Coming out of 2020, the State of the Village is confident and optimistic.
This year, 2021, marks a quarter of a century since Pinecrest’s incorporation. It has always been our vision to provide a small, efficient and effective local government; one that would be there when needed and constantly work to protect our unique character and enhance our quality of life.
Never is the character of our community reveled more clearly than in times of crisis. This past year, we came together, again, to support and protect each other. We can all be very proud of what we have done.
On Friday, March 13, 2020, we acted to begin a process where the Village of Pinecrest was able to cease normal operations as go as virtual as possible, while keeping our essential businesses operational and addressing the needs of our neighbors who now would begin living life in a completely different manner.
Our Police Department had the most difficult job of all, having to stay on the streets during the entirety of the crisis. It is no wonder that the Pinecrest Police Department received reaccreditation from both CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) and CFA (Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation). They received the Meritorious Award in Advanced Accreditation from CALEA for being accredited for 15 consecutive years. They were also presented the Excelsior Award of Reaccreditation from CFA for five consecutive reaccreditation cycle. This unique recognition is the highest level of achievement that a criminal justice agency can receive, demonstrating a superior level of commitment to following best practices in law enforcement. The Pinecrest Police Department is the only law enforcement agency that holds this distinct honor in Miami-Dade County. We have a nationally elite police force of which much is expected, and which always delivers. The result of all of this is that our Part One Crimes remain at historic lows as FY 2020 recorded a total of 452 reported incidents as compared to 468 in FY 2019. When called, they will be at your door in an instance, prepared with the skill to deescalate the most dangerous of situations in the most peaceful of ways. We know crime is cyclical, coming in waves, and sometimes made worse when there are economic hard times or uncertainty. The next year may bring additional economic challenges. We are prepared for any eventuality and ready to track and arrest wrong doers.
One of the major concerns this past year was keeping the government functional and not negatively impacting planning applications or building permits and inspections. Our Building and Planning Department Issued approximately 3,100 permits with a construction value of $96 million. They conducted 16,800 inspections and processed approximately 1,600 code compliance cases. Residential development unexpectedly surged during the year, and we were able to meet that challenge.
Our Parks and Recreation Department was able to adapt to new COVID regulations and, at the proper time, maintain safe and orderly use of our parks enabling them to stay open. We opened Pawcrest Park, our long-awaited dog park at Suniland Park. In partnership with the Pinecrest Garden Club, we were able install a Blue Star Memorial on US 1 at Veterans Wayside Park. We hosted approximately 15,000 participants in the department’s programs and earned $400,000 in grants.
At Pinecrest Gardens, we secured $140,000 in grants and $70,000 in sponsorships. The year’s major art exhibit, Trolls by Danish artist Thomas Dambo, has been a real success. Before the pandemic hit, we had over 6,000 participants at the art festival last January. Our 2019-2020 jazz series was sold-out. As the community reopens and evolves, we are able to restructure our farmers market to a drive-through format. We always are cognizant that Pinecrest Gardens is in the middle of a peaceful residential neighborhood and we work each day to assure that it fits in as seamlessly as possible.
Our Human Resources and Information Technology staffs were able to keep our people, computers and data safe and sound, which enables every other service, virtually or in person, to continue.
We were able to coordinate with every business, church and school and facilitate their understanding and compliance with the complicated rules for doing business in this pandemic. The business community performed impeccably well, which was critical in making our lives as normal as possible. We were also able to provide commercial rent abatement for those businesses in need.
We were able to celebrate our Pinecrest Pioneers virtually this year by delivering lunch to the homes of our seniors.
Our financial status remained excellent, with a AAA bond rating. We were able to reduce taxes, replace an old bond, while completing dozens of our planned drainage, roadway, and parks projects that keep Pinecrest as one of the most desirable communities in Florida.
While we keep measurable statistics, it is the unmeasurable attitude behind them that is most impressive and that we are most thankful for as a community. In Pinecrest, it all works so well because we have adopted a responsible and rational approach to local government. One where how we do something is as important as what we do.
On any issue great or small, we have the ability to provide a concierge level of service, where anyone who has an issue can be given immediate individual attention. We strive to listen, understand the situation, and come up with the most efficient path to success. We explore the issues deeply, develop a common set of facts, debate them vigorously, and listen until everyone has had their say, and then we make our decisions as one community.
What makes this run on a day-to-day basis is an expert staff. To Yocie Galliano, Guido Inguanzo, Mitch Bierman, and all of our department heads and staff, thank you! This is undoubtedly the most difficult time to be a public servant. Our staff leadership understands where we have come from, how we got here, and where we can go in the future. We could not be more proud.
Our Village Council is collectively and individually first rate. I want to congratulate Anna Hochkammer on her reelection and Shannon del Prado on her election. Both are selfless public servants. Our Council last year, including Doug Kraft, Katie Abbott and former Vice Mayor Jim McDonald, did a wonderful job communicating and responding to the community’s needs almost instantaneously. At all times, they tirelessly work to explore the issues and build consensus for how to move forward.
Thank you to every citizen of Pinecrest. It has been a more than difficult year, yet we have done what we have needed to do. We took care of each other. People took it upon themselves to pick up trash from our rights-of-way, check on their neighbors to assure they were safe, wore their masks, and remained respectful of each other at all times.
When this pandemic is all over, the future is likely to look more like today than it is to look like the past. We have learned a lot about our Village. We hear the leaf-blowers and the hammers and the sounds of lunch trucks. We see the trash on the rights-of-way and piled in the canals. We feel the inconveniences of the traffic. We taste the dust of seemingly never-ending roadway construction. We are alarmed by the dangerously speeding boats in the canals, and we are warned of the pending invasion of the peacocks, pythons, coyotes, and iguanas.
Going forward, we are going to need to figure out solutions to these and other issues. We need to figure out a way to keep our parents and children close to us in the neighborhood. We need to figure out how to walk, bike and exercise more safely on our streets. We need to help the county figure out how to live up to their responsibilities to maintain their parks, waterways, water, sewer, and transportation infrastructure to the same standard that Pinecrest does. To do so we will take a county focused approach, bringing their new leadership solutions not just problems. We will do so in partnership with the other communities that share our concerns.
As always, we need to thank Gary Matzner and Evelyn Greer, for having the vision, wisdom, and courage to spearhead our incorporation efforts, form our government and lead us as our founders. We also need to thank all of our mayors and councilmembers that have served before us, as well as our citizens who have participated so vigorously over the years. Thank you for setting the standard by which we are all measured.
The future is challenging but bright. We are confidently optimistic we will meet the challenges.