The holidays don’t stop business in 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 happening in the city.

A number of volunteers with the help of the Red Cross installed smoke alarms on Saturday.

Johnston said, “We were met by some very gracious people who very graciously accepted the smoke alarms. We installed them in their ceilings or high up on their walls. It was a really good event.

One item up for discussion at last week’s City Commission meeting was the pocket park by the Seaside Café, which ended up in a 5-2 vote to amend the lease and improve storm drains and water instead of taking 17 tables in the park.

Johnston said, “We are changing that agreement with the lessee because there certainly are different terms than what we agreed to four years ago. This is taxpayer money. Every time we neglect our fiduciary duties, that money has to be collected somewhere, so unfortunately it comes right back on the taxpayers. The taxpayers make up that gap. To me, that’s a very important responsibility for this city commission. I believe we need to do a better job of our fiduciary responsibilities and taking some of the burden off of the taxpayers and putting it back on the people who are actually generating the revenue and making the profits.”

An interim city attorney was voted on. Rob Ramsingh, who has been with the city for 15 years has been named to this position.

Johnston said, “It’s a relatively small department and he’s got lots of work to do because every single day, every contract that we renew, every contract that we sign that’s new, every agreement needs to be reviewed by our legal department to make sure that we are meeting the letter of the law and we are protecting the citizens of Key West.”

The process to select a new city attorney will include reaching out to the Florida Bar to get some names and a Florida-wide search will be conducted for candidates both outside and/or inside of city hall.

Johnston said, “We’re going to be doing a thorough search. We have appointed an advisory committee just like we did for the city manager search. We look forward to having a smooth process there.”

There is a long list of applicants for the city manager position.

Johnston said, “We’ve got a great field to choose from. It needs to be a very transparent process. We are going to make sure that the entire city of Key West is involved. We’re going to have some forums and some meetings where every single resident that would like to can come and ask questions and get to know the final five or six candidates so that our residents have some input in to who is hired for this very important position in the city of Key West.”

Commissioners also unanimously approved a plan for tropic cinema in the Key West Library with three outdoor movies.

Johnston said, “We are always looking for things in the city of Key West that are free and are family friendly and this is one of those things that meets all of those points.”

The Tropic Cinema will be downsizing a bit from four theaters to three. The three original theaters will continue to operate, but the fourth theater was an expansion into an adjacent space and will be closing.

Johnston explained, “It’s a combination. When COVID hit, people stopped going to the theater and it’s been slow to recoup those patrons back into the movie theater. Also, apparently, they had received a substantial rent increase from the owner of that building. So you have a combination of those things and you make your business adjustments in order to maintain your business. We certainly hope the best because that’s a treasure in the city of Key West.”

While the next meeting for the city commission won’t be until January 4, that doesn’t mean business stops in the city.

Mallory Square will be reviewed to see how it can be better used.

Johnston said, “They did a survey that we had over 1,500 respondents which is highly unusual for the city of Key West. On Friday they were in City Hall here giving the city commission an update on what their findings have been and how they would like to move forward.”

The second workshop for Bayview Park was very well attended.

Johnston said, “Many of the ideas geared around explaining the history of Key West. The ball diamond. One of the ideas was we should have information around the ball diamond as to the number of incredible baseball players that we have graduated from Key West High School and have gone on into the minor and major baseball leagues. There’s just incredible history there.”