Miami-Dade sets Thursday meet to discuss multi-billion dollar water/sewer repairs

Miami-Dade County Commission Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa has scheduled a meeting of the entire board for 11:30 a.m. Thursday to discuss the county’s multi-billion dollar plan to fix its aging water and sewer system.

A key Miami-Dade Commission committee on Tuesday stalled the administration’s plan to bond out billions of dollars for upgrading the county’s decrepit water and sewer system, with commissioners concerned about the amount and the cost.

The item before the Finance Committee was a plan to sell $4.25 billion in bonds to repair the crumbling system. The bonds would be backed with higher water and sewer fees. During Thursday’s meeting commissioners will only discuss the issue, and possibly set a date for a future vote.

The finance committee, however, was worried there were too many unanswered questions, including exactly how the money would be spent and how the bonds would be paid for.

Sosa said she expects a complete presentation from the mayor’s office at the special meeting, with site plans showing where repairs would be made, spreadsheets showing the costs and a financing plan showing how the bonds would be paid off.

“I want them to come to a meeting and make a presentation for everything,” she said.

The administration has recommended raising water fees by 8 percent for the 2014 budget year beginning Oct. 1. Commissioners passed a preliminary vote unanimously in April, but a second vote by the entire board of commissioners is needed for the resolution to pass.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sued the county in December, contending Miami-Dade is not abiding by the federal Clean Water Act. The county has until June 24 to finalize negotiations with the federal government and have a consent decree in place.

Also on Tuesday U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno granted the Biscayne Bay Waterkeepers the right to intervene in the federal lawsuit. The waterkeepers are an activist group that focuses on keeping Biscayne Bay’s waters clean. The group has been pushing for the county to take sea level rise and storm surge into account as it spends money fixing the crumbling water and sewer system.

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