Sep 302016
 

Smoke, Mirrors, and Kick the Can …

Steve Smith

Steve K. Smith, FKMCD Commissioner

by Steve K. Smith…….

‘We saved the taxpayers $2 Million!’ said the FKMCD chair recently on US1 radio.

Chairman Goodman, the majority did NOT save the taxpayers any money. Our taxes will go up this year and for the next two years. What the majority did was delay the inevitable and wasted an additional million or so of our taxpayer dollars. I do not support their decision.

The City of Key West decided we had to move, we did not make that call. The City Manager was very specific, stating in September, 2008, they ‘would not recommend selling property or extending our lease’ that was set to end in 2012. We have had years to address this.

Knowing since 2008 we would have to vacate the building, there was no money set aside to build a Lower Keys operations center. ‘We are not a bank’, said one of the commissioners, ‘we have to give this money back’.

After wiping out $5 million in reserves, the majority reacted with shock and awe when it realized that mosquito control could no longer plan on staying in the Key West operations building. Building a replacement operations facility 3, 4 or 5 years ago would have most likely saved $2 million.

Now our back is to the wall with a clock ticking toward 12/31/2018, when we must ‘cease operations’ at the ops center for the largest city in the Keys where as many as 35 staff members who serve Key West and the lower Keys are based.

Against staff recommendation, the budget vote increased our taxes this coming year, and our taxes will go up for 2018 and 2019 in order to complete the operations center. Had the majority supported the proposed budget, we all would have paid more in 2017 and our taxes would have gone below rollback the next two years.

The vote dropped the increase for the average homeowner $36.95 and guaranteed that we will all pay more the next two years.

I am proud of the accomplishments FKMCD has made, our experienced staff, and the reputation we have as the ‘best mosquito control program in the Nation’. It has been my policy to plan for the future and have adequate reserves for the worst case scenario while hoping for the best case scenario. I plan to continue making the best possible choices to protect the health and wellbeing of our residents and visitors. I regret that my fellow commissioners do not concur.

Steve K. Smith, Mosquito Control Board Commissioner

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Stephen K. Smith
 September 30, 2016  Posted by at 1:08 am ~ Opinion ~, Editorial, Issue #186  Add comments

  13 Responses to “Guest Commentary Regarding the Key West Mosquito Operations Center”

  1. So what was going to happen that you “had” to move? Please do not tell me this is about our wonderful homeless shelter plans…

  2. Do I understand this correctly? Since September, 2008, Mosquito Control has known they will need to leave the current facility, but they failed to prepare for that move, and now we’re in crisis mode? But who has been on the Mosquito Control Board since long before 2008? Who has been the Chairman of the Mosquito Control Board for a large amount of the time since 2008? Hasn’t that been Steve Smith in both cases, but now he wants to redirect the blame on others when he was exactly the one who was in the best position to prepare for this inevitable situation all along. This is just another reason why I’m voting for Pinder. He’s not my first choice, but he’s not Steve Smith.

    • Colby, one thing I learned during the Hometown candidate event on Monday was that Mosquito Control had indeed amassed a large sum of money – they had 8 million four years ago. The majority of current board members voted to spend down that money on operations feeling that an agency should not be holding onto such large sums of taxpayer money. It appears that Smith is explaining in this piece that he was against that move.

      • Naja, once again, I’m confused. If you will look back at the July Mosquito Board meeting, Smith voted Yes for maximum millage rate. In fact, he even appeared to second the motion for its passage. He had no discussion about vote until after it had already passed. During the same meeting, Smith also voted Yes for the construction of a building on Big Coppitt from Biltmore Construction at a maximum price of $4,560,000. Again he voted Yes without discussion or any apparent concern for the money being spent. See for yourself at the 44:14 mark on https://vimeo.com/177233145

        As I looked at the 2016 Mosquito Board meeting minutes that are posted online, I don’t see anywhere that Smith appeared to vote in opposition to the current direction. His voting record goes along with the majority in all of the building or taxation issues. Here’s a breakdown of what I found by looking at those minutes:

        January Meeting: Voted Yes for the Resolution Regarding Purchase of current City of Key West owned headquarters building (Yes = 4, No = 1).

