Community outrage over Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez's decision to potentially shutter 22 libraries has led to his administration removing six sites from the closure list. For now, the Culmer, Opa-locka, Lemon City, Little River, Shenandoah, and Lakes of the Meadows branches will remain open unless county commissioners vote otherwise in September when the county budget is finalized.
"We are continuing our work and anticipate possible additional adjustments to the list of closures," says Gimenez senior adviser Lisa Martinez.
Ensuring the libraries on the blacklist remain open would be a wise decision not just because of residents' discontent. Over the past decade, Miami-Dade has spent $750 million from a general obligation bond program approved by voters in 2004 to build new libraries and fix up existing ones, including some of the sites set to close.
For instance, the Golden Glades branch (built in 2006) was the first library the county constructed since the main library in 1985. It is still marked for closure. Another recent opening on the chopping block is the Virrick Park branch in Coconut Grove. "We will be paying now for improvements that our mayor is discarding," says Coral Gables resident Daniel Berger. "What an insulting waste of our money."
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It seems Gimenez has gotten the message. He removed the Little River branch from the list. The county spent $1.8 million to buy land where the county is slated to build a new Little River branch. He also saved the Shenandoah branch, which was renovated with $1.3 million in bond money. The Culmer and Lemon City locations are slated to receive $340,000 and $305,000, respectively, in bond-financed renovations.
However, roughly $18.3 million in bond money meant for renovating the North Shore branch and build two new libraries in Doral and Hialeah Gardens could be used for other county pet projects not approved by voters. Those three sites are still on the closure list. "Please be aware that Library GOB funds can be re-allocated by county commissioners to other priority projects," Martinez says.