Ballpark garage bonds benched
By Risa Polansky
Construction on parking for the new Marlins baseball stadium is to be delayed at least a month, with Miami's still-unfolding financial crisis causing interference.
The city planned to hit bond markets this month to finance the $75 million, four-garage, six-lot construction project — but an already overdue outside audit of city financial statements expected at the end of March won't come in until at least April 15.
"So this is prolonging the bond offering," griped Commissioner Frank Carollo, an accountant who has long been after the audit, at a commission meeting last week.
And not only that, he said: it's causing a "domino effect," pushing a planned May 3 start on the Marlins parking project to June 1.
"The Marlins stadium is actually getting done on time... and the last thing I want is for the city to look bad if we don't have the parking garages done in time," he said.
Project Manager Robert Fenton did not respond to a request for comment on what this means for the parking project schedule overall.
The garages and lots are supposed to be complete by 2011's end. The 37,000-capacity, retractable-roof stadium is to be done in time for baseball's opening day in April 2012.
Commission Chair Marc Sarnoff said he fears "the later we bond, that could have a $10 million to $20 million swing in cost to taxpayers."
The plan now is to issue bonds of up to $92 million to cover the $75 million project.
Chief Financial Officer Larry Spring said the city aims "to get that bonding done as quickly as possible" to keep the project on schedule but won't go to market without audited financial statements.
And, he said, officials are looking into "alternative financing" for the parking in case the city ends up "against the wall" when it comes to timing.
In an interview after the meeting, he said he could not elaborate on what type of alternative financing scheme the city might use as plan B.
Several factors have contributed to audit delays, commissioners were told last week, including city agencies late in turning in their numbers and an ongoing federal investigation of the city's finances.
The commission learned just weeks ago about a nearly $54 million hole in last year's budget and a potential $28 million deficit this year.
The much-anticipated audit could bring new information to light.