Wednesday, October 7, 2009
Help Me Howard: Re-Construction
If you live in Miami, you know Biscayne Boulevard has been a traffic nightmare for the past few years. One section was just finished last year, and now they are tearing it up again. Was it a mistake, and do taxpayers have to pay? It's why some people have been calling Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- This section of Biscayne Boulevard was a traffic headache during construction. Seventeen months of dust and detours. Then, last summer, it was finished, nice new road, smooth, wide sidewalks.
Shorty Collins, Jimmy's Diner: "The dust is flying, and people are all upset because here's these big holes again."
Big holes for 20 blocks in the brand new sidewalk just laid down as part of a $7 million project. Now, as this summer ends, Shorty Collins walks into work at Jimmy's and is amazed at what is being done.
Shorty Collins: "I've been here 40 years, and I've worked in this diner, and I hate to see money wasted. I work hard, I pay my taxes just like everybody else, and I hate to see money thrown away.
Seven million dollars spent to do Biscayne from 67th Street to 87 Street. A year later, now, $503,000 to tear into the new sidewalks to do them again.
Elvia Alvarenga: "We think it's a waste of the time, it's a waste of the money."
The Department of Transportation is spending the half million dollars so they can build 53 boxes to plant trees in the middle of the sidewalk and plant trees beside the sidewalk.
Shorty Collins: "Yeah, but if they had done it to begin with, it wouldn't have cost quite as much. Now you fix it, then you tear it up, and then you fix it again. What sense is that? That's ridiculous."
Wrong time to plant them, and for some business owners facing oak and palm trees in front of their doors, planted in the wrong places.
Susan Allen: "They are too close together, there is not enough room for them to grow, and then right here, where this tree is, it is going to be in front of my door, so you can't get in and out of my office."
Fifty-three trees within custom-made concrete boxes, another 150 trees beside the sidewalks costing $2500 per tree, but, Howard, taxpayers want to know why should they have to pay again.
Howard Finkelstein: "Unfortunately, even if you think the government makes a terrible decision, even if you think it's a wasteful use of your tax money, in almost every case you can't stop them, and because it's a state agency run by hired employees, you can't even vote them out of office."
When I spoke to the Florida Department of Transportation I was told this was not a mistake. That they did not have the money for landscaping when they did the road last year, that they didn't know when the money was going to be available and didn't leave the holes until it became available because they didn't feel that would be safe, but Howard says the trees could be a problem.
Howard Finkelstein: "If those oak trees block customers from getting to a business or the tree falls on a business, then you can sue them, and they could have to pay for the damage."
It's a dusty mess now and Shorty says a financial mess to her as well.
Shorty Collins: "They should have waited until they made sure they had the funding to it right or not do it at all."
Should the Department of Transportation have waited until they had the money to do the complete job or tear it up a year later, like they are doing now? Well, since I'm not the brightest bulb, I like to keep things simple. If you were going to put pavers and trees in your backyard and didn't have enough money for everything, would you put down the pavers this year, then, next summer, tear some of them up and plant the trees? I know what I would do. Now, I know why the state never calls me for advice.
Torn up over troubles you thought were in your rear view mirror? Don't get ripped up. Contact us. We'll try to smooth things over and come up with a permanent concrete solution.