By Mayor Joy Cooper
HALLANDALE BEACH - During our November 7th meeting the City Manager brought to the commission’s attention that Aventura Hospital had applied to the City of Aventura for a conditional use permit to build a heliport. Our city had received noticed before holiday break that the item was to be heard on January 6th. City Manager Miller and our staff met with the Executive Director of the hospital on the 5th to find out more information on the possible impact this proposal would have on our community.
After their meeting, there were still no clear answers or assurances that the flight path proposed would not adversely impact our residents and city developments. City Manager Miller asked for a deferral and they would not agree. I, too, tried reaching out to the Mayor and their commission to request a deferral but did not have the chance to speak with them as they were in a “Cone of Silence.” We have certain items where we have a cone but it is lifted before the meeting so we can research and work with all stakeholders.
The meeting took place and the Aventura staff suggested a change in the language of their ordinance that was adopted by their commission. The amendment that was proffered still did not provide strong enough language to address our concerns, nor did it make any corrections to cover costs of any impacts.
Our city does not object to the hospital having a trauma center or question the need for the heliport. The issue we have is with the flight path that was selected and designated for the FAA to approve. The flight path is directly over our community, not Aventura. It is designated to be down Hallandale Beach Boulevard cross over Gulfstream NE corner and then down Federal Highway. We were informed that there were two other flight paths but this was the least impactful. Our commission of course did not even have a chance to weigh in.
Most individuals would presume that a trauma center this close to our city and other south Broward cities would be a great thing for everyone in the area. The problem is they can only pick up patients in Dade County. We were even told that in all likelihood this path would not even be used, since it is contrary to how the system would operate. We were also told that FAA could not deny development but obviously their opinions would not be ignored. There would be studies required that would add cost and at a minimum time to projects constructed in the city. As you can see there were plenty of unanswered questions.
We directed our city manager and our city attorney to take all necessary actions and steps to research the entire issue. They were then directed to work with the hospital and Aventura towards a resolution. We hope it will be resolved without needing to take any legal action. As the saying goes, “trust but verify.” The city manager will be meeting with them this week and we will know more by our first meeting in February.
As your Mayor, along with the commission, every financial decision we make is with prudent care and evaluation. As one of these fiscal stewards I will assure you that we are keenly focused on the bond proceeds for our parks and how the dollars are managed over the next 6 years during construction.
Having oversight over the financial controls when it comes to the construction management teams is critical. I had asked how the bond proceeds would be audited and if we needed to hire a separate auditor to perform this duty. I was pleased to hear two answers to my question that assured me and should more importantly assure our taxpayers. There will be an auditor and the cost of this person has been already calculated as part of the overall cost of the bonds.
Our other parks have been completed under budget and on time. This was done through project management team and having the project approved under Construction Manager at Risk (CMAR) Model. Once awarded the project costs are locked in. This means that there is a construction team of contractors and then our project manager watching the projects daily. There will be redundancies and many eyes including the commission.
The city commission took action during our last budget process to change how we are registering and billing water accounts. The changes were adopted since the city had audited our water account and found $500,000 had to be written off, since the account was not attached to property. We did not have the ability to place liens on the uncollected amounts. The only payment was the forfeited deposits of $200. This combined with our new technology will reduce our write-offs.
Many cities only allow the real property owner to open utility accounts. It makes sense and protects your tax dollars. Some landlords when they received a letter about the account change were up in arms since they would now have to pay deposits. They were not aware that I requested a double bill system. This will allow the landlord and tenant to have an approved private agreement for the tenant to be responsible to pay the deposit and bill or they could simply pay themselves and the tenant would receive a copy of the bill so they would not be over charged. It would require a bit of lifting by landlords but protect taxpayers from footing the bill for someone getting free water.
At the time of adoption. it was suggested to have deposits returned after two years. This was removed due to the fact that this money is kept to offset the final bill. There was a concern that the owners could sell their homes and still walk owing the city money.
After the election the commission discussed repealing the ordinance all together and asked for an item to do just that. At the last meeting, we debated the issue at length. I could not support a full repeal. We would have regressed backwards and not address the root of the problem. After debate it was agreed the ordinance would be brought back on first reading with only one change. The city agreed changing the item to return deposits after two years of on time payments. This still leaves some exposures, since we will have to lien the property and the new account holder would need to pay the outstanding balance. The ordinance will be brought back with the deposit change for first reading.
As always, please feel free to contact me any time with your questions concerns and ideas on how to make our city a better place at the office: (954) 457-1318, cell/text (954) 632-5700, or visit my website at www.mayorjoycooper.com. If you are heading out of town and want to stay connected to our city issues you can sign up for my weekly update.