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In today’s Key West Citizen – www.keynews.com:
Monday, February 3, 2014
City ready to dole out TIF funds to Bahama Village projects
BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff
A housing nonprofit, two churches, a youth program and a local family deserve funding from the Bahama Village Tax Increment Funding, property taxes reserved to alleviate blight in the historic neighborhood of Key West, an appointed committee has said.
City commissioners will review the recommendations after their 6 p.m. meeting Tuesday at Old City Hall.
In all, the Bahama Village Redevelopment Advisory Committee reviewed six applications for 2014 TIF money, which comes directly from property owners in the community.
About $456,000 in TIF funding has been collected, but the committee agreed in November to save at least $40,000 for long-range plans and $10,000 for committee member and staff training this year.
Committee members who voted on the grants for 2014 were: chairman Aaron Castillo, vice-chairwoman Patricia Eables, Clifford Mingo, Annette Mobley, Rudy Rivas and the Rev. Randy Becker.
The committee is not obligated to dole out all of the money available.
One standout grant recommendation is the $70,000 requested by Eugene and Francine Edwards to reconstruct their one-story Conch house at 213 Petronia St., where the land is owned by the Housing Authority of Key West.
The Key West family has been in financial limbo due in part to the demise of the Bahama Conch Community Land Trust (BCCLT).
The Edwards family is asking for $70,000 from the city to complete a total $170,000 reconstruction of their home at 213 Petronia St.
“The home has been vacant since 2007, its family displaced,” the application said.
The house has been in the Edwards family for generations.
Both the city’s Historic Architectural Review Commission and the housing authority have approved plans for renovations.
“Renovation plans were stalled for lack of funding,” the application said. “The project will reduce blight by refurbishment of a derelict structure into an attractive, energy efficient home.”
Attorney Hugh Morgan has represented the family before the committee.
“It’s the poster home for blight,” Morgan said at a December meeting at Old City Hall. “Over a decade ago I agreed to represent the family for the purpose of saving the home.”
BCCLT’s mission was to sell affordable homes in the predominantly. black Bahama Village neighborhood.
In March 2012, Assistant State Attorney Mark Wilson convinced jurors that the nonprofit’s head, Norma Jean Sawyer, misspent at least $200,000 — of a $750,000 state grant BCCLT had been awarded — on day-to-day operations, a new office for the nonprofit, as well as dinners and a charter fishing trip for her and her assistant, who was her boyfriend at the time.
The grant money was supposed to be restricted to home renovation work.
Eugene Edwards, Yvonne Edwards and Francine Edwards remain in limbo.
Sawyer was released from prison Nov. 30 and remains on supervised parole in Jacksonville, according to state Department of Corrections records.
The Edwards family has a 99-year lease and will match the grant with $100,000 of its own, if city commissioners approve it.
It would be the second largest grant awarded with the TIF money in 2014.
In the past, the committee has rejected applications by homeowners, “where a small number of people are directly benefitted by the project,” City Planner Nicole Malo wrote, instead preferring to fund nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity, which is set to receive $74,000 to help repair and improve homes in Bahama Village.
Habitat’s local chapter is set to receive the largest TIF grant in 2014.
Malo called the Petronia Street recommendation by the committee “an unusually large funding request for a single family residence.”
The committee, however, deemed the Edwards family’s application worthy of TIF funds since the home renovation was held up only by the scandal
A program that combines forces from Key West High School, Monroe County Extension Services, Habitat for Humanity, the city and the nonprofit A Positive Step is set to receive $61,213.
The program will have students identifying 150 single family properties in Bahama Village and record energy inefficiencies in each.
Students will be trained and supervised to weatherize, repair and replace fixtures within the homes to save energy and water, with the homeowner’s permission.
Data will be gathered and later shared with the city’s sustainability division and Habitat.
The Bethel AME Church asked for $20,990 to install a heating ventilation and air conditioning system for the Fellowship Hall and the parsonage. But the committee decided only to recommend $10,000, and only for the Fellowship Hall space, not the parsonage.
Central air will make the hall much more accessible to the public, the Rev. Randy Becker said.
In the past, HVAC systems have been considered by the committee as “non-essential” items for churches, city staff said.
“The parsonage has window air conditioning units which are repairable and serviceable,” Malo wrote.
Bethel AME did not respond to city staff’s letter asking for additional information, Malo added.
The Newman United Methodist Church should receive the $62,190 it requested to repair the building, 410 Truman Ave., the committee said.
“The stained glass windows hold both economic and cultural value for the property and the community,” Malo wrote.
The church’s project budget has not changed since the initial request in 2010, Malo said, and members have spent the TIF money “responsibly and appropriately.”
