|By Alyson Crean, Florida Keys Keynoter,
MarathonMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Mar. 5, 2008 - --As requests for proposals go out looking for
a developer to build hotels at Monroe County's two public airports,
County Commissioner Mario Di Gennaro reiterates "the county is not
going into the hotel business."
The bid requests went live at the end of last week, posted on
the government bid Web site called Demand Star. "The county is seeking
sealed proposals for the development, construction and management of
two hotels," the proposal reads, "one located at the Key West
International Airport and the other located at the Florida Keys
The idea came from Di Gennaro last summer after a developer
friend came to him with the idea, the commissioner said. At first the
County Commission talked about just one hotel, sited at Marathon
airfield. Commissioners agreed it could be a way to get a private
developer to help build a dedicated emergency operations center. By
tying it into a hotel, it would provide sleep space for emergency
responders in case of a hurricane, something the existing EOC at the
Marathon Government Center cannot do.
Later, however, a hotel at the Key West airport became part of
the conversation. In December, the commission voted 4-1 to go out for
bid on the two projects.
Commissioner George Neugent, the sole dissenter, says he's not
opposed to the idea in general, but believes the state Department of
Community Affairs will oppose the added strain on evacuation times and
density of land use. DCA would have to approve new development at
County Engineer David Koppel sent out a draft of the request
for bids last week, but Di Gennaro says he's keeping it all at arm's
length. "I'm staying away from the RFP," he said, "especially since a
friend of mine is involved."
Di Gennaro says the issue is not really who gets the bid, but
that the county make money off the land it owns. "We're trying to get
an income to stop taxing people," he said.
"There is no risk for the county. We're trying to take
advantage of our assets."
According to the requests for bids, developers are free to bid on one or both projects. Proposals for the Marathon site must include an EOC. Some worry the hotels might compete with existing hotels, many of which are working a little harder these days to fill rooms. But Di Gennaro says the challenge to compete and fill rooms is up to the successful bidders. The county also has a moratorium on building new hotel rooms, which was renewed in January for another year. Di Gennaro says that's probably not an issue because any new construction would likely push an eventual opening date well into next year. Bids will be accepted until June 4.
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Copyright (c) 2008, Florida Keys Keynoter, Marathon
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