Better Communities' project delays mount
By Ted Carter
Tardiness among projects under way in Miami-Dade County's Building Better Communities bond program has more than doubled since last year.
The pace of the current phase of projects funded by the $2.9 billion General Obligation Bond issue has slowed from 6% of them behind schedule 180 days or more to about 13% today. The 13% represents late progress on 84 of the 625 projects under way, said Robin Reiter-Faragalli, chair of the Building Better Communities bond program's Citizens Advisory Committee.
Mrs. Reiter-Faragalli urged the county commission's Government Affairs and Environment Committee last week to endorse a county staff recommendation to re-establish an expediting ordinance that would give administrators authority to approve certain capital projects expenditures instead of having to obtain OKs from the county commission. "We'd really like to see that 13% not get any higher," she said.
The expediting measure was eliminated with the county's switch to a strong mayor government in January. But it had helped to keep projects on a steady track soon after the bond project work started in July 2005, Mrs. Reiter-Faragalli added.
The ordinance "will help us move more quickly through the process," she said.
Also, the citizens advisory panel is studying the delayed projects to find whether they can be nudged ahead, Mrs. Reiter-Faragalli added. "Some will simply be late historically, but we think we can move some of these along a little bit."
Miami, Hialeah, Coral Gables and the county's other municipalities have done "exceedingly well" in making progress on their bond-related projects, according to Mrs. Reiter-Faragalli. "The thing here is that every municipality is on top of the situation."
Ian Yorty, interim director of the county's Capital Improvements Department, said the plan from the start has been to move municipal projects to the front of the line so they could be done concurrently with county projects. "It was a conscious decision to recognize the value of having the municipalities as partners," Mr. Yorty said.
Some of the municipal projects were smaller and less complex than the county's and so have managed to be more timely, according to the Capital Improvements Department.
Mr. Yorty said that considering the complexity of many of the county projects and the need to buy land to carry them out, he is not distressed by the percentage of projects that are behind their timelines. "We're actually making very good progress implementing the projects," he said.
The countywide projects are part of a $265 million phase of the 15-year bonds project, for which about $150 million in bonds have been issued.
The bonds are backed by a special ad valorem tax first initiated in 1972 for a bond issue called Decade of Progress. The earlier bonds funded, among other things, the Metrorail system and MetroZoo.
The Decade of Progress bonds were just about retired when county officials concluded they could pursue a host of new projects by keeping the special millage in place. Voters approved the extensions in 2004 with the promise that about 300 projects would be undertaken.