Miami Springs residents were stunned at Monday’s council meeting when Miami-Dade Commissioner Rebeca Sosa spoke at open forum and said the county has given $100,000 to build a new municipal senior center.
“On behalf of Miami-Dade County, I am honored to present to you the first check for $100,000 to be able to rebuild the senior center,” Sosa said. “If we help the senior center, we are helping the city.”
Residents nervously applauded as officials posed for photos holding a poster-size check for $800,000, or eight times the amount Sosa stated she was giving minutes prior. Sosa’s office did not return an email from the Herald to clarify the discrepancy.
During open forum, Sosa told residents that she speaks twice a month with council members and had discussed a new senior center with officials for “about a year and a half.” During this time, she added, problems with the senior center were reviewed.
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However, the check was not on the agenda and there is no record of by council members addressing past problems with infrastructure at the senior center at 343 Payne Dr., which sits just south of Prince Field.
At the same meeting, skeptical residents took aim at why the city abruptly closed the tot lot, adjacent to the senior center, for “questionable” safety concerns. Officials recently shuttered the park, built by volunteers in 1996, after they deemed it was “very dangerous.”
“We still haven’t heard what is the safety issue after a month plus,” said Robert Samy, who did a public records request and found “three incidents since 1996” at the tot lot. These issues, he said, included a “scraped chin” and a “splinter in someone’s foot.”
Samy grilled Mayor Zavier Garcia, who snapped back saying his time was up. Samy continued, describing how Garcia told him how his teenage son’s foot “went through the floor and he broke his foot” — though he could not find any evidence to support this claim.
About $180,000 has been budgeted for the tot lot, officials said. It is unclear where the city will get additional funds to build a new tot lot which will cost up to $395,000.
City council members did not return an email from the Herald asking how much a new senior center would cost, what improvements were planned, or why senior center renovations had not yet been discussed publicly.
The city invites residents to speak for or against renovating the senior center and tot lot, as well as other issues, during open forum at the next council meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, March 14, at City Hall, 201 Westward Dr.