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MLK pool, lacking lifeguards, faces closure

In yet another sign of the Florida Keys’ affordable housing crisis, the City of Key West may close the public pool in Bahama Village because it can’t find lifeguards to staff the pool.

Currently, the city has one lifeguard and that person is looking at taking another position. The city needs a minimum of three lifeguards for the community pool, Key West City Manager Patti McLaughlin said.

On Nov. 15, city spokeswoman Alyson Crean issued a news release and social media blast seeking potential lifeguards.

“The City of Key West is looking for lifeguards at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Pool, the release stated. “We’re seeking responsible individuals to operate the pool and keep it safe. The ideal candidate would recognize and eliminate or minimize potentially dangerous situations with an emphasis on prevention.”

At the next day’s City Commission meeting, McLaughlin addressed the board about the dire situation with the community pool, which has been there since 1955. McLaughlin said the city has “critical need” for lifeguards, referring to the situation as “disturbing.”

“We will have to shut it down, possibly within a couple weeks, if we can’t hire some people,” McLaughlin told The Key West Citizen following the meeting.

At the meeting, city officials also talked about the need to hire more city bus drivers. The city has six full-time bus drivers with commercial licenses but needs five more with commercial licenses and needs three more without commercial licenses, McLaughlin told The Citizen.

The city currently needs about five “temporary” drivers to fill in when full-time drivers are out sick or on vacation, McLaughlin said.

Regarding the pool, when the sole lifeguard goes to lunch, it has to close, McLaughlin said. The pool is scheduled to be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

The lifeguard position requires current certifications as American Red Cross Lifeguard or the equivalent, as well as current certification in CPR and First Aid.

The City of Key West pays lifeguards $15.30 and offers health insurance benefits, paid holidays and a pension plan.

“I don’t want to see it closed, but we can’t have it unsupervised,” said City Commissioner Clayton Lopez, who represents Bahama Village.

The city has been struggling to recruit lifeguards there for a while, Lopez said. The lack of lifeguards underscores the need for local apprenticeships and other job training programs, Lopez said.

The community center also is in need of repairs, and the city could try to recruit lifeguards while the repairs are being made, Lopez proposed.

Employee housing is always a concern, as local elected officials and business leaders have declared the lack of affordable housing a crisis. There have been several large-scale affordable housing projects, but developers can’t keep up with the demand as transient rentals and second-home owners are taking up much of the housing stock.

If an apartment or rental unit is found, monthly rents can go for $2,000 a month or more for a one-bedroom unit.

Also, Keys cities and the Monroe County government are running out of state-issued building allocations, called ROGO or BPAS units, which are extremely limited in the Keys.

For full details and the job descriptions of both lifeguard and bus driver positions, visit http://www.cityofkeywest-fl.gov online.


Shop local and where it’s warm after Thanksgiving

Dress for warm weather, listen to music and support local artists while kicking off the holiday shopping season at this year’s Big Pine and Lower Keys Island Art Festival, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27.

“It looks like it’s going to be great weather. It’s going to be a great time,” said Steve Miller, executive director of the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce, which hosts the annual event.

“So far, we have at least 50 local artists who will be marketing their wares. There’s going to be a wide variety of unique artwork and crafts.”

Many artists celebrate the region’s native diminutive Key deer, the Keys seafaring culture and its colorful flora through paintings, sculptures, jewelry and other media, and they will be available to meet.

The Lower Keys Rock n’ Reggae Band will play throughout the event. A Moveable Feast, a roaming commercial kitchen, will be offering southern-style Keys classic dishes. Other on-site vendors will offer different foods and drinks.

Festival goers can relax in the shaded picnic areas or peruse handicrafts in a relaxed tropical setting and island vibe.

This event supports the Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce and the entire community that was hit hard by the September 2017 Hurricane Irma.

Admission is free. Well-behaved, leashed dogs are welcome, according to Miller. Coolers and picnic baskets are not.

The festival will be at the fully repaired Lower Keys Chamber of Commerce located at 310205 Overseas Highway. Vendor space is still available. For more information, email info@lowerkeyschamber.com, visit lowerkeyschamber.com or call 305-872-2411.


New trial date set for Grady; prosecution to put biologist on stand

A new trial date has been set for the alleged illegal dredging case of Thomas Grady, a prominent attorney in South Florida who is the current chair of the state Board of Education.


Grady is charged by the U.S. Attorney’s Office with a single federal misdemeanor account of obstructing navigable waterways, carrying a maximum penalty of one year imprisonment. Court files indicate the trial date has been set for Dec. 13 at the federal courthouse located at 400 N. Miami Ave. in Miami.

