“When our one and only road clogs, we go into cardiac distress,” he said. Gimenez made an appearance at the village’s council meeting Tuesday night to answer questions about the county’s plans.
To finance the project, the county will have to issue bonds backed by Rickenbacker Causeway tolls, which a majority of commissioners agreed to raise to $1.75 from $1.50 for cars after Gimenez promised to fast-track the conversion of the Rickenbacker and Venetian causeway tolls to SunPass from C-Pass. Two commissioners, Jean Monestime and Juan C. Zapata, asked whether the toll hike should be even higher, given upcoming causeway repairs.
“If we’re going to discuss it, we might as well be honest with folks,” Zapata said. “Why don’t we try to get ahead of the curve, as opposed to just going as we go?”
But the board ultimately opted for the 25-cent hike for cars, with higher rates for larger vehicles and exceptions for people who live or work on Virginia Key and Key Biscayne. Only Commissioner Bruno Barreiro voted against the rate hike.
Earlier in the meeting, commissioners killed a proposal to declare illegal video-game slot machines known as maquinitas. The measure, sponsored by Commissioner Sally Heyman, failed 4-7 in a preliminary vote that would have forced a subsequent committee discussion. The measure would have affected cities like Hialeah and Miami, whose leaders have championed municipal ordinances essentially legalizing the machines.
Commissioners Heyman, Monestime, Zapata and Javier Souto backed the proposal. Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa, Vice Chairwoman Lynda Bell and Commissioners Barreiro, Jose “Pepe” Diaz, Audrey Edmonson, Barbara Jordan and Xavier Suarez voted against.
In other business, commissioners:
• Urged state lawmakers to limit to five the number of constitutional amendments on the ballot during presidential elections, with none of the questions longer than 75 words;
• Approved several measures asking Congress and the Florida Legislature to tighten gun-control laws in the wake of last month’s mass school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Among the requests are closing the “gun-show loophole” allowing arms purchases without background checks and banning high-capacity magazines;
• Ratified Gimenez’s appointment of new Fire Chief Dave Downey. Gimenez announced his pick last week after Chief William “Shorty” Bryson said he will retire Feb. 1.
Miami Herald staff writer Andres Viglucci contributed to this report.