By Daniel A Ricker
180 Giant Sheets of Hurricane Proof Glass for Art Museum a Challenge, Science Wants Extra $30 Million Next Year
The senior staff of the Perez Art Museum and the Frost Science Museum that have new buildings going up on Museum Park in Miami’s Bicentennial Park and receiving a good chunk of public money from the $2.9 billion 2004 Miami-Dade County GOB made their presentations to county budget staff last Thursday. And both institutions want more Convention Development Tax (CDT) money in the future and the Frost Museum of Science is looking for a cool $60 million, not the $30 million in GOB money the county is planning to commit for the upcoming 2012-2013 budget year that has to be approved in September by county commissioners. The two organizations in total will get $265 million in public bond money and while being not-for-profits. The organizations governance model does not allow anyone but their board members to attend the board meetings. And for the general public and press it is a matter of a wing and a prayer whether the tens in millions in pledges are actually rock solid and will be fulfilled from a public verification perspective. They argue this is necessary for many large donors do not like it to be known of their contribution and an open meeting could inhibit philanthropic gifts.
The Perez Museum of Art has gotten $5 million in January of Jorge Perez’s $35 million contribution over ten years and the contribution includes $15 million of his own art. The new building is two weeks ahead of schedule is working to finish construction including the installation of 180 hurricane proof “sheets of glass” that was considered the “biggest hurdle” for the building expected to be completed at the earliest around September 2013, said Thom Collins, the executive director of Miami Art Museum (MAM). MAM has already received the bulk of its $100 million allocated of the public bonds but will receive the final $26 million in the coming budget year. The new $220 million structure currently under budget also includes $120 million in private funding. However, MAM staff noted the Perez donation is in the bank earning interest, and they have been “paying bills with the GOB” money and they are looking for “a construction bridge loan.” And the organization wants to raise more money since we “need $70 million to sustain the museum once built,” said Collins.
The Frost Science Museum is also relying on private donations to augment the $165 million that is financed by the county’s GOB bonds for the new cutting edge design costing $275 million and includes the Frost donation of $35 million and $10 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation knight foundation and there is “$25 million in transitional costs,” in the future said senior staff. Executive Director Gillian Thomas, first hired in 2003 has been a persistent advocate of a new museum and leaving the much smaller site in Coconut Grove that was once part of Historic Vizcaya Museum and Gardens that is located across the street. And she once carped at a county commission meeting back then that the museum would strike out on their own with a proposed bond, but held off after the organization was included in the massive bond program approved by voters in 2004.
Miami-Dade’s most treasured cultural institution’s including one of the worlds 30 most important structures that include the Forbidden City in the list is teetering on losing its accreditation in the fall if a more constant revenue stream is found and has staff down to a skeleton crew, with pumps installed in 1910s still in operation. The Historic Vizcaya Mansion and Gardens in Coconut Grove has been hammered with county funding cuts over the last few years and with a new glass roof being installed. The number of events like weddings and coming of age events and the attendant revenues has slowed, said Joel Hoffman the historic property’s curator. He said soberly that the crown jewel of Miami-Dade historical sites needs help and most recently hosted the Congressional Black Caucus as well as a host of presidents of over nations over the decades.
A Vizcaya Trust member also told county budget staff that the complex is “internationally know” and “is the most perfect home ever built” in the Americas and if they lose accreditation there “will be grants” they will not be able to apply for, the attorney and volunteer said. Also Vizcaya is anticipating a $817,000 deficit, that includes $189,000 in carryover funding in its $5.3 million budget for next year and any further funding cuts “would devastate maintenance and presentation of this Nation Historic Landmark and tourist attraction,” state budget documents. Thus, Vizcaya needs fiscal help and if there are any philanthropists out their in preserving this historic structure and gardens go to vizcaya museum
What About the Science Museum Property Next Door?
The Science Museum, which is getting a new building on Bicentennial Park and will be vacated, is part of the Deering Estate and is hoped to become again part of Vizcaya that has some county GOB money in it to restore the buildings, but the public school district is also looking at the buildings. However, deed restrictions favor the Vizcaya absorption of the facilities but some discussions have taken place about it becoming a school. However, the Watchdog Report contacted public schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho on the subject and he wrote back. “There were some discussions regarding an internship program at the museum to start this year. The concept of a school at that site is impeded by deed restrictions associated with the property,” he wrote back.
