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With no less than three articles citing me or my website, MiamiSprings.com, in last week’s River Cities Gazette, I think the people of Miami Springs deserve a response.
First, let me respond to Bermello’s accusations of plagiarism and copyright violation. The images I posted on MiamiSprings.com and Facebook are protected by what’s called “Fair Use.” To quote the Public Counsel Law Center, “Fair use is a copyright principle based on the belief that the public is entitled to freely use portions of copyrighted materials for certain purposes, such as commentary and criticism, nonprofit educational purposes, or parody. This principle recognizes that society can often benefit from the unauthorized use of copyrighted materials, when the use furthers scholarship and education or informs the public.” Basically, you can’t hide behind copyright laws to avoid “commentary and criticism” especially on a public project the citizens are paying for.
Clearly, I have been attempting to inform the public in Miami Springs about the city’s current pool plans and even went so far as to offer an alternative. God forbid someone tries to create an alternative design that some city officials didn’t want the public to see.
That leads me to being called the leader of the “Pool Complainers.” Let me be clear. I am a big proponent of a new community swimming pool. There are legitimate concerns as to why we need to do this right now with the city’s current financial issues and unresolved police negotiations.
As the only one in this debate who actually swam for Miami Springs Senior High School, I have a big affinity for keeping competitive swimming as an option for Miami Springs for the next 50 years. It pains me that the city never fully vetted a hybrid plan that would include 8 lanes, but eliminate the extra $623,000 multi-use facility. It pains me that nobody questioned how the new decks are much larger than our current deck space. It pains me that nobody asked Bermello to come up with a plan B proposal that would include 8 lanes, remove the $623,000 extra building and still stay within the $5 million budget. That’s why I not only provided criticism, but optional solutions. I even PhotoShopped a version of an alternate solution for the residents to see. How many people would go that far?
Now, despite all the talk that the city has been working on this for nearly a year, it is only recently that the designs have been available. On a special meeting June 16, 2014, Bermello provided an oral presentation on various alternatives for the aquatic facility design according to the city’s minutes. On June 23rd, the city had a meeting discussing conceptual drawings and locations for the pool. On July 2nd, during a holiday week, the city had a special meeting discussing the hybrid pool concept. Council requested an additional public meeting for Friday, August 22nd to receive citizen input prior to the presentation for the final schematic at the August 25th Council meeting. On August 25th the city approved the current plan. Up until August 25th, the residents didn’t know if they liked the pool plan or not as it was still fluid. In other words, we didn’t know what the design was going to be until the city approved at least a tentative design. At the very first meeting after finally having a solid plan of what the city was going to build, citizens spoke up. Some spoke out against the financing. Some spoke out against the cost. Some spoke out against the design itself. Bottom line, the residents spoke up at the very first meeting they could to express their concerns after getting a final pool design.
Up until August 25th, nobody knew what the design was going to be. So to say that to the residents who showed up on September 8th that they were late is very disheartening. I can understand if residents waited months, but they spoke up at the very first opportunity after finally getting a firm plan.
Do we have a contract with a builder yet? If the answer is no, it’s not too late. If the people of Miami Springs demand changes to the pool, this council should listen.
Finally, I have one last matter.
I have been running MiamiSprings.com for 17 years. It has always been the most popular Miami Springs website. According to Alexa.com (the website research firm) MiamiSprings.com is among the top 100,000 websites in the U.S. The city’s website doesn’t even make it to the top 200,000. The articles I post are usually about local news and events. When posting my personal opinion, I’ll call it out as an editorial as I did regarding the pool designs.
The Miami Springs mayor obviously did not like my editorial and went so far as to call my arguments a “bunch of lies.” He equated my editorial and the concerns I had over the pool project as the equivalent of an article in the National Enquirer. To that I asked the mayor, “What did I lie about?”
After initially feeling disappointed by the mayor’s accusations, I came to the realization, the mayor will call his opposition liars as a cheap way to attempt to discredit legitimate debate on an incredibly expensive and important project for all of us. I am disappointed the mayor called me a liar, but I think I’ll wear it as a badge of honor. It tells me that my honest and legitimate concerns were not appreciated by at least some city officials. It further tells me that some city officials would prefer I not share my opinions with the residents of Miami Springs.
To that, I say good luck. My goal will always be to keep Miami Springs residents informed of what’s going on in Miami Springs.
Now, more than ever.
