Library proposal and quality of area’s water major concerns of residents at Village council meeting

October 15 Village of Key Biscayne Council meeting

Council members and residents in attendance settle in for the start of

the meeting on Tuesday, Oct 15.

Key Biscayne residents stood their ground on Tuesday, both expressing opposition to a new library and concern about the health and safety of the area’s waterways.

At the Village of Key Biscayne Council regular meeting, Mayor Michael Davey told the dozens in attendance that the issue of the library would be taken up at a later date. But that didn’t stop residents from voicing their thoughts.

Mayor Davey sidebars with Jennifer Median

Mayor Davey holds sidebar with Village Clerk Jennifer Medina

“We’re really a factor here in Key Biscayne,” said Tom Cook, who has owned property in the area since 1987, and who is president of the Key Colony HOA. “With library improvements … if anyone is impacted, it’s sure us. Why would we want to build a library when the current library isn’t being used?

“We are probably the most impacted people. We’d have the traffic coming in and out of this facility.”

On October 7, Village of Key Biscayne council member Katie Petros participated in a meeting with a fellow council member regarding the plans for a potential new library on Key Biscayne in collaboration with Miami Dade County. She wrote a letter to the Islander News earlier this week and noted that although several residents shared their views, she believes there is information about the proposed library that is either unknown or misunderstood.

“It should be clarified to ensure all citizens have a better understanding why this potential opportunity will be a tremendous asset,” she wrote.

“The Miami-Dade County Library system benefits our Village in many ways. We don’t subsidize the current library. The county owns the land and the building and provides the staff to operate it. Our library partnership with Miami-Dade County has provided meaningful return to the Village.

Councilman Lauredo

Council-member Lauredo commends Commissioner Suarez on his support for Key Biscayne.

“The county is now interested in collaborating to provide a new and improved library for our community,” she added. “The present facility would require a major upgrade to meet our current needs. Presently, our tax dollars generate over $2 million for the Miami-Dade County library system, money that is assessed and collected through our property taxes, just like the schools and the county’s general fund.”

While Louisa Conway commended Petros on her efforts on getting an updated library for the community, she urged her to rethink the vision.

“If the village of Key Biscayne wants to expand the library, then please consider using the land acquisition money to purchase property such as the Sun Trust building to build your state-of-the-art expanded library,” she said at the council meeting. “If all you want to do is update and renovate the existing library within its current footprint, then I support your efforts.”

On the issue of water quality, the island has recently had a series of alerts warning people to stay out of the water because of high bacteria counts. The counts have been up and down for months. Several residents spoke to the issue on Tuesday night, encouraging that it be top priority attention because the contamination affects health, tourism and the Key Biscayne lifestyle.

Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez

Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez greeting friends in attendance 

“Each municipality in the county should be vocal and outraged,” said resident Karen Beber. “I just don’t understand why everyone isn’t mad as hell. I think we need to be forceful and get them to do the right thing. We know there are problems, and we need to fix the problems that are there. We can’t wait five or six years.”

Most recently, samples of beach water collected at Crandon North Beach, Virginia Key Beach, Key Biscayne Beach Club, Cape Florida and Surfside 93rd Street did not meet the recreational water quality standard for enterococci, and an advisory issued recommended not swimming at these locations.

The advisory was issued because water samples collected at these beaches exceeded the federal and state recommended standard for enterococci (greater than 70 colony forming units of enterococci per 100ml for a single sample).

The sampling sites are selected based on the frequency and intensity of recreational water use and the proximity to pollution sources. The water samples are being analyzed for enteric bacteria enterococci, which normally inhabits the intestinal tract of humans and animals, and which may cause human disease, infections, or illness.

The prevalence of enteric bacteria is an indicator of fecal pollution. That may be the result of storm water run-off, or wildlife, pets and human sewage.

“Please, what are we going to be able to do about going to the beach and being safe?” asked Realtor Cecile Sanchez at Tuesday’s meeting. “What am I going to tell prospective buyers? Beware of the beach because you can’t use it? This is a priority. We need that ocean to be clean and safe for us to use.”

Davey said it’s not an easy issue, and there’s no clear line on who to blame for what. He is concerned because while the area is a barrier island, there are a lot of old sewer lines – about 220 home are still on septic and older lines.

“I think the septic issue is huge, and if I remember correctly everyone is supposed to be off septic in July of next year,” Petros said. “We might want to come up with some ideas on how to track that, make sure it happens.”

Village Manager Andrea Agha has been sending the council updates on issues with effluent from the water treatment plant. “Since the beginning of September, Crandon North had 7 of 10 beach samples that were in the ‘poor’ range (at or above 70 colony forming units), with 3 swimming advisories issued. Crandon South and Virginia Key Beach during that time frame had 5 ‘poor’ readings and 2 advisories in each location.”

Agha noted that the release of 35,000 gallons of “treated and disinfected wastewater” from the treatment plan on Saturday was the result of a control system failure at the plant.

“We are looking in greater detail at the timing, volume, and nature of all releases at the Treatment Plant over the past several years relative to the results of the Health Department beach testing program to see what, if any, correlation exists,” she reported to the council in her note,

In other action:

Parks & Rec Director Todd Hofferberth sidebars with Village Manager Andrea Agha

Parks & Rec Director Todd Hofferberth sidebars with Village Manager Andrea Agha during discussions on the 531 Crandon green space renovation

  • Petros pushed for a vote on a capital project to renovate the property at 530 Crandon to create a park. After much discussion, with councilmembers Luis Lauredo and Ed London questioning the $1.2 million price tag, by a 6-0 vote, the motion was deferred to the November 19 Council meeting.
  • Council took action to possibly cement part of their legacy, voting 5-1 to purchase the 2 adjacent properties on 571 / 599 Harbor Drive for $4,032,500. Councilman London was the lone dissenter. Councilman Ignacio Segurola was absent. 

Next Council meeting is scheduled for October 29.