Florida Keys Treasures

Welcome to the Florida Keys Treasures WEB Site. You’ll find local information about tourism, fishing, diving, snorkeling, restaurants, accommodations, Keys jobs, lobsters, lighthouses, maps, vacation, fish, birds, plants and history about all the Fabulous Florida Keys including Key Largo, Tavernier, Islamorada, Layton, Key Colony Beach, Marathon, Big Pine Key and Key West.

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Historic Key West Fire Bell Echoes With Memories

After decades, cemetery landmark on display

Key West Fire BellFire has long been a very real and devastating threat to the wooden structures that comprise Key West’s Old Town neighborhoods. Long before battery-powered smoke detectors, interior sprinkler systems and automated 911 call centers, Key Westers had their own, early version of a fire alarm in the form of a 1,000-pound cast iron bell that hung from an elevated tower in the City Cemetery.

The fire bell tower was at the corner of Olivia and Grinnell Street from about 1910 until it was phased out in the 1950s and replaced by more technologically advanced warning systems. “It was straight down the street from the fire station at Simonton and Angela,” said retired Key West firefighter historian Alex Vega, who is also the founder of the Historic Firehouse Museum at 1026 Grinnell St., where the fire bell now resides.

The bell’s unmistakable reverberation could be heard everywhere on the island, and its sound stopped residents in their tracks as they listened for the number of “gongs” to determine the approximate location of the fire. Vega explained that turn-of-the-century technological advances in the early part of the 1900s allowed Key West to install more than 50 numbered “fire boxes” in neighborhoods all over town.

Each resident knew the number of the boxes closest to their home, and each had a card next to their telephones that listed the box numbers and their associated locations. If residents lived near the No. 23 fire box, they would listen for two, then three tolls of the bell.

Regardless of the location, a fire in Key West would always draw a huge contingent of onlookers as firefighters fought to save the surrounding wooden buildings. With or without the threat of a fire, the bell always had the power to send local teens scurrying home, as it doubled as the city’ curfew bell for decades. “Anyone younger than 15 had to be home by 9 p.m. when the bell rang each night,” Vega recalled.

The bell remains one of the most popular exhibits at the Key West Firehouse Museum, as it sits stoic and silent in the backyard of the museum. “We’ll tap it lightly when kids come through the museum,” Vega said. “And we ring it for real every year during our commemoration of 9/11.”

The firehouse that now houses the museum was built in 1907 and is one of the oldest fire stations in the country. Vega spent nearly two decades working to make the museum a reality, and is currently working on a new exhibit that will explore the history of the Key West Police Department. The museum is always in need of members, donations and volunteers. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is $10 with discounts for locals and firefighters. Kids under 12 are admitted free.

To learn about the museum do to keywestfirehousemuseum.com or call 305-849-0678.

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Local Brothers Plead Guilty to Illegal Lobster Harvesting

By Adam Linhardt Citizen Staff alinhardt@keysnews.com

Three Lower Keys brothers accused of harvesting lobster from illegal artificial habitats known as casitas will likely serve six months in federal prison, and lose their crawfish licenses for life, after all three pleaded guilty in court Monday. Charles, Ryan and Tyson Veach each pleaded guilty to violating the Lacey Act, which makes it a federal offense to import, export, transport, sell or purchase in interstate commerce any wildlife protected at the state level.

They pleaded guilty as part of a plea agreement with the government that calls for them to serve six months in prison followed by one year of supervised release, as well as each pay a fine of $25,000. They also must forfeit a 2008 32-foot Invincible center console boat named the Super Grouper, including all fishing gear, engines and tackle.

Charles and Ryan Veach agreed to surrender their commercial lobster and dive endorsement licenses, and Tyson Veach must give up his commercial lobster endorsement, according to the plea agreement. Those revocations are for life. They will be able to keep other finfish permits “not involved in criminal conduct,” records state.

The agreement also calls for the men to remove the casitas they dove on for lobster by the time of their sentencing, at their expense and under the supervision of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary officials. They were also ordered to turn over all their GPS units, charts or any other navigational tools that show or map where the illegal casitas were located, records state.

Senior Judge James Lawrence King will sentence each man on May 5. On Monday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Lurana S. Snow accepted their pleas and the agreement, but King can still change or revoke the agreement upon sentencing. Such a move has been historically rare in previous casita-related cases.

