Residents of Homestead voted Tuesday to borrow up to $26 million to build a new police headquarters and to restore the Seminole Theatre, an Art Deco gem that has seen better days.
During a gathering downtown about an hour after the polls had closed, city officials announced that the measure to build a new police facility had been approved by 1,062 residents, or 5 percent of the city's 22,575 registered voters. The nay votes amounted to 365.
"It's about damn time," said Police Chief Al Rolle, who is in his 34th year on the city force and was smiling broadly as he spoke. "At least before I retire let me be in a building where I can breathe."
There were 891 votes in favor of fixing up the theater, or 4 percent of the registered voters. Five hundred twenty-eight people voted against the measure.
"If this theater gets built, I swear to God, I want my ashes buried there," said Linda Fagan, president of the Seminole Theater board, who told the crowd that she and others had worked for 20 years to get the theater reopened.
Approval of the general-obligation bonds means that $18 million will go toward the new police building, with another $3 million for refurbishment of a temporary headquarters in the Homestead Sports Complex while the new structure is built. There is some urgency to get the police force out of its current home, a former bank, built in 1912, that is not only too small and inadequate to the task of a modern emergency center but is contaminated by radon and mold.
A total of $5 million would be spent on renovating the Seminole Theatre, a 1920s-era movie palace, long closed, that is envisaged as a cultural center for Homestead's downtown, a landmark district that city officials seem intent on sprucing up.
With voters' approval of both ballot questions in Tuesday's referendum, the owner of a home with a taxable value of $120,000 would pay about $120 per year. The figure is based on a tax increase of 82 cents per $1,000 in taxable home value for the police headquarters, plus 19 cents per $1,000 for the theater.