Responding to safety concerns,Village council bans fishing from Mashta Road Bridge (again)

Safety, debris and blood on the West Mashta Road Bridge drew concern from Key Biscayne residents on Tuesday, and the Village council agreed, deciding to ban fishing from the bridge during their regular council meeting Tuesday night.

10-29 Village Council meeting

Vice mayor Allison McCormick and council member Brett Moss voted against the ban.

Mayor Michael Davey promised to find solutions to everyone’s concerns.

“I hate to ban it, but we have to ban it,” Davey said. “It’s not working. The enforcement issue, it is an attractive nuisance. You do have kids. I’ve seen it. The kids run across (the road); it’s not a good thing.”

Fishing was previously allowed at the bridge, according to village manager Andrea Agha. “Then it was brought to my attention that we were not issuing registrations and licenses” as village code requires. “So, we began to follow our code, and we found that things got a bit out of hand. There were public safety concerns, some cleanliness concerns.”

So a proposal was drawn up to ban fishing. On Tuesday, residents commented on the issue before council decided to implement a ban.

Karen Scott, who has lived at Mashta since 1982, said it was a wonderful concept initially to allow fishing on the bridge, but it has become a safety hazard.

“Children are there with their parents or nannies,” she said on Tuesday. “There are kids running into the street. We’ve made it an attractive nuisance. I think children should have a place to fish, but not on a main thoroughfare.”

Yolanda Gasalla has lived on Mashta Drive since 2011. She passes over the bridge at least 10 times daily, either on foot or by car.

“I came to a halt going 10 mph for a toddler,” she said. “Fishing should not be allowed on a street, basically.”

To the point of the traffic, Davey said, “people shouldn’t be speeding. We should be hammering them. That’s part of what we’ve got to do as a community is (to) get better at those things. But God forbid we allow this and a small child gets killed up there. The police chief came to us and he said it’s a bad spot, it’s an enforcement issue.”

Davey said he’d like to call a workshop to address the issue.

“What I would like to see is put the moratorium in place and then as we move forward, let’s set up a workshop and bring people together and let’s work on a real solution here,” he said. No decision was made on that suggestion.

Also passed Tuesday night was a bill requiring the village to provide benefits for certain types of cancers that firefighters received in the line of duty.

Fire Chief Eric Lang talks with Village Manager Andrea Agha duringcouncil’s discussions on cancer benefits to firefighters.

 

Ron Erbel was diagnosed with metastasized bone cancer in March, having spent five months in treatment. He spent 17 years as a Key Biscayne volunteer firefighter, and more than two decades as a firefighter.

“I’m just asking the council and the community to do the right thing,” he told the council.

Don Elisburg said every resident of Key Biscayne should “be up here on behalf of Ron today.”

Resident Don Elisburg addresses the council in support of firefighters’ quest for cancer benefits.

Elisburg has been providing pro-bono assistance to Erbel to help him deal with the compensation issues he was facing after his diagnosis of prostate cancer. in a letter to the Islander News, Elisburg wrote that Erbel was one of five Key Biscayne firefighters who went to NYC after the Sept. 11 World Trade Center disaster to help with recovery. Prostate cancer is one of the cancers identified as something these type workers had a higher risk of contracting, he wrote. More recently, this cancer is one of 21 cancers identified with firefighter exposure in the workplace.

Erbel has received medical treatment under the World Trade Center program, but he has not been eligible for lost time compensation as firefighter cancer is not covered under the Florida worker’s compensation law, Elisburg wrote. Earlier this year, the Florida Legislature passed a Firefighter Cancer statute that provides for payment of benefits to firefighters diagnosed with one of the cancers on the list of 21 on or after July 1, 2019. The law does not cover those diagnosed before July 1.

Erbel, who retired this summer, and Angela Herrera, are Key Biscayne firefighters who were diagnosed with active cancers before July 1, Elisburg wrote.

“Remember it is the people like Ron who run into the buildings when we run out,” Elisburg said on Tuesday. “And we should not forget it.

“I think you have a resident here who has devoted 40 years to the village and to these kinds of issues, and I think you have another person working for the Key Biscayne Fire Department who has worked for 15 years as a firefighter. And so I’m simply here to say I thank you for coming to grips with this issue.”

Later in the meeting, Davey addressed the council on the village’s homeless population, saying “we do have a homeless problem on the Key,” and wanting to create a homeless task force.

“There are a number of people seen around town, you’ll probably see them in front of the Shell station. There’s four or five guys hanging out. One of the guys is living behind St. Agnes … some of the parents have reported seeing him bathing back there without clothes on, which creates a bad situation.”

Davey said the village wants to take care of people, and “we want to be mindful and we want to treat them like human beings. On the other hand, I don’t want a situation where we have dangerous people who are now homeless who are in this community and we’re not able to deal with them.”

He wants to bring in citizens who are interested in dealing with the homeless issue. Some of them, he said, have experience dealing with the homeless in Miami. “I wanted to get them together and see what kind of ideas we can work on. I don’t know what kind of results we can get, but it’s just important that we start trying to address this now and see if we can work with these people before there is a problem.”

There was also discussion about the village’s 2020 legislative plan, but action was postponed pending a Nov. 5 water quality workshop the village is holding.

The council also approved:

Refreshing the signage of Winn Dixie, located at 604 Crandon Blvd.

Council member Luis Lauredo with the KB K-8 center safety patrol members who led the Village council meeting in the Pledge of Allegiance. On the left is Claudia Cuenca and Luciana Gadala-María is on the right.

Authorizing the village manager to hire EAC Consulting firm for a benefit-cost ratio analysis relating to a Shoreline Protection Project.

The next council meeting is set for Nov. 19.

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