CITY OF MIAMI
Whirly Birds Coming Back to Watson Island Base with MSEA Vote Last Week
The Miami Sports and Exhibition Authority Thursday voted on a new contract after ten years of discussion to allow a company to run a helicopter service on Watson Island, something done in the past but discontinued years ago. Linden Services Corp., will manage the heliport but will not fly the whirly birds themselves and the representative noted this is a first step. And in the future will include getting approval for the base by a number of government agencies before the flights start. And Miami-Dade’s “DERM Department is one of the difficult ones,” when it comes to these approvals said the companies top official when it came to getting the aircraft back into local service. Linden will be investing $250,000 initially and another $100,000 in the coming years and that is why the rent to the city is only $2,200 a month for the first two-years for the waterfront location.
Rick Guthrie, a member of the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Department said that the new base was needed in the county speaking as a citizen and supporter. He noted over the decades Watson Island and the aerial service has been used in past television shows like “Miami Vice and CSI Miami,” he said and facility would highlight the Miami skyline and the city’s image as a World Class City. Commission Chair Francis Suarez during the discussion noted “we debated the rent for a few of the past meetings” saying “no one wanted to give away the farm” and they had spent $20,000 “on our own appraisal,” he said. In addition, Commissioner Willy Gort during the discussion noted when it came to the value of the site. “It depended on the use of the land,” when it came to any valuation.
CITY OF MIAMI BEACH
Libbin Calls Condo Presidents and Residents to Rise-up and Call for Beach Condominium Ombudsman, Vote on Position in August
Commissioner Jerry Libbin continues on his mission for a Condominium Ombudsman position within the city of Miami Beach administration and has drafted a letter he suggests be sent to the other commissioners, the mayor and the city’s administration. He believes given the large number of condominiums in the municipality with around 90,000 residents such a position is necessary. However, critics say in these tough times, the money could be used better and there is concern the position could become political given some of the charged internal battles that occur in some of these condominium associations, that also includes people renting some of the units, and have a different perspective. But he wants the position to be put on the August 14 ballot for Beach voters to weigh in on the necessity. Below is Libbin’s letter to condominium president and managers requesting they get involved in the matter.
FROM LIBBIN: Below is a letter I have drafted for residents about the creation of a Condominium Ombudsman position in the City of Miami Beach. This is a position needed in our government to better serve our residents in condominiums and cooperatives. The position would mediate and facilitate your condominium and cooperative service requests to the city pertaining to the Building, Code Compliance and Fire Departments, eliminating a lot of time and frustration and resulting in a more beneficial outcome for residents. I have provided a sample letter that residents can send the Miami Beach Commission requesting that a question be placed on the August 2012 ballot about whether or not the Ombudsman position should be created. The emails for the Mayor and Commissioners have also been listed below for their convenience. Please forward this letter to all residents so that they may contact the Mayor and Commissioners to urge their support of the Condo Ombudsman’s position. You may contact my office at 305 673 7106 or firstname.lastname@example.org should I be of additional service to you. I look forward to working with you toward this essential goal.
THE SUGGESTED LETTER: I am writing to urge you to support the Condominium Ombudsman position in the City of Miami Beach. This is a much-needed position, which will assist residents and associations of condominiums and cooperatives with city services. The position is designed to walk residents through procedures relative to Building, Code Compliance and Fire Department issues. It will alleviate a lot of the frustrations currently experienced by residents and will expedite measures which are currently lengthy for even the simplest of requests relating to those departments. I encourage you to establish the appropriate ballot question which if approved by the voters in the August election would create the position of Condominium Ombudsman as stated below: “There is hereby created the position of Condominium Ombudsman who shall assist condominium and cooperative owners and condominium associations in addressing issues relating to the City’s Building, Code Compliance, and Fire Departments and who shall submit written reports to the City Commission through the City Manager on a quarterly basis with regard to his/her findings. The Condominium Ombudsman shall be appointed by and report directly to the City Manager according to personnel regulations pertaining to unclassified service.” As a voter of Miami Beach, I request that you accept the above language and approve my request for it to be placed on the August 2012 ballet so that I, along with other residents, may vote to have this crucial position created.