The Key West City Commission on Tuesday struck down a proposal to burn vegetative debris from Hurricane Irma, citing possible dangers of such disposal and after hearing objections from the public.
Instead, it will be hauled out of the county by truck at a cost of nearly $3 million.
The 5-1 decision killed a proposed 45-day, $892,150 contract for Charley Toppino and Sons, as the commission decided to reject all bids for the burning job.
Commissiner Richard Payne was absent. Commissioner Margaret Romero supported the burn plan.
“Nobody burns anymore,” environmental consultant Ed Russo said on behalf of Reef Relief. “It’s a liability that’s incredible. The only people who get away with it are the people who burn and hope nobody monitors it.”
Last Stand representative Mark Songer urged the commission to reject the bids for the burning of Key West’s 102,000 cubic yards of debris on Rockland Key.
Monroe County recently stopped such burning on Cudjoe Key amid public outrage.
Commissioner Sam Kaufman said it’s just too dangerous. “If this was in one of our districts, would we vote in favor of this?” Kaufman asked.
City Engineering Director Jim Bouquet said the city had the permits from the state to burn and its guidelines on how to do it.
“If we don’t burn, we’re going to use 1,700 round-trip trucks, probably a minimum, these are large diesel trucks, running up and down the Keys for the next month or whatever it might take to get it up to the mainland,” Bouquet said. “It’s either going to get burned on the mainland or shredded on the mainland.”
Mayor Craig Cates said he was all for the burning at first for the cost savings, but when he saw the impact of burning up the Keys, he changed his mind. “I’m not comfortable putting that on somebody’s neighborhood,” Cates said. “Maybe it’d work out perfectly; I’d feel really bad if it didn’t.”
Also on Tuesday, the commission:
▪ Honored Sgt. Robert Allen for 30 years of service for Key West Police Department. He started at age 19. In 1989, he was shot in the line of duty, later receiving accolades for his bravery. Allen accepted the 30-year award by naming officers he’d worked with who have died.
▪ Approved by a 5-1 vote an Eddie Money concert Dec. 31 at the Truman Waterfront Park amphitheater. Romero dissented, saying the event would strain city resources. “Eddie is thrilled and excited to be in Key West,” said promoter John Campbell. “He’s been talking to everyone he can about it.” The event is set to end by 8:30 p.m. The concert will benefit Sister Season.
▪ Approved buying 500 “Mity-Lite Swiftset” chairs for $28,869 for the amphitheater.
Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen