County lobbies federal officials for Homeland Security facility in Homestead
By Shannon Pettypiece
Miami-Dade County wants the federal government to create a Homeland Security training facility at the former Homestead Air Force Base and is pumping up lobbying in the next month to persuade officials.
The US Department of Homeland Security is expected to pick sites for 20-30 training facilities nationwide soon.
The county sent a study to the department Tuesday outlining why Homestead should be selected as one of the training sites, and has been lobbying decision-makers in Washington since July, said county spokeswoman Amy Artiles.
Nine South Florida congressmen recently wrote Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge advising him to place a regional facility in Homestead.
"Placing a regional office in Miami will greatly augment the primary investments made by the department to ensure Florida's largest metropolitan area has the coordination necessary with federal offices to manage a crisis," the letter the congressmen signed said. "In light of Miami-Dade County's unique position as a high-density, major population center, it is a credible target of terrorist activities - center coordination is necessary to protect South Florida."
Homeland Security spokeswoman Rachel Sunbarger said in July the department is hearing from a number of senators and governors seeking sites.
The Beacon Council has estimated an economic impact of $2.80 for each dollar spent on payroll at the facility.
Tuesday the county's public safety committee supported the study and the full county commission is to vote Sept. 23 on whether to accept it. If the commission approves, it would add ammunition to the county's lobbying.
"As soon as we pass the resolution, I'm ready to direct my staff to lobby for it to be placed here," said Commissioner Joe Martinez.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US Customs Services' Miami Air and Marine Operations, the Florida Air National Guard and the Florida Army National Guard have offices at the base, which also houses a joint intelligence-operations complex.
The county says 250 acres of the base are suitable for a training facility. The base has seven buildings, including a 90,000-square-foot hangar that could be used for storage, and will soon have a new water and sewer system.
"The base is a large, mostly-vacant facility that can easily accommodate additional uses," the study says. "All committee members recommend that the development of such a facility at this location is feasible."
County officials said they are optimistic about Homestead being selected.
"The consensus is that we have a really good shot at this," said Ms. Artiles. "We are lobbying hard to have it in Miami-Dade County."