Nov 22
Research necessary to save hook up costs

The Monroe Board of County Commissioners collectively seemed to agree Wednesday that it would cease changing its collective mind on what type of wastewater collection system would be available in the various subdivisions that comprise the Cudjoe Regional service area….next month.

Last month, the BOCC members approved converting some areas on Cudjoe Key, Sugarloaf Key and Big Pine Key from low-pressure grinder pumps to gravity pipes, at a cost of about $10 million in additional money.

Wednesday commissioners seemed loathe to add any more money to the now $170-million project, but will accept analysis on similar subdivisions from the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority next month to make the final/final decision on what changes may or may not be made.

County Engineer Kevin Wilson told the BOCC that he felt the FKAA and county staff had done study on other areas that might fall within the parameters set by the commission in recent decisions, and “We are at the point where we have made all the changes we feel fall within those parameters and it’s time to begin to move forward.”

FKAA Executive Director Kirk Zuelch said that the changes being made may well push the project completion past the state’s mandated deadline of Dec. 31, 2015 for the implementation of advanced wastewater treatment in the Keys, and that date may go further south if more changes are made.

Continue reading ‘Research necessary to save hook up costs’

Nov 15
Sugarloaf fire, county still working on lease
Volunteers need space for booked events

Even though Monroe County leadership made the decision to convert the formerly all-volunteer Sugarloaf Fire Department to a partial career force a few months back, the two sides in the ongoing struggle have yet to reach common ground on how exactly that plays out in the future.

While the county pays for the equipment and the career firefighters at the station, the station itself and the land it sits on are owned by the volunteer corporation.

After several rebukes of the county’s move to put paid personnel there, the volunteer corporation finally acquiesced and agreed that for proper coverage of the Sugarloaf area, a mixture of paid and volunteer personnel would be necessary.

Continue reading ‘Sugarloaf fire, county still working on lease
Volunteers need space for booked events’

Nov 15
Permit issues facing islands
New program adds a step for Big Pine: Staff seeks cost increase

For Big Pine Key residents, the questions surrounding hooking into the county’s wastewater treatment system will definitely be varied.

Will I be on gravity or grinder?

Will I need power or not?

When will my street be finished?

Then add the multitude of permitting questions still up in the air.

How much for the plumbing permit?

How much for the electrical permit if I need it?

How much for the septic abandonment permit if I need it?

But for property owners in the more remote areas of Big Pine Key, there is an additional layer of questions to be answered before hookup to any type of pipe can begin.

Continue reading ‘Permit issues facing islands
New program adds a step for Big Pine: Staff seeks cost increase’

Nov 08
Residents: Still no grinders

It was tempestuous crowd Monday night at the Lower Keys Property Owners building on Big Pine Key that hurled questions at representatives from the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority about the plans for wastewater service in the Cudjoe Regional System.

The majority of those in the standing-room only crowd had one mission, and that was to convince the FKAA that grinder pumps were a bad option.

That decision, said FKAA Executive Director Kirk Zuelch, is not entirely up to the utility.

Continue reading ‘Residents: Still no grinders’

Nov 08
Bridge needs work soon

With about eight months to go before a more extensive repair takes place, county engineering officials are making plans to undertake some emergency repairs on the No Name Key Bridge.

During one of the many periodic bridge surveys done by the state Department of Transportation, inspectors discovered some spalling issues on the nearly 50-year-old span that require immediate attention.

According to County Engineering Director Judy Clarke, inspectors noticed the spalling under a bearing plate that supports one of the beams for the bridge.

It is the second such finding in the last two years on No Name Key Bridge. The bridge was completed in 1964 and such structures are estimated to have a 50-year life span, meaning No Name Key Bridge, also known as Old Wooden Bridge, is approaching the end of its estimated useful life span.

Clarke said county crews immediately shifted traffic off the affected section.

She is currently working with the design consultant that worked on the more extensive repair project that is several months away for a repair design, and hopes to have that complete in short order.

The optimal plan, she says, is to ask the Board of County Commissioners for permission to suspend the  normal purchasing process for major projects in light of the emergent nature of the need to repair the bridge. Normally that project would go out for bids for about 30 days, with another 30 days for review and approval by the BOCC and another 30 days to mobilize a contractor to do the work.

