Mar 032017
 

Commissioner Margaret Romero

Dear Community Members,

I apologize for the delay in putting together and getting out to you the synopsis of our community meeting held on February 6th. I have previously tried to have the synopsis out to you within two weeks. I hope you will be understanding of the delay. I spent many hours in research and data preparation, as well as question preparation, for two major recent items – the amphitheater item and the use of a City Hall property for $1.00 per year as a commercial kitchen.

The city did not feel the obligation to notify the surrounding neighborhood of the upcoming agenda item regarding the use of a property for a commercial kitchen in their midst – so I personally delivered 500+ flyers to the neighboring community of City Hall to provide awareness of the agenda item so that the community would be able to provide their input – whatever their input might be. Yet, another reason for this delay. I hope you are patient with me for giving attention to those items.

I remain committed to trying my best to make your government fiscally responsible, accountable, and transparent.

At the end of the synopsis is documentation showing the anonymous responses which the attendees provided to the questionnaire that was distributed. Not everyone who attended the meeting chose to complete the document, but the results are for those 103 persons who chose to provide their opinions.

I thank you for your interest and encourage your future participation and input.
Margaret

PS – Where appropriate, I have added an update for those items on which action was taken after our get-together.

TOPICS
Amphitheater
Truman Waterfront
Commercial Community Kitchen
Sanctuary Designation
South Roosevelt Blvd
Downtown Parking Garages
Vehicles for hire – uber / lyft
Hospital and Medical Helicopter Update
Conversion Therapy
Questionnaire responses

Amphitheater
The current status of the amphitheater was discussed. The audience was updated that the contract for amphitheater was awarded to DL Porter as their company was the lowest bidder for the project at roughly $3.6 Million. The highest bid was close to $5.5 Million and the remaining four bids were in the $4.5 million range.

I mentioned that I had been contacted by several people, not all residing in District 5, that had several reservations concerning the project. Among the concerns were noise, usage, traffic, flexibility, limited input from the community and lack of a business plan. Since many folks had called for a referendum, I explained the process needed for citizens to call for such a vote and the approximate time it might take. Because months of construction could be underway by the time such could even be brought to a vote – I opted to ask that the item be brought back before the commission.

Points made by attendees echoed the concerns already stated. The consensus seemed to be that cost, the perceived rush, general lack of info, and feeling that their voices had not been heard continued to be reiterated.

UPDATE: Since the community meeting, the commission met and decided by a 5-2 vote that the contract to build the amphitheater would be kept in place and the amphitheater would be built. Several people addressed their opinions on the topic. It is my personal opinion that there remain many unanswered questions. It is my belief that this area could more effectively be used for many more activities and enjoyment if the area were to remain flat, no concrete poured for any seating, and any “concerts” utilize their own stages and equipment as has been done in the past.

Truman Waterfront
It was loud and clear that folks wanted a people’s park with green space that would be usable by the community at large. People did not seem to be against use of the park for concerts, yet it seemed that placing a fixed structure with poured concrete for semi-permanent seating did not make the land area flexible to multiple uses and in fact constrained it.

The current plans of the park were reviewed – suggesting that the community center and multi-purpose are field are still on the “plan”. Yet it has been discussed that if the PAL activities are moved to the Douglas Gym – there might not be a need for the Community Center. Conversations ensued indicating that the PAL activities are not just basketball, but other activities including jujitsu, boxing, and summer activities. If the Douglas gym is still a gym, as in basketball gym, how would the other activities take place? I do not have an answer for that. I will continue to pursue things that I believe are in the best interests of our children.

UPDATE: I will continue to look into the possibility of retaining the building that currently houses the PAL activities for children, the police horse stables, and a large area that has multiple possibilities instead of the plans to demolish and build (or not) a community center. I have just discovered a document from an engineering firm indicating that “the PAL building is in good structural condition (except the stables which is the wood frame addition) and we can reuse the entire building or part of the building.”

There are also conceptual plans that have been shown suggesting putting together the 3.2 acres of the Bahama Village TIF area with the nearby 3.4 acres within the “park” area to do various things – such as affordable housing, market-rate housing, commercial space, and even a hotel. None of these items have been approved. It has been suggested that these things might be “economic” opportunities.

The question also arose as to what might happen to the police horse stables. That is a good question – if the building that currently houses the PAL activities and horse stables are demolished, and no community center is built, where do the horses go. Another good question. Attendees indicated vocal support of the police use of horses.

Brief time was spent on Building 103 – the long white building that is perpendicular to the Ingham ship. I indicated that there are current plans to “white box” the building and make sure that it is structurally sound during this fiscal year of the city. Potential plans for the building might be a multi-purpose event center. Conceptual plans for that have also been shown. Events such as

Work is progressing on the water feature / children’s play area. Some of the equipment has already been placed on the site.

