Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

Miami Gardens might borrow up to $60 million

Miami Gardens leaders are proposing the first general-obligation bond issue in the city’s history and held a meeting last Thursday to give residents an opportunity to voice concerns and ask questions about the bond.

The meeting drew hundreds of residents to the amphitheater of the Betty T. Ferguson Center to hear about plans for the $60 million bond.

The plan for the bond is to focus on improvements and additions to the city’s 18 parks and to add to new police technology. Mayor Oliver Gilbert said that the plans for the parks include an alternative sports building for gymnastics, a culinary arts facility with a commercial kitchen and food storage areas, an entertainment studio and a senior center on the same land as the historic Enrico Dairy Farmhouse.

Gilbert said he and city leadership based their plan for the bond on feedback from the community.

“If we’re going to have the community that we say we want, we’re going to have to invest in it,” Gilbert said. “Someone asked me where the bond came from, and I said it came from residents.”

After addressing the crowd and laying out the plan, the mayor fielded questions from the audience. Residents were mainly supportive of the plan but also had questions about specifics including the actual individual cost to residents over the life of the bond and specifics as to where the proposed buildings will be placed.

Gilbert said the planned buildings haven’t been attached to specific parks because he wants residents’ input on the best locations for the proposed services.

“These projects will necessarily take shape as we actually talk with the community and find out what goes where,” Gilbert said.

The bond was originally proposed at $50 million, but an additional $10 million was approved, at a November City Council meeting, to add police surveillance equipment including cameras in parks and at major intersections and to purchase license plate readers.

Citizens will receive their ballots in the mail at the beginning of April and will have to vote by April 21. The estimated cost to residents, based on the average taxes paid by the 68,000 households in the city, is about $46 per year, according to the city. The mayor estimated that the interest rate on the bond would be about 4.25 percent.

The city doesn’t have an itemized list of projects and cost estimates yet. The bond would be repaid over 30 years, which would place it in the same time line as the city’s proposed community redevelopment area.

City Manager Cameron Benson said his hope is that the bond issue will encourage investments in the city’s proposed CRA boundary.

“When we talk about areas throughout the city of Miami Gardens, 27th Avenue, the 441 corridor, the industrial sites, all of those areas are potential private investment dollars,” Benson said. “For every dollar we put in, hopefully that private sector will invest right back into our city as well.”

City leaders have not scheduled the next community meeting to discuss the bond issue, but said they plan to have multiple meetings to further explain the plan before the ballot goes out next month.

Residents will receive the ballots at the address listed in their voter registration at least 10 days before Apr. 21 with a secrecy envelope, a return mailing envelope and instructions. The ballot will only feature the question on the bonds and has to be returned in the special envelope.