The maximum penalties are up to one year in prison and fines up to $100,000 sans the plea agreement. One curious absence in court proceedings Monday was any discussion of Dennis Dallmeyer’s disappearance.  Dallmeyer, a commercial fish dealer also snared in the Veach case, went missing on Jan. 6 after being reported overdue at Murray Marine while on a short fishing trip. His boat was later found off Elliott Key. Dallmeyer pleaded guilty in December, also as part of a plea agreement that called for him to testify in the Veach case should it go to trial.

Coast Guard search-and-rescue crews suspended their search for Dallmeyer, but the case remains open with the Coast Guard Investigative Service. Dallmeyer had been scheduled to be sentenced today before King. On Jan. 9, the judge issued an order delaying Dallmeyer’s sentencing to May 5. The prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-Fitzgerald, declined to comment on the search for Dallmeyer.

Watts-Fitzgerald has prosecuted every casita case in the Keys since the government began cracking down on their use, led by undercover federal wildlife law enforcement officers. The Veach brothers are the latest defendants in a string of cases filed in the last six years by the U.S. Attorney’s Office against Florida Keys commercial and charter fishermen.

http://keysnews.com/node/62754

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New Website Comments

This post is to allow comments about the new Florida Keys Treasures website. A major transition has begun and there are many lost pages due to changes in page names. Please let me know if you are having any particular problems the “Not Found” page isn’t resolving and any general comments on the new format.

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3 Lower Keys Brothers Expected to Plead Guilty – Lobster Mobsters

By Adam Linhardt – alinhardt@keysnews.com – Citizen Staff

Three Lower Keys brothers accused of harvesting lobster from illegal artificial habitats are expected to plead guilty on Monday in federal court, according to court records.

Lobster Casitas Fl KeysCharles, Ryan and Tyson Veach face allegations of harvesting spiny lobsters from casitas, catching more than their daily commercial bag limit and falsifying commercial fishing reports to conceal their take.

All three were scheduled to be sentenced on May 5 in Key West before Senior Judge James Lawrence King.

The siblings each face a maximum of 10 years in prison, but such a sentence is unlikely as a lengthy trial was avoided and if previous, similar cases in the Florida Keys are any guide.

Each was indicted on charges of conspiracy and violating the Lacey Act, which makes it a federal offense to import, export, transport, sell or purchase in interstate commerce any wildlife protected at the state level.

The Lacey Act has been used in the past six years to prosecute numerous Keys defendants in illegal lobster casita, or artificial habitats, and other commercial fishing cases. It has been the primary tool used by federal prosecutors in curbing casita use in the Keys.

In December, Stock Island-based commercial fish dealer and co-defendant Dennis Dallmeyer of Big Coppitt Key pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the federal Lacey Act as part of an agreement with prosecutors, who dropped the other charges, records state.

Dallmeyer, who agreed to testify against the Veach brothers as part of his agreement, went missing on Jan. 6 after being overdue back at Murray Marine.

Coast Guard search-and-rescue crews suspended their search for Dallmeyer, but the case remains open with the Coast Guard Investigative Service.

Dallmeyer had been scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 27 before King. On Jan. 9, the judge issued an order delaying Dallmeyer’s sentencing to May 5.

The prosecutor in the case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-Fitzgerald, declined to comment on the search for Dallmeyer.

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Two Plead Guilty to Illegally Taking Keys Coral

Two Broward County men pleaded guilty Friday to selling rainbow-colored coral taken from protected waters in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and peddling it as legally imported from Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said Robert V. Kelton, 60, of Hollywood, and Bruce Brande, 59, of Cooper City, bought and sold mushroom coral and button polyps, both popular with aquarium keepers, through their Miami-based business, D.R. Imports, Inc., between 2006 and 2012. The pair doctored invoice bills for imported shipments of the coral and button polyps by more than $350,000 to cover up the illegal sales, the statement said.

It is illegal to move or damage live coral in the sanctuary, which covers 2,900 island-dappled square miles between Miami and the Dry Tortugas. The sanctuary was established in 1990 to protect the planet’s third largest barrier reef, along with miles of seagrass meadows.

Kelton and Brande are scheduled to be sentenced in Key West in on March 23 and face up to $500,000 in fines and five years in prison.

KeysNet.com

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Canal Cleanup

MONROE COUNTY — CANAL PROJECTS GET OK The Monroe County Commission on Wednesday approved amending its comprehensive land-use plan to make it easier to dredge residential canals to improve water quality.
Many of the canals were dug too deep and now have inadequate flow and poor oxygen levels, which has impacted the water quality there.
The commission also approved a $1.3 million contract with the Key Largo-based Adventure Environmental to backfill a canal on Sexton Cove in Key Largo.http://t.co/HNojZI3tpI

— Key West Citizen (@KeyWestCitizen) January 23, 2015

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