It takes a special kind of group to build a multi-million dollar project in one of the most popular areas of South Florida to have it closed 25 years later and rebuilt all over again. One would think that this group, which failed the first time in delivering a long-lasting project, would not be given the task of managing the rebuilding once again.
But this group does exist. It is the City of Miami Beach, and the project is South Pointe Park pier, first built in 1979 and now the last remaining pier in the sunny sandbar. On Tuesday morning, the city celebrated the beginning of a $4.8 million project aimed at restoring the pier and giving it a fresh look to allow "ocean viewing and fishing".
The project, which is already one month behind schedule, is going to be finished one year from now. It will include special features, such as turtle-safe lighting to keep the beach a safe ground for turtle reproduction. What it will miss, however, will be a restaurant, shocking Dianne Thorne, a local activist focused on the park for the past few years.
Thorne, who is also the chairwoman of the local Libertarian Party, is suspicious of the $5 million-deal, contracted to the Weitz Company. "Where were the 3 bids required?"
Even the price tag linked to the project is more than eyebrow-raising. This project, according to Thorne, should not have cost more than a couple million dollars and $5 million is too much.
According to Maria Palacios, a city official working for the Office of Capital Improvements, the largest part of the funding for the new pier will come from local taxes (paying for 43% of the $4.8 million). Those local taxes include the Miami-Dade County Convention Development Tax and the Interlocal Resort Tax.
At the same time, $960,000 came from direct grants from the Florida Inland Navigation District, which is also publicly subsidized. The remaining 37% of the funding comes from the South Pointe Capital Fund, a public corporation.
In other words, virtually all of the funds that were given to the Weitz Company in a shady deal come from taxpayer money. Why? To pay for a pier that can hardly be considered an investment (since no restaurant will be allowed on the site), the whole for an overinflated price tag.
The South Pointe pier definitely needs some renovations. It is an old piece of wood because the original constructors in 1979 were too incompetent to make a long-lasting, public pier. Most Miami Beach residents would agree that the pier is in a bad shape and should be restructured.
The question that citizens should ask, however, is, "Why should taxpayers pay for the pier?" If the project is worthy enough to be done, a private enterprise could not only build the project, but also finance it, on behalf of a privately-run South Pointe Park. A private business can turn a new pier into a profitable venture and avoid the future degradation of the park, a degradation that is inevitable as long as the city government manages it.
In this case, the city government should have looked into private alternatives, as it is obvious that tourists and other taxpayers should not be forced into paying for the obscure deal that the last standing Miami Beach pier represents.