Commissioner Margaret Romero
Commissioner Margaret Romero

by Commissioner Margaret Romero…….

Below you will find the following topics and an overview of what was discussed / reviewed at our community meeting on October 19th. I handed out to each attendee a questionnaire as they entered the meeting area and asked that they complete the sheet. All forms were submitted anonymously – no age, district, address or name. Only information of the topics was gathered.

If there were questions regarding the topics covered in the meeting on the form, I have included those responses in the topic area. Those questions and the responses will be shown in bold italics.

The topics covered in this note are as follows in case you would like to jump to a particular topic.

  • Hospital Matters
  • Funding for Youth / Non-Profits
  • Parking Fee Increase
  • Waterfront Update – Amphitheater
  • Mosquitos and Flies
  • City Hall — move-in, solar panels, where to put the Tiger, running the city, funding of events
  • Keys Energy Diesel Buildings

Hospital Matters
Topics surrounding our local hospital have been quite the conversation over the past few months. When asked how many people in the audience were unhappy with a 1 Star rating for our hospital – just about every hand in the room went up. Subsequently I asked the group’s insight as to where folks are flown out for serious heart related conditions and traumatic injuries. Many people think of Mt. Sinai for heart related conditions. Jackson Hospital was the majority response for traumatic injuries. A few folks mentioned Baptist Hospital. I then asked folks if they would be comfortable being flown to Jackson if the situation so warranted – all indicated yes. I then pointed out that Jackson Hospital is also ranked as a 1 Start hospital – something that most people did not realize.

I shared with the group that I had done some research prior to the meeting to find out what areas are considered for hospitals who are ranked by the CMS star rating. (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

Some of the topics are rated on a quarterly basis and some on a yearly basis. As such, it might take a couple of years to see a change in the overall star rating, even tho’ some of the individual topics might see significant improvement quarter to quarter. If you want to get more into these details you can go to www.qualitynet.org

Hospital Matters

1. Should the city take over the hospital:  yes 31 % no 69%

2. If the hospital is well run, do you care if it is a profit or not-for-profit hospital:  yes 31 % no 69%

3. There is a difference between the Tax District, Governing Board, Medical Executive Committee, and Hospital Executive Management Team – do you care to know the difference  between them: yes 57% no 43%

4. Top 4 concerns regarding the hospital

a. Patient experience
b. Patient outcomes
c. Takes my insurance
d. Reasonable charges for location

other possible answers
– hospital practices
– communicates well
– works with my doctor

Funding for Youth / Non-Profits
This discussion was rather short lived. Most people do not mind if there is some money given to non-profits utilizing city funds paid by local taxes. However, there was consensus that people do not want to be misled – they want to be told exactly what the non-profit does, how much money is going to their organization and for what purpose. It seems that those in attendance were tired of smoke and mirrors and not having all the facts. People want transparency and fairness to all – not just to the first that come with their hand out. A statement that one person very eloquently made and was met by general applause.

Most indicated that they would prefer to make charitable contributions to the non-profits of their own choosing – not to those who are favored by some or habitually rely on the city / county for their funds rather than showing show initiative of their own to at least help in the fund raising.

The comment was also made that if some non-profits are exempt from paying certain fees, or having the city pay those fees, then that is something that should be done across the board and offered to all non-profits – not just a select few.

5. Attendees top four categories of non-profits that the city might consider supporting

a. Youth aftercare
b. Community health
c. Affordable housing
d. Youth sports

other possible answers
-Cultural events
-Youth character building
-Animal services
-Homeless service

Parking Fee Increase
The recent parking increase fee was reviewed. The city commission recently approved a $1.00 per hour increase in general for pay-to-park areas. In exchange for this increase, those displaying a local residential sticker would be allowed 4 free hours of parking at either the “Park ‘n Ride” at Caroline and Grinnell, the Bight parking lot on Caroline, and the parking lot at the Simonton St. fire station. Please note that this is only for a maximum of four hours , not longer than that, and it is not at all paid parking areas.(For example, the four free hours does not apply to the Mallory Square lot)

The parking increase has not yet gone into effect, nor has the 4 hour free parking with a residential sticker. Some changes will need to be made in ordinances before any of this goes into effect – which means at least two readings before the city commission.
Talk from attendees centered around having increased parking fees be used for additional parking downtown (garages) and for enhanced transportation in the community – but not for affordable housing.

