The normal peaceful and friendly Miami Springs council meeting was anything but that Monday night, Sept. 9. The impending budget had everybody uptight, and not just the council members. City Manager Ron Gorland and City Attorney Jan Seiden also expressed frustration as the council wavered in approving the tentative budget they had already agreed to.
Although the council was hung up on details like giving the Curtiss Mansion (CMI) $35,000 and the impending pool problems, the residents of Miami Springs showed they couldn’t care less. It was the first of two public hearings on the budget and not a single resident spoke up, despite the tax rate going up by almost 10 percent in the new budget.
The problems started after Mayor Zavier Garcia closed the public hearing and asked for the vote to approve the tentative budget. He got a motion from Vice Mayor Michael Windrem and a second from Councilman George Lob, who made it clear he seconded the motion only to get to the “discussion” phase.
Councilmen Billy Bain and Jaime Petralanda both wanted to know why they had not been provided the detailed information they had requested from CMI so they could get comfortable in giving the organization $35,000 for operating in the next fiscal year.
“A detailed budget was requested from CMI (specifically JoEllen Morgan) and it was not forthcoming,” said a clearly upset Gorland.
Lob stood up for his colleagues by saying, “The citizens of Miami Springs are entrusting us to make the right budget decisions and two councilmen have asked for this information from an entity we are being asked to give $35,000 to and we should get this.”
Garcia asked both Bain and Petralanda if they wanted to remove the $35,000 from the budget, knowing that if the information was provided before the next public hearing on Sept. 23, the money could be added back in before the final vote. Both refused.
It got more convoluted when the vote was taken and Bain, Lob and Petralanda voted against the tentative budget. The legality of the 2-3 vote on a budget the council had approved through a series of meetings and workshops got the attention of the city attorney.
“It is eminently important that you follow the guidelines of the State of Florida and approve a budget tonight,” Seiden said. “You have the responsibility as the elected representatives of the people to approve this budget.”
Bain was not swayed by Seiden’s words and even left the room in a huff for a short period after saying, “There are several issues in this budget that I don’t agree with and the pool situation has not even been discussed.”
That brought on a heated discussion about the pool, with Bain saying: “I say we shut the pool down for six months and save the money and then we will have an idea about what to do going forward.”
Garcia vehemently disagreed and Bain refused to take the “pool” money out of the budget so another vote could be taken to approve the budget.
“If we decide to shut the pool down, that will be made when we have all the facts. It would be irresponsible to make a decision on the pool right now,” said Garcia. “Closing the pool is not a good fiscal decision and I will not support that.”
Since no councilman was willing to pull any item from the budget, the only way another vote could be taken was if one of the dissenters—Bain, Lob or Petralanda — asked for the vote to be re-considered. Finally, Lob made the motion to retake the vote and Windrem quickly seconded it.
This time the vote was 3-2 in favor of approving the tentative budget for fiscal 2013-14, which begins Oct. 1. Lob was the swing vote, as Bain and Petralanda again voted “no.” The final public hearing and approval of the final budget will take place on Monday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall.
In other news, the council:
• Approved the Miami Springs Historical Society’s plans to relocate their museum to 501 East Drive and agreed to maintain the $11,000 in funding for the next fiscal year. Of the $11,000, $3,000 is for rent at the current location and the rest for renovations and moving expenses. The Miami Springs Historical Society Education Center plans to open at the East Drive location in January 2014.
• Approved a new one-year agreement for fiscal 2013-14 with Pelican Playhouse Inc. that pays $15,000 for services rendered to the City of Miami Springs.
• Approved unanimously a resolution amending the current “schedule of charges” for building, plumbing, electrical, and other related permit charges or fees.
• By consensus, gave Manuel Perez-Vicho and Southeast Design the authority to go through with their plans to seek the purchase of 10,0000 square feet of city property on the golf course and build a quality hotel at their property (627 Eldron Drive). The property must be purchased from the city and approval via a vote of the people must take place for this to happen. Southeast Design agreed to pay all expenses for the property appraisal and the necessary election.