Let’s talk about what’s been going on in 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 been going on in the city.

Some funding from the Tourist Development Council will be coming to Key West.

Johnston said, “We would like to thank the TDC for those recommendations. We received some monies to renovate the southernmost point. It’s one of the most photographed spots in the city of Key West and it’s an area of real congestion and traffic problems and people trying to take pictures and people trying to navigate two-way traffic down there.”

The Engineering Department has created a plan to improve that area.

Johnston said, “Also, we continue to improve the Coffee Butler Amphitheater at the Truman Waterfront. That’s for some turf to go into some well-worn areas. It’s a challenge to keep it looking great with the number of people that we have out there and that certainly is our goal. So, we did receive some funding for improvements there.”

The city would also like to add a green room to attract a different type of entertainer for the Truman waterfront.

Johnston added, “We also are in dire need of additional restrooms for those concerts where we attract 4000 people. So we’re going to continue to improve that.”

Key West generates about 51% of all tourist tax dollars in Monroe County.

Johnston said, “So we have lots of tourists here. It’s great for our economy. It keeps our businesses going, but the side effect of that is that we take a tremendous impact on our infrastructure, and also on sometimes our quality of life. So those are things that we need to pay particular attention to. Since I have been on the TDC executive board, I have always pushed for bricks and mortar, for infrastructure improvements, so that, not only can we keep our economy vibrant, but that we can keep providing a quality experience for the people that do visit us in Key West. That’s streets and roads, it’s entertainment facilities. Its’ tourist attractions, like the southern-most point, like our historic cemetery, so many things that that do take a beating with the number of people that we do welcome into the city of Key West. So we’ve got to keep our eye on both areas, keeping those numbers up, but also making sure that what people are coming to Key West to see is a really quality experience and that’s by maintaining our infrastructure.”

The quality of visitation in Key West is also dependent on the service workers and that gets back to affordable housing.

Johnston said, “Key West has some of the greatest challenges, I think of any community around. We’re a product of our success. We’ve got lots of people that want to come here, they want to buy here, they want to stay here and it really has changed the landscape of our housing market. We don’t have any less housing here. In fact, we have more housing, but our housing market shifted, particularly during COVID, where many, many people sought Key West out as one of the safe environments to be in during the pandemic. So we’ve had a shift there, we’ve got to adjust to that shift. We’ve got to work certainly with our military partners, who have 18 acres of vacant land out there at Sigsbee and make sure that we are using that land to the best interest of our entire community. So we’ve got some work to do, but this is not a new problem for Key West. It’s a new issue for most of the country, but Key West has been battling workforce housing issues for years and years and years. I look back on in my files, and I see plans for workforce housing improvement from 30 years ago. So it’s an issue that we’re going to continue to find creative solutions for. We’re going to continue to work more effectively with Tallahassee so that we can get some rules and regulations modified to meet the needs of the city of Key West.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission will make a report to the Key West Commissioners at their meeting on Thursday.

Johnston explained, “This topic of derelict vessels has been particularly important to Commissioner Billy Wardlow. He handles South Roosevelt Boulevard. It’s a very visual issue, it’s an issue to all voters, it’s an issue to all environmentalists. We have spent a great deal of time and money and focus these last several years on water quality in the city of Key West.”

So the city manager asked for a presentation to discuss how many derelict vessels have been removed from the water surrounding Key West recently? How many more are there to look at? How can the city help? How can the city help the county and FWC get a handle on these derelict vessels and get them out of the water quicker and more efficiently?

Johnston said, “Since 2022, we have removed over 50 derelict vessels from the Key West waters and we still have, we’ve got 30 right now that are investigated and are pending removal. We’ve got another 38 that are documented and currently under investigation. It’s quite a process in order to get these vessels out. They have to, by law, find the rightful owner, the title holder, and make contact with them in order to make arrangements to get these vessels out. So it’s a lengthy process, particularly the way vessels change hands in the Keys. But they are working diligently to do that, because it’s our focus.”

We are currently in hurricane season.

Johnston said, “Our emergency team is well experienced, they really are, if there’s anything positive that you can say about a hurricane it’s that we have extensive experience on how to handle them. Every time we learn something new every time it comes up that we need to find additional communications tools in order to let people know what the condition of their property is after a storm event, we’re looking at ways to do that. We are also looking at ways to communicate with someone who has not left the city of Key West, many times when most communication tools are not operable. So again, we hope for the best and we plan for the worst and that’s what gets us through season after season.”

The mooring fields project will be moving forward in conjunction with the county.

Johnston said, “It’s a great project, it is moving forward. One of the areas that that we do need to keep our eye on is that as we provide more mooring balls, we also have to provide additional upland services like restrooms like laundry facilities like those types of things. So we’re looking at funding opportunities to make sure that once we put those mooring balls in, we have the services to provide to those liveaboards.”

For Thursday’s agenda, click here: https://keywest.legistar.com/MeetingDetail.aspx?ID=1111147&GUID=D2FD89F5-2E2C-4DDD-8313-1E55CD76DCCC&Options=&Search=