6. Do you support the $1 per hour parking fee increase: yes 32% no 68%

7. Would you like to see a downtown loop: yes 72 % no 28%

8. Do you want more parking downtown: yes 89% no 11 %

9. I would like a downtown loop, but only with its own fee: yes 81% no 19%

Waterfront Update – Amphitheater
I did a quick overview of what is happening at the Waterfront. Construction has begun on the infrastructure , roadways, and water feature and shaded area are in the first phase of the project. Some questions were asked about:

– the utilization of the “PAL building” – currently some minor repairs are being made and some found air conditioning units may soon be put in place, some in the city feel this buildings facilities should be combined with the Douglas Gym site, yet others feel that the PAL building is a strong building which could be well utilized for various and sundry activities.

– the white building (BLDG 103) near the Ingham is currently being considered as a future “event center / multipurpose building”; shoring up of the building and white-boxing should occur during the coming fiscal year

– of course, the amphitheater came up, while some like the idea of an outdoor venue the actual utilization, cost recovery, and on-going maintenance costs were discussed. Folks seemed to feel that an amphitheater was not something that the people wanted – that the people wanted a green and open park and that a few people always seemed to be pushing an amphitheater. Some were concerned about the heavy influx of traffic and noise issues that are about to be forced on the people of Bahama Village and the Truman Annex. Another concern was whether or not the city would have to follow it’s own rules as to how many and how often loud and crowded events would be allowed to take place.

10. Do you want an amphitheater if it does not pay for itself: yes 21% no 79%

– I told the group that my TWAB (Truman Waterfront Board Advisory) appointee had asked me a question about the very early days of the transfer, which of course led me to a great amount of hours searching thru newspaper articles and various documents. Based on that research, I noted just about every thing that had been talked about since 1999 – some of it only once and other things multiple times. I put all of those things on the questionnaire and asked the group to list their top ten priority rankings. Below are listed what emerged as to most desired features:

Group 1 – by far the highest amount

1. green space
2. access to the waterfront

Group 2

3. bathrooms
4. exercise paths
5. recreation fields
6. bike racks
7. landscaping

Group 3

8. benches
9. event / community center
Tied for 10. boardwalk / promenade
Tied for 10. amphitheater
picnic areas

Group 4

restoration of PAL building
fishing pier
parking

Group 5

admiral’s cut
affordable apartments
stables for police horses
community garden
retail / commercial space / open air market

Group 6

restaurant / snack shop
interactive fountain / waterpark
maritime museum / monuments
swimming pool
culinary school / hospitality center

Group 7

transportation hub
theater
marina / ferry / port

Group 8

day care center
staging for boat races
keys energy diesel buildings

Group 9 – got no takers at all

hotel
recording studio

Three other things became apparent in my research.

1. It appears that the Navy did not give the harbor area / submerged bottom to the city – only what is referred to as the quay wall and “piers”

2. A pro forma review of the proposed amphitheater’s projected revenue and costs was requested by the Truman Waterfront Advisory committee members in September of 2013 – I can find no record of such a pro forma ever being produced

3. Early documents showed the amphitheater being built in phase 4, so far I have only been able to discern that “someone” directed that it be moved up to an earlier phase. More data will need to be found.

Mosquitos and Flies
This was also a very brief discussion which I thought would have had a lot of interaction, differing opinions, and lots of comment – but that was not case. I simply made the group aware of the information that I had obtained from attending various mosquito control board meetings and reviewing the FDA report (which also was contributed to by the CDC and EPA).

What most people do not realize is that only a handful of chemical application have come to market since the 40’s and that just a few of them are still a useful tool to fight mosquitos in the lower keys – and their effectiveness is not getting any stronger. The genetically modified mosquitos have been considered / studied for some time for use in our area by Mosquito Control. They recently got the go-ahead for use with no significant impact cited by the FDA regarding humans and the environment. The use of the wolbachia treated mosquitos has just recently been approved for testing as well. And even more recently, we have seen the release of irradiated flies in the Big Pine area to combat the spread of the screwworm. Basically, what happens is that when the males (which are the ones treated and the male mosquitos do not bite) mate with the females they do not produce viable offspring – hence reducing the mosquito population. My request for all is to look at the materials, do your reading, and make sure you review the facts – don’t just base your decision on emotions and fear mongering. There is validity in much of the research and something has to be done to continue the fight of reducing the number of mosquitos. It is by that reduction the chances of them transmitting various diseases and viruses are lessened.

