Pinecrest Water Referendum Amounts to Giveaway

Bob Ross, Former Pinecrest Councilmember

Do Pinecrest residents wish to tax themselves to gift water lines to the County?

On March 6th, ballots will be mailed to Pinecrest voters asking whether they wish to spend $15 million on bonds to extend water lines and fire hydrants to the 742 single-family homes lacking them. The ballots must be returned by March 26th.

A “for” vote would result in an ad valorem assessment on every property tax bill annually for the next 20 years. The Village has estimated that the owner of a median-assessed home of $687,200 would pay $158 per year, or $3,160 over the next two decades.

While this issue has been simmering for years, it bubbled forth again last summer and fall at the Inspire Pinecrest community meetings.

You’d be correct if you feel that the vote is being rushed. Mayor Joe Corradino scheduled a special Council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 22, on only two days’ notice to discuss the issue. Those who wanted water lines extended had been in contact with each other and came out in force. Council voted 4-1 to schedule a vote, with only Jim McDonald dissenting.

Corradino rushed the Council decision, and the vote, because the County was revamping its elections system and could not accommodate processing a mail vote any time this year after March 26th.

In alerting the public about the special meeting, our village clerk’s email notice headed “Upcoming Village Council Meetings” unfortunately required recipients to click four times to learn of the meeting subject. There was no newspaper notice.

While the benefits are obvious for the 742 Pinecrest single-family homeowners presently lacking access to county water, at least some would likely prefer to continue using their wells. A good-sized minority said so when polled more than a decade ago.

Another 580 homes presently have county water access and for one reason or another, have elected not to connect. This group has benefitted from the County granting a 10-year moratorium that has allowed them to stay on their wells, but the moratorium expires in March. Soon, the County will start sending notices requiring owners to connect within 90 days at their own expense, which may amount to $2,500 to $5,000 or more. So this group will bear their cost of hooking up now and pay 20 years into the future for other homeowners’ water line access.

Current and earlier homeowners, builders or the County previously paid to install county water at 4,372 Pinecrest single family homes, plus duplexes and apartment complexes. It will be a tough sell for advocates to persuade these folks to vote for bonds that will produce no direct benefit. And there will be no refunds for anyone who recently extended water lines at their own expense.

The vote will establish whether or not Pinecrest voters are comfortable donating funds to the County to finish out the water line and hydrant system. Be advised that the County will own the system and pocket water bill payments in perpetuity. This would be extremely generous considering that the County, the entity responsible for providing water and fire hydrants, has repeatedly refused to meet its obligation.

I say no to gifting water lines to the County .A low voter turnout – such as the 17 percent who returned mail ballots in Cutler Bay last year on a proposed $40 million community improvement bond – favors supporters of our referendum. So be sure to vote.

Bob Ross is a Pinecrest Village Councilmember.


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8 Comments on "Pinecrest Water Referendum Amounts to Giveaway"

  1. There are so many inaccuracies on this article. I do have a question for Mr. Ross: “DO YOU HAVE CITY WATER?”

  2. Not a giveaway! Power outages, pesticide contamination, failed wells, leaking septic tanks, and salt water intrusion to properties will create an emergency to our health and threaten property values for ALL of Pinecrest. The benefits far outweigh the costs.

  3. Unfortunately, this article is clearly NOT based on facts and the publicly available data and it shows the writer difficulty to grasp basic economic concepts which contradicts the arguments have been presented here.
    I would really appreciate if the contributor would do proper due diligence on the topic before publish such an article, what an unbiased third party might consider an intentional misleading of the public.
    1. It is not done in hurry
    Evidence 1: https://www.pinecrest-fl.gov/Home/ShowDocument?id=12052
    It has been discussed this topic in June 12, 2018. See document (there are numerous other documents shows otherwise)
    Evidence 2: http://pinecrest.granicus.com/player/clip/507?view_id=2
    The Village budget has included the funding for the referendum. It has been discussed publicly and the writer could have made any arguments there. Reviewed the 5:15h video. It has not happened. Where was he then?
    Evidence 3: https://www.pinecrest-fl.gov/home/showdocument?id=44
    Our charter. Ignorance and lack of knowledge of our “Constitution” gives no right to make misleading statements.
    2. Economics – (gift? Really????)
    Evidence: https://www.miamidade.gov/water/library/2017-annual-report.pdf
    Competent business manager reading the financial statement would quickly realize a money wasting pit such as continues operation(!) is financed by debt. The negative cash flow with all the other data tell you everything you have to know about it. (C’mon. We are better then this)
    Again, ignorance, lack of knowledge and data combined with misrepresentation of our history will create divide instead of unity which required to address safety challenges and improvements of our community benefiting all of us!

