Homestead City Council met Wednesday November 18, quickly passing its consent agenda with one exception.
A measure adding $527,823 in COVID relief funding from HUD to the City’s community development block grant was amended. City manager Cate McCaffrey said the $100,000 meal assistance grant to food banks for COVID-impacted residents should include providing “meals and/or groceries”.
Items on Council’s consent calendar have already been considered at the committee of the whole the week before and are routinely approved at the regularly scheduled monthly Council meeting.
During Council’s individual councilmember reports, Vice Mayor Patricia Fairclough-Staggers introduced a multi-faceted program - “for building the bridge to racial equity, access and inclusion in the City of Homestead; bridging the divide that many in the Afro-American community have experienced”, she said.
Individual council members met early in the summer to develop topics within those project goals, working on specific action plans going forward.
Councilmember Larry Roth spoke to a section focused on homeownership and converting renters to owners. His program also promotes education about
individual credit, combating blight with realistic compliance schedules for homes and businesses, and sponsoring City beautification projects.
The health and wellness factor was covered by Councilmember Erica Avila.
She said she was working on plans meeting community challenges such as maternal health and low birth weight, water safety, domestic violence and sexual assault, homelessness and hunger, behavioral health and COVID-19 in general.
The Councilmember introduced TEAM-Homestead that works through Homestead Hospital, Chapman Partnership, and other service groups. She suggested appointment of a City community outreach liaison to connect with this organization’s many services.
Councilmember Jenifer Bailey said, “I’ve dedicated time to mentoring programs especially in the southwest neighborhood. I propose to extend that throughout Homestead, to open lines of communications, work on transportation for travel outside the community, on waiver of park event and insurance fees, and to offer resources through the schools with a focus on the curriculum.”
“My action plan was dealing with commercial and business development but most importantly job creation,” said Mayor Steve Losner. “Jobs are needed throughout this community. The underpinnings of Code enforcement for clean, safe and attractive neighborhoods with a steady workforce can spur a wide variety of businesses to come to Homestead.”
“At her swearing-in, Miami-Dade’s new Mayor committed to targeting business opportunities and business creation for the Afro-American community,” the Mayor added. “We must target those efforts here.”
Councilmember Fairclough-Staggers concluded with her emphasis on the educational component of the racial equity plan. She referenced briefly the focus on truancy, literacy and mathematic rates among students of color plus professional development workshops for teachers to be more culturallyresponsive in reducing disparities.
City Manager Cate McCaffrey proposed that Council begin the first of several steps to establish the Uniform Method of Collecting for residential property assessments of fees other than taxes such as storm water and solid waste services, recycling services and hurricane recovery fees. Under this system the County would retain the costs of City collections of up to two percent of the total, costing about $100,000 per year.
Councilmember Steve Shelley said, “I support this concept as beneficial to Homestead but when first proposed in 2008 there was a problem with mortgage escrows. Insufficient funds were reserved so a homeowner was suddenly hit with larger total plus higher escrow fees to cover future costs. This became an issue for residents during an economic downturn.”
Council voted five to two to go forward with this process, Shelley and Avila voting no.
Council also approved a resolution to oppose the County DERM’s draft site assessment guidance for former agricultural land. The resolution says the draft “imposes costly and potentially unwarranted sampling and listing expenses” in order to sell agricultural land.
Homestead maintains a City rock pit for sale of fill from a sixty acre site south of SW 344 Street that requires a letter of credit to County DERM to operate. Council approved a negotiated letter of credit for the lesser amount of $1.5 million that the City Manager termed is a ‘restricted net asset, not expenditure’.
Council agreed to accept credit card payments for the City’s non-utility bills by adding any service fee. Staff said the program would save the City $500,000 per year in fees.
Approval was granted for the police department to lease 26 equipped Dodge Chargers as police vehicles, financed under the Capital Improvement Plan for $1,167,530. Council also approved a new three year contract with the City’s financial advisor for use of services ‘as needed’.
Mayor Losner announced that Homestead High School football team was in the state finals, the game played Friday night (November 20). The City was in discussions with the County to lift restrictions on use of the bleachers for the band, cheerleaders, and parents of team members to attend the game.