When it comes to working for the people of the Keys, Monroe County is hard at work

Kristen Livengood, Public Information Officer for Monroe County, joined KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the county.

A lot of accomplishments came to fruition in 2023.

Livengood said, “One of the most important things that the county does is our legislative work with our representatives in Tallahassee and also in DC. So that was one of our main accomplishments was getting that $25 million for the Stewardship and buying outland property. Over the years, we used to get maybe $11 million here, or $12 million there, but for the past few years, they’ve been giving us the full $20 million for the Stewardship. So it’s been really great, especially for all of our projects down here that that goes towards, which is infrastructure and sewer. That paid for a significant amount of switching over to sewers here in the Florida Keys, which help our near shore waters. So that that’s always great. We got the money for the new emergency operations center in Marathon that’s going up. We were the last county in the state of Florida that didn’t have an emergency operations center. That’s where everyone goes when there is a hurricane or any other natural disaster or even manmade disaster. That would be the go to spot for everyone. But it also is going to full time house our 911 communications and Monroe County Fire Rescue operations, they’re nine to five, Monday through Friday, that kind of stuff and 24 hours, our 911 communications. So the building won’t just be used for emergencies, but also for those departments as well.”

Mayor Holly Raschein was instrumental in getting the Stewardship Fund.

Livengood said, “She was the one who pushed for that for us to begin where to get that earmark every year. So I mean, sometimes depending on the budget, it gets cut, but our leadership in Tallahassee has been very, very strong and making sure that that we get that full allocation every year. So we’ve been very, very lucky with that. Talking about the sewers, too, I thought it was pretty cool that almost everyone in the Florida Keys now who was required to connect to the sewers has been connected. Our co compliance director and her co compliance team has been working very hard to reach out to people and really work with them to make sure that they get connected and get them ways to get connected. I mean to have almost 100% compliance on that is absolutely amazing and also really great for our environment.”

County commission term limits may also be something that comes up this legislative year.

Livengood said, “That’ll be something that your listeners might want to keep track of. I’m not for nor against them, but I just I hate the idea of having willing people volunteer, I mean, they get paid a little, but volunteer their time and effort, and they definitely don’t get paid enough, but to be able to do this, and then to lose that institutional knowledge every few years. It’s just very sad down here when sometimes it’s hard just getting candidates to even run. They have four year terms, but they’re saying that it would be two terms. So they get eight years. I feel like once you get in that fourth, fifth, sixth year, that’s really when, I mean, the county government is so complicated. You’re not going to ribbon cuttings and doing that kind of stuff. You’re learning about ROGO and hurricane evacuation modeling and charter counties, all these things that are just so complicated. It takes a couple years just to get your feet wet, and really know what you’re doing.”

Mike Stapleford of KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM pointed out, “The leadership that is being shown right now by the Board of County Commissioners, I just have to commend them. It would be a shame if some couldn’t continue service just because of the state legislature, I would say, in my opinion. The abilities and skill set that we have on the board right now is very good.”

Livengood agreed, “It’s one of those things, too, where it takes away from our home rule. It takes away from the voters’ right, the voters being able to actually say, hey, we want this person in or we don’t want this person. So when you take that away from the voters, too, I think it’s really hurting our democracy.”

The potential for a judicial consolidation between Monroe County and Miami-Dade County was another issue in 2023.

Livengood said, “I think that was my favorite highlight of 2023 because I wrote that with the help of our legislative affairs director, Lisa Tennyson, I helped pen that letter that went out and put it on our social media. That’s one of those things that went viral and Miami Dade had 23 people respond, and we had 1467 people respond. So it was just absolutely amazing to me to see how our community can really rally together when it’s something that’s so important to us.”

Trauma Star was also able to purchase aircraft, which is sorely needed, as evidenced by recent accident.

Livengood said, “My daughter actually got into an accident the other day. Luckily she is perfectly fine, other than some bruises and her side of her face was a little swollen but just pushing that seatbelt thing is so very, very, very, very important. If she wouldn’t have had her seatbelt on, I can’t even imagine what the outcome would have been of that, but she actually was in a jeep and it rolled over two times so she wouldn’t have been in her seatbelt, it just would have been a completely different story. So, seatbelt seatbelt seatbelt, I cannot push that enough. Luckily she didn’t need Trauma Star or anything like that. But that’s one of our great programs here in the Florida Keys that really our locals and visitors, it saves lives. It really truly does and getting these new helicopters are just going to make it faster and better and more reliable. My brother had to use it a few years ago with a dive accident and he could have potentially died if he couldn’t have gotten to that hyperbaric chamber in Miami. So it’s one of those programs that our local taxpayers, it doesn’t come out of their pocket. If you were to get on it, and you don’t have insurance, you’re not going to get a $10,000 bill for having to use it. It’s just a program that’s absolutely wonderful here in the Florida Keys, without a doubt.”

Florida Keys Days in Tallahassee is coming up, too.

Livengood said, “It comes up on Thursday, January 25. A lot of Monroe County officials will be up there. The municipalities usually join us. They get Key Lime pie later in the evening and they all look forward to that. We are absolutely the farthest away from Tallahassee, so it is good just to go up there every once in a while and make sure that they remember that we’re down here and how important we are to Florida’s economy.”

The next county commission meeting will be January 31.

Livengood said, “It’s a Marathon. It’s at 9am. We’re still doing hybrid meetings. So if any of your listeners want to be involved with it, they can go to the website and they can pull up the agenda there, they’d be able to watch the meeting there. They can get the link on that website as well to be able to hybrid into these meetings and participate in them if they felt the need to do so, where they wouldn’t have to leave work for the full day. They could they could watch it from their office computer from their home. That’s one of the good things that came out of COVID is that we’ve got these ways to be able to do things that we didn’t have before.”

For more information, click here:   https://www.monroecounty-fl.gov/