Here are the results from the community meeting:

11. Support the release of genetically modified mosquitoes: yes 60% no 40%

12. Support the release of wolbachia treated mosquitoes: yes 62 % no 38%

13. Support the release of irradiated flies: yes 72% no 28 %

14. Leave the decision to elected board and experts: yes 71% no 29%

City Hall
Move-in, solar panels, where to put the Tiger, running the City, & funding events
The move to the new city hall location on White and United will begin this week on Wednesday after the final turnover of the building by the contractor to the city for occupation. There will be a phased move in of the various departments that are currently housed in the Habana Plaza location. ****** UPDATE AS OF TUESDAY MORNING, NOVEMBER 8TH FROM CITY MANAGER JIM SCHOLL …… The process of moving into the new city hall is on hold. ‘Substantial completion” needs to be achieved in order to proceed with the move. We are not there yet and the city will delay the move until this critical milestone is reached. There will be a progress meeting with the contractor on Thursday of this week. At the conclusion of that meeting, it should be known when to expect substantial completion of the building. *******
The dedication / grand opening is currently scheduled for November 21st at 10 am.
The location of the solar panels is an on-going discussion.

The results of the questionnaire on the topic are as follows:

15. Solar panels at City Hall

Prefer them on the roof 61.2%
Use at another site 18.4 %
Leave them alone 20.4%

Discussions continue as to where to place the place the tiger sculpture. My recollection is that the school district was supposed to have relocated the tiger mascot with the students of Glynn Archer Elementary School when it was moved to the HOB campus. The brother of a school board member volunteered to restore it and Arnold’s towing agreed to handle it’s moving.

It now seems that some want it back on the corner near the three flag poles at White and United. On this I will share my opinion. The Tiger belonged to the school board and it was supposed to have been moved with the students. Somehow the school district decided they no longer wanted it. The City can tell the school district that they now have to decide what they want to do with it since we have been storing it for them for some time. Some have suggested to put it near City Hall entrances and exits – with which I disagree because of safety reasons.

Two other suggestions remain:

a. Put the tiger near the Douglas Gym as knowledgeable folks have indicated the mascot of the former Douglas School was the tiger and it should be near the school gym for which it was the mascot

b. Truman Waterfront – this is my favorite location. The tiger was seen with people taking pictures with it. It was a photo op – how much more appropriate for a photo. How fitting to have a plaque accompany the statue telling of a native artist, who along with his high school students, actually created this piece of sculpture. Now there is the spot for a piece of local history. Maybe near the water feature?

Below are the results of the questionnaire related to City Hall and the running of city government:

16. Where would you like to see “The Tiger” placed?

City Hall 32%
Douglas Gym 22 %
Truman Waterfront 46%

17. Are you satisfied with how the city is running? yes 31% no 69%

18. Are you satisfied with the timeliness and responsiveness of the city? yes 35% no 65%

19. Should the city fund any of the following events:

a. Fantasy Fest yes 24% no 76%
b. Power Boat Races yes 26% no 74%
c. Holiday Parade yes 79% no 21%

Keys Energy Buildings
I reported to the group what had been told to the commissioners — that to handle the “contamination” and demolish two of the three buildings would be between $ 600,000 and $900,000. That there is no defined plan for what the building / area would or could be used – just that it would be an acquisition of property that would be owned by the city. Keys Energy would be giving the property to the City.

An attendee jokingly reminded folks that the school system gave the City Glynn Archer and look what that has cost. Another person suggested / questioned how about a non-profit getting the building and / or partnering with the utility to do “something” and had a non-profit ever taken over such a project. I pointed out that The Studios of Key West has taken a few projects as a new non-profit and raised quite a bit of money to pay for those projects and restorations. I also pointed out the tremendous fund-raising that has been done by the non-profit raising money for the local animal shelter. So yes – it is possible if someone has an idea and can get folks behind them. I would like to see something like that happen.

20. Support the acquisition and renovation of Keys Energy’s former Diesel Plant: yes 32% no 68%

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