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Recently, you probably received a "Special Edition" of the Springs Connection brochure published by the City of Miami Springs. The glossy 4 page color brochure mailed to all Miami Springs residents includes FAQs on 19 items. Below, you'll find 10 things the city did not include in the brochure we thought should be shared with the Miami Springs community.
1. The Miami Springs Golf Course Debt will be paid off in three years.
In an email from the Finance Director of Miami Springs, William Alonso, dated on September 16th regarding the golf course debt states that the "Last payment under the note is scheduled for February 2018, however we expect to pay it off at beginning of fiscal year (October 2017).
This leads to the question, why take on more debt now? Why not finish paying for the golf course before taking on new debts on the pool? Doesn't it make sense to finish paying off one major purchase before taking on another major purchase?
2. How Many Miami Springs Residents Filled Out the Online and Paper Survey?
The City of Miami Springs is justifying the design of the new pool based on 309 paper and online survey submissions. But the City does not know how many of those survey submissions came from Miami Springs residents. How many came from people outside of Miami Springs? How many were submitted by the same person over and over? The survey was not conducted by an auditor or accounting firm, but by the pool consultant using an online survey tool called Survey Monkey. That tool allows anyone in the world to submit the survey results as many times as they want.
In other words, the city has no clue on whether the survey results really reflected the wishes of the residents of Miami Springs. As far as we know, the pool consultant himself could have filled out the survey dozens of times. The reality is, nobody knows who filled out the surveys or where they came from.
3. Compare the Current Pool to the New Pool Design
The City of Miami Springs did not put a side by side comparison of the current pool versus the proposed pool. So I did it for you (see below). You'll see the Pool / Wet Area of the new aquatic center is nearly 40% smaller than the current pool we have, yet it has a pool deck that is over 80% larger. The existing pool only has one building that stands at 4,500 square feet. The new pool design includes three buildings for a total of 9,737 square feet. Yes, that's more than double the amount of building space for a pool that's almost 40% smaller.
The extra Rec / Multi-Use Pool Building alone is estimated to cost $623,000. The City is justifying the need to build this based on the survey results of 309 anonymous posts.
4. What does the City lose with the new Aquatic Center?
Say goodbye to Miami Springs aquatic sports as we know it. With only 4 lap lanes, you will no longer see swim meets or competitive swimming in Miami Springs. No more Water Polo for the next 50 years.
There isn't now nor has there ever really been just one Miami Springs swim team. There have always been multiple teams. Here are some of the different teams that have used the current pool that will need to use a different facility for meets and/or training.
To continue to support the above listed teams and competitive swimming the City would need 8 lanes.
5. Business Plan
In the recent FAQ mailed out by the City it stated, "Once the final design/build plan has been selected and approved, the City will develop revenue / expense projections."
Shouldn't you come up with a business plan first before committing to building an extra $623,000 building? Who commissions an architect to come up with a building design before having a business plan? Unfortunately, that's exactly what the City is doing.
6. The City CAN build a Competitive Hybrid Swimming Pool Under $5 Million
In a June 16, 2014 presentation to the City of Miami Springs, there was a proposal called "CONCEPT 2" which included a 25 Yard by 25 Meter Pool and a bonus 1,820 Sq Ft Pool for $5.88 million. If you take that original Concept 2 cost and remove $623,000 from the extra (and I believe unnecessary building) you're down to $5.257 million. By merging the two pools into the cost saving "Hybrid Pool" and removing some of the fat (excessive decking, cabanas, etc) you could trim this concept to less than $5 million.
7. You should be able to see what the new pool looks like compared to the existing pool.
I'm not sure why, but the City didn't include a single picture of the new pool design concept in their flyer. Well, in case you haven't seen it, the new pool design concept is pictured below on the right. On the far left is the existing pool design. And in the center is a Photoshopped version (I created) of the pool with 8 lanes to support competitive swimming, but without the extra $623,000 Rec / Multi-Use building that still doesn't have a business plan to support its operation.