        February Meeting: Voted by unanimous roll call vote to continue at current building. Voted by unanimous roll call vote to approve the Biltmore Construction Contract for a new building on Big Coppitt.

        March Meeting: Big Coppitt Building Options discussed but no vote. Voted unanimous to approve draft lease with City of Key West to continue at current building. Smith voted Yes for the Big Coppitt Site Plan (Yes = 3, No = 2).

        April Meeting: Items discussed, but no vote on taxes or buildings

        May Meeting: Nothing about taxes or buildings

        June Meeting: Nothing about taxes or buildings

        July Meeting: Unanimous roll call vote Yes for maximum millage rate. In fact, he appeared to second the motion. He had no discussion about vote until after it had already passed . Smith voted Yes for Big Coppitt Building “Guaranteed Maximum Price” from Biltmore Construction at $4,560,000. Again he voted Yes without discussion or any concern for the money being spent (Yes = 3, No = 2).

        August Meeting: Smith absent

        September Meeting Minutes not yet online.

        The bottom line here is that Smith is trying to portray himself as a maverick for the people who is against raising taxes and spending a fortune on a new Mosquito headquarters, but his 2016 voting record shows the opposite.

        • The September Mosquito Control Board Meeting minutes and video are now online. From what I read and saw, Smith and Shaw voted in favor of continuing with the status quo and building the multi-million dollar Mosquito Mansion instead of downgrading in budget to modular trailers. Do I understand that correctly? With Smith sitting at the far left side of the video, I could not identify a point in the video where Smith argued in favor of his No vote viewpoint. Shaw was the only one who clearly stated the basis for his No vote. In fact, I couldn’t identify a single instance in the video where Smith expressed an opinion either in favor or in opposition to ANY position. Furthermore, in both the September 14th Final Budget Hearing and the September 14th Regular Board Meeting, Smith voted along with the majority of the Board on EVERY budget item.

          Smith wrote in his Editorial that he regrets that his fellow Commissioners do not concur with his viewpoint, but with just the single exception from the September Board meeting that I identified above, Smith appears to have voted along with the Board’s majority in every other 2016 decision.

          It’s very convenient for Smith to blame the rest of the Board for bad budget and building decisions when he voted together with the Board in all but one of those decisions.

          • Colby, in your first comment you addressed lack of foresight since the board knew they would need to vacate. Smith laments the decisions taken by others in the majority to spend the reserves they had. ($5 million in reserves)

            Now you are addressing the high cost of providing a facility in Big Coppitt for admins. The majority decided to use trailers instead on Big Coppitt and use space already in existence in Marathon after the move. Smith wanted to spend the money on the larger facility closer to Key West and he explains that 35 personnel live in Key West and that Key West is the largest – most populated – City in the Keys. This is why he voted against the majority. The decision to spend reserves was not taken In 2016 and we can assume Smith opposed the majority on that one. He does not address whether the price tag for the facility he wants to see is exorbitant or reasonable in his piece – but since he voted in favor we can assume he finds it reasonable. Where I get lost is why we are still going to have our taxes rise in the coming years. Perhaps he means the trailers wont work out and we are going to have to build that operations center on BC anyhow. He also mentions that we are wasting a million already spent on the BC concept. Is that architectural/engineering costs?

  3. Naja, as you noted, Smith did not address why taxes will rise in coming years or whether the trailers won’t work or whether he believes Mosquito Control will need to build on Big Coppitt anyhow. He had the opportunity to state his opinion at the Budget and regular Board meetings, but he didn’t. If he had presented a justified argument in favor of the construction, then he could have perhaps changed the vote from 3-2 in favor of trailers to 2-3 against trailers. Shaw did a good job of stating his position, and I respect him for it. Had Smith joined in and supported Shaw with an equally enthusiastic argument in favor of the Mosquito Mansion, then that may have turned the tables, but we’ll never know. What we do know is that Smith is now playing both sides by blaming things on the other Commissioners after the fact.

