The city of Key West sends heartfelt condolences to the Butler family

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.

The tragic accidental passing of beloved Key West High School teacher and basketball coach Dexter Butler has shocked the community.

Johnston said, “What a tragic, tragic accident that was. From the city of Key West, our hearts go out to the family and friends and all of the students and staff that Dexter touched over the years. Our city manager kept the commission up to date on this tragic accident and the community certainly has lost an important cog in the wheel.”

Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM added, “He followed in his father’s footsteps in coaching basketball. He served the community as a very beloved teacher and citizen and neighbor as well. So, again, a very tragic accident. I’m sure people have heard what did occur. But again, we are so sorry and so, so sad to hear that and our hearts do go out to the family and friends and everybody who has been affected by this.”

Johnston agreed, “It’s an awful loss.”

It’s high tourist season in Key West.

Johnston said, “One of the reasons is our beautiful weather and our beautiful island. People just really, really are attracted to our home and they’re coming in in droves. We had weather up almost to 80 this weekend, and I know in other parts of the country, it is cold and snowy. We’re a very, very desired location. But on our next City Commission meeting, we got the preliminary agenda already and that has a tendency to change as things work its way through the system. But right now, that looks like a relatively light meeting with 30 items on our city commissioner agenda. It’s mind boggling to think that we’re approving the Conch Republic Independence Day celebration already and the Hemingway look alike contest. It seems like we just had them. But there is also another very important item on the agenda and that is an agenda item to receive approval to allow city staff to move forward with general obligation bonds via a referendum in November. So we are looking to put that item on our November agenda. I know you and I have talked a number of times, any small two by four Island receives over 3 million visitors a year has a lot of infrastructure issues and we have an opportunity right now to receive approval from the voters to go out and bond some of these projects so that we can get them done once and for all and they’re not dragging out year after year after year until they get to the point where they’re three times the cost that they should have been and our residents have to endure roads and sidewalks and infrastructure issues that they should not have to. If we receive approval on the 14th, our team will be going out, they will be creating referendum language, it will be on there for everyone to take a look at. The City Commission being an elected body can answer your questions and certainly can educate the public, we cannot actually support one side or another, but we can do all the education that we can during this process. So look for that in November, if it receives the approval on the 14th.”

Duvall Street is also a project on the list.

Johnston said, “Duvall Street is one of our largest projects that we have tackled in a long time. But it is as everyone knows, it’s the iconic street of Key West. We have not put any major money into that street in 53 years and believe me, if you were down on Duvall Street during even a moderate rain on the lower three blocks, you know that we flood. We’ve got to do some serious resiliency projects down there to make sure that that street stays iconic for generations to come. It’s time that we put some money in, some effort in, we would like to beautify that street, but certainly, certainly we need to do some resiliency projects down there in order to in order to get that road so it drains to make sure that Duvall Street is usable in all types of weather. So, we have been moving forward on that. We have been meeting with our team, who has just started our community engagement. In fact, about a month ago, we had over 200 people in a community engagement meeting. There will be several more. They will be meeting with businesses and as well as residents in Key West to make sure that we are moving in a direction that that our community wants to. But most of these things, in fact, all of these things were part of our community survey which went out. Almost 4,000 of our residents responded to that and they are very interested in improving Duvall Street. They would like Duvall Street to be a pedestrian street at certain times. So we need the flexibility of taking that street and closing down certain blocks or the entire street in certain festivals and times. Also the public would like us to improve the look of that. If you get down on Duvall Street, it’s almost as bad as Mallory Square in the afternoon because there is basically no shade at all. So we are looking to improve that, bring in shade, bring in benches water fountains, make it a more pleasant experience, wider sidewalks and we can make Duvall Street just a spectacular street for years and years to come. That comes in line also with Mallory Square, which is another incredible piece of property that has been under utilized for years. Key West isn’t growing in size at all and more and more people continue to want to live here and visit here. So what we have to do is we have to use his our spaces more effectively. That’s what we’re doing down at Mallory Square, we’re taking a space that can accommodate people with a waterfront view and we would like to be able to utilize that space from six in the morning until midnight so our increasing number of people who are visiting have wonderful spots and can have wonderful experiences so they come back a year to year to year, as well as our locals who spend a lot of time down on Mallory Square.”

Volunteering to keep those areas clean is always needed.

Johnston said, “Every Friday there is a location published, we get anywhere from 70 to 75 people that come out and we even have visitors that happen to see it and want to donate an hour of time to the city of Key West. And what a difference of ploggers have made. Every week they go out and they get, 500, 600, 700, 800 pounds of debris and cigarette butts they’re picking up before they hit our nearshore waters and also recyclables. It’s just amazing what this group has done and what a difference it makes in our community.”