The Miami Springs council meeting last Monday night (Sept. 8) included the first public hearing on the 2014-15 budget and several other mundane business items. But when Mayor Zavier Garcia finally hit the gavel to start the meeting at 7:10 there was nary a seat available in council chambers.
The people had been stirred up over pool design, by a series of emails and postings on MiamiSprings.com by Nestor Suarez. Suarez had purchased all email addresses concerning the new Aquatic Facility from the city and had used his website to sell his position that the council’s already voted-on pool concept was wrong.
The Open Forum agenda item had a sign-up sheet two pages long and even more were given the opportunity to speak by the mayor. It took close to 90 minutes for everyone to have his or her say. The council cannot comment or ask questions during this period, despite facts being wrong or words out of line. But they had plenty to say later, after the council chambers had emptied.
Most of the speakers in Open Forum were against the “hybrid” pool design that the council had voted unanimously to move forward with at their last meeting, but there were a few who gave their support to the council. Some rambled on complaining about multiple issues and at least four sung the praises of Code Compliant Officer Skip Reed, who could lose his job with the new budget.
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Suarez was there to lead the pool complainers and had this to say: “Will this be the council that kills competitive swimming in Miami Springs for the next 50 years? This ‘resort’ pool that you are planning, with a smaller pool and a larger deck, is not the community pool that we want for our kids. We won’t have ‘resort’ guests at our ‘resort’ pool coming down from South Beach to have drinks and party. We need a covered patio but not a rental room to compete against ourselves.”
The design of the $5 million Aquatic Facility to be placed in the north end of the Community Center parking lot was approved unanimously at the Aug. 25 council meeting. It will include a 6,000-square-foot pool, with four or five lanes in the middle for swimming laps, a shallow end for children, and a deep end with a giant slide.
Two 5,000-square-foot buildings will be constructed, one with a multi-purpose room for party rentals and a concession stand; the other for offices, storage, and the registration entrance. If all goes as planned, the groundbreaking should take place about election time next April.
Several speakers inferred that this vote on the pool could have an effect on them getting re-elected and many were concerned about going further in debt, by borrowing $5.66 million at 3.33 percent, when $3.4 million is still owed on the golf course and community center.
“Your bridges of trust have been burned by the way you have handled this,” said Buzz Fleischman.
“You are turning your backs on us,” said former councilwoman Helen Gannon. “South Miami built a new pool for $1.4 million — let us vote on this.”
There were supporters like Bryant Capley, who said, “Doing nothing is not an option and I appreciate your effort. You are reasonable people who will do what’s best for the residents of Miami Springs.”
And Joey Galleno said, “This council has done a lot for this city and I support your plan for the future.”
With Open Forum done, the room emptied and the council got back to the other business of the city, including the first public hearing on the new budget. Not a single resident chose to speak on the budget and the council unanimously voted to keep the millage rate for 2014-15 at 7.6710. The final public hearing will take place at the next regular council meeting on Monday, Sept. 22 at
Finally, at the end of the meeting the council was able to comment on what had taken place earlier on the pool and they did not hold back, especially Mayor Garcia.
“We have to keep focused and realize that no matter what we do, we cannot please everyone. Most of those who came here tonight came as a result of ‘lies’ by what I consider National Enquirer-type media — MiamiSprings.com. Who wants to stop this pool now and change their vote from ‘yes’ to ‘no’?”
One by one Garcia polled his colleagues and not a single one said they would change their vote, despite what was said on the issue and about them in Open Forum.
“This pool is not ‘our’ idea, it came from the people,” said Councilman George Lob. “When people come here at the last moment with their opinions, it’s too late”
In other news, the council:
• Presented the Yard of the Month Award to Mr. and Mrs. Luis Rumayer, who live at 650 Cardinal Street in Miami Springs.
• Tabled the 2nd reading of an ordinance giving the Chief of Police the option of joining or not joining the City’s Police and Firemen Pension Plan.
• Approved unanimously on first reading an ordinance allowing recreational vehicles to park in side yards, if certain conditions are met.
• Despite the pleas and argument by resident Nery Owens that the city was “giving away” its property, the council voted 3-2 (Bain and Petralanda dissenting) to approve a resolution abandoning an alley located between properties on the 600 block of Curtiss Parkway and the 100 block of Pinecrest Drive. Attorney Jan Sieden confirmed that Miami Springs does not “own” the alleys; thus, the city is not “giving away” any property and no precedent is being set because in the past the city has denied such requests.