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Front Page » Top Stories » With Lasthour Funding Shifts County Bond Plan Advances

With Lasthour Funding Shifts County Bond Plan Advances

Written by on July 15, 2004

By Sherri C. Ranta
A $2.75 billion bond issue that could set Miami-Dade County’s agenda for capital improvements for years is expected to go to county commissioners next week.

They will consider language for a Nov. 2 referendum during what is expected to be a marathon session July 20, said Juan Mendieta, bond program spokesman.

New among proposed allocations is $15 million to improve Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, $40 million to buy environmentally endangered lands and $10 million to improve Coconut Grove Playhouse. Funds to improved access to the Port of Miami are cut $30 million to $100 million, and $10 million green space work in the proposed Museum Park Miami is eliminated.

The Miami Art Museum at $100 million and Historical Museum of Southern Florida/Miami Museum of Science & Space Transit Planetarium at $175 million remain.

Commissioners want to finish the job by month’s end because ballot language must be ready 60 days before the election. The commission doesn’t meet in August.

County Manager George Burgess is to present seven to eight resolutions that will group projects by category. If commissioners agree, voters would consider each category, and could approve some but not others.

An allocation list released Tuesday includes:

•$479.208 million water/sewer systems and environmental protection.

•$590.886 million park and recreation facilities including MetroZoo, Amelia Earhart, Haulover, Crandon, Fruit and Spice, Lummus, AD Barnes, Ives Estates, and Larry and Penny Thompson parks.

•$509.655 million library and cultural facilities. This includes funds for 23 renovated and four new libraries, a Head Start Regional Education Center and cultural facilities including the Museum of Science, Historical Museum of Southern Florida, Miami Art Museum, Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, Westchester Cultural Center, Dade County Auditorium and Virginia Key Beach Museum Park.

Numbers could change when commissioners conduct their final review. Latest changes to the list include:

•$30 million less for tunnel access to Port of Miami for a total of $100 million.

•$20 million less to buy green space including development rights to maintain agricultural lands and protect well fields for a total of $30 million.

•$10 million less for pre-trial detention center renovation for a total of $47 million.

•$6 million less for a mental health facility.

•$33.5 million less for a cultural facility fund to address requests to improve and develop cultural facilities throughout the county.

•Loss of all $10 million planned for green space rehabilitation of what is now Bicentennial Park.

If voters approve, the county will issue bonds up to $2.75 billion over 13 years. Cost to the average taxpayer will be about $20 a year, Mr. Mendieta said.

About $150 million is expected to be spent in bond issuance and finance costs. An advisory committee would answer to county commissioners and the county manager.

If commissioners approve seeking the bonding, Mr. Mendieta said the county will probably hold a voter education program.

"We can’t tell people to vote yes," he said, but the county can educate the public about the referendum.