By: Max Crampton-Thomas
opens IMAGE file 2 min read January 2021 — Fort Lauderdale has consolidated its standing as the yardstick for South Florida’s pandemic response. Dean Trantalis, the city’s mayor who won re-election in November, shares with Invest: how the city found the balance between safety and economic growth.
The city has increased impact fees. How does that cater to the city’s infrastructure needs?
Funding our infrastructure needs requires different sources, we cannot just rely on borrowing money through bond issues. We raised the impact fees after 15 years of remaining at the same level because we came to realize the city’s significant needs and that developers are able to absorb the impact of these fees and still ensure profits. Profit margins here in South Florida are much larger compared to pre-COVID New York City. The development community is extremely happy at what we are doing in terms of putting up pump stations and replacing old, worn-out pipes, creating a framework for growth. It becomes an imperative for a municipality that looks to continue to encourage growth to maintain a sound and strong infrastructure system. These needs go well beyond sewage and freshwater pipes to include sidewalks, street lighting and traffic infrastructure in close coordination with the county and adjacent municipalities to figure out solutions for managing traffic.
We have also engaged a private contractor to test our waterways every single week from once a quarter. Fort Lauderdale is the Venice of America, it relies on water as the lifeblood of its economic engine and recreational activities. Our goal is to obtain clean waterways to make them suitable for humans and marine life. We are the first to take this issue seriously as we want to attract people to our community. We want to ensure businesses setting up shop here are coming to a clean, safe environment. Our inhabitants are also increasingly aware their city leaders are paying attention to a need that has been long overlooked.
How do you balance economic growth and development with a safe environment for both visitors and residents?
We realized throughout this pandemic that there needs to be a balance between saving people’s lives and protecting livelihoods. That balance proved to be an experiment because no one has really had experience with dealing with such a pandemic, especially in a community such as ours that has extremely transient factors, with millions of visitors coming here every year, meaning diseases can spread much easier as a result. Fort Lauderdale is taking a leading role in dealing with the pandemic.
We are working closely with the governor’s office to multiply testing sites and vaccination sites in our city and had a field hospital set up at the outset, which thankfully was not needed. Until vaccination is widespread, we are going to keep ourselves safe by allowing certain restrictions to continue monitoring our lifestyles going forward.
How is Fort Lauderdale positioned for a 2021 rebound?
When COVID-19 came into our community, we did not stop the other things we were doing. Infrastructure projects that had been launched continued to move ahead, we did not miss a step. It was even helpful because with no people on the streets and fewer cars, we were able to allow our contractors to carry out drilling and installations when a busier time would have impeded such fast-paced progress. Our infrastructure projects are ahead of schedule and under budget.
We are looking for ways to work with one another in the business sector to gauge how we can improve our norms and standards because we do not think that COVID-19 will be the last pandemic we experience in our lifetimes. Shame on us if we should be so unprepared. Our area has had hurricanes for several years now. We know how to anticipate and prepare for them. Today, South Florida has the strongest building codes in the country and the greatest weather forecast capacity nationwide. The same work needs to be done on the pandemic front.
For more information, visit: