A six-member Homestead City Council approved many expenditure requests in a lengthy session on Wednesday November 20. This was the first meeting of the new Council following the general election.
Councilmember Elvis Maldonado resigned his seat Tuesday November 19 to seek other elected office creating a vacancy on Council.
A Community Redevelopment Agency meeting preceded Council.
Council approved the purchase of a 2020 Chevy Suburban 1500 at a cost of $53,756 for the CRA through use of similar government bids for vehicles. The Suburban is used for touring investors and developers around Homestead
requiring an eight passenger vehicle, currently rented for $3000 a year.
Councilmember Shelley said, “We’re putting monies into CRA that have longer term investments for the City. It should have a larger impact on the community.”
Mayor Steve Losner said, “I share those concerns for the need for this large inefficient vehicle but staff has assured me about the longevity of the SUV and its uses.”
The CRA proposed purchasing property at 51 West Mowry Drive for $270,000 from the Safespace Foundation. The property is across from Homestead Station and adjacent to the driveway into the current police station parking area, abutting Losner Park. The vote also proposes demolition of the existing building, merging the lot into a larger parcel for a future project. Council approved the CRA purchase.
On the regular Council agenda, a developer’s request to change the
future land use map for an irregular 1.4 acres plot east of Farm Life School Road and the Mowry Street intersection prompted much discussion. The applicant is entitled by law to build eight residences on the land but wants approval to build commercial buildings or a gas station.
Ultimately, the applicant elected to defer the agenda items for additional
During that discussion, Councilmember Stephen Shelley asked about the serious traffic concerns at that intersection. City staff said the County Transportation Council voted June 10 to approve a traffic light at that spot. The $500,000 cost was in this year’s County budget.
Staff assured Councilmember Sean Fletcher that all requisite turn lanes and signalization were included in the County-funded project.
Replying to a comment by Councilmember Larry Roth on other signal requests, Manager Gretsas said, “Yes, you can do more. We’ve had a very difficult time trying to get anything out of the County. Whatever political pressure you can bring to bear through political channels, it’s time to do that. We’ve done the best we can as staff.”
The owner of the Galileo shopping plaza on Campbell Drive and Farm Life School Road asked to change the designation of a 1.77 acre parcel just north of the current plaza, to build additional commercial retail space. His plan would feature seventeen retail bays of 1000 square feet each plus 104 parking spaces.
The applicant agreed to work with the City to provide an interior driveway connection between the two plazas. In addition, left turns from the southern entrance to the new property would be prohibited onto Farm Life School Road allowing the northern entrance to serve as the main exit. Council approved the new site plan and tentative plat with those changes.
A new restaurant is planned for 131 North Krome Avenue on the site on a former furniture store. The applicant requested approval for the sale of alcohol for consumption on the premises.
Councilmember Roth said, “Thank you for your investment in downtown Homestead.” The applicant said the restaurant and bar would be simple and affordable and that they were considering having a cigar bar.
Council unanimously approved the certificate of use.
A local business sought approval for a one acre site in the southwest area next to Roby George Park to operate a commercial driver’s license training facility. The fully fenced site would operate 9 to 3 during the week with all training held on the property by appointment. Council was very supportive and praised the owner’s initiative.
Two City budget adjustments were approved – to “true-up” actual funding traditionally done in November by adding $22 million to the balance and the second to rollover encumbrances from the capital budget reflected in a nearly $22 million increase in the fiscal bottom line.
Council was asked to approve a new power supply contract with Florida Municipal Power Agency and FPL for $56 million for a term of seven years. The contract would supply 30% of the City’s electric requirements. The contract price equates to $42 per megawatt hour, significantly less than the current price of $64.83 per megawatt hour under the expiring Duke Energy contract.
“This is a good segue into discussion of electric pricing,” said Mayor
Losner. “I hope by early next year we can have a conversation about
reduction in electric costs.”
Homestead also asked to participate in the Florida Municipal Power Agency’s Solar II project with sixteen other Florida cities. The City’s participation is
conditioned on the price being $28 or less per megawatt hour (compared to current electrical prices of $64.83).
Five megawatts of power from this source would provide 27% of the City’s total power needs. The commercial operation date is December 31, 2023.
“I note we’re locked into this for twenty years as long as the price is below $28,” said Mayor Losner. “Whether new or better technology comes into play, we’re required to buy.” Manger Gretsas recognized the dilemma but had staff assess the risk of a pricing differential from new sources. Staff said the contract does offer a provision for exiting the agreement if desired, but in the short term the pricing is very advantageous.
Council approved both the long term power agreement and the Solar II project unanimously.
Council accepted a grant from the U.S. Soccer Foundation to build a
soccer mini-pitch as part of its national efforts to build 1000 mini-pitches by 2026. Homestead’s Roby George Park was selected as the site of one of the Foundation’s original 400 projects.
The City proposed financing purchases for the police department’s vehicle fleet and computer and software equipment for various City departments. The
purchase cost to be financed is $1,060,000, set as annual lease payments of $223,000 over five years. The package includes 12 Dodge Chargers, two K-9 Chevy Tahoes, 2 regular Chevy Tahoes, and 212 computers and ten
monitors with related software. The sixteen police vehicle funding of $725,156 is taken from the police budget. Council approved the package.
The police department said its computer software has reached end of life conditions and sought replacement systems. ProPhoenix Corporation was considered the best seven proposed contracts to replace the record
management system due to ability to provide customized software and also provide computer maintenance. The cost is $131,967 upon signing and binds the program for eleven years for a total cost of $1,616,036.
In other items, Council renewed the service agreement with Homestead Main Street for an annual cost of $50,000 for events and marketing.