A sixth application was denied a cent by the committee. A Miami Lakes man proposed a three-day event set in Bahama Village “focusing on Thought, Culture and Wellness within the African Diaspora. The influences of Caribbean, African-American and Afro-Latino culture is evident in all of Key West,” the application said.
The Key West Africana Festival, a Florida nonprofit, didn’t meet the basic criteria, the board found.
Organizers asked for $85,000, the largest request of the batch by nearly $4,600.
“This program does NOT have as its focus the elimination of blight, the repair of structures nor the improvement of public infrastructure or public places,” wrote city planner Nicole Malo, in a report to City Manager Bob Vitas. “This program is simply a training opportunity for individuals.”
Malo also called the program’s marketing budget and costs such as table computers unreasonable, “because the effects of the program are very small in scope and it lacks the ability to alleviate blight.”
Becker was the lone member of the six-member panel to propose funding the festival, at $50,000. But he later agreed with his colleagues.
Over breakfast yesterday at Harpoon Harry’s, Tom Milone,
citizen public watchdog and two-time city commission candidate (against City Commissioner Jimmy Weekley), and I again discussed the idea, which I had gotten from someone else, that a city owned and operated RV campground be put on Truman Waterfront, which campground I feel will generate considerable income for the city with relatively little front-end and maintenance costs, and the income can be allocated between Bahama Village and other appropriate city recipients.
Tom had said a few days ago that he liked the idea, but felt the campground should be restricted to the 6.2 acres [inside the red] of Truman Waterfront, which had been allocated just to Bahama Village. Then, the income from the RV campground will all go to Bahama Village. Yesterday, Tom said he had passed that idea along to City Commissioner Clayton Lopez,
in whose voting district Bahama Village lies.
It is common knowledge that Bahama Village long has been a stepchild of Key West, and historically has come out mostly dead last in city priorities and spending.
The recent special city commission meeting trashed and gnashed what to do about signing the Navy’s take it or leave it offer on the outer mole lease, the pier at the end of Truman Waterfront where a cruise ship is docked in the photo. Glaring in plain view through all the political smoke and mirrors was the old outer mole lease had been a great money maker for Ed Swift,
and a great money loser for the city.
Swift’s Historic Tours or America (HTA) got and still gets paid $500,000 a year by the city to bring cruise ship passengers in from the outer mole to Swift’s gift shops and conch train/trolley terminals, where passengers buy “official” Key West trinkets and conch shells imported from Asia, and get on other HTA conch trains or trolleys at $20 a head, to be driven around and shown Key West. Later, they get back on a conch train and are taken back to the outer mole.
It was noted almost in passing at the city commission meeting, that the city has no funding source lined up to pay for the upscale public park some Key West people clamor they want built out there, nor the funds to operate and maintain the upscale park after it is built. Discussion meandered around trying to make the outer mole a moneymaker for the city, to fund the park.
Trying and doing aint the same.
Talking about trying and doing ain’t even close to the same.
After 12 years of doing nothing on Truman Waterfront but make Ed Swift richer.
A past city commission, on which Jimmy Weekley sat,
gave Swift a monopoly on the conch train and city trolley business, which caused the city to later shell out $8,000,000 or so in damages and costs to Duck Tours. I have yet to hear Weekley repent voting Swift that monopoly.
I can’t say I have one iota of confidence that this city commission, or any city commission, will end up making money on the outer mole.
Starting a city-owned and operated conch train/trolley company will not save the city money.
Imposing a cruise ship impact fee and/or increasing the cruise ship passenger disembarkation fee will have to pass the Navy’s muster and gain the whenever, if any, acceptance of the cruise ship companies.
All the while ignoring the SPERM WHALE IN THE LIVING ROOM,
which is the dirtiest, worst possible cruise ships are calling on Key West, and have been calling since the beginning of Key West cruise ship time.
The present city commissioners and mayor know this, and instead of leading the charge to have the city do any and every thing possible to make these sea and reef destroying monsters not want to come to Key West, the politicos continue to try to figure out ways to use these floating Armageddons to fund an upscale public park on Truman Waterfront.
Forgotten, or ignored, a lovely public park sits right next door, which is Ft. Zachary Taylor State Park.
Forgotten, or ignored, an upscale public park will be used by homeless people, as well as by mainstream people.
Homeless people do not use Ft. Zach, because of its small entrance fee.
Forgotten, or ignored, the testimony of two theater professionals at the city commission meeting before the outer mole commission meeting. The the two theater pros said the city is dreaming, if it thinks it can generate a profit from a 250 seat amphitheater on Truman Waterfront. The pros said they don’t generate a profit at the Tennessee Williams theater at Florida Keys Community College on Stock Island. They said, for the Truman Waterfront amphitheater to have a chance of generating a profit, it will have to seat 1,700 people, or maybe they said 2,700. I’m fuzzy about that, but I’m not fuzzy that they did not get one question from the city commissioners or the mayor, who proceeded as if the two theater pros had not even showed up.