  4. Have you stopped to wonder how the homes that have city water got it? Who is paying (directly or indirectly) for it? Why was it ok to leave a significant number of homes without access to this basic and essential service? Are we supposed to sit and wait until the County decides to install such basic infrastructure? Pinecrest incorporated precisely because of that.- to take control of our destiny. We don’t want to become Flint v2.0. It’s a resilience issue that, if unaddressed, will affect the whole Village, not just the affected homes. Your article exposes a selfish and short sighted view. Just for the record, the fact that the timescales for the referendum are so short is not a devious conspiracy. We also would have wanted more time to convince the Pinecrest residents that this is a GOOD thing. It takes a village, Mr Ross.

  5. Bob Ross, you are right it is a gift but I disagree on who is getting the biggest gift. Everyone agrees that Miami-Dade should be doing the project, but hiding from the reality that they haven’t is an abandonment of leadership. Everyone agrees that handing over the finished project to Miami-Dade is a gift of hardware, but the BIGGEST gift is to the families of Pinecrest, the ones directly affected, and the broad brush of ALL of Pinecrest for being leaders and taking care of our families, no matter who benefits. The return on investment, a standard measurement for any general allocation, can easily show a high return for the health and safety for Pinecrest families, along with an investment for all Pinecrest homeowners in protecting property values throughout our village. Let’s agree on the gift to Miami-Dade is measurable, but the gift to families is priceless.

  6. John Steinbauer | February 5, 2019 at 8:41 am | Reply

    I totally agree with Mr. Ross. Pinecrest does not water, Miami Dade County does. It is unfair for those who have water that was paid for by the County, Developers or personally to carry this burden of higher real estate taxes.
    Vote against this referendum. It makes no sense at all. Now let’s get together and put pressure on the County and State to provide it to those few who don’t have it or..set up a Special Taxing District for them to pay for their own water by themselves.

  7. set up a special taxing for those affected.

  8. Ellen G. Kaplan | February 12, 2019 at 2:40 pm | Reply

    In response to Bob Ross’ shortsighted and selfish commentary, I purchased my home in 1990, back when most of the area known as Pinecrest was served by individual property wells. For almost three decade I have been in favor of connecting to county water, but to do so has always been unaffordable. I have experienced all of the inconveniences of living with a well such as poor water pressure, the expense and concerns of water testing, equipment maintenance and replacement of the pump, bladder, and water softening system. But most importantly, I have experienced the hygiene issue of living with no running water, including the inability to flush a toilet every time the electricity goes out, which can be for an hour, a day, or, in the case of Hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, Rita, Wilma, and the recent Irma, up to three weeks. With climate change, storms will likely become more frequent and stronger. For those of us that have access to a generator, the equipment purchase and maintenance plus fuel is an additional expense and not a good solution for the water problem. However, beyond the inconvenience and hygiene issues, we have learned that there are close neighbors with poisonous chemical intrusion such as arsenic and dieldrin in their wells, making their well water unsafe. We do not want to be known as #Flintcrest. This will ultimately affect the value of all of our homes. There is also the issue of salt water intrusion into the wells which will become more likely as we go forth. In addition, streets without water lines do not have fire hydrants, and that presents another huge issue in the ability to extinguish fires.

    We also learned about the history of the water situation in Pinecrest, especially as regards the placement of the 2008-2010 backbone water lines, which seem to have been arbitrarily chosen, but more importantly, installed as a Phase 1 and 2, with the final water lines to the remaining almost 750 homes (more than 10% of the Village!) to be completed as a final phase. At that time there were approximately 1,500 homes with no county water and with the money from the General Obligations Bond, the Village was able to complete half the project, leaving the final almost 750 homes without water infrastructure. In other words, the idea was ALWAYS to build a final phase or a Phase 3 of infrastructure, so that this is, in fact, an INCOMPLETE project, and now, of course, there is no more money. For this project, we as a Village ALL bore whatever cost homeowners bore for the installed main lines, and only a portion of us benefited. For ten years we have ALL diligently paid on this GOB as part of our taxes. And for this reason, finishing the project, getting water lines to those remaining without water access, should be addressed as a Village-wide expense. My child graduated long ago from public high school yet I continue to gladly pay school tax because I believe in public education whether I use the schools or not. I also pay for things that the Village builds that I do not use, such as a tennis center,parks, or Pinecrest Gardens, because I enjoy a Village that has nice amenities, whether I use them or not. Potable water goes beyond this. It is not a privilege but a BASIC RIGHT.

    We cannot continue to think of ourselves as “haves” and “have nots.” The intent was ALWAYS to complete the county water service connection for the whole Village. Aside from health and safety issues as a result of chemical and salt water intrusion, we must all be cognizant of what will happen to our property values. It will immediately affect the homes without water infrastructure, since all other things being equal, they will be less preferable to buyers. Homes affected by chemical intrusion may even become unmarketable. But ultimately it will affect us all, because once these problems surface, it becomes a black mark on all the community, and thus, property values.

    Let’s just finish this project and vote YES on the water referendum. The cost is minimal. Based on an assessed property value of about $410,000 my cost would be $94 per year, less than $8 per month (much less than a daily Starbucks habit!). Even at double this amount, it is a bargain, as the only way to finally complete the project.

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