ublic Works and other construction projects sparked discussion last month as the Village Council discussed its proposed 2015 Capital Improvement Plan, with local leaders focusing on a 530 Crandon Boulevard park, sidewalks, beach restoration and more.
Council members also added a few new projects, a possible purchase of the Key Biscayne Beach Club lot and Calusa Park improvements among them.
Village Manager John Gilbert presented a proposed CIP for Fiscal Year 2015, which is October 1-September 30, 2015, at a Tuesday, June 24, meeting.
Gilbert noted the plan includes $4.12 million worth of unfunded projects, and said the Village could help cover that by transferring all or part of the excess revenues over expenditures in the proposed operating budget. The FY 2015 budget shows a $2.44 million surplus.
One of the most high-profile projects is construction of a park at 530 Crandon Boulevard. The CIP lists the project at $1 million, although the final cost will depend on an ongoing Request for Qualifications: “That’s just a ballpark estimate,” Gilbert said.
The project remains controversial: the Council voted to include a dog park in the facility, but a group of residents is pushing for a referendum on banning domestic animals from the park.
Another construction project that could prove controversial involves installing new sidewalks on three streets. Building, Zoning and Planning Director Jud Kurlancheek will meet with impacted homeowners to see if they want sidewalks after Vice Mayor Michael Davey noted there are some residents who “vehemently” oppose such projects.
“I don’t think we should be going out and saying, you need a sidewalk here,” Davey said; Kurlancheek will report back on what he hears from the neighbors before the Village takes any action on $243,000 total worth of work on Glenridge Road from Woodcrest Lane to McIntyre Street, Ridgewood Road from Hampton Lane to McIntyre, Glenridge from West Mashta Drive to West Enid Drive, Ridgewood from West Mashta to West Enid, and West Enid to Harbor Drive.
Meanwhile, less controversial is maintaining the sidewalks the Village already has: the CIP seeks $15,000 to continue repairs that have been underway throughout the island for a couple years.
Maintenance in general accounts for over $170,000 of the proposed CIP, with other areas of focus including traffic circles, Village Hall cameras and cards, tree replacement, sprinkler timers, recycling trash cans and doggie waste bag stations.
Local leaders did question the latter, with Council member Mayra Pena Lindsay noting the listed per-unit cost of $500 seems high based on her research. “You may want to shop around – I found a range,” she said; Gilbert agreed and said he’ll have better cost numbers in September.
Other Public Works projects include $10,000 worth of crosswalks safety improvements, $45,000 for replacement of up-lighting, $25,000 for street lights on Harbor Drive from Sunset Circle to West Mashta, and $90,000 for resurfacing streets east of Crandon excluding Holiday Colony.
Pena Lindsay noted state lobbyists told the Council Crandon maintenance will now be funded by the state; Gilbert confirmed that’s still the case – no veto by Governor Rick Scott – and staff members are working on how to access the funding stream.
Meanwhile, the Village also remains committed to projects linked to beach restoration: between monitoring, dune restoration and seagrass restoration and monitoring, the CIP requires $259,000.
Council member Jim Taintor asked why there’s no money specifically for restoration, noting it will need to be done, and Gilbert said he’ll present options to the Council in August – either for a small-scale project like the one done in 2012, or a large one like that of 2002. “It is my absolute commitment to this community that will we do it,” Gilbert said. “I’ll have much better numbers in August, and [the CIP] will be adjusted based on which plan the Council chooses.”
Also coming back later will be cost numbers for installing speed bumps on several streets.
Kurlancheek credited Public Works Superintendent Tony Brown with coming up with the ideal device: known as the “Hampton Hump” after the debut installation in the 100 block of Hampton Lane, it’s a speed bump with a rounded top: “You cannot go fast over that,” Kurlancheek said. “These are significantly less expensive than the roundabouts in accomplishing the objective.”
Speaking of safety, a pair of public safety initiatives drew some Council questions: $95,000 for a License Plate Reader and a $115,000 station alert system overhaul for the fire department.
