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NAVIGATING THE ISLANDS SINCE 1987 • Key Largo • Islamorada • Marathon • Big Pine Key

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WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2017 • VOLUME 30, N0. 43 • 24 PAGES

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County rivalry

TDC launches $1M ad campaign. 10A

Marathon overcomes Hurricanes. 6B

Big mess Venture Out residents pick up the pieces. 8A

County passes property tax increase BY TIMOTHY O’HARA Free Press Staff

KEY WEST — The Monroe County Commission agreed last week to raise property taxes in unincorporated areas of the Florida Keys by roughly 3.8 percent for the 2017-18 fiscal year starting Oct. 1. The commission raised the property tax but res-

idents with homestead exemptions will actually pay slightly less and those without will pay slightly more, according to the Monroe County Property Appraiser’s Office. The owner of a $400,000 home with a homestead exemption will pay $5 less than he or she paid during the 2016-17 fiscal year and the owner without a home-

stead evaluation will pay $196 more, according to the property appraiser’s office. The 3.8 percent hike will allow the county to increase its general operating budget from $80.9 million from the prior fiscal year to roughly $84.9 million in the new fiscal year. The commission voted 4-1 on the tax rate and budget, with Commissioner

Danny Kolhage dissenting. Kolhage said he had been thinking about how to vote for several days. “I have great trouble raising taxes in this situation,” Kolhage said, referring to residents losing their homes in Hurricane Irma. “The people in the most affected areas are being taxed based on evaluations done Jan. 1 this year and

No port after storm

now are sitting on nothing. We can’t do anything about that. The same people will have to pay the additional $3 million and this is not the time to do that.” Commissioner Heather Carruthers said she acknowledged Kolhage’s concerns but contended that homesteaded property owners would actually see a lower tax bill in the

upcoming fiscal year and the storm is putting huge financial demands on the county. Also last week, the commission agreed to postpone levying bed tax on transient rental units that accommodate residents displaced by Hurricane Irma and to temporarily waive some building fees. [email protected]

Divers: Ocean bottom stirred, top full of debris BY THERESA JAVA Free Press Staff

DAN CAMPBELL/Free Press

Capt. Jeff Pursley’s charter boat Island Time was swamped by Hurricane Irma. Pursley has docked his fishing boat at Islamorada’s Postcard Inn Marina for the last six years. The marina has been shut down until further notice while the resort rebuilds amenities lost during the storm.

Charter boat business squeezed by resort closure BY CHUCK WICKENHOFER Free Press Staff

ISLAMORADA — The devastation left by Hurricane Irma has affected nearly all aspects of life in the Florida Keys, and one of the lasting effects on local business may be the closure of the marina at Postcard Inn, which could be shut down for up to a year. While no official timeline concerning a full reopening of the resort has been made available,

Katie Kole, public relations representative for Postcard Inn, says that safety is the chief concern of ownership with respect to the marina. She says that no update is available on when the marina may reopen, but that a safety assessment is soon to get underway. “Once the safety assessment is done, they’ll have a better idea of when they’ll be able to open the [marina] back up,” Kole said. “They’re anticipating that’s going to be done in the next few weeks.”

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Charter boat captain Steve Leopold, who has chartered from Postcard Inn for nearly 30 years, says he