Key West’s financially strapped assisted-living facility, Poinciana Gardens, got a reprieve this week, when officials from three government agencies agreed to a cost-sharing arrangement. The arrangement must still be approved by the Monroe County commission, the Key West city commission and the Key West Housing Authority board before becoming official.
But Key West city manager Patti McLauchlin on Thursday told the Keys Weekly she was very pleased with the discussion and decision after meeting with county administrator Roman Gastesi and housing authority director Randy Sterling.
“We all agreed the county will contribute $600,000 a year for three years — if the money is still needed the third year to make Poinciana Gardens financially stable. The city of Key West will contribute $400,000 the first year, $300,000 the second and $200,000 the third year, again, if it’s needed. The housing authority will continue to manage the facility and will contribute $200,000 a year for two years,” McLauchlin told the Keys Weekly on Thursday.
“It was a great negotiation and we all walked away happy,” McLauchlin said. “Our senior citizens are a vital part of the Keys community, and we all want to do whatever is possible to keep Poinciana Gardens open for them. I’ve updated the city commissioners individually and they are thrilled with the outcome.”
County commissioner (and former Key West mayor) Craig Cates, who initially proposed the city-county partnership for Poinciana Gardens, told the Keys Weekly on Thursday he was relieved and “so happy” to hear a tentative agreement had been reached.
Gastesi could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
Cates was first to point out months ago that the county could save more than $1.2 million a year by closing its aging Bayshore Manor assisted-living facility on Stock Island and moving its 11 residents to Poinciana Gardens, which is only three years old. In addition to the $1.2 million savings from Bayshore, the move would also enable the county to use that property for office space that the county currently rents for $250,000 a year, Cates has said, calling the math a “no-brainer.”
Despite initial, informal support for Cates’ proposal about Bayshore and Poinciana Gardens, some county commissioners later balked at spending more than the city of Key West on a facility that’s located in the city. Citizen groups in the Upper Keys vocally opposed the county expenditure, claiming it wouldn’t benefit Upper Keys residents.
“I would hope our neighbors in the Upper Keys would have some sympathy and compassion for the fact that Key West and Lower Keys seniors have no other options for assisted-living without moving three or four hours from their home and loved ones,” Key West city commissioner Sam Kaufman has said.
This week’s meeting among McLauchlin, Gastesi and Sterling was vastly different from the one Key West city commissioners had amongst themselves last week, after learning that the county expected Key West to spend $600,000 a year for the next three years on Poinciana Gardens.
The city of Key West had previously agreed to the $400,000, $300,000, $200,000 annual contributions, and had included the $400,000 in its budget for next year, but the city was not consulted on the county’s increased expectation of $600,000 a year for three years.
City commissioners last week repeatedly called the county “bullies” that “have us over a barrel” by demanding more money without discussion and without providing the city any financial information about Poinciana Gardens. In addition, city commissioners emphasized, the county has the most to gain from the survival of Poinciana Gardens, which will save the county more than $1.2 million a year.
Commissioner Greg Davila also pointed out that city funds are regularly used by the county on projects that benefit Upper Keys residents, but not Key West, such as the county’s purchase of Rowell’s Marina in the Upper Keys.
The Key West city commission meets Tuesday, Aug. 3 and will hear the official update from McLauchlin then, but the city has already budgeted for its first-year $400,000 contribution to Poinciana Gardens.
The agreement requiresapproval by the county commission, which meets Aug. 18 in Key West, although the agenda for that meeting has not been finalized.