Pena Lindsay brought up privacy concerns related to the LPR, which would record – and store – the license plates of all cars coming to and leaving the Key. Deputy Police Chief Jason Younes said the system would be a valuable tool, giving his small department alerts when cars linked to open warrants, stolen vehicle reports, suspicious vehicle descriptions, etc. are on the island.
Gilbert added the project will come back to the Council, possibly with a lower price tag: Police Chief Charles Press is exploring outside funding that could take the Village cost to $25,000.
On the Fire-Rescue initiative, Chief Eric Lang described technology upgrades that let alarms sound in a less jarring manner, and only for employees whose unit is being called out. “It’s pretty significant to firefighter health,” Lang said. “One of the risk factors is going from sleeping to 1,000 mph – it gets your adrenaline pumping pretty quick.”
Council member Ed London asked why the department doesn’t just switch to 12-hour shifts, so no one is expected to sleep during work hours, but Lang said that could be more expensive.
“We can look at it,” Lang said, but, “It’s not something I’m going to advocate. It will be more expensive. We would need more people to do the same job we’re doing right now.”
Other public safety projects, meanwhile, include $218,000 for patrol car and motorcycle leases, $194,000 toward new fire trucks and ambulances, and $100,000 for a Fire-Rescue emergency communication upgrades; plus new Fire-Rescue support vehicles, equipment and gear.
Switching gears, the Council looked at cultural projects, including a $200,000 line for a cultural park facility that drew questions from Davey. Parks and Recreation Director Todd Hofferberth said $200,000 is the maximum match required from the Village if it secures a state grant.
Hoffeberth is interested in the grant because the Council has discussed several cultural facilities – like an amphitheater and senior cultural center – and to seek the grant, matching funds and an eligible project must be in the CIP: “That way, it’s clear the Council has agreed to move forward in this direction,” he said. “If we don’t go forward with the grant, we don’t expend the money.”
Hofferberth added there may be more grant parameters the Council needs to consider, like if the money can go toward development of a property the Village doesn’t own, a nod to talk of building a senior/cultural/library facility on County land that now houses the Key Biscayne Branch Library.
That said, Hofferberth noted there are Village-owned properties – the band shell on the Village Green and 530 Crandon – that could have cultural elements the grant could pay for.
Ultimately, local leaders said they need more information, which Hofferberth will provide.
Also under culture, Gilbert pointed out a $75,000 line for the Art in Public Places Board’s current installation, a sundial on the Village Green; and said the group is working toward another project, which will probably require $70,000-$80,000 in Village funding.
Local leaders reviewed a variety of additional projects.
One is a must: $406,000 to cover the local commitment to the Interlocal Agreement with the Miami-Dade School District that is bringing improvements to the Key Biscayne K-8 Center and a new school at the MAST Academy campus for 1,100 local students in grades 6-12.
Improved technology also gets a nod in the proposed CIP. The document suggests $200,000 for a Finance CIP software program, as well as $9,900 for upgrades to the Key Biscayne Community Center computer lab and work stations is several departments.
Davey questioned the big number for the CIP program, and Gilbert agreed, noting he postponed the item out of his concerns over the high cost.
He said he expects the figure to come down by the time the Council finalizes the CIP: “I’ll have a better number,” the Manager reported; Council member Theo Holloway suggested also looking at subscription-based models.
Council adds projects
Finally on the 24th, Council members added some projects of their own to Gilbert’s proposed list.
Davey plans more talk on buying the Beach Club land, an idea he floated earlier this year. The club uses the property on a long-term lease that ends in 2052, and Davey has been researching a Village purchase when that date arrives: “Hopefully I’ll get a number for you,” he said.
On a related note, Pena Lindsay suggested increasing the CIP line for land acquisition: “I think it’s needed. I think there are a lot of things in play,” she said.
Finally, Mayor Frank Caplan added two items: buried power lines, a project that has been on the radar for years; and improvements to Calusa Park.
Caplan and Gilbert has been watching litigation linked the Crandon Park in hopes of it paving the way for Village use of Calusa Park, which is part of Crandon Park, and Caplan indicated he’d like to be ready if opportunities arise. “Not to be cryptic, but we need to plan,” he said.