Don't trust Pembroke Pines; don't ever trust Pembroke Pines.
It's run by a private contractor, City Manager Charles F. Dodge, in a secretive and dubious way. The city manager is aptly named -- Charlie dodges close scrutiny while he cozies up to the vendors in the town and makes multimillion-dollar decisions that have left the city all but broke.Tied to his hip is Mayor Frank Ortis, a lobbyist by trade who never saw a free dinner he didn't eat.
I can list a lot of reasons why Pembroke is Broward's worst-run city (and that's saying a lot), but let's start with the city center. Pembroke Pines bought a lot of land in 2003 and then sank millions into it with a contract with Stiles Corp. to lay down infrastructure. Altogether, the city has sunk about $70 million into the project (including the land), and now it lays vacant as a veritable wasteland. That hasn't kept the city from spending another million dollars on an ill-conceived September 11 monument for the nonexistent center.
I won't even get into the Raintree Golf Course fiasco (in which Ortis' wife had a previous role), the privatization of the building department with Calvin Giordano. I won't bring up the name Shawn Hiester either.
Suffice it to say the city is a fiasco. So why would anyone trust DodgeCo to add $115 million to the taxpayers' debt to build a second water treatment plant on the east side? Right now, the city has a contract with the City of Hollywood to do the job. Hollywood is revamping its water plant to comply with new regulations against dumping treated water into the ocean. Pines will have to pay a share of that, though nothing close to the $115 million it's planning to spend on its lone plant. And that's assuming the $115 million figure is accurate -- it had been estimated at higher costs.
On top of that, Hollywood has indicated that it will sue the Pines if it reneges on the contract. That could potentially cost many millions more on top of the whopping price tag.
The city should honor its deal and continue to join forces with Hollywood for the good of both cities and their residents. But DodgeCo doesn't see it that way. It's rushing toward the most expensive option in its characteristically furtive manner.
Why? What's in it for Dodge? Those are the questions people need to be asking. Even if Dodge is somehow right this time and his plan isn't another boondoggle, all of the options need to be clearly laid on the table for everyone to see. That kind of transparency unfortunately is foreign to Dodge.
The Sun-Sentinel's story on the Pines' plans for water treatment plants (yes, it's plural -- the other one planned for the west is expected to cost $47 million) is worth reading. It is here.
Inside, see a totally unrelated video I happened across of Broward's number-one "Junior" -- Wayne Huizenga Jr., heir to the Huizenga empire -- talking about his coming-to-Jesus moment. It provides an interesting peek into the cloistered world of Huizenga.
If you want to see more, click here, where you'll find a 21-minute video that tells the whole Huizenga story through Wayne Jr.'s eyes.