River Cities Gazette

The 2013 Year in Review: October through December

 
 
POSTSEASON BOUND: Miami Springs running back Malik Thomas hurdles over a Mourning defender during a 42-7 Miami Springs football victory at Milander Stadium on Oct. 31. The next night, when American defeated Mater Academy, Thomas and his Hawks teammates celebrated the team’s first playoff berth in 18 years.
POSTSEASON BOUND: Miami Springs running back Malik Thomas hurdles over a Mourning defender during a 42-7 Miami Springs football victory at Milander Stadium on Oct. 31. The next night, when American defeated Mater Academy, Thomas and his Hawks teammates celebrated the team’s first playoff berth in 18 years.
Gazette Photo/BRYAN CEREIJO

River Cities Gazette

 OCTOBER

There was more than a splash of pink at Prince Field on Friday night, Oct. 4 as the Miami Springs/Virginia Gardens Optimist Club displayed support for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

The color pink was dominant from jerseys, socks and shoes on the Golden Hawks team to cheerleaders’ ribbons and outfits, and pullovers on coaches, moms and dads.

Perhaps inspired by their pink unis, the Miami Springs Optimist 120-pound Hawks youth football team responded by dealing out some pink punishment of their own by putting a 36-6 beatdown on the Police Athletic League (PAL) Jets to record their sixth straight win.

•••

The Town of Medley council delivered its own version of “after further review” at its monthly meeting on Oct. 7.

One month after voting to give La Mia Restaurant and owner Alex Salvant the green light to take over the servicing for Medley’s Hot Meals Program, the council, at the urging of new town attorney Stephen Helfman, was forced to sheepishly backtrack on its Sept. 3 unanimous vote. That vote jettisoned the deal with Latin American Grill and awarded the contract to La Mia, after giving Latin American Grill a 60-day termination notice.

“I regret to inform you that when you asked me last month about the situation, I had only been your attorney for three of four days,” said Helfman. “I apologize to you as I was not familiar with certain ordinances that you had in place at the time and after reviewing them later on realized that the vote you took last month was not proper.”

Helfman went on to explain to the council a provision in an ordinance that did not allow them to take any kind of a vote on the issue until an RFP (Request for Proposal) had gone out and that all businesses had an opportunity to bid.

Eventually the council voted 3-2 to alllow Latin American to live out the life of its contract (May 31, 2014) before opening things up for bidding again.

•••

The Miami Springs football team kept things rolling on Thursday, Oct. 10 when the Golden Hawks, in a key District 16-7A contest, used a strong second half to pull away and defeat Goleman High School 34-0 at Milander Stadium. The win moved Springs’ record to 5-1 and 3-0 in the district to set up a first-place district showdown with American on Oct. 17.

•••

A  land use committee comprised of Miami-Dade County commissioners held a hearing on Thursday, Oct. 10 and quickly nixed Miami Springs’ plans to annex a one-square-mile parcel of unincorporated property on the outskirts of town. 

The result: ambitious plans by city leaders to increase services and lower property taxes through a $5 million tax windfall had withered.

Miami Springs wanted land that is part of the airport business district west to the Palmetto Expressway.  

A motion by Commissioner Audrey Edmonson that the annexation matter be forwarded to the entire 13-person commission with a favorable recommendation was seconded by Land Use Committee Chairman Jose Diaz.

•••

Six weeks after beating them for the first time in dual compeition, the Miami Springs boys golf team did it to Columbus again, only this time when it counted the most. MS Country Club served as the host venue for the District 23-2A golf tournament on Monday, Oct. 14 and when the scores were done trickling into the clubhouse, the Golden Hawks’ team score of 298 was two shots better than Columbus’ 300 and for the first time ever Springs had defeated the Exporers in district competition. Springs was led by seniors Pat Bolton and Kyle Safreed. Both shot all-time personal best-scores, Bolton had a 1-under 70 and Safreed a 2-over 73 to lead the way.

•••

It had been a long time since the Miami Springs football team had been in anything resembling a “big game” but that was the case on Thursday, Oct. 17 when the Hawks took on American at Traz Powell Stadium in a showdown for first place in District 16-7A. Even though the Hawks looked awfully good early on, jumping out to a 13-0 lead midway through the second quarter, they could not sustain the momentum as the Patriots came back to win it 16-13 on a field goal with five seconds left.

•••

The fate of the 60-year-old pool at the Miami Springs Community Center was finally decided at a special meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 23 when the Springs council met for slightly less than two hours and when it was over, a unanimous decision had been made on three different issues.

