MONROE COUNTY’S AFRICAN CEMETERY MEMORIAL AT HIGGS BEACH RECEIVES RESTORATION WORK FROM ORIGINAL ARTISTS
KEY WEST, FL – Carlos Delgado and his wife Diana from Dega Art Surfaces, the original artists of the African Cemetery Memorial at Higgs Beach in Key West, are doing touch-up painting work of the ground mural this and next week. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1860, three illegal slave ships were intercepted by the U.S. Navy and diverted to Key West. The Key West community was so appalled at the treatment of the human cargo that they worked collectively to provide food and shelter for the almost 1,500 Africans who would have been sold into slavery. Despite the efforts, hundreds died and were buried at Higgs Beach.
In the summer of 2002, archaeologists and volunteers conducted a ground-penetrating radar survey around Higgs Beach, finding shallow graves near the sidewalk. During additional surveys in 2010, at least 100 more graves were located.
The historical and archaeological details from the interception can be found on exhibit at the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum at 200 Greene Street in Key West. Additional information on the burial site can be found at www.africanburialgroundathiggsbeach.org/. To take a 3-D tour of the site, visit https://youtu.be/gjomFl_rCAQ.
New Litter Collection System on Trial At Boca Chica Beach; May Be Seen at Other County Parks Soon
BOCA CHICA, FL – “To help keep this park clean and dapper, grab a bucket and a nabber. So everyone can join the fun, please return it when you’re done.”
A new system to help with litter accumulating from things that wash ashore is on trial at Boca Chica Beach. It is possible that the system, which can be easily duplicated, will be coming to other Monroe County parks and beaches soon.
“This beach bucket system has been pretty successful in other South Florida beach counties, so we figured we would try it,” said Monroe County Parks and Beaches Director John Allen. “The kids had a great time today using it and exploring the beach while helping out, and we have so many eco-minded people in our community we think this will be a big hit.”
MONROE COUNTY, FL – The Monroe County Employee Services Safety Office hosted an Aerial Device (Bucket Truck) Operator Safety training on Wednesday in Marathon. This training is the first step toward becoming a field operator of the device. The training consisted of classroom and practical field instruction with experienced operators.
Forty-seven staff members from Monroe County’s Roads and Bridges, Corrections Facilities, Facilities Maintenance, Fleet, and Parks and Beaches departments completed the training. In addition, six staff members were instructors during the practical exercises.
MAYOR & CONTRACTORS EXAMINING BOARD REQUEST FEEDBACK ON THE ALL-ONLINE PERMITTING SYSTEM
MONROE COUNTY, FL – The Contractors Examining Board meeting will be open for public input Tuesday, March 14, starting at 9:30 a.m. in the Board of County Commissioners chambers at the Monroe County Government Center, 2798 Overseas Highway, Marathon.
The commissioners and staff have received phone calls regarding the all-online permitting system, which went live in October 2022. Mayor Craig Cates will be present at this meeting to hear further input from contractors and the public. Other commissioners may also attend.
The commissioners, the Contractors Examining Board, and County staff are interested in receiving feedback from anyone using the system.
LOWER KEYS, FL – The Monroe County Engineering Department recently completed two projects in the Lower Keys. The first project was the completion of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail Connection at Cudjoe Gardens, an asphalt shared-use path connecting Drost Drive to the U.S. 1 crosswalk of the trail. The project was funded by grants from the Florida Department of Transportation, TDC, and District 1 Transportation Impact Fees.
“The contracting team did an excellent job finishing early and within budget,” said Debra London, Monroe County Project Manager. “The project is a good example of government working with the community to improve neighborhoods.”
Cudjoe Gardens resident the late David Img championed the connection of the trail. He requested pedestrian and bicycle access safety improvements, and Monroe County worked with the FDOT and others to move it to fruition. His wife attended the opening ceremony of the pathway in his honor. Commissioner Michelle Lincoln and Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay also attended.
Commissioner Michelle Lincoln, whose district falls in the Lower Keys, also visited a project completed in late 2022 in the Koehn subdivision of Big Pine Key. The neighborhood had a roadway and drainage project done, and a nearby street, Loma Lane, was also resurfaced.
“The Koehn project included drainage culverts and swales and rehabilitation of over 2.5 miles of neighborhood streets,” said Debra London, Monroe County project manager.