Publisher / Owner
At the end of the Monday night council meeting, Mayor Garcia made a point to claim that I, Nestor Suarez, and MiamiSprings.com purposefully and willfully lied to you. So, let's recap the items I stated that were puported to be lies.
I stated: "The current city proposal includes removing our existing 50 meter 9,000+ sq foot pool with pool building and replacing it with a much smaller 6,000 sq ft pool that will no longer be able to support competitive swimming, swimming meets, or water polo. The current proposal also adds a new $623,000 recreational / multi-use building." These facts remain accurate and you can see below where Bermello mentions we will no longer have competitive swimming or water polo:
The next thing I said was that the pool was billed as a "resort style" pool. This is a direct quote from Willie Bermello. The "Resort Style" was the description Willie gave the pool. In reviewing tape, he also used the phrase "Hospitality Feel".
I said the city was thinking about renting the cabanas as a way to generate more revenues. I was very critical of this business plan, because the city has no business plan. Again, fact.
I informed you that the current proposal includes a new 5,110 sq ft recreational / multi-use building the city plans to rent for parties. I told you "the city plans to rent this space for pool parties, functions, and events."
Then I questioned the soundness of the revenue plan, again, because there is no revenue plan. Here's what I said:
Sounds reasonable, right? Build things that will bring in money, right?
But where's the business plan? Where are the projected sales? What are the projected expenses? And more importantly, since when is a government operation good at running a business?
The city has not created a financial plan for the pool. The revenue plan is simply a guess. The city believes it can make money before it puts together a ledger of all the expected costs, projected uses, and potential revenue.
This may sound silly, but prudent financial planning includes a spreadsheet with your revenues and expenses. Yet the city is banking $5 million on the current plan on the belief they can recoup the operating expenses. Maybe they're right. Maybe they can rent the cabanas and rent the pool building and recoup their expenses. But if that's the case, why has the city not created a financial plan for the pool?
Then I shifted to discuss the "Resort Style" pool and compared the current proposal to real Resort Pools.
Now, I don't know about you, but when I think of "Resort Style" pools, I'm thinking about the Fontainebleau Hotel, the Eden Roc Hotel, or even the pool at the Doral Resort and Country Club. These "Resort Style" pools are not community pools. They are designed for guests to relax, drink alcohol, and charge you for everything beyond your free towel usage. And these pools sell alcohol...lots and lots of alcohol. Will the city be selling alcohol pool side? Not likely.
Now, I don't think any of us believe our community pool is going to draw the South Beach hotel crowd to our resort style pool with no resort. So, who's going to use our pool?
Well, the biggest users of our pools have always been our youth. Kids, teens, and young adults. This group is not likely to be the ones who will be renting cabanas on a daily basis.
But Miami Springs parents are sure to be renting cabanas, right? Unless it's for a party, I just don't buy it.
Then I repeated what Bermellow said we were losing...competitive swimming and water polo:
So we're sacrificing to make this pool smaller, obliterate competitive swimming, to make the decks bigger to support a business that the city swears will drive in new revenues?
The current plan calls for a 5,110 square foot air conditioned building to rent out for parties. It's a pool, not a country club. (We have one of those already and lose money on it every year.) We also have the Curtiss Mansion as a rental facility. If we're losing money on the golf course rentals and losing money on the Curtiss Mansion rentals, why do we need another losing rental building?
Then I gave my recommendations...Complainers just complain. I gave the city options to be able to accomodate the needs of the residents and still fit within budget.
I fully support the ability to rent the pool for parties. People want a covered patio area where they can get in from the rain or get out from under the sun. It's a pool party, right? People want to get in and out of the pool area.
Who likes walking into an air conditioned building soaking wet? Pool parties are for outside patios, not inside air conditioned separation.
They should have a concession area for drinks and food. (Don't expect alcohol on a city pool despite being the top profit generator for true resort pools.)
As an alternative, I'm suggesting we keep the hybrid pool concept, but expand the pool to 8 swimming lanes to support the main users of our pool, our youth. Not just today's youth. But our youth for the next 50 years.
Folks, are we trying to create a South Beach Hotel Pool for kids? Miami Springs is a neighborhood of working class families.
My recommendation includes the following:
- Increase the swim lanes to 8 lanes to support youth and competitive swimming for the next 50 years
- Reduce the amount of canopies and deck space to save on costs.