Continue reading ‘Bridge needs work soon’

Nov 01
Agreement may delay flood premium hikes

Congress is expected to approve legislation this week that could delay, for up to four years, implementation of new flood insurance rates that experts have said could cause a devastating effect on slowly recovering real estate markets.

In 2012, Congress approved the Biggert-Waters Act, a piece of legislation that was supposed to return fiscal solvency to the National Flood Insurance Program.

The NFIP, underwritten by Federal Emergency Management Agency tax dollars, is about $24 billion in the red after massive payouts to victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and more recently to victims of Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey.

Biggert-Waters was supposed to eradicate federal subsidies for flood insurance for homes that are at or below base flood elevation in coastal communities throughout the country.

Continue reading ‘Agreement may delay flood premium hikes’

Nov 01
FKAA to face more questions on grinder pump issue

Officials from the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority can probably expect some pointed questions next week during two community meetings with residents of Big Pine Key concerning the wastewater systems those residents will be receiving in coming months.

After some significant changes in systems last month by the Board of County Commissioners, FKAA drastically scaled back its invitations for a wastewater update meeting next week. Because the BOCC eliminated 1,100 grinder pumps from the system and replaced those properties with gravity pipes, FKAA had to get the contractor to go back to the drawing board and make those changes.

And that caused a stir amongst the folks remaining on Big Pine Key who now face the specter of being one of the remaining 1,600 low-pressure grinder pumps.

FKAA will meet with the Lower Keys Property Owners’ Association Monday night at 7 p.m. At the association’s building on Bogie Road, and then will meet with residents from Big Pine North Region 1 at 7 p.m. Thursday night at Vineyard Christian Church.

The focus of both meetings, however, is anticipated to be the same.

Those homeowners who remain on low-pressure grinder pumps have raised several objections to those plans in recent weeks, objections FKAA officials will undoubtedly hear….twice.

Continue reading ‘FKAA to face more questions on grinder pump issue’

Oct 25
FKAA trims sewer meet

What was supposed to be a meeting for everyone on Big Pine Key regarding the coming installation of wastewater treatment systems has been scaled back to just one region.

The Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority had scheduled a public meeting for Thursday, Nov. 7 at 6 p.m.at Vineyard Christian Church on County Road in Big Pine Key for property owners on that island to get a look at what may have been final design plans for sewer treatment collection pipes on the island.

But with the Board of County Commissioners decision last Wednesday to convert nearly 900 properties from low-pressure grinder pumps to gravity pipes on Big Pine, the meeting has been scaled back to just the folks in in the Region 1 North area.

Continue reading ‘FKAA trims sewer meet’

Oct 25
Little Torch couple find note in a bottle

A warm Sunday in the Florida Keys. North of Big Pine Key, the waters leading to Content Keys were flat calm, visibility was extraordinary.

Gary and Jennifer Cox of Little Torch Key were taking advantage of the beautiful conditions, motoring out to the Contents and going for a dip in the crystal clear, still-warm waters.

Nearly 27 years before this typical Florida Keys weekend day, a supertanker plied the waters of the Caribbean Sea between Jamaica and Cuba. During that transit, 1,106 bottles were launched into the sea as part of a science experiment for then 11-year-old Brian Akers of Beaumont, Tex.

Akers had spent months gathering the glass soda bottles from the sides of roads around Beaumont. He inserted a numbered, two-sided note in each bottle explaining what the process was and giving potential “finders” information on how to contact him should they find one of his bottles.

With the notes securely inside, Akers sealed the bottles using paraffin under the caps to ensure they would remain watertight.

He then sent the bottles to sea with a neighbor who was the first mate on an oil tanker. The neighbor recorded the date, the bottle number and the latitude and longitude when he chucked each bottle over the side.

Ocean currents and tides took over from there.

The exact path bottle #529 took may never be known, but where it finished its trek was on the deck of the Cox’s boat on its trip back in to Little Torch.

Continue reading ‘Little Torch couple find note in a bottle’

Oct 18
Crab season off to slow start, optimism high

Opening day of stone crab season Tuesday wasn’t nearly as strong as had been hoped, but some of that is probably to blame on a still-hot lobster market.

Fanci Seafood owner Bobby Holloway, Cudjoe Key, said first-day catch for this season was down from last year, and last year was a dismal year for crab, but the industry hasn’t given up any hope for a rebound at this early juncture.

Continue reading ‘Crab season off to slow start, optimism high’

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