The Koehn project was also completed on time and under budget and was partially funded with a FDOT Small County Outreach Program grant.
“I am so happy because I can now take my granddaughter roller skating and bike riding on a great street, and the kids down the street put up a basketball hoop. These are all things we couldn’t have done before,” said Andrea Thrasher, who has lived in the neighborhood for the past 24 years.
MONROE COUNTY, FL – A Monroe County Building Department Unlicensed Contractor Investigator cited an unlicensed asphalt paver who paved a business driveway without the owner’s permission and demanded payment from the company with a bogus contract. The County investigator cited the asphalt company with a $1,500 fine.
“The public needs to know that there are people out there who will try and extort money out of unsuspecting customers,” said Monroe County Building Official Rick Griffin.
Monroe County requires all property owners or licensed contractors to pull a permit for things like paving and asphalt. If you feel you are being targeted by an unlicensed contractor in unincorporated Monroe County, call 305-289-2516.
COMMISSIONERS RECEIVE SUSTAINABILITY, RESILIENCE, AND WATER QUALITY UPDATES UPCOMING THIS YEAR
MONROE COUNTY, FL – Monroe County Chief Resilience Officer Rhonda Haag presented an update on this year’s resilience and water quality efforts, including canal restoration projects, breakwater repair and shoreline resilience projects, road adaptations, and municipal resilience partnerships at Wednesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting.
This year, the County is moving forward with $5.5 million in State-funded restoration efforts to restore 12 canals to improve water quality. The canals are the top-ranked on the County’s list of 96 canals that do not meet state water quality standards. The restoration methods include culverts, injection wells, organic removal, backfilling, and air curtains. Haag hosted community meetings with the homeowners in advance to inform them of the potential restoration, project benefits, and potential costs to the residents. Assessments are required to fund the long-term operations and maintenance of weed gates required in several projects. The County funds the construction costs of the projects through grants.
“This is our biggest one-year restoration list ever, so we are very excited about moving forward,” said Haag.
1) Canal #105 backfill and culvert. Located in Tavernier / Key Largo. Restoration cost estimate $668,870.
2) #255 organic muck removal, backfilling, air curtain, and injection well. Located on Big Pine Key. Restoration cost estimate $300,000
3) #315 organic muck removal, backfilling, and air curtain. Located between on Big Pine Key. Design only. Restoration cost estimate $2,373,982.
4) #295 organic muck removal, backfilling, and air curtain. Located in the avenues on Big Pine Key. Restoration cost estimate $1,040,726.Design only
5) Canal #297 organic muck removal, backfilling, and air curtain. Located in the avenues on Big Pine Key. Total restoration cost estimate $1,352,390.
6) #290 backfilling and air curtain. Located in the avenues on Big Pine Key. Total restoration cost estimate $900,000
7) #287 organic muck removal, backfilling, and air curtain. Located on Big Pine Key. Total restoration cost estimate $2,942,881
8) #82 organic muck removal, backfilling, and air curtain. Located between in Key Largo. Total restoration cost estimate $2,547,229.
9) #474 backfill and air curtain. Located on Geiger Key. Total restoration cost estimated $220,650.
10) #278 injection well. Located in the Eden Pines on Big Pine Key. Total restoration cost estimated $250,000
11) #58 injection well. Located in the Calusa Campground of Key Largo. Total restoration cost estimated $250,000
12) #293 organic muck removal, backfill, and air curtain. Located in the avenues on Big Pine Key. Total restoration cost $2,145,335. Design funded by DEP Ft. Myers.
Breakwater Repair Projects
Two breakwaters damaged during Hurricane Irma are being rebuilt to restore protection to homes from storm surges. The County received more than $3 million in federal grant funding for the breakwater repairs. One is located in Tavernier, and the other is in Rock Harbor. The restored breakwaters will provide much-needed resilience against storm surges and stop most floating sargassum seaweed from entering and clogging the canals behind the breakwaters.
The County is moving forward with several State-funded resilience planning projects, including a resilient design for Pigeon Key and Harry Harris Park. The County is also updating its Watershed Management Plan, which is required to maintain the County’s CRS rating of “3”. The lower the CRS score, the bigger the discount for home National Flood Insurance Policy discounts. Finally, the County is updating its Vulnerability Assessment and developing a natural resource habitat assessment.