- Eliminate the 5,110 sq ft $632,000 rec / multi-use building and use the money to pay for the extra lanes
- Replace the building with a covered patio area with a concession stand
- Make the concession stand accessible from outside the pool to allow people from the rec center to buy food and drinks
- Create a Profit & Loss (P&L) statement with projected revenues and expenses for the first 2 years of operation
Then, I discussed the repeated assumption that our swimmers would all want to go to Doral:
A note about competitive swimming. It has been reiterated by the city that Doral is building a massive new competitive swimming pool. 50 meters by 25 yards with a roof, too! They are spending in excess of $10 million for their new pool. It is sure to allure some of the most elite swimmers from the entire county.
The city has suggested that any child interested in competitive swimming will now have to go to Doral or Hialeah. Who wants to do that when we have a pool right in our own back yard? It would be a crying shame if this city gives up on competitive swimming for the next 50 years.
I'll ask you, where are the lies the mayor says I gave you?
As stated before, the city wants to spend $5 million on the new pool. Instead of trying to get a less costly municipal bond, the city has opted to get a more expensive bank loan. Why?
Here, we have a difference of opinion. The financial people inside the city believe the loan is a better rate. The financial people I talk to outside the city disagree. We'll have to agree to disagree on this one.
The bank loan means the council can add $5 million of debt on the tax payers without a vote from the public. On the other hand, if the city had decided to issue a bond to pay for the new pool, it would require a vote from the residents. This leaves us with the question, why won't the city allow the residents to vote on this $5 million project?
These facts again are correct. Dear Mr. Mayor, where are the lies in these statements?
The city of South Miami just recently completed their new Aquatic Center. This brand new 100,000 gallon swimming pool features a zero depth entry, three lap lanes, and plenty of open space to enjoy. Murray Park Aquatic Center also houses a splash pad with several water features and ground nozzels that constantly spray cool water for fun and safe recreational play. And South Miami did this for just $1.4 million. Zero depth entry, splash area, and 3 lanes for just $1.4 million. Which begs the question, why does our zero entry, splash area, 4 lane pool cost $5 million?
Again, everything stated above is true. The city disagrees with me and says the cost of the pool was $1.7 million. I received an email from South Miami that said it cost them $1.4 million. I also reviewed an article by the "Community Newspapers" of South Miami which indicated the cost at $1.4 million. I fact checked this twice and both gave me the same $1.4 million.
For $5 million, we can build THREE pools just like South Miami's and have $800,000 to spare. That would give us 3 splash areas, three zero entry pool areas and 9 swimming lanes.
Take $1.4 million times 3 = $4.2 million. My math is correct.
The city mentioned that we have additional costs of tearing down the existing pool that is not considered in my calculation. They are correct. But with $800,000 to spare in our $5 million project, the city can tear down a whole lot don't you think?
The city also mentioned that the South Miami Pool has 3,400 sq ft of pool compared to our 6,000 sq ft concept. The city is correct. So again, if you take 3,400 and multiply it by 3, you'd get 10,200 sq ft of pool space. That's even more than what we have today and still have $800,000 to spare.
Now, it's not apples to apples, but it illustrates to point of getting more for your tax dollar.
In my speech, I also added that the current City Council and family members get to use the pool facility for free. I even asked, them, "correct me if I'm wrong." No. I wasn't wrong. I was right again.
I DID MAKE A MISTAKE
I did make a mistake. I absolutely believed in my heart of hearts that the council would be open to take your feedback. I thought they may allow an opportunity to take back the feedback to Bermello and maybe make some alternate designs such as less decking, smaller multiuse building or replacing it with a terrace, and possibly saving competitive swimming by increasing the size to 8 lanes. I didn't think they'd eliminate the existing plan, but just ask Bermello to create an alternate. As Willy repeatedly said, he was there to build whatever the council wanted.
In part, I feel like I did mislead you. I mislead everyone who showed up at the council meeting Monday that the city would listen and take action. But the resoundiing feedback was "you're too late.!
Nobody likes to be scrutinized, but when you're on council, let's face it...You should expect some criticism. Not everyone is going to agree with what you're doing all the time. We all understand that.
You know by know, I've been very passionate about this pool and I've had a great desire to protect the competitive swimming aspect of our pool for generations to come. --full disclosure: I swam at the pool for 3 years as part of the MSSH Golden Hawk Swim Team. -- I want to ensure that future teams can have the benefit of training and competing in our own backyard. Up until this moment, I have not called out a single council person. I've been critical of the project, not the individuals.
