Talks to start about vacant Navy housing in Key West

Making 166 U.S. Navy-owned housing units at Sigsbee Park in Key West affordable under income guidelines is now on the table.

The Key West City Commission unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday requesting telling City Manager Jim Scholl to work with the Navy on opening up the units, which have remained unoccupied for more than five years, for military and civilian Department of Defense employees.

"This is something that can create affordable housing for hundreds of people and will not cost the city of Key West one penny," Commissioner Sam Kaufman, who sponsored the item, said Tuesday. 

On Dec. 8, Kaufman sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Miami and the Keys) seeking help with that. He has a meeting with Curbelo scheduled for Jan. 15.

The units have been in "caretaker" status since August 2010. Naval Air Station Key West spokeswoman Trice Denny said they weren't included in the Navy's original public/private partnership with GMH Communities Trust in October 2007. GMH later became Balfour Beatty Communities.

Balfour Beatty oversees 733 military housing units split across Truman Annex, Trumbo Point, Sigsbee and the Naval Branch Health Clinic.

Denny said the Sigsbee units were bachelor housing, open to any Department of Defense civilian employee, until the Navy moved those people to barracks at Truman. Water and electricity were then shut off to those units.

The Naval Facilities and Engineering Command is doing a "usability" study on the units. Denny said it should be complete early this year.

"Things are already kind of in motion," she said. "We've been in constant contact with the city and other entities."

Also Tuesday, the commission:

  • Approved a two-year, $600,000 contract extension with Historic Tours of America for shuttling cruise-ship passengers across the U.S. Navy-owned Outer Mole Pier in Key West. The contract runs through until Dec. 31, 2017.

  • Approved a $151,412 bid with Big Pine Key contractor Pedro Falcon Electrical Contractors for bathroom improvements at Mallory Square. They include resealing floors and plumbing.

  • Commissioner Clayton Lopez was unanimously named vice mayor.