8. Our Taxes Are Among the Highest In The County
Okay, I know you already knew this one, but it bares repeating. We already pay one of the highest tax rates in Miami-Dade County. Last year, the City of Miami Springs raised the tax rate by nearly 10%. Instead of incurring this new debt now, shouldn't we pay for the golf course first? By building the pool now, we're guaranteed to continue to have a high tax rate for the foreseeable future.
9. The City's Reserves are Shrinking
In a Letter to the Editor in the River Cities Gazette published October 16th, Owen Gay highlighted the City's reserves and corresponding millage rate. According to his letter, the City had a surplus of $8.42 million in 2009. In 2013, our surplus had shrunk down to $3.69 million. That's a surplus consumption rate of over $1 million per year. At that rate, the City will have no surplus in under 4 years.
10. Resort Style Pool
During the presentations by Bermello, the pool consultant, he referred to the design of the pool as a "Resort Style Pool". He also stated the design would have a "Hospitality Feel." Why that was not included in the flyer?
Do the residents want a Resort Style Pool or a Community Pool?
11. It's Not Too Late!
The City may want you to believe it's too late to make any changes. It's too late to pause this project.
Well, it's not too late. The residents of Miami Springs pay the taxes. The residents of Miami Springs choose their representatives. And the residents of Miami Springs have a right to have their voices and concerns addressed by the City.
This Wednesday, the City has a Special Council Meeting (no open forum) to review the status of the draft Design Build Criteria Package from Bermello & Ajamil. Then, the Council will determine whether to authorize an issuance of the RFP for the Aquatic Facility.
I urge you to stay tuned to MiamiSprings.com as we continue to update you on this project as well as future opportunities to address the City Council.
Publisher / Owner
PUBLISHER'S NOTE: Rumors are swirling that MiamiSprings.com removes and deletes selected posts. Let me be clear, MiamiSprings.com encourages a vigorous, free spirited debate on all sides of every issue. That is why MiamiSprings.com DOES NOT delete or remove posts.
Sometimes posts can get nasty and people have asked that MiamiSprings.com remove posts. We have a hard and fast rule not to delete posts. We are not here to be moderators of free speech. Further and from a more practical perspective, we do not have the time to moderate all the posts. We've literally had over 50,000 posts on this forum, and we do not have the time and/or energy to review them all.
However, if you put a post up on Monday and come back to see your post on Friday, there's a good chance you won't see it anymore. That's because the website only shows the most recent posts. Recently, it has been the last 125 posts. But since some people think we're deleting posts, I have increased the number to show the latest 200 posts.
Those of you who use the forum regularly know this already, but some may be unfamiliar with how the forum works. Enjoy.
Gorland I-ve spoken with Ron Gorland a few times and he-s always been very professional and cordial. Garcia and the rest of the council are the problem, not the city manager.
Gorland Garcia is not the problem with this city. It-s Ron Gorland! He-s rude to city employees, he-s rude to the citizens. My daughter cries when she see him. Keep small children away he-s creepy looking.
Pool, Golf and More Governments have no business doing business. If they-re saying they can make money for the city with this, then why force us to fork over the fruits of our labor for some city official or somebody from outside? Good deal for the consultants and whoever the contractor will be, for sure. But money from our pockets for projects that benefit somebody else is onerous. Let somebody BUY the pool and facilities, and let the city-s taxpayers keep the money that belongs to them. Many of them would invest. Good for all us neighbors. Then, if it is true that the new pool can make money, then, HEY, the consultant can convince some investors instead, and they can have a go at it. Then there-s the even more obvious matter of the golf course. Sell the money loser, let a private concern buy the thing to develop as they see fit. That makes a bigger tax base. That way, there are two less parasites ing on the tax base. As long as the citizens and city bosses are playing with OUR money, that way, there-s less for them to sell.
FYI You can-t fix stupid, but you can vote them outtakes office.
Or as in the case of the bad cop, they will never write about it. thanks for keeping us informed.
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.
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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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