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After spending $100,000 North Miami may ditch carnival plans

If North Miami City Council members aren’t impressed with what their mardi gras consultant presents at the next council meeting, then there may not be an event in April.

However, the city already paid the consultants almost $100,000 for the work they’ve done so far: proposing a route and securing two sponsors.

The previous city council agreed that the city should have an annual signature event, but hosting carnivals isn’t the city staff’s forte according to City Manager Stephen Johnson.

“The city and city staff are not accustomed to doing mardi gras,” Johnson said during the Oct. 22 meeting. “It’s not our experience.”

This is where the consultant comes in. The city paid them $50,000 in March and $7,000 monthly payments for a $92,000 total.

The cost of the carnival is projected at $385,000, based on the consultant’s report to the City Council. The city would not have to pay if the council decides to scrap its carnival plans.

“All these other expenses would be irrelevant if we do not have mardi gras,” Councilwoman Carol Keys said.

Though the carnival is not intended to be a revenue-generating event, if it happens, it is supposed to pay for itself. The consultant is trying to bring sponsors on board to cover expenses. Without them, the city would have to foot the entire bill of the mardi gras, which is not a budgeted item.

The city will receive 30 percent commission from the sponsorships the consultant secures, according to the contract.

Moreover, since entering into the contract, the consultant was able to secure a route for the carnival — sort of.

Ringo Cayard, of the consultant MAJ Investment Group, said he has proposed a route to the Florida Department of Transportation but have not yet received official confirmation from the agency.

Cayard said that the agency takes two months to provide notice that a street would be closed, but in his experience it can be less than that.

“It’s usually a simple matter,” Cayard said Thursday. “They’re waiting for a traffic study, which we’re doing right now.”

Nailing down a route is easier said than done, according to Ringo’s son Kevin Cayard.

“There are aspects we don’t control that affect route selection,” Kevin Cayard said during the meeting.

Those aspects include security costs, street size and the neighboring city of North Miami Beach. The mardi gras needs a resolution from both cities.

But with a final route proposed – southbound along Biscayne Boulevard from Northeast 160th Street to 151st – it’ll be easier for the consultant to obtain sponsors for the carnivals.

“We’re in the prime of obtaining sponsorships,” Kevin Cayard said of October and November, which is when companies plan their sponsorships for the upcoming year.

Despite not having official confirmation on the route, the consultant was able to secure two sponsorships valuing $130,000 combined.

“Like building a house, even with the money, a nice architect and engineers, without a site it won’t be built,” Ringo Cayard said.

Mayor Lucie Tondreau questioned why it took the consultant seven months to decide on a route, to which Ringo Cayard answered that it took Calle Ocho more than two years to decide on a route.

Plans for the mardi gras were delayed because of the route, he said.

Northeast 125th Street was too small and Northeast 135th Street has nearly one dozen churches near it and too many intersections to block. Cayard said Northeast 163rd Street to Oleta Park would have been perfect, but would require approval from both North Miami Beach and Sunny Isles Beach.

“We have to be good neighbors,” he said. “We can’t just impose.”

Tondreau wanted to abstain from the vote ordering the consultant to present again on Nov. 12 because she doesn’t believe the city needs a carnival.

“The city has needs,” Tondreau said to Ringo Cayard during the meeting. “And a carnival is not a priority for the city now.”

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