Costs to help Monroe County government recover from Hurricane Irma could top $93 million, county commissioners heard Wednesday.
“These are big numbers, I know,” county Budget Director Tina Boan said at the board’s Key Largo meeting. “It’s a $93 million impact, and these are just estimates.... We have a long road ahead of us.”
So far, county staff has filed for $16.7 million in federal emergency-relief reimbursements with more applications being prepared for publicly owned properties and facilities.
Federal Emergency Management Agency funding confirmed as of this week stood at $3.3 million, although more is expected. The $93,335,484 estimate includes $26 million for removing land debris and $30 million for marine-debris removal.
Other costs were pegged at $14.4 million for “emergency protective measures;” $9.8 million for facilities including parks and recreational facilities; $3.9 million for “water control facilities;” $6.9 million for buildings and equipment; and $2.2 million for roads and bridges.
That far exceeds the $10 million in the county budget’s hurricane reserve.
County Administrator Roman Gastesi said Florida’s two U.S. senators and South Florida representatives in the House have been actively working for more relief funding.
“We’re going to Washington [D.C.] to chase this money,” Gastesi said.
Cost estimates do not include county-owned airports, which are expected to need $2 million, or work to strengthen public buildings to withstand future hurricanes.
A new emergency operations center expected to be built at Florida Keys Marathon International Airport likely will cost at least $20 million “to do it right,” Gastesi told commissioners. The EOC is not part of the $93 million in estimated hurricane-recovery costs.
“We really want to kick this off this year,” Gastesi said. “I don’t know if can do it, but that’s the goal. We need to do this.”
Monroe County sought $15 million toward the new EOC from the state budget but Florida legislators approved $5.9 million. The county pledged $5 million.
During Hurricane Irma, EOC operations had to shifted from the Marathon Government Center, not rated to withstand a major hurricane, to North Key Largo. As proposed, the new facility would be built to Category 5 standards with upgraded communications gear. The EOC would be a multi-use facility for other county offices and operations.
In other issues Wednesday at the Murray E. Nelson Government and Cultural Center:
▪ Contract approval for the new Marathon library and new Cudjoe Key fire station were postponed pending additional communication with Burke Construction, the low bidder on both projects. The library bid came in at $5.79 million and the new fire station at $3.85 million.
▪ Commissioners voiced unanimous support for awarding a long-term lease to the Matecumbe Historical Trust for the “Islamorada caboose” site near mile marker 82.5. County Attorney Bob Shillinger is working with the Florida Department of Transportation, the property owner, to extend the lease term.