COUNTY ADMINISTRATOR REVIEWS 2020 FOR THE FLORIDA KEYS

W.As we entered the new decade on January 1, 2020, Monroe County looked forward to building a resilient community. We never thought how that would turn into just two months into the year. For our district employees, nothing is more important than the health, safety and well-being of our residents and visitors. Our employees and residents have learned what adaptation really means as we have mastered all of these challenging and uncertain times with innocence, innovation and creativity. We continue to monitor the effects of COVID-19, a global pandemic that has affected all facets of our lives, and we go into 2021 with renewed hope to improve the quality of life of our citizens, business owners and visitors.

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, I am proud of the work that the district employees have done in addition to day-to-day operations over the past year.

Emergency Management has partnered with the Florida Department of Health, Monroe County, community partners, and communities, and will continue to do so, for the adoption of vaccination. Solid Waste was activated for three storms this hurricane season and performed a month-long cleanup in Key Largo after Tropical Storm Eta. Information technology helped employees migrate to remote work, taught us how to zoom, and helped automate services.

The Sustainability Office and our district officers continue to lead the country in talks about adapting to climate change and rising sea levels. To mitigate flooding problems, the Department of Engineering and Roads tested temporary barrier systems in two neighborhoods of Upper Keys, and repaired and replaced county-serviced roads and bridges across the county. The Community Rating System continues to save Monroe County’s flood insurance policyholders approximately $ 5 million annually.

The maintenance of facilities always strives to adhere to the highest cleaning standards for properties and buildings maintained by counties and to increase the frequency of our cleanings, especially in high-traffic areas such as our county parks, which we were able to keep open throughout the pandemic. Project management continued capital projects in the Marathon Library, Plantation Key Courthouse and others with new protections. Despite a global drop in travel, airports have flourished with new projects and even a COVID-19 germ control robot and are leading the way in recovery from the pandemic.

Legally, the county has given millions of CARES Act dollars to local renters, homeowners, small businesses, and nonprofits. The budget and finances simultaneously advocated reimbursement of storm-related expenses, while the fiscal year 21 budget of $ 460.3 million was created and managed. Social Services, Veterans Affairs and Guardian ad Litem advocate our most vulnerable residents, many of whom are in even greater distress due to the pandemic.

Monroe County Fire Rescue and Trauma Star, who are on the forefront of COVID-19, continue to provide a record number of life-saving services and flights to the mainland while getting our residents out of pocket at no cost. Fire Rescue also completed his third “Hot Shots” class and waived tuition fees for residents of his fire department academy.

Our services continued from Ocean Reef to Key West. Building permits were issued without physical contact. Planning and Environmental developed a new technology for damage assessment after storms and implemented mobile sewage pumps to protect our marine environment. Compliance with the code focused on illegal vacation homes, sewer connections, the dismantling of unsafe structures and the illegal evacuation of our critical living space. The fleet continued maintenance of circular vehicles. Employee Services have security procedures in place to keep our employees healthy and to keep County Services up and running. The public prosecutor’s office remained fully occupied. The extension service continued seamlessly with virtual classes. And our five libraries remained open to call-in / pick-up / drop-off activities, proving that they are also virtual community resource centers.

In my 30 years in the public service, five major hurricanes, an oil spill, carnivorous flies, and several other public health emergencies, 2020 has been by far the most challenging. Despite his uncertainty, our goal remains constant. Monroe County is committed to creating a better life for everyone in the Florida Keys every day. In 2021, Monroe County will continue to have open and bold communications to assist you in your decisions about your family and professional life. We will be there for you. This is a community we can all be proud of and we will continue to strive to make our island a safe place to live, work and play.

Cheers in paradise,
Roman Gastesi
Monroe County Administrator

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