Cutler Bay Mayor Peggy R. Bell delivered her State of the Town Address on Dec. 2 at Town Hall to a standing room only crowd, with the other members of the town council in attendance.
Introduced by town manager Rafael Casals and following the Pledge of Allegiance, singing of the Star Spangled Banner and the Color Guard, Mayor Bell welcomed everyone to the 10th annual address.
She recognized other officials in attendance, including former Mayor Paul Vrooman, Palmetto Bay Mayor Eugene Flinn, Palmetto Bay Councilmember Larissa Siegel Lara, Homestead Vice Mayor Patricia D. Fairclough, Medley Town Councilmember Edgar Ayala and Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser Pedro Garcia.
Bell thanked the other council members as well as her family for their support, and praised the work of the citizen advisory committees who have helped during the past year.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I am most happy to report the State of the Town of Cutler Bay is very good,” Mayor Bell said. “We have just completed our first decade and have much to be proud of and much to look forward to.
“This year we celebrated the town’s 10-year anniversary. We’ve come a long way since our incorporation in 2005, when our first mayor, John Cosgrove, carried around a cardboard box with the town seal in it, calling it jokingly, ‘Town Hall.’ We have received industry awards for excellence in sustainability, financial management, as well as roadway and stormwater improvements.”
She said that she is proud of the various master plans that have been created and implemented since incorporation with the assistance of town residents that attended the public involvement meetings.
“The town’s assessed 2014 property values have risen an astounding 8.8 percent from last year’s values, marking our second consecutive year of positive growth; the previous years’ property values grew 8.07 percent. As a result of careful management of town resources by the Town Council and staff, the town has been able to accumulate fund reserves totaling approximately $20 million.”
Vell said this occurred while achieving a millage rate of 2.3907, for a second year, which is lower than when the town incorporated in 2005.
“This year we increased our mandated reserves from 10 percent to 17 percent, an amount which is the highest standard identified by the highly esteemed Government Finance Officers Association,” she said. “In plain words, we are in excellent financial shape!”
Mayor Bell mentioned that the Town of Cutler Bay continues to grow and attract new businesses and jobs. In 2014-15, the town processed and approved 17 new development applications that will create an estimated 350 construction-related and permanent jobs. The building department issued more than 2,334 building permits.
“The issue of sea level rise has become a growing concern among coastal communities. The town has taken a proactive approach by establishing a Flood Mitigation Advisory Committee consisting of town residents with expertise in environmental protection, stormwater management and property protection.
“The committee recently wrapped up a two-year project that resulted in the development of the town’s first Flood Mitigation Plan. This plan has been reviewed and approved by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as well as FEMA,” she added.
Other topics covered were repairs and renovations to the town’s parks, new programming, and the work of the police department to reduce crime. Also covered were road improvement projects and tree canopy enhancements.
“The historic Old Cutler Road project has won three industry awards and the Caribbean Boulevard project has received one industry award even though it has not yet been completed,” Bell said. “The Caribbean Blvd project is 85 percent complete and on track to be completed within schedule and under budget.”
She mentioned planned work to the Town Center and participation in the Green Corridor Program in which six other cities are involved, updating the Strategic Mastic Plan and working with Miami-Dade County Public Schools. After a video presentation, Mayor Bell concluded by expressing her appreciation to all involved.
“And you, my fellow residents, please continue to be involved,” Bell said. “You can be proud to live in Cutler Bay. Our future is bright.”