Residents pack Town Hall with blasting concerns

Wednesday, August 1, 2018 0 Comments


In 2000, the state stripped Miami-Dade County of its power to regulate the rock mining industry’s blasting near Miami Lakes, Palm Springs North, Miramar and Southwest Ranches in Broward County. 

As a result, city officials and residents felt helpless as the blasting allegedly caused years of damages to their homes, driveways and swimming pools, even after turning to the state’s Fire Marshall Office, which regulates and monitors blasting, for help.

But while Florida is putting the finishing touches on a new study to try to resolve the problem, Miami Lakes residents learned about a county resolution which allows Miami-Dade and local cities affected by the explosions to take some action.

At the July 17 Miami Lakes Town Council Meeting, residents packed Town Hall and called out council members for knowing about the resolution but instead blamed the state for allowing the rock miners to blast at higher rates with seismic consequences.

“We have been lied to,” one resident said, who spent thousands of dollars for repairs to her home.

According to the county’s resolution, which was sponsored by Commissioner Esteban Bovo Jr. in 2016, the Miami-Dade County mayor was directed to order the study on the effects caused by the blasts, revising the timeframe for the requirement that a portion of the Miami-Dade County Lake Belt Mitigation Plan fees be used for the analysis.

The resolution also called for the county to review mining activities and claims relating to blasting and include a review of the effects of the statewide ground vibration limit for construction material mining activities.

If the explosions violate state regulations, Miami-Dade must notify state legislators and demand the rock miners be sanctioned.

But the state places the cap on the strength of the rock miners’ blasts.

According to the county, Bovo’s resolution was an urging in support of two proposed Legislature bills that would have provided for the study, however, both bills died and no further action was taken.

For local action, State Representative Manny Diaz Jr., created a local blasting task force which includes Miami Lakes residents Josh Dieguez, Albert Aquiar and Daissys Estrada, Country Club of Miami Community Councilman Alex Rizo, Palm Springs North resident Mercy Sierra and Miramar resident Kate Tobon.

The group will scrutinize the results of the state’s blasting study, which is scheduled to be finished by next month.

On the other side of the spectrum, the rock miners argued they are blasting within state regulations, and the fact the mines were there in West Miami-Dade before the nearby homes were built. 

The industry said some mine owners complained that the housing developments are encroaching on them, rather than vice versa.

But the long-running blasting dispute that pits homeowners against the rock miners took a different turn when residents accused council members of overlooking the county’s resolution and alluded to the rock miners contributions to their political campaigns.

“I ask you to take action despite taking money from the rock miners,” said Abel Fernandez, a retied firefighter. “Our homes are damaged and the blasts are affecting our kids in school who are distracted by the blasting. You have the ability and connections to take action.”

Claudia Luces said council members should focus on residents’ pockets instead of the rock miners’ donations.

“Taking about the quality of life, but let’s talk about something more important, and that is our four walls,” she said. “Residents’ homes are being destroyed and it costs a lot of money for repairs. Let’s be proactive about this. These are our homes.”

Council members indicated they were unaware of the resolution but targeted the best source to address the problem, which is the state’s Chief Financial Officer Jim Patronis, who paid a visit last year to survey the damages. 

Mayor Manny Cid, who has been affected by blasting since he was 8-years-old, said after the county’s efforts over the years and homeowners’ lawsuits failed, Miami Lakes took the fight to Tallahassee. 

He said it’s an uphill battle to mitigate the blasting, especially since the explosions create materials to build roads, parking lots and buildings for federal and state governments.

“It was time for a change and we went to Tallahassee and talked to the governor and our state representative,” Cid said. “And look what we got done? It’s the first time in 20 years we got the first study on blasting done. We are with you. When the study comes out, we will look at the results and ask questions and keep fighting until we get something done.”

Councilmember Nelson Rodriguez, a firefighter who’s also affected by the blasting, said the town can’t take the action it wants to regulate the explosions under the county’s resolution.

“If there was something we can do, we would be ahead of the game,” said Rodriguez, whose pool and driveway have cracks. “It’s time to show strength in numbers and go to Tallahassee.” 

