The first year of Mayor Steven C. Bateman’s two-year term was a whirlwind of activity and accomplishment. “I hit the ground running on the day I was sworn-in and never looked back,” said Bateman. Bateman takes an active and hands-on approach as Mayor and walks and drives daily throughout the city.
In Bateman’s recent State of the City Address, he described Homestead’s past, present, and future. According to Mayor Bateman, “During the last year, the City Council adopted a vision of public responsiveness, reduced costs, and streamlined government. The City Council has listened to you, our public, and has responded to your needs.”
To frame the policies of the City Council over the next several years, a very successful visioning session was conducted on May 20th with the City Council and the City’s executive staff. The session was facilitated by Dr. Scott Paine from the University of Tampa. The goal of the visioning session was to align the efforts of the council to develop a government that is truly responsive to its citizens.
Five vision statements were generated from the all-day session. The vision statements will be used as a blueprint to guide the city council and the administration.
Bateman is especially proud of the more than $64 million dollars of capital projects that were initiated or completed during the last year. Ten new projects ranging from the new $30 million charter high school at the baseball stadium, to much-needed road improvements on Mowry Drive, to major landscaping projects on highly-travelled thoroughfares are revamping Homestead’s quality of life and appearance.
The City’s new projects are also creating new jobs. Local businesses receive a 10% preference in the bid process and 70% of labor must be Homestead residents. Mayor Bateman believes that the recovery of Homestead’s economy is forthcoming as a result of the City’s local “stimulus” program.
During the last year the City started a new trolley system which circulates throughout Homestead. Two trolleys circulate throughout the City on a North- South Route and an East-West Route. The trolley stops at major points of interest and connects to the Miami-Dade Metrobus system and the South-Dade Busway System. The trolley operates free-ofcharge.
An in-house recycling program was started in April. The City purchased 11,000, 95-gallon recycling containers with grant funds. Two recycling trucks were purchased from Environmental Protection Agency grants. The City expects an operating surplus the first year.
The City opened a state-of-the-art community center with substantial new amenities. The Community Center was expanded to 17,000 Sq. Ft. from 6,000 Sq. Ft. The Center was renovated and expanded to include a gym, ceramics room, computer room, health and exercise room, and a multi-purpose room. The new building houses a state-of-the-art kitchen and a 3,000 Sq. Ft. banquet hall used for weddings, receptions, and special events.
The development and adoption of the City’s budget was a major achievement for the City Council and administration. The City started with a budget gap of $7 million. In this difficult budget year, many difficulties presented themselves such as a 31.2% decrease in property values, a 13% increase in insurance premiums, a 7.4% increase in General Employee pension costs, and a 15.1% increase in Police pension costs.
The City’s revenue producing departments and operational cost cuts balanced the budget. The City’s budget was balanced and adopted with no tax increases, no increases in Utility Funds fees, and no reduction in staffing. Employee cost-ofliving increases were not funded in the budget. “Once again, the City’s employees have stepped-up to the plate,” said Bateman.
Education was a major priority for Mayor Bateman and the City Council. The City facilitated the building of a new charter high school in partnership with Charter Schools USA at the baseball stadium. The new charter high school will have a positive economic impact on the area in addition to the educational benefits. More than $30 million will be invested from the private sector subject to the approval of the lease.
The City also supported the development of several local schools including the School Board’s Homestead MAST Academy, Dade Medical College, and the arts-based Atala Montessori School in the ArtSouth complex in our downtown. The MAST Academy, a public high school for medical studies, will be fully operational in 2011 in the old Homestead hospital site. The projected enrollment will be 1,500 students in grades nine through twelve.
The City started construction of Phase I of the 34-acre Roscoe Warren Municipal Park, the City’s flagship park. Phase I includes basic park infrastructure, bathrooms, four soccer fields, pavilions, playground, and walking trails. The cost of Phase I is $5 million and is funded from impact fees, the County’s General Obligation Bond Program, and Safe Neighborhood Parks grant funds.
According to Bateman, “A beautiful city is a proud city.” The City started major landscaping and aesthetic improvements in highly-traveled areas of the City, mainly on Campbell Drive. Hundreds of Live Oak trees were donated by numerous local growers. In the next few months, more than $500,000 of landscaping and irrigation projects will be completed throughout the city.
The City hired a Community Redevelopment Agency Director and staffed the department, which had been non-operational for more than a year, with several new employees.
The Community Redevelopment Agency is working on a new series of redevelopment projects with an operating budget of $7 million. The City started a citywide Crime Watch Program which ultimately will operate with 70 to 100 crime watch volunteers. We formed a Community Policing and Crime Watch Committee of local citizens to be the “eyes and ears” of the Homestead Police Department. This committee will also address safety concerns surrounding our community and our citizens.
Several key personnel were hired during the year. The City now has a new City Clerk and a new Community Redevelopment Agency Director. A national search for a City Manager is underway. The new City Manager will start working in November. Mayor Bateman has a clear view of Homestead’s future. He states, “I envision Homestead as a thriving, active and diverse City with lower taxes and a quality of life second to none.”