Kristen Livengood, Public Information Officer for Monroe County, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the county.
A lot of people from the county made their opposition to judicial consolidation between Monroe and Miami-Dade known recently.
Livengood said, “I thought at the last commission meeting how great it was to hear about how many people actually filled out those surveys from Monroe County. I think it was like 1400 people from Monroe County filled it out and only like 28 people from Miami Dade had filled out the surveys. I just thought it was really a testament to how well our media partners like the radio stations and you and also social media can really get that word out about important issues like this. That just really goes to show that people are paying attention and they do care about having their core systems stay down here in the Florida Keys. So that was definitely something important. I’m proud to have been a part of helping spread the word about that.”
The legislative agenda will be up for discussion with the commissioners tomorrow at 9 a.m. in the Marathon Government Center. The meeting can also be viewed online or on television.
Livengood said, “Our legislative affairs agenda for the state will be approved tomorrow. It’s something every year that they do that basically brings up all the things that are going to happen at the state level for Monroe County. This is where our priorities are discussed, including like our Florida Keys Stewardship Act appropriations, the state land acquisition trust funds. Obviously one of the things on it is going to be the state’s judicial circuits consolidation. We always talk about insurance affordability and workforce housing funding. We’ll be discussing about road elevation projects, marine protections including our mooring field, derelict vessels, our marine vessel pump out program is something that the state funds and that’s a major thing for helping to keep our near shore waters clean from any discharge out of boats. That’s always an important thing to pay attention to, because the state oversees a lot of what we have going on and this agenda really just sets the priorities for the upcoming year.”
The possibility of Monroe County becoming a charter county will also be discussed.
Livengood said, “Bob Schillinger, our county attorney will be presenting his findings for a draft charter county proposal. He actually has the draft proposal that the county commissioners will be looking at tomorrow on (the website) as well as some more information about charter counties. This is something that I think for the past two or three years, the county commissioners have been asking the state to potentially give us the opportunity to ask our voters here in Monroe County, if they would be interested in adding this extra penny to our sales tax. What’s interesting about the sales tax is that unlike property taxes where clearly only the homeowner pays with the sales tax when we shut down for COVID, our sales tax dropped by 67 percent. So it shows that the sales tax is really, really supplemented greatly by our visitors and tourism industry here in the Florida Keys. So it’s just an important supplement to being able to fix and help some of these projects that we have. The state does not like the word tax. Our commissioners don’t like the word tax either. But when it comes to this, it’s something that the county commissioners really feel could potentially help solve a lot of our road flooding issues here in the Florida Keys. So it would be a two prong thing, this charter County, it would be where the voters would first vote on whether or not we wanted to be a charter county. That will really give us more of this home rule that we talked about where we would be able to make some more decisions locally. The second part of it would then be the voters in Monroe County would then vote on whether or not they’d be interested in the one penny sales tax. The one penny sales tax would be specifically set aside for the development, construction, equipment maintenance operations, supportive services, for transportation, for transit, for planning, development, construction, operation and maintenance of roads and bridges in the counties, bus and fixed guideway systems and on demand transportation system. So it’s set aside specifically for that use and it is just something that the county at this point wants to put in front of the voters and see if that is what they want. It’s not something that the Board of County Commissioners can just do or anything like that. There’s been some chatter about if we became a charter County, whether or not the constitutional officers would be affected, and they would not. By state statute, the constitutional officers would continue to be constitutional officers in their own entities. Also the Board of County Commissioners have said that they have zero interest in overseeing what happens in the municipalities here in Monroe County. They want the municipalities also to stay their own entities. It definitely gives that opportunity for Monroe County voters then to really be able to be involved and there’s been also chatter about having single districts for the commissioners and things like that. And also recall voting, there were issues in the past where there were maybe people who needed to be recalled or whatnot, and being a charter County, voters then have a little bit more say so in local government, where they’d be able to put those things on a on a ballot.”
A presentation about transportation will also be heard tomorrow from Richard Clark.
Livengood said, “He’s really been working hard on the on demand system for Stock Island and he’s just had a lot of updates, for busing happening here in the Florida Keys. He’s going to give a presentation at the meeting tomorrow as well. I think that transportation is always one of the, if not the top, within the top three concerns of Monterey County residents. So, last year, year and a half ago now, when Richard Clarke was hired, he really jumped in on trying to make sure that Monroe County is really focusing on these transportation issues that that we have, especially in the Upper Keys of bottlenecks and things like that.”
The Florida Department of Transportation will also have a presentation at tomorrow’s meeting.
Livengood said, “They’re going to be talking about bridge replacements, including like the Seven Mile Bridge replacement and the Long Key Bridge replacement and things like that. I know that those questions come to me a lot about the new Seven Mile Bridge, creating a new new Seven Mile Bridge.”
Monroe County is accepting applications for fiscal year 2023 for the Flood Mitigation Assistance Grant Program.
Livengood said, “There was $220 million allocated nationwide and the county has been accepting applications for this program. This gives these homeowners here Monroe County who have experienced a flood in their home, so if they got flooded during Irma and they have a National Flood Insurance Program, flood insurance claim, there are the programs available. They are very slow. It’s not just Monroe County that makes it, so it’s backed by the state and backed by the federal government. So there’s a lot of red tape. So it’s not something if tomorrow you wanted to sell your house, it would go through. We’re talking it could take a year or even longer to get it to go. But if you wanted your house in this program and you plan on being in your house for a while, then this is definitely something you may want to look into. Do so soon. November 15, 2023 is the deadline.”
For the agenda for tomorrow’s county commission meeting, click here: https://granicus_production_attachments.s3.amazonaws.com/monroecounty-fl/f69a531063dbd1c91e6c6cfa41a308090.pdf