Progress Report

To ensure wheels of progress continue to turn in Sunny Isles Beach, a special City Commission meeting was held on March 3 to provide updates on renovation of the historic Newport fishing pier and construction of a pedestrian/ emergency vehicle access bridge over the canal at North Bay Road.

Addressing the Commission’s concerns about delays, City Manager Rick Conner explained to “get the ball rolling” city staff met with consultants from Marlin Engineering to create a schedule of specific dates for completing project phases.

Mayor Norman S. Edelcup expressed a “zero-tolerance level” for complacency, noting, “I believe there’s an attitude of ‘once we’ve got the contract we don’t have to perform.’”

Commissioner Bud Scholl added, ”It’s helpful to talk about these issues…moving forward, future contracts should stipulate deadlines…a [time] schedule should be developed up front, monitored and adhered to.”

RENEWING THE NEWPORT PIER

When Hurricane Wilma cut across south Florida on October 24, 2005, the Newport fishing pier sustained extensive damage. In December of 2007, good news about renewing the Newport pier was announced when the City Commission passed a resolution approving a letter of agreement with Dr. Robert Cornfeld, president of Newport Operating Corporation, for restoration of the pier located at 16701 Collins Avenue. Built in 1936, the half-mile long pier was designated a historic site in 1982 and has long been a popular destination for fishing enthusiasts and sightseers.

According to the public/private partnership forged between Cornfeld and the city – Cornfeld agreed to contribute $2 million toward the demolition, design and replacement of the pier and would share in net revenues. The city is designated as the lessee with the State of Florida for the pier – retaining control over the entire pier design, operations, and selection of the firm occupying the pier’s restaurant.

During a Dec. 13, 2007 Commission meeting, Cornfeld proffered a $500,000 deposit and expressed appreciation to the Commission and city staff for “the opportunity to join together in a public/private partnership to resurrect [the pier] that has been part of the community for over 70 years.” Mayor Edelcup noted, “[The city will] work diligently with you to restore one of Florida’s great resources…We hope to completely rebuild the pier so it will stand for at least another hundred years.”

BRIDGE BUILDING

Fulfilling the City Commission’s mission to safeguard the community and plan ahead for emergency evacuations, a resolution was passed in September 2008 authorizing the city manager to proceed with obtaining a design scheme for a pedestrian/emergency vehicle bridge on North Bay Road.

Designs for the bridge include installation of a gate only allowing vehicles to go through in the event of an emergency. Flashing back to a City Commission meeting on April 17, 2008, the concept of building a bridge connecting North Bay Road between Winston Towers 100 on 174th Street and the Porto Bellagio condominium across the canal to the south was discussed.

Reasons cited for the need for a bridge included incidents such as pedestrian and vehicular accidents, a gas main break and a structure fire that caused severe gridlock to the point where traffic on Collins Avenue and local feeder streets were rendered immobile.

In the event Collins Avenue is closed, there is no other north/south route through the city.

Beyond creating an inconvenience to the motoring public, if Collins Avenue is closed, the Police Department, fire trucks and ambulances would not be able to respond to emergency calls in a timely manner.

Sunny Isles Beach Police Chief Fred Maas reiterated the need for the bridge in a memo to the City Commission. “The infrastructure of the interior roadways are insufficient and antiquated to the point that they are not capable of handling the diverted traffic off of Collins Avenue when that roadway is mandatorily shut down due to emergency,” he wrote.

“Insofar as there is no other north/ south route connecting the city, it is impossible for emergency vehicles to respond in a timely manner to locations in the city when Collins Avenue is shut down or has limited lanes open.

“Collins Avenue is additionally impacted by high volume because local residents, in many cases, must travel that thoroughfare to reach their destination regardless of how short a distance since there is no alternative north/south route. “It is our position that an alternative north/south thoroughfare will not only save lives but be effective in traffic control… If [a bridge] creates an additional traffic outlet resource in the case of an emergency, it will help us.”

‘CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT PROGRESS’

Another agenda item at the March 3, 2010 special City Commission meeting was an ordinance approved on first reading authorizing the issuance of [not exceeding] $15,000,000 of Capital Improvement Revenue Bonds of the City of Sunny Isles Beach.

City Manager Rick Conner explained the bank qualified loan from SunTrust with a 15-year term and amortization rate of 4.2 percent is “very favorable given today’s market…municipal bond rates like this probably aren’t going to get much lower.” Quarterly payments are slated to start on October 1, 2010. The second reading of the ordinance is scheduled for Thursday, March 18 at the regular City Commission meeting.

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