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East Martello gets defense from weather, age

The Fort East Martello on South Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West needs masonry repairs costing nearly $353,000. The Monroe County Commission will consider a contract Wednesday, tapping infrastructure money from county tourism taxes.
The Fort East Martello on South Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West needs masonry repairs costing nearly $353,000. The Monroe County Commission will consider a contract Wednesday, tapping infrastructure money from county tourism taxes.

A fort intended to defend Key West during the Civil War now needs to shore up defenses against age and weather.

“It’s not to the point of crumbling but these are much-, much-needed repairs,” said Michael Gieda, executive director of the Key West Art and Historical Society that operates the Fort East Martello Museum on South Roosevelt Boulevard.

Monroe County Commission members, meeting Wednesday in Key West, will review a $352,720 contract to undertake masonry repairs to several sections of the brick-and-mortar structure started in 1862 and never completely finished.

The East Martello, now more than 155 years old, “is a very important building,” Gieda said Friday. “Being right on the water takes a toll.”

Money would come from an infrastructure account funded by Florida Keys tourism taxes. The Monroe County Tourist Development Council has signed off on the proposal reaching the County Commission at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Harvey Government Center on Truman Avenue. County facilities staff endorsed the contract to Specialized Property Services Inc. of Tampa.

“We’re thrilled with the support we’ve received from the county and TDC,” Gieda said.

Work could begin within two months, he said. Visitors can see Robert the Doll and other historic Key West artifacts.

“Repairs will be done in various areas of the fort,” Gieda said. “People may see some scaffolding but it will have zero impact on operations.”

Much of the work will involve “repointing,” which involves replacing degraded mortar between the fort’s bricks. Monroe County also has launched projects to improve the museum’s facilities to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

In another major project, county commissioners will review a newer version of a $473,468 contract with D.L. Porter Constructors Inc. to upgrade and expand evidence-locker facilities at the Department of Juvenile Justice Building on Stock Island.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office evidence locker, now in the old courthouse at the Jefferson B. Browne Building on Whitehead Street, will be moved to the Stock Island facility. The county’s 1-cent infrastructure sales tax will fund the project.

Kevin Wadlow: 305-440-3206

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