Miami-Dade County Commissioners signed off on a plan Tuesday to split the police and fire patrols at a new Marlins ballpark between the county and city of Miami, but the heated debate could still spell trouble for a ballpark at the Orange Bowl.
Armando Aguilar, president of Miami’s Fraternal Order of Police, objected to the plan and several commissioners still have serious reservations about the financing for the $515 million ballpark and $94 million garage, which relies heavily on tourist taxes. Commissioners voted 7-3 for the security plan, with Commissioners Natacha Seijas, Javier Souto and Joe Martinez voting no and Commissioners Katy Sorenson, Rebeca Sosa and Carlos Gimenez absent at the time of the vote.
The security plan will be part of the ballpark management agreement, which along with the financing and construction agreements must be in place by July 1, under the terms of the Baseball Stadium Agreement approved in February.
Under the security plan, county police will patrol inside the venue while the city handles the surrounding area and the traffic. For eight city events at the venue each year, city police would patrol the venue; likewise, the county would handle the eight county events. Firefighters meanwhile will share responsibilities for each event with equal numbers of units from the city and county.
The city commission is expected to consider the plan at its meeting on Thursday.
But the security agreement stirred little reaction from commissioners, who instead took aim at the ballpark financing plan.
Martinez said he is particularly concerned that general fund revenue, rather than tourist taxes, will be put toward the ballpark under the city-county plan to fund $3 billion in projects, including a port tunnel, museums and the ballpark. The plan calls for the expansion of the city’s redevelopment agencies to generate more property tax dollars so tourist taxes can be used for other projects.
County Manager George Burgess insisted several times the ballpark is not contingent on expanding the redevelopment agencies and that the ballpark does not rely on general fund revenue, but that the additional property tax money will allow the county to fund other projects.
Souto, who opposes the city-county plan, called the whole project “fuzzy math.”
“The whole project is a beautiful project, if we have the monies, but we don’t have the monies,” Souto said.
Gimenez, too, opposes the baseball stadium agreement, over concerns the Marlins’ contribution has been reduced and the funding for infrastructure has not been determined. He and Martinez also expressed concern that there aren’t enough votes on the commission to move the project forward.
The agreement reached in February only required a majority vote of commissioners, but subsequent votes on the final agreements require a two-thirds vote of the commissioners present – or nine if all 13 commissioners are in attendance.
Meanwhile Burgess and Assistant County Manager Ray Baker are traveling to Washington, DC where they will take a tour of the Nationals just-opened ballpark on Wednesday. The Marlins are playing the Nationals Wednesday and Thursday.
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