  4. By the way, who made Smith God and the sole determiner who knows best when it comes to “making the best possible choices to protect the health and well being of our residents and visitors.” Exactly how does he know that he is right and the majority of the other Commissioners are wrong? His hubris and the attitude that he alone knows what is best for Mosquito Control is disqualifying.

  5. A permanent structure in the lower keys is necessary for our public health and safety. As a candidate, I find it very important to have a secure hurricane proof building in the lower keys. The FKMC board has not even confirmed if the County will even grant them permission to build trailers on the BC land. Had they voted for the building, our taxes would have been 46% for only 1 year and then would have gone back down below roll back. Now they have only delayed a building that must be built and our taxes will be high for a longer period of time. Not to mention that the majority just “threw down the drain” around 1 million dollars of our tax money they spent on architect and engineering fees, now its back to the drawing board for the builders! Some of the board prefer all our operations in Marathon, but what about a hurricane? We need to think ahead. Let’s say Marathon gets hit by a major storm and access to our operations is not accessible? What then? We need and we must have an operations facility in lower keys to protect the public health and safety of our community. Remember 2005, hurricane Wilma Lower Keys Medical Center and ER were closed for days, not due to the fact that the building was damaged but because the employees could not get there. The FKMC is as important as the Health Department and now is the time to treat it as such.

  6. I’ve been very hard on Smith in the earlier comments, but I came across an audio recording from the September 7, 2016 Budget Meeting in which he gave a very good argument in favor of going forward with the Mosquito Mansion plan. One can hear for themselves via the following URL:

    http://keysmosquito.org/wp-content/uploads/BoardMeeting/2016-09-07_Bldg_Workshop_audio_exppdf.pdf

    Just click on one of the green arrows, agree to accept audio from the KeysMosquito.org website and then go forward to the 14:10 mark.

    Why didn’t he give the same speech during the later Board Meeting? Sure, everyone on the Board heard him the first time on the 7th, but it appears that all of the other Board members didn’t have a problem restating their positions for a second time.

    • Why didn’t he? I’ll tell you. The very next day on September 8th both Goodman and Cranney-Gage were on US1 radio in the morning. Goodman said that although he saw the value in the building he was against it and that there needed to be some serious “horse trading.” Look that term up. Next up was Cranney-Gage who spoke of some deals that needed to be made. Tell me how 2 commissioners can go on a radio show and say almost the same thing the day after a meeting? The following week, Cranney-Gage is allowed to bring up the trailers again and Goodman changes his mind? So, if you’ve followed the FKMC, you can see the 3/2 majority vote against responsible choices. The majority believes in cutting the budgets down, they’ve even cut service down in the past. They do not care about our safety and have put us at a huge risk by placing operations in trailers. I have a plan that will save us money, our health, and our safety. That is what a good commissioner does and plans ahead. Steve and Shaw were the only common sense commissioners and were out voted every time they attempted to save the reserves for raise taxes at minimum to be able to build the much needed building. Even IF the County allows trailers, it will only be for a few years. The building will get build but if my opponent stays, it will only cost us more wasted tax money on trailers that we never needed. They’ve already wasted over a million on the already spent fees for the architecture and engineer fees. Fiscal negligence and poor planning has led to this and Steve Smith needs Kathryn Watkins and Janet Wood on this team to fix it! Thank you.

  7. Sheesh…why don’t you all just get some freakin Citronella and/or Eucalyptus oil and spray it on yourselves, children and animals…hey, maybe even plant some of these bushes all over the keys.

    So much time, energy, money wasted on poisoning yourselves over a freakin mosquito!

    It’s getting old.

    And the Zika thing?…you have got to be a true retard to believe the lies that are being told about that one.

    • …or get a blood transfusion….”Genes dictate our blood type and the chemical makeup of our skin. A 2004 study published in the Journal of Medical Entomology found mosquitoes landed on people with type O blood nearly twice as often as those with type A. Those with type B blood fell in the middle of the spectrum.”