Miami-Dade County

First $100 million in Miami-Dade bonds requested for Jackson renovations, new buildings

The first projects to be paid for with $830 million in voter-approved public financing for Jackson Health System will include patient room renovations, a new rehabilitation hospital and a new pediatric outpatient center, plus equipment and software, according to a request reviewed by Miami-Dade County commissioners Tuesday.

The county’s finance committee, made up of four commissioners, unanimously recommended approval of the request from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s office to issue up to $101 million in general obligation bonds to start funding the projects.

The full County Commission will consider the request June 3.Commission approval is required before county administrators can begin the process of selling the bonds, which may take until late August or early September to close.

While voting to approve the request, Commissioner Esteban Bovo, the finance committee chair, expressed concern about the transparency of the expenditures, noting that no itemized list of projects was included with the resolution.

Instead the resolution described four “groups” of projects: hospital facility renovations and upgrades, infrastructure projects, medical and technology equipment and software, and new facilities.

Finance committee members received a more-detailed list of more than a dozen specific projects prior to their Tuesday meeting, but Bovo and Commissioner Juan Zapata made it clear they wanted the list to be shared with the public.

On that more-detailed list: $13.25 million for patient floor renovations at Jackson Memorial Hospital and Holtz Children’s Hospital, $8 million toward a new rehabilitation hospital, $5 million for a pediatric outpatient center, $2.3 million for floor renovations and radiology equipment at Jackson North Medical Center, and $4.5 million for trauma equipment, radiology equipment and a surgical robot at Jackson South Community Hospital.

“Like any expenditure that we embark on,” Bovo said, “people are looking, and they want to make sure the expenditures, especially on something like this, that we’re complying with what we said we’re going to do.”

Jackson CEO Carlos Migoya said the project descriptions in the resolution were written broadly so administrators would have the flexibility to adjust them if costs change.

If a detailed list were included, Migoya said, Jackson administrators would be bound by those details, and they would need to return to county commissioners to seek approval for every change — a potentially time-consuming process.

“There’s also going to be an oversight board that will be reporting to you guys on a regular basis,” Migoya said, referring to the creation of a citizens advisory panel approved by county commissioners on May 6.

The watchdog committee will be charged with reviewing how the county spends $830 million in general obligation bonds that Miami-Dade voters approved in November. The bonds will be repaid with increased property taxes. The oversight board will periodically report to the commission, but only in an advisory role.

Migoya said he expects that applications for the nine-member, volunteer watchdog panel will be reviewed over the summer, and that the committee will be impaneled in the fall.

Though the bonds will be sold before the oversight board is in place, Migoya said none of the public money will be spent without the board’s first having a chance to review the projects and expenditures — an explicit promise made by Migoya and others during the campaign to win voter approval.

The Public Health Trust, which runs Jackson, will serve as a second layer of oversight, Migoya said. The Trust must review and approve bond projects and expenditures, he added.

Before bonds can be issued, the County Commission must approve an ordinance establishing the procedures for issuing the bonds. Commissioners approved the ordinance on first reading May 6, with a public hearing scheduled for June 3.

If commissioners approve the ordinance, county administrators must wait 10 days before initiating the sale of the bonds.

Migoya said renovations to patient floors are likely to be the first step, and a ceremonial groundbreaking on the new rehabilitation hospital could take place in November.