Common sense never slowed down any scheme in the past for Truman Waterfront, so why expect common sense to gain the upper hand now?
Which returns me to the dirtiest, worst possible cruise ships calling on Key West.
In that vein, received a reply to yesterday’s Alert! Alert! The real threats to the safety and health of Corporate Key West, Inc. residents and tourists ain’t vicious unwashed van dweller criminals; Hatman saga update and fund-raiser; a Mozartesque female ministering angel in our midst?, plus neverending cruise ship love stories post from Jerry Weinstock, M.D., psychiatry (retired).
Once avid divers, still avid fishermen, Jerry and his wife Donna quit diving when Jerry became horribly sick several years ago, after diving in foul water at Fort Zach. “On the side”, Jerry became an expert in Key West ocean biology.
Sloan; In the article by Gwen Filosa her use of the
adjective [ “questionable” environmental damage }
infuriated Donna and I —the damage would be MASSIVE;
not to mention larger and more Cruise Horrors…
a dream –fantasy would be NO cruise ships
we would be so much better off.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I haven’t been in the ocean since the Cruise
era—-before that since 1956 between 5 and 10 thousand
times–until the 1990?s—-what a tragic and dreadful
loss for adults and children who never saw the living reef …
so very sad !!!!!!!!!! Jerry
Hi, Jerry and Donna, Amen.
Yours caused me to do something that’s been coming into my thoughts lately to do, which was to go back through my posts at goodmorningkeywest.com and find what DeeVon Quirolo wrote to me about cruise ships, which I had published several times. I found the last time I published it in the November 2013 hee haw junction, Key West – Kelly Caribbean MUSE comedians give and get; Key West Citizen laments sea monsters (cruise ships) might all be fleeing to Cuba – WAAAA!; life after sea monsters post, which was provoked by yet another Gwen Filosa article. I copied the sea monsters part of the post and pasted it below.
It fact, because of Monster, Key West passed an ordinance requiring all street artists and musicians to have a business license and insurance. Key West was going broke defending lawsuits brought by aggrieved relatives of cruise ship passengers Monster had disappeared. Notice the hand beside Monster.
State report: Cruise ships may stop calling on Key West
BY GWEN FILOSA Citizen Staff
The city of Key West must commit to better accommodating cruise lines or risk “significant loss of cruise business to the state of Florida,” the state Department of Transportation said in a recent report.
“Make it happen, Data.”
Florida “could be replaced in coming years by new offshore stops, such as Havana and other Cuban ports that lie as few as 100 nautical miles to the south,” said “Florida’s Cruise Industry Statewide Perspective,” dated November 2013.
Editorial cartoon compliments Key West the Newspaper – www.thebluepaper.com, published online every Friday, today is Friday.
Let the sea monsters all sail off down to that sunset and pollute what I hear are still pristine waters. I’m sure the Cubans will love it until they see what’s really happening, and then they will go through the same very delayed buyer’s remorse Key West is having to finally face after decades of pretending the sea monsters were the Second Coming, even though it apparently was known by the Key West Chamber of Commerce, according to its President Robin Lockwood, M.D. at a referendum forum not all that long ago, that the dirtiest, worst possible cruise ships were calling on Key West. Great outfit, the Chamber. After Lockwood said that on camera, the Chamber sequestered the video, wouldn’t let Jolly Benson, who spoke against the sea monsters at that forum, have a copy.
Florida is a favorite of the industry, having taken in 14 million passengers last fiscal year, the report said, but Key West may lose out and cost the rest of the state if “the appropriate infrastructure” is not in place.
Here is how much Port Everglades is the cruise ship’s favorite:
“It is not an exaggeration to say that, without capital investments, Key West’s future as a cruise port of call is seriously in question,” the state’s report says, on page 12 in a mini-dissertation on the island’s status within the cruise industry.
“Florida is in danger of losing this economically favorable status,” the report’s first page reads, citing research by the Cruise Lines International Association, which lobbies for the likes of Carnival, Celebrity, Disney, Holland America Line and Royal Caribbean International cruise lines as the world’s largest trade group for the industry.
The state’s report may be fresh, but its thesis was repeated constantly this past year by cruise ship supporters, said local activist Jolly Benson, chairman of the political action committee that worked to defeat a ballot question Oct. 1 calling for a federal study on the impacts of dredging the main ship channel.
