Dear Editor,

As we are about to ring in the New Year, Monroe County’s Board of County Commissioners and our County government staff are proud of what was done to enhance the lives of our citizens and visitors this past year. Below are the some of our top accomplishments for 2016.

1. Passage of the 2016 Florida Keys Stewardship Act:

The County’s legislative team worked together with State Rep. Holly Raschein, Sen. Anitere Flores and the Key’s municipalities to pass this new state legislation. It includes a $5-million annual appropriation for 10 years for land acquisition. It also expands the types of water projects eligible for funding.

2. Inclusion in federal Community Rating System:

Residents and business owners in Unincorporated Monroe County became eligible for federal flood insurance discounts resulting in more than $3.6 million in annual savings to the County’s 15,000 National Flood Insurance Program policyholders – an average of $233 per policy.

3. Opened new customs facility at Florida Keys Marathon International Airport:

The new $1.64-million Customs and Border Protection facility opened in April at the Florida Keys Marathon International Airport. For the first time in decades, international flights are able to land in Marathon.

4. Secured RESTORE Act funding from BP oil spill settlement:

County’s legislative team secured $20 million over the next 15 years for environmental and water quality restoration.

5. Adopted 2030 Comprehensive Plan and updated Land Development Code:

Both documents originally were developed more than 20 years ago. The Comp Plan evaluates everything that would affect the island chain, including: land uses, housing, conservation of environmentally sensitive land, infrastructure, transportation, ports and aviation.

6. Made progress tackling affordable housing crisis in Keys:

County took a proactive step by making all of its approximately 700 remaining affordable housing allocation units available immediately. This has helped lead to a flurry of new affordable housing projects now in the works in the Keys.

7. Added life-saving Trauma Star helicopter to air ambulance service:

The County purchased a second Trauma Star helicopter to provide life-saving flights for residents and visitors throughout the Keys.

8. Completed of Canal Restoration Demonstration Project:

The County completed construction on six restoration projects to improve water quality on some of the worst canals in unincorporated Monroe County. Monitoring is underway with early results showing improved water quality.

9. Mobile pump out program for boats collected one millionth gallon of sewage:

The County’s mobile vessel pump out vendor collected its one millionth gallon of sewage under the County’s free pump out program for boats anchored in designated areas of the Florida Keys waters.

10. Set aggregate millage rate at 3.5360 – lowest in state of Florida

The County Commission adopted a $457-million operating and capital budget for fiscal year 2017. It includes an aggregate millage rate of 3.5360, which is 5.4% less than last year’s rate and .33% below the rolled-back millage rate.

This list is just the tip of the iceberg of what was done by the Commission and County employees – who work in 21 departments up and down the island chain and strive for efficiency and cost effectiveness. Everyday tasks include: providing building permits, enforcing County codes, maintaining County facilities, roads, bridges and its vehicle fleet, overseeing trash collection and recycling, keeping information flowing to the public, and producing and administering a $400-million plus budget.

The County’s Fire Rescue and Emergency Management worked around the clock to keep residents and visitors safe, which this year included an outbreak of screwworm and threats from Hurricane Mathew and the Zika virus.

The County’s five libraries provided programs for tots to seniors, as well as a place for residents and visitors to go to learn and improve their lives. The County’s two airports brought in hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Keys, and now there is new service to Newark and soon to be Chicago, provided by United Airlines Express.

The County’s social services, veterans affairs and guardian ad litem departments worked to help children, seniors, veterans, homeless and other residents who could use help. The County also funds three animal shelters, and has worked on sustainability projects to adapt road and building projects to sea-level rise and climate change.

The County worked on new public recreational facilities, including opening Rowell’s Waterfront Park in Key Largo, overhauling Bernstein Park on Stock Island, and repairing and upgrading boat ramps at State 4a, Harry Harris Park and Blimp road. A new pedestrian bridge is almost complete over Adams Cut Waterways. Major bridge repairs are underway to Card Sound Road Bridge and Old Seven Mile Bridge. The Cudjoe Regional Wastewater Treatment Facility was completed and the deep well for that system almost is done, too.

As 2017 approaches, I want to reaffirm our commitment that your County remains resilient and ready for the future, while controlling the cost of government and continuing the efficient and effective delivery of services.

Roman Gastesi Jr.
Monroe County Administrator

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