The charge was filed against Grady on Sept. 30, alleging that he conducted dredging on an oceanfront property he owned on the Old Highway in Islamorada in 2017, a property which he sold the following year. It is not clear why there was a four-year delay in filing the charges. Such waterways are managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, thus the charges are filed in federal court as opposed to state.

In order to legally conduct heavy construction on an environmentally sensitive property, Grady would have had to obtain the proper permits from the village of Islamorada, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Army Corps of Engineers.

Records from the village show that Grady started performing heavy construction on the property and was issued two code violations by the village in January 2017. Grady then asserted that he had obtained the right permits in 2015 and insisted that the code violations were issued erroneously. Village staff concluded that pursuing the matter further to set an example was not worth the trouble. Records show that Grady did obtain some permits for work on the property, but the timeline of when they were issued is unclear as is the scope of the work that was allowed.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-Fitzgerald has declined to comment on the case.

Grady has retained the services of the law firm Markus/Moss for his defense. David Oscar Markus initially told the Florida Keys Free Press that Grady had all the proper permits to dredge the site. Prosecutors later submitted files that said they had evidence that Grady corresponded with the Army Corps of Engineers “seeking to alter the prior permit without disclosing the work had already been completed, later discussed the lack of a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, and also discussed whether an after the fact permit was an option.”

Markus then said the “government has turned a simple dispute about the scope of a permit into a federal case. A complete waste of resources, especially where there is no dispute that State of Florida and local officials approved this exact work.”

In the most recent discovery response filed in the case, on Nov. 10, Watts-Fitzgerald said the prosecution plans to seek testimony from Philip A. Frank that the property “prior to approximately February 18, 2016, was not connected to open water by a previously dredged channel, but was fronted by shallow, natural, undisturbed hard-bottom with significant environmental value.”

Frank works for Terramar Environmental Services of Summerland Key and is on the village of Islamorada’s list of biologists qualified to conduct benthic surveys.

Frank’s testimony will include that he was retained by Grady to conduct a survey of the oceanside area adjacent to the property in support of a permit application. Files show that Frank will testify that he “determined a historic channel existed there, which would be amenable to maintenance dredging under existing rules and procedures, subject to the acquisition of requisite permits from local, state and federal authorities.” He is expected to further testify that a moratorium on new dredging has been in place in Monroe County since the 1980s.


Man charged with vandalizing businesses

A 57-year-old homeless man who allegedly smashed a glass window and a door at two separate Stock Island businesses was arrested Tuesday.

Paul Joseph Schrieber was charged with two counts of criminal mischief resulting in property damage.

Sgt. Spencer Curry responded to the CVS Pharmacy at approximately 6:42 a.m. Tuesday after an alarm company reported a subject was throwing rocks at sliding glass doors at the business entrance.

A person matching the suspect description provided by the alarm company, later identified as Schrieber, was found shortly thereafter at the corner of 3rd Street and U.S. 1.

Security video showed Schrieber throw a rock at the glass entrance door multiple times, which caused one of them to shatter.

Schrieber was already wanted by detectives for throwing a rock through the Keys Federal Credit Union front lobby window on Sunday.

Schrieber was wearing the same clothes in the Keys Federal Credit Union security video as he was when he was arrested on Tuesday.

Schrieber was taken to jail, where he was being held without bond.

Islamorada events may slow Keys traffic

Florida Keys motorists already slowed by holiday traffic may be further delayed by several events occurring in Islamorada this Friday through Sunday.

The Beach Road Trip Weekend Florida Keys event or BRT Weekend will begin at approximately 9 a.m. Friday, Nov. 26, on the oceanside beach at Mile Marker 83.4 to approximately 3 p.m.

There will be events from 9 a.m. to 12 a.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Fisher Inn Resort & Marina near Mile Marker 85 on the Old Highway.

Lastly, from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday there will be an event at Hog Heaven Sports Bar and Grill located near Mile Marker 85.3.

Deputies will be on site for all events, according to Monroe County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Adam Linhardt.

Motorists should continue to plan for additional traffic delays due to the Thanksgiving holiday this weekend as well.

U.S. 1 Radio listing

Diane Beruldsen, president of the Stock Island Association, talks with News Director Joe Moore and Chuck Thomas about a request the group has of Monroe County.

On Morning Magazine,

• Pasta Pantaleo, Sea Turtle Gallery and Gifts owner

• Steve Estes, The News Barometer Editor and Publisher

• J.W. Cooke, Key West Citizen Managing Editor

• Adrienne Z, Florida Keys singer-songwriter

• Chris Seymour, Key West Citizen Executive Editor

On Evening Edition, host Ron Saunders talks with publicist Carol Tedesco about the numerous holiday events scheduled throughout the Florida Keys.