Port of Miami fails to bill Fisher Island $1.2 million for security
By Lou Ortiz
For nearly eight years, the cash-strapped Port of Miami failed to bill a barge operation on Fisher Island for security costs totaling more than $1.2 million.
The barge operation has existed on the island for more than 20 years, run by Island Developers Ltd. until July 1998, when Fisher Island Holdings LLC assumed the county lease, Miami-Dade documents show.
Island Developers was involved in a controversy with the City of Miami between 1988 and 1989. Miami alleged that the firm failed for eight years to pay for the use of city-owned land and shrimp docks on Virginia Key.
The company contended that it had permission to use the land. But the company could not provide documents to prove when and by whom permission was granted.
In the more recent issue, the lease sold by Island Developers required "Fisher Island Holdings to pay all of the security costs associated with and/or related to [the firm's] commercial barge operations at the Port," documents show.
"The county did not invoice for such security costs until October 2006," according to the documents. "Consequently, prior to October 2006, the county did not receive reimbursement from FIH for any Port-incurred security costs relating to FIH's barge operation at the Port of Miami."
Fisher Island Holdings disputed the amount and the propriety of the charges when the firm was approached by the county for payment, documents show.
The port could only substantiate $1,293,249 in security costs through available records, from Oct. 29, 2004, to May 31, 2007.
In February 2008, Fisher Island Community Association Inc. assumed the lease and county obligations from Fisher Island Holdings, records show.
The community association agreed to pay a total of $1,075,000 of the back security costs and has already made two payments on the arrearages amounting to $475,000.
Under a settlement with the county, the association has agreed to pay the remaining $600,000 over three years on a quarterly basis, with 6% interest compounded quarterly, beginning in April.
The county commission's Transit Committee was asked this week to approve the settlement between Miami-Dade and Fisher Island Community Association Inc. and extend the lease for another five years with two five-year renewal options.
The lease extension would obligate the community association to monthly security payments of $16,500 and $122,000 a year in land lease costs. Security costs would increase 3.5% a year and lease payments by 3% annually over the life of the contract.
But the county could terminate the lease if the association failed to comply with the settlement or security and lease payments.
The full 13-member county commission must ultimately vote to sustain or deny any committee action.