After 12 senior citizens overheated and died last year in a sweltering Hollywood nursing home where Hurricane Irma knocked out the air conditioning, commissioners in Miami-Dade County agreed to look into installing generators in all of the county's public housing developments.
But now that officials have crunched the numbers, that improvement seems unlikely to ever happen. According to initial estimates, taxpayers would have to spend $150 million to install generators capable of providing air conditioning, electricity, and elevator service in the more than 100 public housing sites across Miami-Dade.
"Given [the Public Housing and Community Development Department's] reliance on a limited funding source for its operational and capital needs," Mayor Carlos Gimenez wrote in a memo to commissioners, "priorities need to be made."
Miami-Dade has more than 9,000 public housing units, from single-family homes to high-rise buildings, that are home to more than 22,000 people. The buildings taller than four stories are already required by the Florida Building Code to contain emergency back-up generators that can keep the lights on in hallways and exits ad provide power to at least one elevator and all fire-suppression systems.
After the deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, county commissioners asked for the estimate so they could look into installing generators that also produced enough power to run A/C units.
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"During the time power is out, the county’s most vulnerable residents, who are the poor, elderly, or disabled, face health and safety issues in the aftermath of a storm," the commission wrote in a resolution.
Now the county plans to concentrate instead on 21 units that primarily house the elderly. Generators would cost an estimated $33 million to install and $495,000 to maintain annually, Gimenez says in his memo.
To start, county officials are working to secure a federal grant to pay for generators and impact-resistant windows in three developments for the elderly: Biscayne Plaza, Edison Plaza, and Palm Court. The grant would cover $2.7 million of the $3.6 million cost.
"Other funding for generators will have to be allocated over a period of time based on federal appropriation levels," the memo reads.