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North Miami considering bond issue to fix up old facilities

North Miami City Hall was built in the 1960s and the city is considering a bond issue to improve other old facilities and aging infrastructure in the city.
North Miami City Hall was built in the 1960s and the city is considering a bond issue to improve other old facilities and aging infrastructure in the city. ldixon@miamiherald.com

Decades-old community centers, aging infrastructure and city parks could all receive a financial boost from taxpayers as North Miami considers a bond issue.

The plans were discussed at the April 12 city council meeting and the council members gave City Manager Larry Spring preliminary approval to plan for the bond. City leaders believe a bond could help fast-track repairs and renovations at existing facilities and pay for citywide technology improvements.

“This all started out with some interest from our council people in wanting to do some reinvestment in the city,” Spring said.

Staff is considering using the funding for renovations at the Sunkist Grove, Gwen Margolis, Enchanted Forest, Griffing and Keystone community centers. They’re also considering improving aging sidewalks, planting new trees, fixing battered roads and building new guard gates at the entrances to Keystone Point and Sans Souci.

The bond could also be used to pay for expansion of the Museum of Contemporary Art — a plan that was unsuccessful about four years ago.

The city asked voters to consider a $15 million bond issue through an August 2012 referendum and it was narrowly defeated. The difference between the two sides was about 155 votes.

That referendum featured campaigns from a political action committee called MOCA Yes! and from the museum urging voters to support the bonds. Some council members argue that there were residents that still felt uninformed and uncertain before voting in 2012.

“It wasn’t that we didn’t all agree that MOCA should have been expanded four or five years ago, but the public didn’t have faith in the politicians to give them that kind of money,” Councilman Scott Galvin said.

Vice Mayor Alix Desulme expressed a similar concern about this bond proposal, even in its early stages.

“I think that we are moving way, way too early on this item,” said Desulme, who voted against planning for the bond issue at the meeting.

City leaders plan to have several community meetings to discuss projects that residents want to see funded. So far the city has not determined how much money it wants to borrow through the bonds, but plans to make sure citizens are clear on how much money they’ll have to contribute.

“You all will have a say because ultimately you’re going to be the ones paying for this,” Councilwoman Carol Keys said at the meeting.

Spring said the potential number for the bond will come after the city hears from residents and gets estimates on what various projects will cost. Additionally, the city plans to create a cost-estimate tool for homeowners to figure out what a bond issue might cost them.

“It was a mandate from our council persons that we are transparent. We need to be mindful of the financial conditions of our citizens,” Spring said.

Choosing a financial adviser, bond counsel and underwriter are the next steps in the process, according to Spring, and the city doesn’t plan to spend any money on hiring those individuals until the city actually spends money on the plan.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3

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