Municipal Resilience Projects
The County is well underway with its efforts to provide all five municipalities with the mobile LiDAR survey data needed for street elevation planning. Plans are also moving forward to begin the next phase of street elevation planning for the municipalities, using the data collected during the mobile LiDAR stage. The municipalities are funding the work.
The County is also leading an effort to conduct Watershed Management Plan updates for the municipalities to help them improve their Community Rating System (CRS) scores and update their Vulnerability Assessments. The State’s Resilient Florida grant program is funding the resilience planning work.
The County received two State grants for the creation of living shorelines to provide resilience and improved wetland habitats and will be moving forward soon:
Road Elevations and Stormwater
A presentation at the meeting provided the legal and policy challenges the County faces regarding road adaptation projects. The Commissioners directed staff to begin the process of code and comprehensive plan changes needed to move forward.
U.S. ARMY CORP OF ENGINEERS UPDATE
The Commissioners heard an update from the Army Corps of Engineers regarding the $2.7 billion Florida Keys Coastal Storm Risk project, which includes options for dry floodproofing critical infrastructure, elevating 4,698 residential homes, and U.S. 1 shoreline stabilization. The plan addresses critical infrastructure, evacuation-route protection, and structural-damage reduction in response to coastal storm risks and effects and associated impacts such as sea-level rise, storm surge, and extreme wind and tidal effects.
“The County received the fantastic news that not only was the project itself recently approved by Congress, but the first appropriation for design and engineering of the U.S. 1 revetments was authorized,” said Haag.
The entire project will be in phases over several years. The first phase will be the stabilization of U.S. 1 in six areas. Design is anticipated to begin within the next year and includes revetments along U.S. 1 at mile markers 79.5, 70, 70.9, 67, 37, and 34.5. Construction will require separate future appropriations from Congress. For more information on the Army Corps of Engineers projects, visit https://www.saj.usace.army.mil/FloridaKeysCSRMFeasibilityStudy/.
EM DIRECTOR SHANNON WEINER ELECTED FLORIDA EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS ASSOCIATION PRESIDENT
MONROE COUNTY, FL – Monroe County Emergency Management Director Shannon Weiner was recently elected Florida Emergency Preparedness Association president.
In this capacity, Weiner will lead concerns, support initiatives, facilitate communications, and share best practices throughout the emergency management community, helping professional emergency managers throughout the state protect the people of Florida. Weiner became a Certified Emergency Manager in 2005 and has been a Florida Emergency Preparedness Association member since 2003. The position is a one-year term.
Weiner joined Monroe County Emergency Management in 2016. She fulfilled the role of Deputy Incident Commander during the County’s response to Hurricane Irma and became director two weeks before the County’s response to COVID-19 in 2020. She has 20 years of experience in public safety, with 16 years as a professional emergency manager.
MONROE COUNTY, FL – Today, the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners recognized two Monroe County employees for their dedicated service to Monroe County.
Pam Pumar, Retirement
Pam Pumar, Human Resources Senior Administrator, was recognized for more than 28 years of service before her retirement later this month. Pumar started as a staff assistant in the Employee Services department and worked her way to the senior administrator over the years. She said the highlights of her career include moving the office from the Monroe General Hospital building on Stock Island to the Gato building, where Employee Services is located now. She also founded the County’s Relay for the Life team, which she participated in every year until COVID stopped the event in 2020. “It’s been a pleasure and an honor to work for Monroe County all these years,” she said.
Breanne Erickson, 10 Years of Service
Breanne Erickson, project management, was presented with her 10 years of service pin for her dedication to Monroe County. She is the budget and contract administrator for project management. She was responsible for Hurricane Irma project and grant details, Plantation Key Courthouse project, among others. “She has a keen eye for paying attention to the details,” said Project Management Director Cary Knight.
Last week, Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi, County Attorney Bob Shillinger, Legislative Affairs Director Lisa Tennyson, and Planning and Environmental Services Director Emily Schemper, traveled to Tallahassee to speak to the Florida Keys delegation, as well as other State officials to discuss the Florida Keys Critical Area of State Concern and other important Florida Keys issues at the State level. A brief recap is below:
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