County ponders new hires, online meeting rules

Boats using narrow Florida Keys canals could be limited to idle speeds under a proposal reaching the Monroe County Commission at its Wednesday meeting in Key Largo.
Boats using narrow Florida Keys canals could be limited to idle speeds under a proposal reaching the Monroe County Commission at its Wednesday meeting in Key Largo. Keynoter

Monroe County administrators will make their pitch for adding eight new employees, ranging from senior project managers to staff assistants, at Wednesday’s County Commission meeting in Key Largo.

The proposed positions could add about $632,000 in pay and benefits to Monroe County’s government workforce of approximately 1,300.

Requested additions include a project manager for environmental sustainability and canal restoration; a senior Emergency Management planner; a software manager; a geographic-information system manager and a GIS technician; and three staff assistants.

Late in the current 2016-17 fiscal year, county commissioners approved hiring an additional nine medical personnel and a billing specialist to staff the third Trauma Star rescue helicopter to be based in Key West. Commissioners also recently approved two new positions to enforce vacation-rental rules, and a fire-rescue mechanic.

The regular June meeting of the County Commission begins at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Center at mile marker 102. Other items on the agenda:

▪ Direction on rules under a new state law specific to the geographically elongated Florida Keys that allows government boards and committees “to meet via video conferencing or other media communications technology” will be requested by county attorneys.

The law, requested by Monroe County to make it easier to attract volunteers for the county’s 23 commissions, committees and advisory councils, was written by legislators to allow elected boards such as the commission, city councils and School Board to meet by telephone or online as long as citizens have a way to participate and “no final action is taken at such meeting.”

Commissioners have said they plan to continue meeting regularly in person, except for emergencies.

County Attorney Bob Shillinger will ask which committees — ranging from the Planning Commission and the Tourist Development Council to the Duck Key Security District Advisory Board and Library Advisory Board — should be all allowed meet by phone or online.

Shillinger recommends limiting the media-meeting options to “only those advisory boards and committees that do not make quasi-judicial decisions.”

▪ A public hearing will be held on an ordinance to ban floating signs in nearshore waters. “These off-premises marine signs present a distracting safety hazard to drivers and pedestrians on the Overseas Highway [and] visually pollute areas surrounding the Overseas Highway,” says a summary.

Commissioners also will decide if they will seek a public hearing on a law to designate any manmade canal or waterway less than 75 feet wide as an idle-speed zone for boaters. Existing idle-speed areas would remain in effect.

▪ Consideration of protecting the affordable-housing supply by “buying back” deed restrictions that expire on 64 private residences over the next two years. The homes received building permits under an affordable-housing plan that required a restriction of at least 20 years that prohibited the owners from selling their property at market rates. Planning staff will ask if commissioners are interested in creating a system to pay the owners for an extension of the deed restriction “in order to preserve affordable housing.”

Commissioners hold a special meeting at 1:30 p.m. Monday at the Marathon Government Center to review health-plan options and costs for the county’s governmental work force.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206