Mayor Teri Johnston talks meetings, the budget and a search for a city manager

September 20 — Three important meetings are on the schedule for the City of Key West this week. 

Key West Mayor Teri Johnston joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM yesterday morning to talk about the upcoming meetings. 

The Key West City Commission will meet tonight, Tuesday, at 5 p.m. in City Hall and the public is encouraged to attend. 

There are 20 items on the agenda, including the short term rental ordinance agreement. 

Johnston said, “It is proposed to be postponed based on the workshop and all of the input that we had that right now we’re digesting. We’re setting up additional meetings with the community in order to make sure that we’ve got the right ordinance in place.” 

Another item on the agenda will discuss a seaweed boom. Two businesses are requesting a seaweed boom be put out into the water in order to keep the sargassum seaweed from the shoreline. 

Johnston said, “It’s an interesting concept because it has been an issue this year, but there is also some concern over where that seaweed and that sargassum goes once it gets redirected by the boom. We want to make sure that it is not winding up on anyone else’s property and we’re just moving a problem down the road.” 

Some years sargassum is mild and some years it’s pretty bad. This year has been leaning toward the latter. 

The police officers and fire fighters retirement plan will also be discussed. 

For the City Commission meeting agenda, click here:

On Wednesday night, the very first Screening Advisory Committee will meet to talk about the new city manager. 

Johnston said, “This is a very important committee because this will help bring the City Commission candidates to replace Patti McLauchlin as our city manager. Patti as you know committed to two years when she took the position. Her two years will be up in July, so we are starting the search and that (meeting) is open to the public, both to come in personally and also to view on Zoom.” 

That meeting will be held at 3:30 p.m. on September 21, in Commission Chambers in City Hall. 

Then on Thursday, the third budget meeting will begin at 5:05 p.m. in City Hall. 

Johnston said, “I think that the city manager has done a great job.” 

At the first budget meeting, there was an increase of 12.5%, but the city manger went back and made cuts and brought it down to 10%. 

Johnston explained, “Much of that has to do with personnel, which is really the bulk of our budget is personnel fully wrapped into pension programs. That’s a relatively costly venture, but if we want to provide services to our community, then we need to have really strong personnel.” 

Nine of the personnel are firefighters that are being added at the request of the fire chief and four police officers are being added at the request of the police chief. 

The proposed milage rate where it is right now increases a homesteaded home 58 cents a month. For the homes that are not homesteaded, it will increase the taxes to about $3.50 a month. 

Johnston said, “It keeps the city running. The city has encountered all of the increases that we have as a private sector, so we’re trying to keep it as low as possible continuing to provide the level of services that are being expected of us.” 

Rising costs of pretty much everything continue to be an issue throughout the country. 

Johnston said, “We’re not going out and building major things. We’re taking care of our existing properties and our existing venues. We’re making improvements in what we have right now and I think that’s the key to moving the city of Key West forward.” 

On Saturday, more than 100 volunteers showed up for Clean Up Key West where the group collected more than 1,000 pounds of garbage from the streets of the city and several gallons of cigarette butts. 

Johnston said, “I just wanted to say thank you to all the commissioners that showed up and participated and also thank you to all the wonderful volunteers that we have out there who a clean Key West is very important to.” 

October 1 has been declared Roosevelt Sands Jr. Day. 

Johnston said, “We had a dedication and a proclamation with Mr. Sands entire family in City Hall during our last City Commission meeting. He is quite an asset to the city of Key West. It’s wonderful to be able to recognize someone like Roosevelt Sands.” 

The City Commission is also looking for input about Mallory Square development. 

Johnston said, “We want to hear from everybody. Whether you’re a multi-generational family, whether you’ve been here two years, whether you’re a visitor to Key West, whether you’re a business owner, we want to hear what you want Mallory Square to become.” 

A company from Boston has been working with the City Commission and will be working on an intensive, one-year public outreach to determine what the citizens would want. 

To have your input heard, click here:

Johnston said, “You know that’s waterfront property that most communities would just die for and it is sitting down there. It’s a great space, but right now it’s being utilized about two hours a day because it’s very hot. It’s very difficult to be down there at 2 o’clock in the afternoon. We’ve got lots of opportunities to improve that and embrace that area and bring more people down to that area. So please weigh in on the survey.” 

There will also be lots of community input meetings in the future about Mallory Square, so stay tuned.