May 16 Local lawmakers in Florida's Miami-Dade
County on Thursday queried details of a planned $12.6 billion
reconstruction of the county's run-down water and sewer system
in a bid to counter swelling opposition to fee hikes tied to the
The same county legislators in April gave preliminary
approval for issuance of $4.25 billion of water revenue bonds
for repairs and improvements of 7,500 miles of sewer lines and
more than 1,000 pumping stations.
But on Thursday they held a special meeting to quiz county
administrators on proposed rate rises and possible alternatives
to the hikes. The unusual session was called by Commission
Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa, who on Tuesday cut short consideration
by a commission committee of the bond program.
Commissioners, including some responding to complaints from
constituents over raising fees unchanged for three years, and
Miami-Dade voters needed more information about the sewer
project and its financing, Sosa said.
Home to the City of Miami and Florida's most populous county
with 2.6 million residents, Miami-Dade has some of the lowest
water rates in America but is negotiating with the U.S.
government over fixing its mishap-prone system.
The federal government late last year sued Miami-Dade,
alleging it was violating the Clean Water Act. Environmental
activists this week won the right from a judge to join the
In 2010, a sewer pipe burst spilling an estimated 20 million
gallons of raw sewage into Biscayne Bay adjacent to Miami's
high-rise towers and other waterways.
"Hardly a month goes by that we don't have something burst,"
County Commissioner Esteban Bovo said on Thursday.
Miami-Dade officials told the county legislators on Thursday
that residents paying an average $125 a quarter for sewer and
water service would likely see rates rise by a third over the
first five years of the renovations.
County commissioners urged Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez
to consider seeking private investors to fund water treatment
plants and a rise in local hotel taxes mostly paid by tourists
as ways to reduce the rate increases.
Miami-Dade has until June 24 to sign off on a consent decree
with the federal government committing the county to the 15-year
Several of the county commissioners, who are scheduled to
take up the proposed consent decree on Tuesday, said during the
meeting on Thursday that the water and sewer system had to be
fixed both for public health and to ensure economic growth.