Key West Voters To Decide Whether To Buy Newspaper Building

Apr 10, 2019

The Key West city charter says voters have to approve any deal for the city to buy real estate. And Key West voters have a decision to make.

Back in 2017, the Key West Citizen newspaper stopped using its own press to print the paper on the island. Now it's printed on the mainland and trucked down every morning.

Last year, the newspaper was sold by Cooke Communications to a new owner, Adams Publishing. The newspaper's office, including the now-unused printing press, was not part of the transaction.

The Northside Drive building is for sale and it has a potential buyer: the city of Key West. The city says spending almost $5 million for the building and another $1 million on renovations would be a lot cheaper — $20 million cheaper — than building a new headquarters for the Community Services department.

Community Services includes public works, parks and recreation, facilities and fleet maintenance and the historic cemetery. It's the city's second-largest department.

Voting day on the referendum is Tuesday, April 16, but early voting and voting by mail has already started. 

Monroe County Supervisor of Elections Joyce Griffin says holding an election usually costs about $5,500 per precinct and the city has 10 precincts.

Early voting is at the Supervisor of Elections office, 530 Whitehead St., from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

So far turnout is in the single digits. Griffin said turnout always depends on what's on the ballot; presidential years always get higher turnouts than midterm elections when the governor's race is also on the ballot.

Last year, Key Westers voted in another single-issue referendum, on whether to raise the height limit for a planned workforce housing development. That question was approved. Griffin said turnout in that election was about 16 percent.

"People, I guess, are more interested in height than they are to buy a building," she said. "I think it's according to what the issue is. I would like everybody to turn out for the governor's race like they do for the presidential race, but they don't."