Miami-Dade economic stimulus plan moving full-speed ahead, is to help move $113 million worth of projects
By Risa Polansky
A Miami-Dade economic stimulus plan designed to jump-start the local construction industry is moving full-speed ahead.
About $31.5 million worth of projects are already in the pipeline, capital improvements head Johnny Martinez told the county's Citizens' Advisory Committee last week.
Within weeks, that number is to jump to $113 million, he said.
The stimulus plan, which commissioners approved in July, allows for expediting planned capital projects.
Under the plan, Mayor Carlos Alvarez has the power to advertise for bids and award them.
Rather than the lengthy process of OKing such measures prior, commissioners would later ratify his decisions.
Mr. Alvarez can approve change orders so long as they don't exceed contract amounts and is allowed to expedite procedures related to small business procurement programs.
The county estimates the plan will speed up the contracting process by as much as six months.
"There used to be a backlog of work, and now the backlog is not there," Mr. Martinez said.
Because the county needs to get its projects moving, and the construction industry is hurting for work due to the bursting of the real estate bubble and the dragging economy, "the timing is right to get the work out there," he said. "It's a win-win situation."
The plan comes as the national unemployment rate is at a nearly five-year high.
The US saw a net loss of 84,000 jobs in August, on top of the 60,000 lost in July, the Department of Labor reported Friday.
The local stimulus plan includes $625 million worth of capital projects.
About 18% of that total is to be in progress within weeks, Mr. Martinez said.
About 10% of the stimulus projects are to be backed by general obligation bond dollars, he told the advisory committee, which advises county officials on the $2.9 billion Building Better Communities Bond program, approved by voters in 2004.
According to a third-quarter report on the program submitted by County Manager George Burgess, 99% of the initial 2005 $266 million bond sale — about $263 million — has been disbursed.
About 792 projects are under development, with 95% of the projects running on time, the report shows.
The next bond sale, $325 million, is expected late this year.
With so many capital projects running smoothly, "we have statistically provided an economic stimulus through the GOB (general obligation bond)" program, said advisory committee Chair Robin Reiter.
To date, $203 million has been approved to accelerate 261 project sites moving faster than planned, Mr. Burgess said in his memo.
The funds are shifted from projects that are moving slower than anticipated.
But, Mr. Burgess wrote, "it is important to note that no projects have been delayed by the acceleration of other projects."