Folks have heard reports that there will now be parking for 500 vehicles and 300 bikes, as opposed to the previous plans for 300 vehicles. I have not seen any actual plans that show the specificity as to where those spaces will be, but I have been told that there are reconfiguring some areas to accommodate more parking. Where the power boats will park and how Fantasy Fest floats will park are questions for which I currently do not have the answers.

Commercial Community Kitchen
I told the group that I would share with them what I knew about the community kitchen that has been proposed by the SOS organization that runs the food pantry on Stock Island. This commissioner first found out about this proposal via the Key West Citizen website- Sunday Jan 22 and in the printed newspaper on Monday, January 23rd. Later that day, we, the commissioners, were forwarded a proposal sent that same day to the City Manager by Tom Callahan from SOS.

The group is proposing to lease the “locker rooms” (the building to the west of the old gym on the City Hall property) for $1, yes one dollar, per year for a period of 10 years. The group wants to prepare 1000 meals per day at the site, as well as provide nutritional and job training. It appears the group has already secured funds to establish a commercial kitchen as well as 11 engineers from the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), a federal service program, for seven weeks starting the end of February to work on the project. I find it interesting that such resources were secured in a letter dated December 23, 2016 but I don’t know how those resources were secured if they did not have a specific building already confirmed.

According to Mr. Callahan’s letter, SOS will pay the entire $500,000 cost of the project – saying that would be renovating one of the city’s derelict buildings. He further stated that SOS has been developing the project for well over a year. This poses 3 questions for me – 1) if the project has been in development for that long, why did a commissioner whose district it is in not see a proposal until Jan. 23rd after the Citizen article appeared?, 2) why would the SOS group want to move into a derelict city building? 3) where did they get an estimate of that amount to fix the building and put in a commercial kitchen? I have seen no city estimates for either the gym or the locker room for any type of renovation. I will continue to push for transparency in city dealings.

I sent many questions to the SOS group early last week February 13, to date I have received no response.

I have received inquiries from the neighborhood. They are concerned since no one from city staff has reached out to them. They are concerned about a commercial kitchen in their midst – for a variety of reasons. The group requesting the $1.00 per year lease has not reached out to the neighbors.

UPDATE: This past Wednesday, the commission met and voted 5-1 to grant the $1 per year lease to SOS organization, I was the dissenting vote citing a rush to approve and many unanswered questions. Commissioner Weekley was not present at the meeting but he wrote a letter voicing his support of such.

Sanctuary Designation
A brief amount of time was spent in discussion on this subject. I let the attendees know that it was a topic brought up by Commissioner Weekley during a citizen’s comments on the resolution item pertaining to One Human Family in late 2016. Based on reports in the Citizen, that commissioner was working with staff to determine just what “sanctuary city” would mean in the city of Key West. As of the date of the community meeting I had seen nothing further on it and it was not on the February 7th agenda. There was discussion among the attendee including those who spoke in favor and their thoughts on rights for all regardless of immigration status and those who questioned why it was even being discussed since there was no apparent need for it in Key West. One of attendees asked the Police Chief the department’s position on the matter. Chief Lee indicated that they do not actively pursue such persons in the City – their primary aim is the safety of our citizens and solving crimes that are committed.

UPDATE: This item was not on the February 7th agenda, nor on the February 22nd agenda. The meeting for the March 7th commission meeting has not yet been published.

South Roosevelt Blvd
The majority of the group was supportive of maintaining the roadway as it currently exists- with the exception of fixing the drainage issues. Several people cited the need to retain the four lanes for ease of transport, as well as maximum access and utilization by emergency vehicles. People did realize that bike safety and walker safety are important – and some were quite vocal on that topic and hopeful for dedicated lanes for bikes.

Some of the attendees had attended the City / FDOT meeting a few months ago. There was a difference of opinion as to whether most of the attendees wanted to see the roadway remain a four-lane, while others felt the report generated favored a 2 lane road with a median.

Ultimately, the item went before the city Commission. It was decided that the roadway with remain a 4 lane road with necessary modifications for drainage and crosswalks.

Downtown Parking Garages
The topic of parking along South Roosevelt led to discussion of parking in general. Some of the attendees talked about the need for more parking downtown – and seemed to be amenable to having one or two parking garages to make it easier and more inviting to people who are coming to the downtown area – whether it be locals or visitors.

Parking in the neighborhoods was bought up – among the concerns voiced were:

1) utilization of parking spots in neighborhoods by “visitors” who simply drop their cars for multiple days while in Key West and staying at a nearby transient property,

2) higher charges for parking tickets that would make an impact

3) enforcement of improper parking of cars in neighborhoods – such as parking going against traffic and/or parking diagonally/perpendicular – all of which are safety hazards. It was suggested that the monitoring and ticket writing for such infractions be handled by an outsourced firm that would be compensated via percentage collected.

