He said he had participated in about 60 Wound Warrior events in the past and he’s never seen any type of support like he saw in the city of Key West. They were so grateful to be here and the community just embraced them wholeheartedly.”
There were hundreds of banners throughout the city of Key West.
Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM said, “It was a very, very well run event. Great to see the outpouring of support commemorating all those brave warriors for everything they did on our behalf.”
Looking back on 2022, finances for the city are good.
Johnston explained, “Basically we have built back up our reserve days. It’s costs about $155,000 a day to run the city of Key West. We right now have 82 reserve days in the bank and we think that we’re going to be around 92.”
The reserve days really help the city during issues like hurricane reconstruction.
The bed tax revenue is up 25 percent from where it was last year. Additionally the general fund revenue and parking revenue are up.
Johnson said, “We look very, very solid and secure as a community. We have also brought in over $17 million in ARPA funding.”
Plans are to look at a number of infrastructure projects.
“That’s important because that actually gives some relief to our taxpayers,” Johnston explained. “Any time we can get grants and funding like that, it lightens the burden on all of our taxpayers.”
Workforce housing is definitely an issue.
Johnston said, “We have built more workforce housing than we have in the last recent memory. Is it enough? No. I think we can all agree that it’s not enough, but right now, our 103 units out at College Road that we are working hand in hand with our Key West Housing Authority, they are now taking applications.”
The rents range from $265 a month to $1,321 a month. If you need housing, get your name in with the Housing Authority.
The 3.2 acres in the Bahama Village will begin construction in May and will include 126 units, 98 are affordable rentals and the other 28 are affordable home ownership units.
A number of other workforce housing projects are also in the works.
On February 1, a new software program will be added in the city that will track short term rentals.
Johnston said, “It also helps us track illegal short term rentals. So our fines are going to increase, our illegal rentals are going to decrease, hence putting more housing out in the market for our workforce.”
Sea level rise is also an issue being discussed. In fact, more than $40 million has been invested in engineering projects, many of which are geared toward mitigating the effects of sea level rise.
There is $4 million budgeted to redo streets and sidewalks in the city.
More than 75 community clean ups occurred in 2022.
Johnston said, “Hopefully the people of Key West recognize that we’re starting to clean up our community. We’ve done a lot in 2022, but there is so much more to do.”
The next city commission meeting will be on January 18.
One topic for discussion will be transportation.
Johnston said, “The area there that we really want to really focus on is we want our taxicab businesses to have a competitive shot along with the Ubers and Lyfts of the world, we would like our local cab drivers to have the same opportunities to service our communities, but we want to make sure they service it properly. That is with clean cabs, with cabs that get there on time, with cab drivers that are providing quality rides for people. So we’re taking a look at the whole industry to see what kind of tweaks that we need to make in order to serve our community and our visitor community better.”