As part of its ongoing budget discussion this week, the Key West City Commission directed city staff to set aside $150,000 to clean up the Sunrise Canal in New Town.
It's possible a federal grant could cover the cost but Assistant City Manager Mark Finigan, who on Monday and Tuesday led commissioners through an annual budget overview, said the money hasn't been awarded so he can't include the amount in his calculations.
Commissioners told Finigan to find the money regardless of the grant. The residential canal intersects with the Riviera Canal at the intersection of Flagler Avenue and South Roosevelt Boulevard.
Commissioner Jimmy Weekley, a commissioner and mayor for nearly three decades combined, said the canal hasn't been cleaned since the late 1980s. He said television sets, shopping carts, bicycles, dead fish and "no telling what else" is floating and submerged in the canal.
"Part of the problem is people who live on the canal," he said. "They have a habit of throwing their palm fronds and yard waste in the canal."
Commissioner Tony Yaniz said the water in some places is only a foot deep and below the surface, "there's 30 years of silt. The canal has to be taken care of."
The five commissioners present at Monday's session (Mayor Craig Cates and Commissioner Mark Rossi were absent) unanimously agreed the canal needs to be cleaned but preferred a non-general-fund budget source like the grant.
Commissioner Billy Wardlow suggested dipping into the $7.5 million from the city's October sale of part of the Pier House Resort and Caribbean Spa on Duval Street.
"We only budget for things that have occurred," Finigan said. "If a requirement is going to be supported in part or in whole by a revenue source in the form of a grant, then we shouldn't bring it forward and put it in the budget."
"If we're doing this regardless of grant funding, I need to find another source. That's our problem."
City Manager Bob Vitas stressed the need for buy-in from canal-area residents.
"Anyone who lives on a canal knows if they see something floating, they need to pull it out," he said. "It's no different from debris on the right of way in front of your house.
"But they don't have the equipment to pull out television sets," Weekley said. "Or 30 years worth or silt," Yaniz added.