4) Utilization of an outsourcing firm to enhance enforcement of parking in general

5) Towing of cars rather than writing a second ticket for the same vehicle at the same location sequentially

6) Towing of cars after a certain number of parking infractions as opposed to continue writing of tickets that remain unpaid

Vehicles for hire – uber / lyft
An offshoot of the parking discussion led to a comment that not as many new downtown parking spaces would be needed if a service such as Uber were available. Comments heard before – such as ease of use, cleaner and more friendly service, more availability of “rides”, getting closer to the desired venue, more cost effective than parking, safety on the roads after a time of heavy partying and such continue to be voiced. A large number of people continue to voice support for such a service. There were folks in attendance who continued to speak in favor of the current taxi service that is available today.

It appears that the city is still awaiting the State to make some determinations. This is because indications are that the legislation that may pass would override any legislation that might have been passed by a municipality. So, nothing has yet changed.

Hospital and Medical Helicopter Update
I did a brief overview of my perception of what is happening with our local hospital. I noted that I had attended both recent hospital district and hospital board meetings, as well as talked to several people that I know who are employed at the location.

The good news is that my personal conversations with hospital staff and presentations made at the board meeting indicate that “things are on the mend” and improving. Staff has indicated improvements in attitude of the management team and visible attempts to make things better. Presented charts indicate improvements in various areas.

I pointed out that from my research there are various categories and groupings on which the star ratings are graded and provided the actual website information where folks can become more educated. In some cases, line items are weighted more heavily than others – and there are some groupings where a rating may improve quarter to quarter, others may take much longer – therefore not showing a change in the star-rating for almost two years.

The CMS star rating is the one which has been utilized for local discussion. (CMS stands for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services). I also pointed out that there are various standard rating systems for hospitals across the country and this is just one of them.

The CMS ratings are based on the following topics and the associated highest points per topic:

CATEGORY                            MAX POINTS                    # OF MEASURES IN THE CATEGORY
Mortality                                           22                                                                 6
Readmissions                                   22                                                                 7
Safety of Care                                   22                                                                 8
Patient Experience                         22                                                                 11
Effectiveness                                     4                                                                 30
Timeliness                                         4                                                                  8
Efficient Usage of                            4                                                                   5
Medical Imaging

If you want to get more into these details you can go to www.qualitynet.org

The County has recently approved the purchase of another helicopter, many times referred to as a “sister” helicopter of the one recently purchased by the county. At a recent board of county commission meeting, monies were allocated and permission given to begin hiring the persons needed to staff the upgraded operations. My understanding is that the second county helicopter would be located at the helipad at the hospital – and that county residents would continue to receive the currently offered services as are offered today at the established processes for billing. The date of delivery of this 2nd helicopter is still unknown.

The LifeNet helicopter is currently scheduled to remain in-service until at least early summer. The audience was reminded of the circumstances under which that company was brought into the Keys.

It is my understanding that LifeNet is requesting consideration to remain in the Keys, with the “same way of billing” as offered to county residents, with a $400,000 subsidy. Again – this information was solely in the form of an update of what I knew at the time.

Conversion Therapy
A proposed ordnance making it a criminal offense to engage in the practice of subjecting minors to conversion therapy was discussed among the attendees. A large number of attendees felt that this was a parental responsibility in which a government should not be meddling – however, it was conceded by many that they were not personally warm to such practices.

UPDATE: A reading for this ordinance was unanimously approved at the February 7th commission meeting. The second reading of this proposed ordinance was up for vote at the February 22nd commission meeting, however the item was pulled from the agenda at the request of Commissioner Weekley, who was not in attendance, because it was indicated that he wanted to be a part of the vote.

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 March 3, 2017  Posted by at 1:09 am Issue #208, News, Public Notice  Add comments

  5 Responses to “Synopsis of Commissioner Romero’s Community Meeting & Questionnaire Responses”

  1. Amphitheater – Parking and traffic
    The idea here is to alleviate ‘some’ parking and traffic problems for the 6 possible big yearly events at the Amphitheater by utilizing the large parking lots at Key West High School, Searstown and the Caroline St. parking garage. Cars can be directed to these areas, and from there people can be transported to the Waterfront Park on City buses or private transportation like Trolleys, Conch Train, etc. that run a semi-continuous loop from there to the Park. Passengers could be dropped off at the front entrance to the area so as to not go into the Park, and from there it is just a short walk to the Amphitheater. The City could have their ‘golf carts’ lined up and waiting inside the front entrance to take the disabled all the way inside to the event.

