Let’s talk about a bond for the city of Key West

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

A bonding presentation was made at the last city council meeting.

Johnston explained, “The city of Key West has not bonded since our sewers system, several, several years ago and we are exploring a number of options right now. The reason we are is that we have so many infrastructure projects that we have got to get underway. The longer you leave them, the worse they get, the more expensive they become. So we are looking at a bonding option and last commission meeting, we had a presentation by our bonding company that went out and did a survey in our community. We’re very concerned about stormwater, the sunny day flooding that we’re seeing right now, people are taking notice of. It’s impacting properties and they want us to take some action. It was really refreshing to see citizens weigh in. These responses were right in line with the same responses that we got from almost 4000 of our residents before we did our strategic plan. So we are going to be moving forward on this. We will probably have some language on the November ballot regarding bonding. It will probably, although we have not made a final decision, it will probably be based on certain project areas that our community was very interested in. But we need to move forward on this. We receive almost 3 million tourists a year, and we have a great deal of impact on our infrastructure that are caused by our constant visitors, which keep us keeps us afloat, but it also has a tremendous impact that there isn’t any way that our taxpayers can keep up and keep paying for that impact. So we’re taking a look at this measure to get us updated. What has happened in the past is that normally we saved and saved and saved and saved and saved until we have enough money to make those repairs or replace a fire station or make some major repairs to Martin Luther King Pool and by the time that we finally make those repairs, the people that paid for him have already left town and have moved on. So what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to create a situation where the people that actually enjoy the benefits from our improvements are paying for those improvements.”

What would the bonding issue mean for the average taxpayer in the city of Key West?

Johnston said, “Yes, there will be an impact and that is yet to be determined. I think $1,000 a year was the high point and we will move down from that probably. But here’s the thing that really resonated with me was the fact that it would be mostly our visitors that are paying for the impact of our improvements. I think that’s where most of our residents are taking a look at. That’s the reason that we have had these lively discussions in the TDC is that Key West probably is a more mature tourist destination than many other areas. Right now, what we’re looking for, and we’re looking for help from the TDC is to help us make these infrastructure improvements that are greatly impacted by the number of visitors that we have here every single day. So the number has not yet been determined. I know it’s going to be less than probably $1,000. But we will see that final number and again, most of that impact, most of the financial burden will fall on the visitors to the city of Key West instead of our long term permanent residents.”

The residents will have a say in how those funds are spent.

Johnston said, “We’re coming right back out to the public and taking a look at not only the city survey, but the survey that was done by the go bond survey and it will come right back to the citizens and again, everything will be on a public referendum, so you will be able to vote on this and there will be a great deal of education prior to the November ballot, to make sure that everyone is educated and have their questions answered.”

Would the Duvall Street projects and Mallory Square fall under this funding?

Johnston confirmed, “Yes, I believe it would, because most of these projects at the heart of our resiliency projects, certainly Duvall Street, but particularly the lower three blocks, which floods, even in a moderate rain would be would be, certainly candidates for bonding. Again, it would help us get these things done before they become astronomical and before they continue to deteriorate to a point where it’s almost not affordable.”

Going for a bond has nothing to do with the finances of the city.

Johnston said, “We have been very fiscally responsible. We’re also very conservative. We’ve had this bond discussion a number of times and we have asked the bond experts, is it normal for a community to continue to save? Is it normal for community to have this high of reserve days in the bank, and they said, it depends on the community. You have a lot of people who are conservative, and you have other people that that are more progressive. So it really depends on the community. I think probably both have served as well, certainly, when we went out to bond for our sewer system, we were one of the first communities in in the Keys that actually put in a solid sewer system, which has benefited Key West for years and years and years. It really depends on what point of view you have. But I personally believe that we’ve got so many projects, we would like to have those projects paid for and our residents and our guests enjoy them, rather than putting them off to the point where we’ve got a catastrophe on our hands.”

There are a number of meetings this week.

Johnston said, “Tomorrow I will be in Marathon at a special emergency TDC meeting, we will be discussing as a board the final results of the clerk’s audit. So we will be having a meeting at 10 o’clock in Marathon tomorrow. We will also this week be recognizing again, the Mohawk. We got the Mohawk Day and the men and women there and they always celebrate that by a community cleanup. So all of them get out and help us clean up the community. Speaking of cleanups, we’ve got plogging on Friday, which will be at Northside Drive and 14th Street. So if you’ve got to an hour to give the city come on out and join us. It’s a wonderful event. We have normally 70 people that are out there cleaning up our community and boy, you can really tell it because we’re starting to look a whole lot better out there. So come on out and join us on Friday at eight o’clock on Northside Drive and 14th.”