This November Miami-Dade residents will have an opportunity to come together to take a significant step forward to build a new courthouse.
The Miami-Dade County Courthouse, known by some as Cielito Lindo, at 73 West Flagler St., has proudly served our community for close to 90 years. At the time it was built there were just seven judges in all of Miami-Dade County. It was the tallest skyscraper south of Baltimore and a source of pride for every citizen.
In 2014, there are 41 judges working in this building with only 23 courtrooms. Today, the once-proud historically significant building is crumbling and potentially dangerous.
In January 2014, an engineering study revealed that 132 of the 144 lower floor support columns are severely corroded, some of which are surrounded by pools of water. The engineers recommended urgent structural repairs simply to keep the building in use. Water pumps are in around-the-clock use to drain the water out of the basement. The exterior walls and roof leak. The constant intrusion of water has led to serious problems with interior structures, creating leaks throughout the building and causing mold to form, exposing the judges, jurors, and courthouse workers to potential health issues.
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The water in the basement has also created a potential safety hazard with the electrical system, which is ancient. The plumbing system is in disrepair. Only seven of the 22 operating floors have public restrooms. Frequently, one or more of those facilities is closed.
Many of the air-conditioning units were installed in the 1950s and frequently break down. The units on two floors were recently replaced at a cost of $2.1 million, closing three courtrooms for more than one year. Over time, four and a half floors of the building have been shut down because of environmental and structural problems, requiring the relocation of court personnel and operations.
It should be obvious to anyone that no one should work in a building with these potentially dangerous conditions.
Miami-Dade County can no longer turn a blind eye to these shameful conditions. Doing so would only make matters worse, and serve to deny our residents access to the judicial system they deserve. A new courthouse would serve our community for generations, achieve operational cost savings for taxpayers, and deliver greater services to the residents of Miami-Dade in a safe environment.
The residents of Miami-Dade County will have the opportunity in November to solve this problem that can no longer be ignored.
A vote to approve the issuance of the General Obligation Bonds to construct a new civil courthouse will show that Miami-Dade County continues to stand behind the cornerstone of democracy and justice.
Katherine Fernandez Rundle, state attorney, Miami-Dade County
Roberto Martínez, former U.S. attorney, Miami