As we welcome a new decade, Monroe County staff is proud of the work that was done this past year to enhance the quality of the lives of our citizens, business owners, and visitors.
The Monroe County Board of County Commissioners are leading the country in climate change and sea-level rise conversations. In December, the County hosted the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Leadership Summit and will continue to plan forward while tackling the topic head-on with courageous communication.
The County continued its efforts to lessen the burden on local taxpayers by securing millions of dollars in federal and state funding for needed programs and projects while we continue to work on reimbursements from FEMA for Hurricane Irma expenses.
At the state level, $6 million was secured for water quality projects, $5 million for land acquisition, and $750,000 for the vessel pump-out program. The County has been working with the State Department of Economic Opportunity to garner $105 million in funds earmarked for Florida Keys households that are rebuilding by repairing, elevating, or reconstructing damaged homes caused by Irma and for housing mitigation programs, including purchasing two trailer parks and scattered lots to rebuild new resilient homes, primarily in the Big Pine Key area and Conch Key.
Project Management obtained grant funding to fix Irma damaged historic properties in Key West and Pigeon Key. It was with great pride that Project Management and Public Works were able to upgrade the hurricane-damaged lighting at both Big Pine Community Park and Harry Harris Park in Key Largo.
The Office of Sustainability celebrated the completion of its 257-canal marine debris removal project that was federally and state grant-funded in October. The project stayed on time and under budget resulting in the addition of more canals added to the project.
Monroe County Fire Rescue had a busy year and will be graduating its second “Hot Shot” class targeted to residents at its fire training academy in mid-January. The County also took possession of its third Trauma Star helicopter to provide life-saving flights to the mainland. The program continues to fly a record number of patients while continuing to transport all Monroe County residents with no out-of-pocket costs.
Monroe County Emergency Management activated with the threat of Hurricane Dorian. Although we fared well, some of our neighbors in the Bahamas did not. County staff volunteered and donated to Bahamas relief, and the County was able to “pay it forward” to help Brevard County when they were on the brink of exhaustion after the hurricane loomed off their shoreline for five days.
The Key West airport improvement projects continue with the airport expanding nonstop services to 14 major cities. The airport also welcomed a new deputy director and a Marathon Airport manager. Our airports are the first sight for many when they arrive in Monroe County, and the County is proud of the future of the airports.
For our residents in need, the County’s Social Services, Veteran’s Affairs, and Guardian ad Litem departments continued efforts to help children, seniors, veterans, and homeless residents in need. This is also a good time to thank a group of County staff who volunteer on their days off to curate holiday meals for homebound residents in the Florida Keys.
The County’s five libraries continue to be community centers. While many communities across the nation may see a decline in library use, the groundbreaking of the new Marathon library will be an extension of Middle Keys resident's living room. And, this year, the community enjoyed the 60th anniversary of the Key West library at its current location with jazz music under the stars.
The County funds the operations of three animal shelters and helped fund a portion of the new Key West Animal Shelter that opened on Stock Island earlier this year.
From Ocean Reef to Key West, everyday tasks included providing building permits, enforcing County codes, maintaining County facilities, roads, bridges, its vehicle fleet, overseeing trash collection and recycling, keeping information flowing to the public, and producing and administering a $472.6 million FY20 budget.
Information Technology completed a retrofitting of the three BOCC chambers to broadcast in High Definition, and Employee Services hosted a successful and well attended annual health fair helping keep Monroe County’s employees healthy.
The County completed its five-year strategic plan, and the commissioners started an all-encompassing Florida Keys Transportation Coordination Committee to tackle traffic and safety concerns on U.S. 1, which was one of the top concerns of citizens.
In 2019, the Commissioners and County staff made the community – a community we can all be proud of – our top priority by striving to make our island home a beautiful and safe place to live, work, and play. Looking into 2020 and a new decade in front of us, we will continue to balance our resilient community.
Roman GastesiMonroe County Administrator