County wants meeting with Cedar Key officials

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By Lou Elliott Jones

The Dock Street Pier and the maintenance of its bathrooms are impetus for the Levy County Commission to ask the Cedar Key City Commission to take over the facility.

In its Aug. 6 meeting the county commissioners took up the Interlocal Agreement between the county and the city and asked County Coordinator Fred Moody to initiate a discussion with city officials on when they would consider taking over the dock. 

The agreement, signed in 2007, calls for the city to take over maintenance and operation of the dock, George T. Lewis Airport and various roads within the city limits as a result of the formation of the Cedar Key Community Redevelopment Area. 

In a CRA, taxes collected on the increased value of properties are diverted from the county into a CRA trust fund to be spent on improvement projects. 

“Through their CRA they took over quite a few roads,” Moody told the county leaders. “But there are some issues in there that have not been addressed.”

He said one of the main items that needs to be addressed is the Dock Street Fishing Pier. 

At the time of the agreement the county kept ownership of the pier. At that time the pier was being rebuilt using funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency after the old wooden pier was irreparably damaged during the 2004 hurricane season. The new pier is made of concrete, has bathroom facilities and sits higher above the water. 

The agreement says “the County and City shall determine whether upon completion of said project, the County should convey deed and whether the City will accept ownership, maintenance and responsibility of Dock Street. 

Moody said, “ I have heard they no longer want anything to do with the dock. When there's vandalism out there, we're the one that's called. “

He said the county also must pay the water bill and maintain the public bathrooms. “Iit has given me a bit of heartburn too. But they have done a lot of good things too,” he said. 

Commission Chair Ryan Bell said when the bathrooms need work and a county worker must be dispatched to Cedar Key to clean, maintain and repair them. “It's cost prohibitive for us,” Bell said in a phone interview on Tuesday. 

As for the roads and the airport, the county is not going to push for them to be taken over by the city. 

Moody said the CRA's projects to redo water and sewer lines in the city required repairing the roads after and the city had done a good job with them. 

The county is in the midst of working with the Florida Department of Transportation to upgrade the facilities at the airport and to have the bridges in Cedar Key repaired or replaced, including the Dock Street bridge. 

Bell said the county leaders “might want to have a dialogue with the city, but my biggest fear would be making them take it (the dock) and it just deteriorate. But it makes a lot more sense if it's in your back yard you maintain it.”

He said in a later phone conversation that Police Chief Virgil Sandlin might be better equipped to take care of issues with the fishing pier than having a deputy go out. 

Renate Cannon asked how much the last CRA payment to the city was and County Clerk Danny Shippsaid it was $1.2 million. 

“Then give them everything; the airport too,” said the civic activist.