The Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce this week is on a search for a new executive director.
At last week’s chamber board of director’s meeting, a majority of the board voted not to renew the contract of long-time director Carole Stevens.
Stevens has been leading the organization for about a decade.
Shortly after Keys Energy hooked up the first home on No Name Key to commercial power, residents who live on the remote island off the northeast shore of Big Pine Key were knocking on doors at the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority asking that their area be considered for connection to the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System.
The move had been predicted by many area groups who told members of the Monroe Board of County Commissioners that electricity wouldn’t end the battles over utilities on No Name Key.
Property owners living in the area to be serviced by the outer islands portion of the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System began receiving their assessment letters last week.
While the assessment amount is still $4,500 per equivalent dwelling unit, roughly equal to the flow from a typical single-family residence, those who opt to pay the assessment over 20 years saw a decrease from last year’s amount.
For the first year of the assessment amortization for properties in the inner island area, those who opted for the 20-year payment schedule had $402 added to the tax bill. Those who take that option this year will be billed just $310 for the year.
That decrease comes as county officials have secured lower cost financing for the anticipated bonds that will be issued to build the Cudjoe Regional system.
Property owners have the option to pay the full amount prior to August 31. Those who choose not to do so will see a $310 payment due on the 2013 tax bill that will be mailed in November.
The payment is treated the same as property taxes. Those who don’t pay the amount can be subject to liens on the property.
Those who disagree with the assessment amount, which could be different for commercial properties, can still appeal the figure.
When school starts again in August, the Big Pine Academy will undergo another major change.
The small charter school on Big Pine Key is in the final stages of the legal process to lease Kind to Kids Early Learning Center on Big Pine Key from the current owner with plans to move the school’s programs for three- and four-year-olds into that facility.
Monroe County got good news on the Washington front this week that it has finally been recognized as being good stewards in flood plain management by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and might be allowed back into the program that can result in flood insurance premium discounts for local property owners.
But those discounts may mean very little in the big picture.
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials Tuesday confirmed that the much-maligned pilot inspection program for lower level enclosures will end as promised on June 28.
And better yet for Monroe County property owners, the county will not be forced to devise some other program to corral the 2,800 or so properties that were identified as needing inspections during the pilot program that didn’t.
According to Growth Management Director Christine Hurley, FEMA officials agreed during a Tuesday meeting that the majority of those who didn’t request inspections during the pilot program probably made the choice not to carry flood insurance rather than acquiesce to the invasive program.
The pilot program was implemented in 2003 after FEMA threatened to throw Monroe County out of the National Flood Insurance Program. Without being part of the NFIP, county property owners would have been forced to seek private insurance to satisfy lender requirements for flood insurance for a mortgage.
Or the mortgages could have been called by the lenders.
Commercially supplied electrical power flowed to a No Name Key home for the first time in history Wednesday afternoon.
According to Keys Energy Spokesman Julio Barroso, Keys Energy crews were expected to hook the home of Brad and Beth Vickrey on Bahia Shores Rd. to the utility grid early afternoon. Heavy rains delayed the start of the hook up, but by 3:15 p.m. commercial power was flowing to No Name Key for the first time in history.
Agency still wants plan for un-inspected
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has finally agreed that the controversial and almost universally despised pilot insurance renewal inspection program for lower level enclosures can come to an end.
And that end is in less than 30 days.
In a letter to Monroe County officials last week, FEMA declared that the pilot program, which started more than a decade ago and was supposed to run for seven years, will end on June 28.
During the program, which required local inspections of homes with possible non-compliant lower level enclosures when those homes came up for flood insurance renewal, 5,686 units were identified as needing those inspections.
According to FEMA records, only 2,888 of those homes have been inspected. Those that have been through the process, or were found to be compliant without an inspection, is 2,645. There are currently 469 properties either in the code enforcement process, have had insurance canceled for failure to submit to an inspection, or are still within the one year grace period to attain compliance. There are 41 homes still in the pipeline awaiting initial inspection.
But it is the 2,798 homes that FEMA claims still need pilot program inspections that have FEMA officials concerned.
And that means FEMA wants some type of program from the county to address those homes that have yet to undergo inspections, but have been identified as probably needing one.
That number is probably high, says County Building Official Jerry Smith.
Landfall probability in Monroe increases
Hurricane prognosticators thus far say that the 2013 season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, should be slightly above average, with anywhere from 12 to 18 named storms, nine of which will become hurricanes and up to five major storms.
The statistical average for the last couple of decades has been 12 named storms and three major storms.
Survey crews are currently making the rounds through residential canals in the Florida Keys, taking note of clarity, oxygen levels and generally, the poor condition of the majority of canals that flow in residential subdivisions here.
Monroe County has embarked on what most believe will be at least a $100 million project to improve water quality in local canals and the survey is the next step.
Once the survey is complete, county officials should have a good grasp on what might be needed in the coming years to improve water quality in residential canals.
The Board of County Commissioners recently set aside $5 million in future sales tax revenues to kick start the project, in hopes of getting another $30 million or so from BP oil spill settlement money if those funds appear.
With the survey results in hand, consultants will whittle the list to the worst 15 canals for water quality and the BOCC will select five for a pilot improvement project using the $5 million.
That amount of money may not go very far as consultants have already estimated that it could take more than $1 million to renovate some of the deep canals in the Key Largo area.