||Chairwoman Sosa asked Commissioner Monestime as prime sponsor, whether he wanted to defer this foregoing discussion item because the chairman of the Water and Sewer Department (WASD) was not present.
Commissioner Monestime noted the Board had received a detailed report from the Mayor’s Office regarding the need for repairs to the water and sewer infrastructure. He commended the Water and Sewer Department for differentiating between the commercial areas and the residential areas that lack infrastructure, which was significant because commercial areas without sewer connections were blocked from a whole host of commercial industrial activities.
Commissioner Monestime asked the Board to direct the Administration to use the consent decree and ensure that the corridors, many of which are located in his commission district, have water and sewer connections. He acknowledged the importance of this work and noted the Board had discussed the long overdue work to repair the water and sewer infrastructure. He pointed out the areas in the urban core that were unattractive to investors because there were no water and sewer connections. He asked a WASD representative to provide an explanation on this report, specifically those areas without infrastructure.
Mr. John Renfrow, Director, Water and Sewer Department (WASD), noted in putting this report together the commercial and residential areas were divided, and the cost to bring in water and sewer inside the Urban Development Boundary (UDB) totaled $8.7 billion. He said that the cost to repair old existing pipes was approximately $12 billion. Therefore, the cost of accomplishing this entire project would exceed $20 billion, noted Mr. Renfrow. He explained that the consent decree covered only $1.6 billion of the total amount and only identified certain elements, such as plants, and some worn pipes, which the federal government agreed to help repair. He stressed that the work to which Commissioner Monestime was referring was above and beyond the $12 billion and the $1.6 billion consent decree, which only covered repairs to the old existing pipes.
Commissioner Monestime asked for clarification that the areas in Commission District 2 that were not currently connected were not covered by the consent decree, and would require a separate cost to be connected.
Mr. Renfrow confirmed the comments made by Commissioner Monestime and noted he believed from his experience that new facilities, new pipes, and pumps countywide were either funded by Special Taxing Districts, or by the General Obligation Bond (GOB) Projects; or the water and sewer connections were handled by the developer and donated to the County. He further explained that within the consent decree there was a section that reduced the County’s penalties. He said that this small section located along the 37th Avenue Corridor in District 2, was zoned industrial, had no existing facilities, and was covered by the consent decree. He noted it would cost approximately $2 million to bring sewage usage to that area, and this work was funded by the GOB, as well.
In response to Commissioner Monestime’s question regarding how water connection projects were completed without using GOB funding, Mr. Renfrow noted those were special drainage basins, such as the ones in Districts 3 and 12. He explained that the existing pipes were under-sized due to a new development in those areas; therefore, a special district was created, with a basin charge per gallon for the new development, and the fees were based on the number of gallons produced. Mr. Renfrow said that funding was provided upfront and a percentage of those funds were returned later following the completion of the project. He noted this was done in Downtown Dadeland, and the Brickell area and the purpose were to adjust existing pipes to handle new flow of water through the pipes.
Commissioner Monestime said that according to the report presented in today’s (5/7) meeting, most of the areas without any pipe connections were in Commission Districts 2, 3, 8 and 9. He asked how would WASD proceed in providing pipe connections to these areas since there had been many discussions regarding attracting investment and promoting economic development in the urban core.
Mr. Renfrow reiterated that new facilities, new pipes, and pumps countywide were either funded by special taxing districts, or by the General Obligation Bond (GOB) Projects; or the water and sewer connections were handled by the developer and donated to the County.
Discussion ensued among the Board members and Mr. Renfrow regarding today’s (5/7) report, which reflected the cost of putting in new pipes and the need to create a mechanism, such as a special taxing district, that would provide funding to put in water and sewer connections in the identified areas that were without pipes.
Deputy Mayor Alina Hudak clarified that Commissioner Monestime was requesting a choice of options relative to financing mechanisms to fund this project and WASD could be directed to look at those options; however, the Board would have to make a policy decision with regard to prioritizing all of WASD’s funding and financing needs. She noted the Code of Miami-Dade County dictated how these expenses were paid and the bond covenants currently had restrictions on the existing financing, but there were multiple options for the Board to consider.
Chairwoman Sosa noted Commissioner Zapata, who was Chair of the Infrastructure and Capital Improvements Committee, which oversees WASD, could collaborate with the Finance Committee and the Mayor’s Office to hold a workshop focused on identifying the water and sewer projects and funding sources.
Commissioner Bovo confirmed that meetings were already in progress to organize the workshop.
Commissioner Monestime said that he would like to collaborate with Commissioner Zapata in this effort, noting the importance of this issue. He noted he requested this report to allow the Board to consider ways to put in water and sewer connections in these areas because even though there was a great deal of traffic going through 7th Avenue, Miami, investors chose not to invest in that area due to the lack of water and sewer connections. He pointed out that NW 27th Avenue had the same problem, even though it was located in the vicinity to the Miami International Airport.
Chairwoman Sosa suggested that Commissioner Monestime have a Sunshine meeting with Commissioners Zapata and Bovo, or attend one of the committee meetings to obtain more information.
Commissioner Moss thanked Commissioner Monestime for bringing this issue up, and noted he would like the report to come back with information on whether any other entities had solved this water and sewer infrastructure problem. He pointed out that the County had $12 billion worth of repairs for the existing pipes, and if pipes were installed in the underserved areas the cost would increase to $20 billion. He asked how other counties were dealing with this issue.
Additionally, Commissioner Moss expressed concern about the County roads, specifically because funding sources such as the GOB funds have been depleted, and the roads were in terrible shape. He questioned how this issue could be addressed, noting this was another infrastructure problem that had worsened.
Commissioner Monestime commended the Water and Sewer Department for the detailed report.