First was whether to try to fix the current existing pool or invest in a new facility. Second was whether to spend the approximate $57,000 it would take to “shore up” the current pool, allowing it to remain open while a new aquatic facility is constructed.

And, third, where would the new aquatic facility be built? At its current location next to the community center? Or, as a few have suggested, perhaps exploring the possibility of setting it up at the Miami Springs Country Club.

In the end, much to the delight of at least 25 “swimming enthusiasts” in the community who showed up in the council chambers, it was voted to build a brand new pool and also to keep the current pool open and spend the money necessary to keep it in safe condition while the new one is under construction.

•••

Although the Space Coast Credit Union opened to customers in August, a grand opening was held on Thursday, Oct. 24 to celebrate the new building at 6301 NW 36th St. in Virginia Gardens.

Attending the event were Space Coast employees and executives, including Carmen Tapas, director of the Miami-Dade Region, who were welcomed by Virginia Gardens mayor Spencer Deno, council and Village employees.

•••

Eight days removed from a difficult last-second loss to American in a first-place district showdown, the Miami Springs Golden Hawks football team was staring playoff elimination right in the face on Friday, Oct. 25 when it squared off against a Mater Academy football team having its best season in the 10-year history of the program.

So when Springs placekicker David Torres coolly stroked his extra-point attempt down the middle through the uprights to give the Golden Hawks an incredibly dramatic and clutch 35-34 overtime victory, the field was inundated with celebrating Golden Hawks. And not just players, either. Even many students, having already enjoyed an evening of Homecoming festivities, jumped from the stands and sprinted onto the field to celebrate with the players as well.

A football program just two years removed from a winless 0-10 season that saw them get running-clocked nine times with a roster of 23 by season’s end had now put itself in a position to make the playoffs for the first time in 18 years.

•••

The City of Miami Springs held its eighth Annual Halloween Festivities Celebration at the Community Center  on Saturday, Oct. 26. There was a costume contest and an “egg haunt” for the little ghosts and goblins. Many residents with their children enjoyed ghostly gourmet delights, spooky jump houses, monster munchies, a face painter and a balloon artist.

•••

Miami Springs lost an icon in the community on Tuesday, Oct. 29 when Betty DuBois passed away. You name it and DuBois was part of it, from the Miami Springs Kiwanis Club, Fair Havens Foundation, Salvation Army, Miami Springs 75th Anniversary Committee to the Lions Club. But Betty by far was most fondly remembered as the anchor of the greeting and information booth for the annual Springs River Festival every April.

•••

With a potential playoff berth on the line, the Miami Springs football team was not about to mess around with district foe Mourning High School as the Hawks delivered their version of Trick or Treat by routing ATM 42-7 on Halloween night at Milander Stadium. The win guaranteed the Hawks no worse than a three-way tiebreaker for two playoff spots with Mater Academy and American, but Springs would wait another 24 hours to see if American defeated Mater, which would clinch a playoff spot.

 NOVEMBER

After an 18-year absence from the high school state playoffs, the longest of any Miami-Dade County program, the waiting finally ended for the Miami Springs Golden Hawks football program when American routed Mater Academy 35-0 at Monsignor Pace High School on Friday, Nov. 1, giving the Patriots the district title and clinching a second-place finish in the district for Springs.

•••

It was exactly two years to the week that the River Cities Gazette shared a story about local teenager E’Maiyne Pittman, who had gone missing for months, a story that had a happy ending with her returning home safely. But this new story would have a tragic ending when Pittman, who had just celebrated her 16th birthday, was killed on Nov. 5 in an overnight shooting that occurred in Allapattah.

The shooting happened just after midnight in front of a home at 1467 NW 34th St. According to witnesses, two gunmen ran up to the van where Pittman and 26-year-old Pedro Nunez were standing when shots were fired. Nunez survived but Pittman, a student at Miami Springs Senior High School, died at the hospital. She and her mother, Hesterine Pittman, were longtime members of Grace Lutheran Church and many of those same friends gathered at Grace Lutheran four days later on Nov. 9 for the funeral.

•••

Some 304,128 cans of Red Bull, the world’s most popular energy drink, were stolen from a Medley warehouse.

According to the Medley PD, the thieves used a key stored in a lock box, near the front door, to enter the business, located in the 10700 block of Northwest 123rd Street, between 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 9 and 7 a.m. on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Once the thieves were inside, the alarm wires were ripped out, which prevented the monitoring system from being activated.

