Miami Gardens / Opa-locka

Miami Gardens

Miami Gardens close to moving into new City Hall

 

ldixon@MiamiHerald.com

After months of delays and nearly two years after its groundbreaking, Miami Gardens’ new municipal complex is expected to open in the next few weeks.

City Manager Cameron Benson said the city council and other departments that are operating out of the current city hall, 1515 NW 167th Ave., are packing up boxes and preparing to move in starting Friday.

Other parts of the project, including the new police headquarters, are expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The delays have continued to take a financial toll on the city and have caused the project to be over budget. The city’s finance department estimated earlier this year that the project was at least $7 million over its $55 million budget, but now that number could be higher depending on what the construction contractor Skanska asks for from the city.

“We are still trying to identify some funding sources to wrap up the end of the project,” Benson said. “I’m looking at everything, I’m looking at loans and a potential line of credit.”

The relationship between Skanska, the city and the architecture company URS has been a cause of delays over the life of the project. There were disagreements in the field between the contractors and the architects over the construction drawings and the erection of the complex’s parking garage.

Benson said that before he became city manager, Skanska would often report delays and other issues without giving a cost estimate to the city.

“No more coming to meetings and just telling us about delays — we need to know the real costs of these delays,” Benson said.

Skansa spokeswoman Pamela Monastra said that the company’s relationship with the city is “strong.”

“We are working together to get the project done as quickly and as economically as possible,” Monastra said. “We are going to deliver a landmark building for the city of Miami Gardens and are confident we are providing great value under the terms of our contract.”

Benson did not specify when the funds would be available, or which options seemed viable, but said that none of the money from the city’s recently approved general-obligation bond issue will be used to pay for outstanding costs on the municipal complex project.

Moving forward, the city hopes to host the first city council meeting at the new site, at Northwest 27th Avenue and 187th Street, later this month, and to have most of its operations working at the new site. Benson said things like red-light-camera hearings and certain board meetings may still take place at the current site.

The complex broke ground in July 2012, and the new city hall was initially expected to be open last July, with the new police department being ready in September. Construction was held up last May when the parking garage was completed. A monthly staff report on the project said that the threshold inspector saw cracks in some of the support beams, and work was stopped until the beams could be repaired.

That police department phase of the project has also had recent delays due to issues with change orders from the construction contractor and “issues on the first floor” of the building, Benson said. He said that despite the most recent delays, the current time frame is feasible.

“This project is bigger than all of us; this project is for the community,” Benson said. “At the end of the day, we have to open this facility for the public.”

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