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Council Approves Stadium Demolition - Raises Water Rates

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Posted: Friday, November 16, 2018 3:00 am | Updated: 8:55 am, Mon Nov 19, 2018.

Homestead City Council had a busy evening Tuesday November 13. It dealt with issues on the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) agenda, a special call meeting on water rates, and its regular monthly COW agenda.

The Homestead baseball stadium was built in 1992 as a spring training facility for the Cleveland Indians professional team but the 20 year deal never went through due to Hurricane Andrew damage. The structure remained largely vacant until the City retrofit it as temporary police headquarters in 2015.

When the police department moved to its new building in 2017, a feasibility study was done on possible uses for the stadium. Five of the study’s six options required demolition of the stadium. A sixth option was to leave the facility vacant with annual maintenance costs of $152,584 and still needing a new $1.5 million roof.

Council directed the City staff to request bids for stadium demolition at its May 8, 2018 meeting. Four vendors responded with bids ranging up to $1.149 million. The Redland Company was the lowest bidder at a cost of $594,800.

Staff responded to Councilman Jon Burgess’ question that incidental outfield structures would remain for now. The staff memo said the minor league clubhouse building to the south would also remain standing.

Councilman Stephen Shelley asked if there was any salvage value or if that was part of the demolition contract. Staff explained all useful items like the police generator had been removed, leaving very little of value. For instance, LED lighting has replaced the outdated stadium lights and additional costs are required to save any air conditioners. It was considered less trouble to allow the low bidder to retain any salvage.

“I’m uncomfortable not knowing the salvage values,” said Councilman Shelley. “Could you analyze that before the final decision? I think the salvage may be reflected in the demolition pricing.”

Staff explained to Councilman Larry Roth that the City gains 6.91 acres of a sodded field with drainage after the demolition. Mayor Jeff Porter was told the parking lots would remain for future event use.

“Is this cost in the budget for this year?” the Mayor asked. Staff said a budget amendment would be prepared for the next Council meeting if Council approved the demolition contract.

Council unanimously approved the item contingent on a final vote at November’s Council meeting.

At the Special Call meeting, City Manager George Gretsas told Council it was time for a serious conversation about water.

“The source of Homestead’s water is the Biscayne Aquifer,” said Gretsas. “The South Florida Water Management District caps our draw at 10.55 million gallons a day. Homestead uses 11.5 million gallons a day. We must purchase the rest from the County which costs more.” The Manager’s slides showed the City’s cost with sewer service was about $3 million a year.

“There’s been no rate increase in ten years,” Gretsas continued. “Our rates are artificially low.” The Manager displayed water rates for Broward and Miami-Dade County municipalities comparing Homestead’s average rate as 55th of 55 cities.

With the proposed water rate adjustment, Homestead’s average water rate of $48.10 would rise to $63.10, leaving its ranking still at 55th of 55 cities.

The monthly water service charge would rise from $7.01 to $9.11 while the average residential water rate per 1000 gallons would go up from $0.97 to $1.44. This represents about a 10% increase according to Manager Gretsas, but larger water users could see an increase of as much as 30%.

Under the City Code amendment, the sewer rate also would increase, from $3.33 to $4.88 per gallon of daily flow.

Councilman Jon Burgess asked, “What education will be provided for our citizens to share all the facts?” The City Manager suggested an outreach campaign for information about the increase.

“Water is a big issue and it’s scary,” said Councilwoman Jenifer Bailey. “In addition to the education, a campaign on water conservation would be great.”

Council agreed to the amended rates in the Ordinance.

On September 4, 2018, Miami-Dade College accepted an option to build a new student center and entrepreneurial center on City-owned land across from City Hall.

Dr. Jeanne Jacobs, President of the Homestead campus, appeared before Council to present architectural renderings of the proposed new building.

The option required a building that complements the scale and design of City Hall. To that end, the College retained the architectural services of Rodriquez and Quiroga, the firm that designed the city hall building.

“Over twenty thousand students attend Miami-Dade College but rarely do we see them,” said City Manager Gretsas. “This building location will exert a gravitational pull off campus. The renderings show it exceeds expectations for grandeur.”

The four story 58,000 square foot building has a conference center on the top floor and houses the Entrepreneurial Center on the third floor. Dr. Jacobs said all student services and meeting rooms were on the first two floors.

Mayor Porter praised the partnership with the college, saying “You’ve had the vision from the beginning.”

Councilman Burgess said, “I am overwhelmed by the result. You keep expanding every year and the job is well done. But you really must look at parking!”

“It’s a good problem to have,” said Dr. Jacobs. She said the College’s proposed solution was to develop the Flagler Avenue lots for parking.

In answer to a Council question, Dr. Jacobs said the projected cost of the building was $36 million which required a two year effort for the College to identify the committed resources.

Councilman Shelley asked about a “ballpark” completion date. A City attorney said the College’s due diligence period ends December 3rd after which rezoning is required plus a current tenant’s relocation. Construction could begin after January. The agreement allows the College one year to start construction and two years to finish.

Also on the CRA agenda were two proposals for the so-called Shotgun Property at 866 SW 7th Street. Two unsolicited proposals were offered the City in June for building senior citizen or low-cost housing on the space. One developer dropped out and the Homestead Housing Authority offered its own project for 74 units of senior citizen housing.

Both options include some retail space along with the apartments. Centennial Management’s proposal also includes over a third of an acre of green space with 83 units of one and two bedroom units. Centennial offered $500,000 for the property while the Housing Authority was confident HUD would approve financing for their ADA-compliant proposal.

Councilman Elvis Maldonado noted the project’s historic location, “This is a rebuilding of the southwest area,” he said. “Housing affordability is a huge concern in Homestead.”

The Council consensus was that more information was needed on financing and retail amenities before a decision could be made.

At the COW meeting, Council deferred discussion on a proposal to add two alternate members to the Planning and Zoning Board in order to ensure a quorum for meetings. Council also deferred the issue of amending the Code to allow the director of development services the discretion to approve minor changes to site plan applications.

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