Reality versus Rumors – Major Initiatives for 2015 and Beyond

By George ‘Bud’ Scholl, Mayor

(March 17, 2015)It is always surprising, and a little amusing, to hear the rumors that circulate regarding what our proposals and plans are for Sunny Isles Beach. The City Commission and City Staff communicate in a fairly direct manner through a variety of means. Even with all our televised meetings, website postings, speeches, articles and newsletters the rumor mill is still alive and well! So I would like to take a few of the more significant initiatives we have set forth this year and put some of the rumors to rest.

School Expansion

We have started identifying and negotiating with property owners on possible expansion sites for our K-8 community school. This would provide additional classroom space for the existing grades (K-8) to relieve overcrowding. We are currently working with Miami Dade County School Board officials and key staff members on finding and designing an expansion building with all the proper facilities needed to accommodate our ever increasing student resident population. I have been asked on many occasions if we have plans to build a high school in Sunny Isles Beach. We have no plans to build a public high school; our public high school students will continue to matriculate into Alonso and Tracy Mourning (ATM) High School.

Traffic Mitigation – Pedestrian Bridges

One thing we can all agree on is that traffic continues to be problematic, especially this time of year which we often call “the season”. As we have learned from traffic studies and the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT), most of the traffic on our major roadways is not generated from within our city. Since we cannot prevent cars from driving through our city, what we have decided to focus on is working toward some double-win initiatives – pedestrian safety and some traffic mitigation. We are now starting the work necessary to consider constructing pedestrian bridges over Collins Avenue and westbound Sunny Isles Beach Boulevard (163rd Street). The pedestrian bridge over SIB Boulevard, connecting the new Gateway Park to North Bay Road, has been approved and funded. We hope to see it built this year. Two additional bridges are proposed for Collins Avenue, one at City Hall which would get our school children, residents and tourists safely back and forth across Collins Avenue to our Government Center, library, school and parks. The second is proposed at the corner of Collins Avenue and 174th Street, another very busy pedestrian and vehicular intersection, to connect residents to another popular park. These bridges take a lot of infrastructure, electrical lines need to be moved, property owners need to agree to provide landing areas, and ultimately the towers with elevators and stair access need to be constructed to accommodate access to the bridges. However, we believe that they will be well worth the effort and will produce a win-win in the form of pedestrian safety and traffic mitigation.

Senior Center

Our city’s senior residents have been patiently waiting for an initiative dedicated to them. Most thriving communities have some dedicated facility for their senior residents. And I am pleased to report that this year we have undertaken an initiative to plan and construct a community center for our senior citizens. Our thoughts at this time would incorporate this center into the construction of a multi-purpose building that would cover a variety of needs. This building is in the planning stages but is moving along at a good pace and we hope to have a definitive announcement in the near future as to where it will be located and how it will serve the community. The important thing is that we are forging ahead with accommodating the needs of our seniors and are confident we will be announcing some definite progress soon.

I hope the above clears up some of the reality versus rumors that always seem to be circulating! Please do not ever hesitate to contact City Hall if you would like information on anything that is happening within our community. Your Mayor, City Commission and dedicated Staff will keep moving forward and working hard to ensure that, in our community, reality always wins over rumors!