Miami-Dade County Wants $4.2 Billion in Bonds For Aging Water and Sewer System

Now that the debate about using public funds to fix up Sun-Life Stadium is over, there is an even much bigger public works project that should have Miami-Dade taxpayers especially concerned. For more than a year, officials for the water and sewer department have been working on a $1.5 billion capital improvement plan to fix the county's decrepit water and wastewater collection system. The county did so under pressure from the state and federal environmental protection agencies, which are suing Miami-Dade for failing to replace treatment plants and pipes that, in some cases, are more than 50 years old.

Well, turns out it's going to cost a little more. About $2.7 billion more to be exact. And when Miami-Dade is done paying off the bonds in 30 years, the entire project will end up costing taxpayers the equivalent of six Marlins ballparks.

See also:

- Environmentalists Sue to Block $1.5 Billion Plan to Fix Miami's Sewers

Last night, Banana Republican joined Miami-Dade Commissioner Xavier Suarez and AFSCME union president Emilio Azoy on Telemiami's show La Diferencia with host Roberto Rodriguez-Tejera to discuss the water and sewer department's plans. During the telecast, Suarez shared a memo from county Mayor Carlos Gimenez answering questions about why Miami-Dade needs to issue $4.2 billion in bonds, which would be paid by an eight percent increase to the annual water and sewer fees property owners pay.

The money would cover the following:

  • $550 million reconstruction of the controversial wastewater treatment plant on Virginia Key.
  • $408 million is penciled in for replacing and rehabbing the county's 1,035 pump stations and miles of transmission lines that run to and from the plants.
  • $2.692 billion of system rehabilitation needs to improve an aging infrastructure that's more than 50 years old
  • $377 million in captialized interest
  • $254 million reserve fund
  • $43 million to cover the cost of issuing the bonds

In response to one of Suarez's questions, Gimenez says "the total cost of the project is $12.6 billion" when the bonds are paid off in 30 years. "This number includes inflation, along with the cost of issuing the bonds," Gimenez added.

However, Azoy questioned the need to spend so much money, noting that the union has been fighting the water and sewer department for outsourcing work to private engineering work that could be handled in house. He noted that the water and sewer department has spent $193 million in the last five years hiring consulting firms.

"We've had situation were county employees can do the work for $80,000," he says. "But then the county hires an outside firm that ends up charging half a million dollars for the same job."

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.