River Cities

Miami Springs Council approves budget; silence on police contract

Even though the subject wasn't even brought up at Monday night's meeting, the Miami Springs council appears to be ready to strike a deal with police department to put a new contract in place for the first time in five years.
Even though the subject wasn't even brought up at Monday night's meeting, the Miami Springs council appears to be ready to strike a deal with police department to put a new contract in place for the first time in five years.

At last Monday’s Miami Springs council meeting, there was the final public hearing and approval of the budget, with a little “pool” mixed in, but there was silence on the impending contract between the city and its police department.

The budget process for the 2014-15 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 started back in June and culminated with unanimous approval by the Miami Springs council Monday night. As has been the case since the beginning, not a single resident had a problem or a comment on a line item or the details of this $20 million-plus budget.

On Monday night, Mayor Zavier Garcia twice “opened” public hearings on the budget and both times he “closed” them immediately as no one from the sparse audience in council chambers chose to speak. Without further ado, the council voted “yes’ for the same 7.6710 millage rate as the year before.

There was more “talk’ about the $5 million hybrid pool complex that is in the works, especially from MiamiSprings.com owner Nestor Suarez, who was there again to try to sell the council on what he calls “Plan B,” which would include eight lanes for competitive swimming.

Suarez has been selling his concept not only on his own website but also in every other available local media, including this newspaper and The Miami Herald. He presented the council with 300 signatures from a petition supporting his position and read the comments of many who agree with him.

The council members — later when they could comment — indicated that the competitive, eight-lane pool had been looked into but due to the $5 million budget and the desires of the community via surveys and meetings, the hybrid, recreational pool was the way to go.

Garcia deadpanned at the end of the meeting, “Just so everyone knows, I did not sign that petition, although my name (along with Ronald Reagan) appears there. We can’t keep second-guessing ourselves on the pool and we can’t make everyone happy.”

So the $5.6 million loan from SunTrust — it includes the payment to the pool design consultants, Bermello Ajamal & Partners, and the recent upgrades to Stafford Park — is expected to be funded by the end of the year. The bidding process will take 60-90 days and the first shovel should be turned around election time in April 2015.

Another long-standing issue that is expected to be resolved in the next few weeks was obvious on Monday by the silence. There was no picketing by police, no officers lining the council chambers holding up signs, no impassioned pleas by police union representatives.

All indications are that a new contract between the city and its police department has been agreed upon and will be signed by both parties in the next few weeks. Once the contract is put in writing, the police officers in the FOP Union will vote on it; if approved, it will go back to the council for its endorsement.

Thus it is expected five years of impasse between the City of Miami Springs and its beloved Miami Springs Police Department will end.

In other news, the council:

• Heard a presentation from Jose Gonzalez, senior vice president of Florida East Coast Industries, as to why Miami Springs should support the proposed “All Aboard Florida” so his firm can go forward with the privately funded, high-speed passenger rail service between downtown Miami and Orlando International Airport. Gonzalez called the project “a catalyst for tourism” and said this first privately funded train since the 1960s will travel at speeds up to 125 mph; it will increase mobility in the area and take away some reliance on the automobile.

The council voted unanimously to support the resolution urging the Florida Department of Transportation and other regulatory agencies to support the project, which would be completed by 2017.

• Approved unanimously on second reading an ordinance providing for the parking and storage of recreational vehicles in side yard setback areas of residential properties.

• Voted unanimously to select Aetna’s alternative option of a 19 percent increase in the city’s Group Medical Coverage for employees and dependants for fiscal 2014-15. This option will save the city $41,000 in the 2014-15 budget and the council directed staff to come back to the next council meeting with a recommendation to distribute the $41,000 to employees as bonuses or pay raises.