    I’ll check on the parking capacity of Key West High School this week, but it seems like a few hundred and a parking fee would probably be considered. It also seems like the promoter of a big event would be responsible for at least some or much of the transportation costs.

    If you figure on a crowd of 3,000 – 3,500 for a big event, with a plan like this you might be able to cut downtown congestion down by a high of around 1,000 car people plus maybe 200 bicyclists and 100 mopeds. So, from a crowd of 3,000 subtract 1,000 + 200 + 100 = a balance of 1,700 people to deal with. Then you have other parking areas like the Catholic Church parking lot and Harris School. Using the ‘Huey Lewis and the News’ show as an example, the attendance numbers I received were around 2,000 or a little more.

    This is just a starting point, so if anyone has other serious ideas, let’s have them.

    • As promised, the parking at KW High School is right at 290 spaces. The school has offered the parking lot’s use for Fantasy Fest in the past and it has worked out pretty good using just 2 buses for a wait of 30 minutes or so to board for the trip downtown. 4-6 buses or trolleys would be better, obviously, but more costly to the city or promoter. Parking fee was a donation of $5 to $10 depending on what time people parked. The person I talked to in the front office at the school said Amphitheater parking there would probably work out well.

  2. Building 103
    Architects and HARC are key here. Plenty of ideas from many people, of course, but at this point HARC claiming that the building is historic is a definite roadblock, imo. The HARC representative I talked to claims the building is a historic structure, which means that it should be renovated and preserved pretty much exactly like it is now. Key West historian Tom Hambright claims it is not a historic structure and even produced a booklet for me of non-historic structures that has Building 103 listed. Bill Verge, former City Commissioner and owner of the USCGC Ingham which is moored right across from Building 103, is considered an expert of the Waterfront and also states that the building is not historic.

    So, what does this mean? It means that if the present, exact design of the building is kept, then for one thing it will not be able to increase the seating capacity from approximately 300 or so to a more desired 900 that some have asked for. Although 900 is way too ambitious for me, from a business side that is what some want for a perceived use as a large convention center among other things. If the present design is followed, you would also end up with a pretty boring looking structure, instead of a new look with arches on the sides and front which in reality would look even more historic than what HARC considers historic.

    Here’s where the architects come into play, and for now let’s forget about adding a 2nd story. If they are given direction, all that has to be done is to increase the width of the building by 20’ or so, keep the present length and roof dimensions, replace the old look of warehouse windows with arches and you’re in business. You’ll then have the compromise of a new look while still keeping some of the former shape of the building. It would also then have a larger seating capacity for a convention center, other community meetings, wedding receptions, dances, parties and a smaller style Conch Café next to a prep area for catered food in the rear of the building. The Conch Café can serve the playground area as well as Park visitors.

  3. PAL building

    Demolish a structurally sound $5 million plus building and Horse Stables or not? Repair or replace the roof, re-connect the water and sewer and get the commercial grade restroom up to par, do some concrete work and strengthen the Horse Stables in the rear and you’re good to go….for about a $million, ballpark. Or demolish and you can have much more open, green space….if that open, green space is not taken back for a building development.

    If the building is demolished, the Horse Stables could be a stand-alone right behind where they are located now – along the stretch of road that presently leads to the State Park entrance. The road and entrance to the State Park will have a new route so that road is not needed now, and if the Horse Stables are placed there it could be a nice, tucked away area for it.

    OR, another option I presented (or floated) that expectedly did not go over well with some, including the Engineering Dept., would be to “slice off” the Engine Repair shop and also an area in the front of the building that is used for storage. What this would do is to give you another huge lot or field right across the street from the Petronia St. Field. The dimensions of this “new field” would have a width of approximately 270′ wide in one area down to 181′ x 400′ in length (which would be much larger than a football field). I understand the engineer’s doubt, because they would be more comfortable dealing with a perfect rectangular field that is perfectly parallel to the building and road area there that leads to the Navy’s entrance gate. BUT, seeing as this is a Park here, there is no need to have everything perfectly aligned and, imo, would be even more aesthetic and still totally functional if the playing field is not of a regimented design in this particular location. Might be hard to comprehend this without a diagram, but hey, trust me just this one time, it would work well, and if this course is followed you would get: Two playing fields instead of one while also keeping the PAL building and the Horse Stables, and the need to build a new multi-$million Community Center would be eliminated.

    There is a liitle or a lot more involved in this situation, so keep tuned and I wouldn’t be surprised if a compromise is in order.

  4. Building 103

    Looks like there will be a lot of work involved to ‘prevent the mistake’ of keeping Building 103’s present design, which was really just a working storage building for some of the Navy’s generators.

    Do people really want a warehouse look for the City’s and Park’s Convention Center? Maybe so and it could happen, because there are a lot of layers of bureaucracy to go through to make a design change from – below mediocre to great.