IT'S A $5 MILLION PROJECT
Don't we wish we had more people being critical of the Marlins fiasco before it was built? Don't we wish more people had spoken up about that financial wreck? Let's state the obvious, the Marlins stadium left a bad taste in everyone's mouth and even got the Miami-Dade mayor recalled.
We all should be making sure our $5 million project is used the way we want to. Now, I asked people to come and speak their mind at Monday's meeting. I never told them what they should say. I never told them what they should ask for. And what you heard was the genuine concerns from the residents.
QUESTION FOR YOU MIAMI SPRINGS
Did you feel that I lied to you in any way shape or form as the Mayor wants you to believe? Aside from possibly misleadiong you to believe the council would listen to your input Monday night, did you feel I mislead you in any way?
If so, I'd love to know. You can call me afternoons and evening at 305.775.4094 or email me at Nestor@MiamiSprings.com. You can also post anonymously on MiamiSprings.com's forum.
On the other hand, if you don't like how the mayor single handedly called me a liar, let me know. I'd love to hear from you, too.
P.S.: I want to thank all the residents who came to the meeting Monday night. I apologize that the city believes we're too late. I understand that the RFPs have not gone out, yet, they say it's still too late to make any changes.
Comment Watch the bi-monthly circus tonight. Just in case you did not notice, there is no agenda item for the aquatic center. If it is brought up in open forum NEXT will be the answer. The pool is a done deal. Just waiting for the city attorney to give his blessing to a RFP. Another way to increase his monthly bill.
To be honest It seems the focus at the rec is mostly after care, summer camps and special interests of employees... Meaning city hall etc. There is plenty of open gym time.... Requires no effort. Summer fit, ok. A few cl es here and there. And the theater run for the Pelican Playhouse. Most of the sports programs are run by outside groups. Seniors as well. So the rec tends to be underutilized. And if Summer fit stretched the budget to the point that nothing else for the entire year could be done, then something is wrong with the planning
Pool Possibly. Many of the things you cite have me upset as well. I just believe that the demand to save competitive swim is done as a knee jerk reaction with little understanding. Hence my posts regarding the potential of the pool as designed, clarification on high school swim etc.
Pool I don-t think it-s just about the lanes or lack of lanes that has people upset! The building,the cabanas, the price, the confusion 250k added to bill for stafford park(which isn-t even Miami springs property), not getting federal grant or loans (but gettin a loan from a bank?) is also what is making residents upset ! We have a huge rec center next door that should be utilized . What we don-t need is another huge DEBT ! The people have a right to vote on something that will end up costing them!
Shallow area You are incorrect regarding teens and young adults in the shallow area. Having visited at least 5 pools this summer with a similar layout, the teens did hang out in the shallow areas. Lounging on the sides, tossing frisbees, relaxing in the shallow water and just hanging out. Recreation does not have to be lap swimming or treading water. As for not understanding competitive swimming if advocating 4 lanes: 6-8 lanes doesn-t guarantee competitive swimming. So let-s call it what you really mean. High school swimming. Say you want to save high school swimming even though MSSH doesn-t have a team. Ok? Let-s compromise and drop in 6 lanes. Then keep private clubs away. Start with summer leagues, and high school as proposed below. And I checked with the county....most high school dual meets can and are run in 6 lanes. But this constant stuff about competitive swim is falsely portrayed. And I, for one, am tired of the private usage of our pool and it-s staff by businesses that turn a profit at our expense.
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Springs Taxes Up Nearly 10%
On Monday, September 23rd, 2013, the Miami Springs City Council passed the fiscal budget for 2013 - 2014. It included an increase in the millage rate from 6.9950 to 7.6710. That equates to a 9.66% tax increase.
However, not everyone agreed to the budget in the 4 to 1 vote. Councilman and former mayor, Billy Bain, voted no. Michael Windrem, Zavier Garcia, George Lob, and Jaime Petralanda all voted for the budget during Monday's final budget meeting.
To put the 7.6710 millage rate in perspective, you can compare the Miami Springs millage rate to the proposed millage rates from our neighboring communities:
|Doral||2.2215||72% lower tax rate than Miami Springs|
|Sweetwater||2.9200||62% lower tax rate than Miami Springs|
|Hialeah Gardens||5.3812||31% lower tax rate than Miami Springs|
|Medley||5.4000||30% lower tax rate than Miami Springs|
|VG||5.4233||29% lower tax rate than Miami Springs|
|Coral Gables||5.6290||27% lower tax rate than Miami Springs|
|Hialeah||6.3018||19% lower tax rate than Miami Springs|
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