Vice Mayor Frank Mingo, who’s running for state representative, fought off an attack which accused him of accepting campaign contributions from rock miners’ lobbyists. 

“I have lived in Miami Lakes since 1986 and my house has cracks,” he said. “I’m committed to do something about the blasting. I will make it work, you have my word.”

Councilmember Ceasar Mestre said the town accomplished a lot in Tallahassee and believes the issue will finally get resolved.

“Myself and Councilmember Tim Daubert sat up here for eight years, the longest on the council, and we sat in the conference room with the CFO and told him our concerns about the blasting issue,” he said. “We sat there and held his foot to the fire. Look how far we have gotten?”

Some Miami Lakes residents said they have joined Palm Springs North and Miramar homeowners to fight Tallahassee and the rock miners as well, hoping for better results. 

One resident said Miramar temporarily stopped issuing blasting permits until a solution is in place to mitigate the properties damages.

“The blasting has brought down my property values,” she said. “We are paying for our homes and we deserve peace.”

In other Council actions:

• Council members gave their final approval for an ordinance to complete the buildout of the town’s sidewalks network, requiring the repair of existing sidewalks damaged by construction work.

The ordinance also calls for future sidewalks to be developed consistent with the town’s adopted Complete Streets plan.  

• Council members gave their initial approval for an ordinance to adopt and ratify the non ad-valorem special roll and special assessment district rates for the town’s Special Taxing Districts for Security Guard and Lake Maintenance.

The final assessments must be approved no later than September 15.

• Council members approved a resolution to tentatively keep the same rate for property taxes, 2.3353 mills, for the next fiscal year.

The proposed rate is projected to generate at least $7.1 million in tax revenues. But the town may have lose about $350,000 if voters approve the additional $25,000 Homestead Exemption in November.

However, a possible increase in property values may offset the lost of property tax revenues.

Lawmakers will vote on a final tax rate and budget during two budget hearings scheduled for Tuesday, September 4 at 5:05 p.m. and Tuesday, September 18 at 6 p.m. at Miami Lakes Town Hall.

• Council members approved a resolution to amend the current budget to shift funds over to finance projects and provide education and training for town staff and council members.

The budget changes include $114, 750 for the town’s On Demand Transportation services; $45,000 for repairs to the Roberto Alonso Community Center at Royal Oaks Park; and $21,500 for the West Lakes Phase 3 and drainage improvement.

• Lawmakers authorized the town manger to increase the contingency reserve by an additional $75,000 for the Lake Sarah Roadway and drainage project, as well as approving a revision to the current budget transferring funds from the capital projects fund.

The project is located between Miami Lakeway South, Palmetto Expressway and N.W. 67 Avenue.

• Council members approved a resolution requesting the county road impact fees accumulated by construction projects in Miami Lakes be used for the Palmetto Underpasses project.

The project includes creating two new east-west connections at N .W. 146 Street and N.W. 159 Street under the Palmetto Expressway to enhance connectivity to mitigate gridlock along N.W. 154 Street.

• Council members approved a resolution instructing the town manager to apply for the Enterprise Florida Inc., and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Florida Job Growth Grant Fund Public Infrastructure Grant for the Miami Lakes Business Park East Infrastructure and Economic Development project.

• Council members authorized the town manger to execute a work order under an existing contract for miscellaneous engineering services for $62,396 to Kimley-Horn and Associates for the Par 3 park-and-ride facility traffic assessment study.

• Council members approved Council member Luis Collazo’s request for town staff to confer with the county about adding a fire rescue unit at Miami-Dade Station 64 to achieve a faster response time in the area.

Collazo said he attended a Miami Lakes Public Safety Committee meeting, where Miami-Dade Fire Chief Dave Downey discussed an opportunity for an extra unit at the fire station by  paying for service or the county redeploying fire trucks from other stations.

• Council members approved Cid’s proposal for town staff to look into changing the town’s code for roofing resilience following Hurricane Irma.

Cid said some roofs in Miami Lakes still have blue tarps and amending the code to allow other types of roofing materials that are more sustainable is the best option for the town should the town gets hit by another powerful hurricane.

• Council members approved Council member Tim Daubert’s request to change the designated council parking space at Town Hall to a Purple Heart space.

Please login or register to post comments.