By Christopher J. Russo, Former City Manager
(Friday, May 15, 2020) – As you know by now, in-person business operations with the City are still limited to essential services as we work to promote social distancing to protect our residents and our employees. Despite these restrictions, City staff is still working hard to serve our residents in the safest way possible, as we always do.
At the end of April, we initiated screenings for visitors and employees that are required before access to any City facility. These screenings serve as an added protective measure for all doing essential business with the City. The screening consists of a series of questions and a contactless temperature check. Facial coverings are also required when inside City facilities. Building, Code Compliance, Planning and Zoning, and the SIBshuttle services are functioning by appointment only, and all City programs, events and meetings remain canceled until further notice.
On May 6, six City parks reopened with limited hours and new conditions. The select parks are open to residents only, and individuals are required to wear a facial covering upon entering the parks and when social distancing is not possible. To allow all residents the opportunity to enjoy our parks, we encourage everyone to limit their park use to one hour or less.
Even though business is not ‘as usual,’ we are continuing work on several ongoing capital improvement projects. As I provide you with an update on these projects, know that all sites are required to follow proper CDC guidelines and the City’s Emergency Order 04-20 on construction.
The City is putting in two deep drainage wells along 172 Street near the Miami-Dade County Fire Rescue station. These drainage wells should help alleviate the extreme flooding in this area during significant rainstorms. In the same area, we are installing two signalized pedestrian crosswalks, one at the intersection of 172 Street and North Bay Road, and the other at the south end of the “S” curve on North Bay Road by the Porto Bellagio Condominium. These crossings will be very visible and an added safety measure for pedestrians.
Our two planned pedestrian bridges over Collins Avenue are moving forward; the plans for the Government Center bridge are about 70% complete, and we are in the process of reviewing engineering proposals for the 174 Street bridge to Samson Oceanfront Park. The construction of our new Gateway Center is rapidly progressing and we expect this facility to be completed on time by late summer.
The Collins Avenue Utility Underground Project is still underway as we start to energize the underground system at the south end of the city, part of Phase 1. Phase 2 is comprised of the underground wiring and equipment placement from Sunny Isles Boulevard north to 175 Terrace. And Phases 3 and 4 will include the wiring and equipment placement from 175 Terrace to the north end of the city. Once all the equipment and wiring are in place and energized, we begin the process of removing the remaining overhead poles and wires, as well as the restoration of our sidewalks. As you can see, this is a complicated project and work will continue into 2021 before it’s completed.
You have probably seen the significant work on the bases for the new streetlights throughout the City. Due to underground conditions, it was necessary to implement a complex procedure called spread footings, which allows for greater stability in approximately 80% of the streetlight bases. As we have reported on this subject previously, this process will be slow to complete.
The Golden Shores undergrounding and street lighting project designs are progressing on schedule. We expect to receive feedback from Florida Power & Light by the beginning of July and, providing the COVID-19 restrictions over the next month or two do not impede the design activity, we will be able to put together final plans and prepare bid documents. Current scheduling anticipates formal bidding of the undergrounding project in the fourth quarter of this year. We accelerated a solution to the street lighting and expect to have the plans completed and out to bid by the end of summer.
The plans for the rehabilitation of the Golden Shores Pump Station are 90% complete and we expect to have them out to bid over the summer. In the interim, we purchased three high capacity diesel pumps on trailers, which are prepared to be used anywhere in the City at any time.
I will continue to provide updates on our City services and capital projects as progress is made. Despite our out of the ordinary current business practices, we are always working to uphold and elevate our residents’ quality of life.