Miami Shores is moving forward with installing sewer lines and new water lines on Northeast Second Avenue in the village’s downtown, a move officials hope will revitalize the central business district.
The Village Council directed Village Manager Tom Benton to move forward with the project at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Lack of sewer service and inadequate water pressure have been major obstacles to businesses moving into the downtown.
The village will pay for the $3.8 million project with a special tax on the businesses on Second Avenue between 94th and 101st streets.
Benton did not have a time frame for the work.
“This is a process that has taken virtually years for us to get to the point that we’re at,” Benton said. “We had to work with three different agencies, the Dade County environmental people, Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer, and the state of Florida health department.”
The pipes will connect to the county’s sewer system.
The village made a decision to renovate the water lines simultaneously with the sewer system to limit costs.
“Those water lines are for the most part are extremely old, except for in some places where they’ve been patched, and it made sense to staff, while we had everything torn apart, to include it in this project,” Benton said.
The outdated water lines are limiting businesses moving into the village. In order for the county to grant a renovation permit to a new business the water mains must be 12 inches wide. The existing water mains are six to eight inches.
Mayor Jim McCoy said that this has resulted in numerous businesses being denied the necessary permits to renovate their spaces.
Including the waterlines in the sewer project, said Benton, means “there could be no question, now or in the future, that when you went down there to pull a permit to do a renovation or bring in a new tenant or whatever the case may be that they can’t say that you don’t have the proper fire-flow or the proper water-main dimension to bring that particular tenant in.”
The village has decided on a low pressure sewer system to satisfy village and county requirements. Benton said, “In Dade County’s utility system, countywide, this is probably going to be the first system that they’re approving.”
He explained, “there are systems like this in other places in the county, for example North Miami Beach has had a system like this for 25 years. It is a proven technology. We’re not out there doing something that’s never been done before. It is a tried and true system.”
The project will cost approximately $3.8 million with a 15 percent contingency built in.
McCoy said, “I feel like the numbers are pretty well thought out. Like our village manager expressed, you don’t know when you’re going underground if we’re going to run into something unforeseen. That’s the reason we put a 15 percent contingency in there to help cover that.”
These costs will be covered by a special taxing district set up for the businesses that will be plugged into the new sewer and water lines.
Sara Herald, vice president for institutional advancement and external affairs at Barry University, said the university supports the project. Barry’s campus borders Second Avenue north of downtown.
“The vacant businesses in downtown truly impacts the university, not just the faculty and students that are already on campus, but it really displays an image that we are constantly having to explain to prospective families that are bringing their children here,” Herald said. “When they see a lot of vacancies they question whether or not businesses are really coming to town.”
Ken Gross, a consultant for several businesses along Second Avenue, asked the council to “have a defined timeline as to when you’re going to have the system in.”
Having a timeline, he argued, would allow the health department “to continue to allow the businesses to operate under the current systems they have.” This, for some businesses, means weekly septic pumping.
Now that Benton has the green light from the Village Council, his staff can put together a timeline to satisfy the health department and to provide residents and prospective businesses with an idea of when the project will be complete.
The next council meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Feb. 5 at the Village Hall, located at 10050 NE Second Ave.