With a 41 percent voter turnout, locals defeated the referendum by 74 percent. More voters cast ballots for the study question than for the mayoral election.
Defeated? How about slaughtered.
Also compliments Key West the Newspaper
“The cruise industry has been saying this for a year: ‘If you don’t do what we want, we’ll stop coming,’” Benson said Thursday. “They keep coming.”
The report doesn’t mention any environmental concerns brought up this year by local watchdog groups, such as Last Stand or members of Reef Relief.
Reef Relief was all for the bigger sea monsters until a palace revolt occurred, mostly due to Reef Relief Co-Founder DeeVon Quirolo
coming out of retirement and telling on Reef Relief’s website just how awful cruise ships are for the environment. A small glitch in Reef Relief’s position before it switched sides, all of this is known to Terry Schmida and the entire Citizen family, is the current CEO of Reef Relief, Peter Anderson the Great Conflict of Interest,
owned and operated the Conch Republic store and consulate, to which cruise ship passengers flocked to buy Conch Republic passports, T-shirts, flags and other conchish beads and trinkets. Peter the Great Conflict threw himself a few tantrums over that being said about him, before he finally admitted Reef Relief should be against anything that reduced or damaged corals and native sea bed, which was Reef Relief’s entire mission.
“They didn’t bother to talk to anybody who’s not involved in the cruise community,” said Benson, a Conch who runs a lighting business and whose brother, Will, is a flats fishing guide.
That’s because the people they didn’t talk to weren’t on the take.
“We have to weight whether we want to sacrifice what makes Key West unique for the sake of an industry that’s basically threatening ‘if you don’t do what we say, we’re taking our ball and going home,’” Benson said.
I hope that’s precisely what they do, take their ball and go home and never come back.
Key West received 832,887 port-of-call passengers in fiscal year 2012 at its three available ports — privately owned Pier B at the Westin Resort, and the city-run spots at Mallory Square and the Navy’s Outer Mole Pier.
During the same period, Port Miami had nearly 4 million passengers.
The report mentioned the Oct. 1 referendum in the future sense, framing it as a delay that doesn’t help the state or the cruise lines plan ahead.
The Oct. 1 referendum was a screaming message that Key West is not interested in the future of the sea monster industry.
“Feasibility studies generally take two years,” FDOT’s report said. “This is being viewed by cruise lines as a lack of commitment on the part of Key West to encourage cruise business, as it is difficult for cruise lines to make deployment decisions and commitments without knowing if their ships will be able to be accommodated.”
Let’s not forget that the sea monster companies did not offer to pay for the channel raping study they now claim is so important to the future of their species.
The state cannot “make commitments of infrastructure investment for cruise deployment at Key West without a clear indication of continued cruise business,” the report said.
That, ladies and gentlemen, was the real point of slaughtering the referendum. It never was about dredging a small area of native sea bed. It always was about bigger sea monsters calling on Key West.
compliments the Citizen some months before the Oct. 1 referendum
The report took not of recently completed repairs to Mallory Square’s dock, including replacement of the main pier.
Maybe the report should have taken note of this to me from Reef Relief co-founder DeeVon Quirolo, which I published several times; Key West the Newspaper published it, but the Citizen did not, although it had it, because I sent it to the Citizen several times:
“The most important thing is that the Keys is a NO DISCHARGE ZONE and we were the ones who led the effort to make it so.
“The current situation is that cruise ships routinely dump thousands of gallons of partially treated concentrated waste in the ocean outside of the reef on their way to Key West from Port Everglades. They run just outside the reef to avoid the offshore counter current of the Gulfstream, which is why the Area to be Avoided was established by the International Maritime Organization to keep them far enough off critical areas where many large ships ran aground the reef. When I was on the Cruise Ship Task Force for the City, we tried running a sample of cruise ship waste through the sewage treatment plant, but it was so anoxic that it would have shut down the anerobic action of the plant by depleting all the oxygen needed. Plus it was in salt, not fresh water, so that was an additional negative factor that reduced the potential for the biological treatment that is employed at the plant.
“All the best, DeeVon”
And these photos taken by Jolly Benson’s brother Will, a local tarpon fishing guide.
Maybe what clearer heads need to be doing is looking for ways for Key West to get along just fine without sea monsters.
Look! No cruise ships!
For example, a nude beach!
For example, sort of like Miami’s Haulover Beach
I know that won’t make Monster happy, he did so love eating cruise ship passengers, but I imagine it might make George and his new puppy a whole lot happier. Ditto, the lodging establishments, restaurants, bars, water sport businesses, galleries and museums, and most people in Key West. The Puritans and strip joint owners won’t care for it, though.
Marijuana grows great in the Keys, would make a great hard currency export.