•••

Once again, the City of Miami Springs held a Veterans Day memorial service at the War Memorial near the Circle. The service on Monday, Nov. 11 drew a big crowd and many proud veterans came dressed in full uniform. World War II veteran Norman Andressen was given the honor of laying the memorial wreath at the base of the veteran monument.

•••

With a list of 10 potential candidates for the permanent city clerk position in front of them, the Miami Springs city council managed to pare it down to six at their regular council meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 12.

Needing a minimum of three votes in order to make the cut, leading the way with a unanimous endorsement by all five council members was acting city clerk Suzanne Hitaffer. One by one, each potential candidate was identified based on two different categories: most qualified and qualified based on education and government experience.

•••

Not that it wasn’t expected but a historic season that saw the Springs football program make the postseason for the first time since 1995 came to a crashing halt in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs on Friday, Nov. 15. That’s when the Hawks traveled to Fort Lauderdale to take on defending and multiple state champion St. Thomas Aquinas in a regional quarterfinal contest and watched as the Raiders scored early and often en route to a 56-0 win.

•••

Arguably one of the top five players to ever wear a softball uniform at Miami Springs High School, pitcher Geneva Santos enjoyed quite a moment on Tuesday, Nov. 19 during a special ceremony in the school’s media center when she signed on the dotted line to attend the University of North Florida in Jacksonville where she will take her academic and softball talents, With her softball coach Charlie Green, father Robert Santos  and mother Yvonne looking on proudly. Geneva was a First-Team All-County Miami Herald selection each of the last two years.

•••

On Nov. 21, President Barack Obama awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom — to 16 Americans in a ceremony at the White House and among the recipients was celebrated jazz trumpeter, pianist and composer Arturo Sandoval, a former resident of Miami Springs. After defecting to the United States via Spain in 1990, Sandoval lived for years in a home on South Royal Poinciana Boulevard. His wife also opened a travel agency on Westward Drive near the Post Office where she handled her husband’s travel arrangements.

 DECEMBER

All Angels Church kicked off the 2013 Christmas season with its popular “Breakfast with Santa” event on Dec. 7 that more than 400 people attended. The City of Miami Springs followed on Dec. 14 with its annual “Santa on the Circle” event. 

A crowd estimated at more than 2,000 took in the festivities, which included a lighting ceremony, many activities for the kids, the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, and real snow. 

•••

The Miami Springs Middle School girls volleyball team made history by winning the county championship for the first time in 2011 and returning to the championship game again this year. A second championship was not to be as they lost to Lamar Curry Middle School in straight sets.

•••

A time-honored holiday tradition by the Miami Springs Historical Society was scheduled to take place on Saturday Dec. 28, with the highlight a tour of eight historic homes. This annual event is a fundraiser benefiting historical preservation. 

Read more River Cities stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
CLUTCH HITTER: Miami Springs senior Austin Voeller contributed to the Hawks district semifinal win over Norland on Monday with a base hit and an RBI.

    Miami Springs baseball team tops Norland in district semifinal contest

    Thanks to a great pitching performance from David Cervantes, the Miami Springs Golden Hawks baseball team qualified for the regional playoffs for the first time in five years when the Hawks knocked off Norland 3-1 in a district semifinal contest at Shelly Dunkel Field on Monday afternoon and will take on Goleman on Thursday for the district title.

  •  
Michel Escoto stands as the jurors leave the courtroom on Tuesday, April 22, 2014. He was accused of murdering his new wife for a $1 million insurance policy and found guilty of first-degree murder.

    Criminal courts

    Escoto convicted in murder of new bride for life insurance money

    Miami-Dade jurors deliberated less than three hours to convict Michel Escoto in 2002 slaying of Wendy Trapaga, who was strangled and beaten to death with a tire iron.

  •  
FRUSTRATING FINISH: Dejected Springs players trudge off the field slowly following last week’s frustrating 8-4 loss to Goleman in the District 15-6A championship game at Slade Park in which they saw a 4-0 fifth inning lead disappear quickly.

    Miami Springs softball team squanders late lead, falls to Goleman in district final

    There have been a lot of brutal losses to district rival Goleman over the years for the Miami Springs girls softball team but last week’s District 15-6A championship game at Slade Park in Hialeah Gardens has to go up there right at the top of the list as Springs saw a 4-0 lead in the fifth inning turn into an 8-4 loss.

Miami Herald

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