F.antasy Fest was officially canceled almost two months ago. It is the unofficial masses that concern Key West officials.

City Manager Greg Veliz told city commissioners at their 4 ½ hour meeting on October 6th that he had been monitoring social media discussions and expectations of local hotel occupancy.

“I received an email (Tuesday, October 6th) in which the 20 to 50% of the occupancy forecasts for the past week are increasing,” Veliz said. “The numbers rise as we speak.”

He dubbed the week of the canceled Fantasy Fest, October 17-24, “Un-Fantasy Fest” and said the police and city staff are preparing to control the crowd. Street barricades may soon be visible along Duval Street and can be used in large crowds to close downtown blocks.

The city would use the bollards or barricades to close the streets with the intent of avoiding large crowds on the sidewalks and creating extra space on the streets, Veliz said. But he warned commissioners he couldn’t promise the city would be able to enforce social distancing protocols among such crowds.

“Well, we can’t enforce our mask ordinance on individuals, so we’re sticking to what the governor ordered,” said Commissioner Sam Kaufman, praising Veliz for his treatment and monitoring of the developing situation.

Police discipline

Veliz opened his report on Tuesday evening with the news that he had disciplined the police chief, two police captains and several other officers for helping Chief Sean Brandenburg move into a new house on duty in uniform and in moving city vehicles.

Veliz did not provide the terms of the disciplinary action, but said the chief and officers were cooperative. He added that despite his loss of judgment, he had decided to allow Brandenburg and the others to continue their careers in the department.

Halloween in Key West

Veliz also discussed plans for Halloween, calling traditional trick-or-treating a “high risk” exposure, but stressed that it is not a city-sponsored event. However, the city is supporting a new Halloween event at the Coffee Butler Amphitheater that will enable socially distant trick-or-treating, Veliz said.

More than 40 local businesses have joined the Mom & Pop Key West group, which will host the event on Saturday, October 31st, from 5:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The companies have decorated tables and have delicacies for costumed children up to 13 years old. Pre-registration is required so that groups of children can be distributed and assigned a specific time slot. The event is free of charge, but registration is required. Registration information will be available on October 10th.

Mallory Square Restaurant Negotiations end

The commissioners voted 3-2 to end nearly a decade of negotiations with restaurateur Joe Walsh, who has been trying all along to build a restaurant in Mallory Square. Negotiations were hampered by legal disputes on both sides, concerns from city planners, and opposition from neighbors to Margaritaville Key West Resort & Marina.

Veliz said he wanted to start over instead of trying “to stick a square pin in a round hole” for years.

Mayor Teri Johnston and Kaufman opposed the end of the negotiations, and Johnston said, “We keep hearing from so many people how difficult it is to work with the city. We make people jump through hoops. We delay things until they miss an entire season of revenue. It’s hard to come with the city. And now we have a waterfront property in Mallory Square that we’ve had empty and almost in disrepair for 10 years. “

She added that the city has missed nearly $ 3 million in rent and other income over the last 10 years of negotiations.

“This is a really bad decision on our part for taxpayers,” said Johnston.

Concern about the employee’s salary increase

Commissioner Billy Wardlow raised concerns about the new assistant to the mayor’s executive branch and commissioners receiving a raise when such increases were canceled for all city employees.

Mayor Teri Johnston said the increase was agreed before the raise was canceled and said, “I left a $ 15,000 part-time job to accommodate this one increase.”

Wardlow emphasized, “I don’t think it’s fair to other city workers, and I don’t think our employees will be happy.”

Former Commissioner Margaret Romero reiterated Wardlow’s concern during the citizens’ comment phase at the end of the meeting.

Self storage proposal on the boulevard

Preliminary calls require a self-storage shop on the corner of First Street and North Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West. Resistance from neighbors and officials’ concern led applicants to revise their plans. CONTRIBUTION

Attorney Bart Smith withdrew his clients’ request at the October 6 meeting to begin negotiations for the construction of a large new self-storage facility on the corner of First Street and North Roosevelt Boulevard. The new self-storage business would replace the current Shell station and Sunshine Scooter Rental businesses that are currently on neighboring lots on that corner.

Smith’s Sarasota-based clients are looking to combine these two properties into one large package, Smith said, recognizing the vehement opposition from nearby neighbors. He promised to work with these neighbors to address their concerns and add landscaping and public art to the project as it progresses. He withdrew the current negotiation proposal.

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