Village won’t hire consultants for transportation plan after all

The Pinecrest council has scrapped plans, set in motion more than a year ago, to hire consultants to develop a comprehensive transportation plan for the village.

The decision, sealed in a 3-2 vote Tuesday night, went against staff advice and the village’s own strategic plan, set by the council back in 2013.

Council member Cheri Ball took the item granting approval of a $50,000 contract with urban planning firm The Street Plans Collaborative out of the consent agenda for discussion, telling the council she felt the consultants’ project was redundant.

The Collaborative would have been tasked with reviewing previous studies commissioned on transit in the village, surveying the use and condition of existing infrastructure, getting public input, and making recommendations on transit connectivity, sidewalk and bike path improvement and expansion, and traffic calming.

For Ball, the village’s existing plans and studies relating to transit are enough to work with.

“I feel like we already have so much of this, and we’ve already spent so much money on consultants,” Ball said. “Then to top it off — $50,000 — I just feel like that’s not something I can agree with.”

Council member Bob Ross agreed with her, calling the scope of the consultant’s project “a mile wide and an inch deep.”

“I see this as a work product that is a compilation of previous reports and studies that will lead to more reports and studies, and for lack of a substantive benefit, I question the need for it,” he said.

Mayor Cindy Lerner argued in favor of hiring the consultants, telling the council that none of the studies done so far provided a unified plan for transit improvements in the village.

“Until we have somebody take these disparate pieces and brings them all together in a comprehensive way ... we won’t likely go forward in a sensical way,” Lerner said.

Village manager Yocelyn Galiano Gomez backed the mayor, saying that many cities engage in this sort of project — and usually closer to incorporation.

“In a lot of ways we’re playing catch-up,” she said. “I do feel there’s value to it.”

Council member James McDonald also argued for the consultants, telling his colleagues “it is incumbent on us to plan for the future.”

But McDonald and Lerner were ultimately in the minority, with council member Doug Kraft siding with Ross and Ball.

Council members butted heads again later on old business, nearly voting down final approval of the $6million bond it has already raised the millage rate to finance. The bond was earmarked to pay for improvements to the community center and Coral Pine Park.

With Ross and Kraft voting against the measure, Ball was the deciding vote in favor of the bond, saying, “I think we need to move forward on what was already decided.”

Tensions continued to rise, with Lerner at one point bursting out that “new council members need to learn that just because you’re sitting at the dais doesn’t mean that you can speak with authority off the top of your head” in reference to comments Kraft had just made about proposed regulations on soliciting funds at village events.

The new regulations, which passed their second and final reading in a 3-2 vote — with Lerner and McDonald again on the losing side — require anyone soliciting funds or distributing written materials at village events to operate out of a designated table or booth.

In other business, the council:

▪ Presented State Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, with a framed plan of the village’s water lines — a reference to its chief legislative concern: the long-sought funds the village needs to get nearly 20 percent of its residents off well water and connected to county lines.

▪ Approved updates to the Comprehensive Development Master Plan.

▪ Gave Utility Service Partners, a company endorsed by the National League of Cities, the go-ahead to advertise its services for utility line insurance to village residents.

▪ Voted to oppose the development of a Pine Rockland forest near Zoo Miami,

▪ Voted to urge County Commissioners to maintain current well-field protection areas.