Help Village residents get county water lines; call your state lawmaker

Miami's Community Newspapers

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. In Pinecrest, it isn’t everywhere, yet.

It is important to provide our community with some historical information in order for you to understand why we are in this position in the first place, and what we have done over the past decade to complete our infrastructure, with the assistance of county, state and federal dollars.

When the Village of Pinecrest incorporated in 1996, about a quarter of theresidences, approximately 1,500 homes, mostly on the east side of 67th Avenue, had no access to county water or sewer lines. This was a result of the county’s policy for decades of expecting developers, either residential or commercial, to pay for infrastructure.

That continues to be the county policy today, which is why Pinecrest continues to have a major challenge acquiring the necessary funding to complete the potable water infrastructure we need. And since Miami- Dade County is the water utility, it is their responsibility to provide the infrastructure upon which they run the potable water system. But they have failed to do so in many areas of the county, including Pinecrest.

And since most of the homes on the east side of Southwest 67the Avenue were on acre lots, protected from subdivision by county code, they were built in the 1950s and ‘60s by individual homeowners who then had to dig septic tanks and wells to get potable water. The county never bothered to upgrade to install potable water and fire hydrants in many area of unincorporated Miami-Dade and they carry that same policy today. Many Village residents (approximately 830 homes) still have no access and they continue to inquire about when we will see the extension of the county water lines throughout the eastern part of Pinecrest.

The first county funds that became available to Pinecrest post incorporation came after the 2004 county General Obligation Bonds (GOB ) passed for major infrastructure projects.

Within a few years, Pinecrest was the recipient of $4,357,900 for our water installation project. Later, the Village received $1.5 million from the state in 2007 and 2008, just before the economic downturn. Those combined state and county funds were used to build Phase 1 (the backbone) of the Pinecrest water lines in 2010, which gave access to 322 homes. The Village then completed Phase 2 in 2011, which provided access to another 242 homes that now have the opportunity to connect to the county water system. Those who choose to connect are required to pay the connection fees and monthly fees to the county.

Approximately 830 Village homes are still without access to a water line. The county mandates that any new home built in the Village that is within 200 yards of an existing water line must pay the expense to run a line and connect that new home to the existing water line. Their immediate neighbors will then have an opportunity to connect to that new line and pay a pro rata share of the expense.

With the economic downturn and recession in 2008-12 both the state and federal government cut off all earmarks to fund local government infrastructure.

Consequently there was an inability for local governments to access funding from the state and, with the elimination of earmarks at the federal level, the funding well dried up there too. The Village Council has made it a priority over the past four years as the economy improved to continue to try to access county funds. So, between 2010 and now we have been meeting with our county commissioner and the county mayor to try to access additional GOB funds from Miami-Dade county

So far that has not been fruitful, but we continue to meet and advocate for the county, which is the water utility and has the responsibility for providing the infrastructure to fund our water lines, which includes both potable water and water for fire suppression through fire hydrants.

We continue to remind them of the risks we face of salt water intrusion and contamination of our wells, both critical public health risks, and of course the public safety risks of not having fire hydrants near those 830 homes. The fire department assures us that they can still easily access water through the canals, pools or with tanker trucks, if need be.

Several years ago I pushed to have a tanker truck located within the Village alongside our station 49, however the fire department assured me it was not necessary. So the suggestion made recently that we should all dig our own fire wells I find unnecessary and costly to the homeowner.

Likewise the suggestion that we demand the county furnish us with fire hydrants ignores the fact we must first have the water lines laid; hydrants can only be installed when and where the water lines are installed. We have been demanding it for the past four years and will continue to do so. Please contact our county commissioner Xavier Suarez and let him know how important it is to you.

The state economy did not see a surplus until the 2013 session and in 2014 the Village applied for a state water project.

The Village did everything right. We submitted our water project request timely, spoke to our legislators early on and constantly throughout the legislative session, and hired a lobbyist with extensive experience and a strong track record of success. I flew to Tallahassee the first week of session and met with the members of the government operations committees who would be moving projects forward and eventually allocating money. We met again with them a month later.

Despite our diligence, we failed to make the list and, most frustrating of all, we and one other city were the only ones in Miami-Dade County that did not receive any funding. I cannot explain the reason our Village was not funded, but will encourage all residents who have no access to the county water system to contact our legislators directly and let them know how important it is to you and your families.

Representatives Mike Bileca and Eric Fresen and Sen. Gwen Margolis were provided with our project requests and we communicated with them extensively throughout the session. I would hope that if they hear directly from their constituents about the critical importance of funding to enable us to build out the remainder of the water line infrastructure they will assign this a higher priority for funding next year.

So it is critically important that they hear from their constituents, especially now at election time. If you are one of the households still reliant on well water, you should let them know it is a priority, and that we need their support and commitment to go after funding for Pinecrest infrastructure needs.

The representatives can be contacted by calling or sending emails to:

• Rep. Bileca is at 305-273-3235;

• Rep Fresen is at 305-663-2011

• Sen. Margolis is at 305-571-5777

We are prepared to make the request again this year and expect a better result with more input from the residents who are adversely impacted.

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