Life is good in the Keys because of the residents, staff and employees who make it that way

July 28 – One of the reasons so many people make the Florida Keys a destination vacation spot is because of the atmosphere in the area.

And that couldn’t happen without the residents, staff and employees who live here all year long.

Michelle Coldiron, Monroe County Commissioner for District 2, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM to talk about the issues facing the county and to thank the people who help make the Keys special.

Lobster season is underway for just a little while longer and unfortunately four fatalities have occurred.

Coldiron said, “My heart goes out to those four families who lost members of their families coming down here thinking they’re going to have a really fun vacation and it ends tragically. Unfortunately that happens. The water is always dangerous. You have to be in great physical shape and people just I think lose sight of that sometimes. My heart definitely goes out to those four victims and their families.”

Several years ago a collaborative group of county commissioners, municipal leaders, the Tourist Development Council and FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) got together to figure out how to make the lobster mini season safer.

The group felt the best way to do that was education.

Coldiron said, “So we really engaged with the municipalities, with their Public Works staff, with our county’s Public Works staff.”

The Tourist Development Council and FWC created a print out on the rules and regulations.

Coldiron said, “This is the second year that this has been rolled out. I just want to give a super big thank you to the Tourist Development Council for their commitment to making this season as safe as possible. Also definitely want to thank FWC for all the additional officers that they have out on the water, along with our sheriff’s department and our coast guard for doing everything they can to make people safe out on the water and to have a good experience. I want to stop and also thank all of our residents who live here in Monroe County. Our wait staff, our hotel staff, our store clerks, anyone and everyone who works in Monroe County always makes sure that our visitors have a good experience while they’re here. I know this is a very trying time. People are tired. They get back from being out on the water all day and then they get into our restaurants and our stores and they might not always be the friendliest that they can be, but our residents, our workers are always super friendly to everyone who comes here. I just want to thank everybody in our community who do their job day in and day out to make sure that the Florida Keys is a great place to come to visit.”

Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM pointed out, “You know we speak with David Dipre, we speak with Sheriff Rick Ramsay, Chief Sean Brandenburg. We never hear any of them complain whatsoever about the additional workload and taking care of all the issues that do come up. They’re just out there diligently with the coast guard every day and especially now for mini season trying to take care of our visitors. I have guests who come in and continually say boy you know that server was just really so pleasant and phenomenal and I just kind of comment that’s just how they are and if they’re here for any time or period of time, that’s how they operate. That is the Keys. You’re right. Thanking people who take care of people and making it a good experience, that needs to be said as you so aptly did, so thank you for that.”

County budget hearings have been underway and three firefighter/EMTs have been added to Monroe County.

The increase in property values means the county millage rate should be decrease by about 4%.

Coldiron said, “Our priorities this year are in doing upgrade and improvements to our parks and beaches and to our library services because in doing that, that’s our way then of thanking our wait staff and thanking the people who work in the hotels and thank all of our people in the service industry to give them something in their community that they can enjoy at no expense. So they can go into the library and have a good experience. They can go to our parks and beaches and enjoy themselves on their time off. So we’ve really prioritized that this year.”

Additionally the need for Community Centers is in the forefront of budget talks.

Big Pine lost their Senior Center during Irma. A project on 33rd Street in Marathon is also on the list. Similar projects in Islamorada and Key Largo will also be included.

Coldiron said, “To make sure that we have a place for our residents that they can go and enjoy themselves. So it’s kind of cut the budget, but make sure that we take care of our residents and that’s what we’re going to be working on.”

Seventy-one percent of the ad valorem budget goes to public safety. That includes the sheriff’s department, the county health department and the fire and ambulance.

Coldiron said, “We truly understand the importance of taking care of our residents and all of our visitors that come here.”

The county is looking at a $512 million budget that still compensates for higher operational costs.

A budget hearing will be held on September 12 and the final hearing will be September 21.