March 2020
City responds to COVID-19 pandemic;
progress continues on infrastructure
The onslaught of the COVID-19 virus has truly shaken up the world, and its effects have squeezed the fibers of our being right here at home. But even as our community and nation hunker down to stem the spread of this deadly and contagious disease, the city presses forward in its mission to improve our utility infrastructure. 

Before I talk about those developments, though, I want to update everyone regarding our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 13, I declared a state of emergency and have since ordered the closure of bars, restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and many other places where people congregate and could spread the virus. That has even included our public beaches.

Our city leadership has tried to chart a prudent and reasonable response to this new coronavirus. We have made our decisions based on the advice of healthcare professionals and in consultation with Gov. DeSantis, his emergency team and other metropolitan communities in our region. 

After we acted in concert with Miami Beach to close the beaches, the governor thanked Fort Lauderdale for leading by example in Florida.

The fact is that COVID-19 is spreading at an incredible rate in our community. When I initiated the first emergency action, there were 11 known cases in Broward County. Now, there are 180 and at least three deaths. That’s more than a 16-fold increase in nine days. We need to limit public gatherings and increase social distancing as much as possible. 

The three known deaths are particularly troubling. They occurred at an assisted living facility in our city and highlight the vulnerability of our sizable elderly population. 

No one likes the pain inflicted on our businesses and workforce. Nor do we take lightly shutting down the annual Spring Break ritual that has for so long help fuel our economy. However, we also cannot risk a repeat of the grim and horrible scenes from Italy of an overwhelmed medical system and death after death occurring. 

City management and I are exploring what steps we can take to help those who have been economically impacted and what we can do to advocate for assistance from the federal and state government. 

I encourage businesses to explore the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Loan program, the state’s Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program and the Short Time Compensation program. Additional assistance is on its way based on recently passed legislation by Congress. 

I’m heartened to see governments acting together.

We’ve worked with the federal and state government to set up a field hospital locally to handle any overflow of patients. And, testing is beginning to become more available so we better know the extent of the outbreak locally. And equally important, all 31 cities and the county have now established a dialogue to ensure that the actions we are taking are enforced throughout the region.

The restrictions that the city has imposed currently run through April 16. We assess these on a daily basis and will revise them as circumstances warrant.

I urge everyone to remain calm but take all necessary steps to protect yourself from catching the virus or spreading it. I also ask that you help our struggling restaurants and utilize the takeout and delivery options that many are offering in order to stay in business. 
Now, about our infrastructure…

The City Commission last week voted to immediately end the practice begun under a prior commission of raiding Fort Lauderdale’s utility reserves to cover the cost of general operations. 

This commission agreed after taking office to phase out this practice, which was euphemistically called a "Return on Investment," over a four-year period. However, in light of our need to rapidly upgrade our infrastructure we asked the city manager to find a way to end the practice altogether right now. 

These annual raids were dangerous and irresponsible, with $120 million drained in total during the years it occurred. Now, there is $20 million more a year that will go toward essential utility work. Moreover, the need to borrow money will be reduced. This was my argument when the city borrowed $200 million in 2017.

We have moved the city in a direction that is both good for taxpayers and our environment. I had fought these raids when I was a city commissioner and am glad that the practice has now ended during my time as mayor. 

We also are making significant progress to address the pipe failures we have experienced in recent months. Not only have broken pipes been repaired or completely replaced, the first sections of the new 7.5-mile pipe through the city’s central core have been installed in the past couple weeks. 

The immediate impact of the recent work is the ability to remove the above-ground bypass in Rio Vista that had to be installed in December. It is important to note that the work is being done through directional boring so as to create the least disruption possible to street-level traffic. 
While normally a project of this size would take at least three years, we estimate completion before the end of this year. The commission unanimously approved this project with initial estimates of an 18-month construction schedule and a cost of $80 million. We’ve cut both the timeframe now as well as the cost, which is coming in 18 percent under budget at $65 million. 

This line extends from the wastewater lift station at the Coral Ridge Country Club to the George T. Lohmeyer Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant. Two contractors are working simultaneously to expedite the construction. As segments are completed, we will transfer service off the old line to minimize the potential for future breaks. 

In addition to this, we completed installing nearly a mile of new sewer main in Victoria Park, a third of a mile of new sewer main on Northeast 36th Street and installed new sewer main in George English Park. We are also installing more than 3,000 feet of sewer main along East Las Olas Boulevard. 

The speed and scope of this work speaks to this City Commission’s intention to improve our infrastructure as rapidly as possible. 

We also continue to work with environmental consultants to analyze conditions in the portions of the Tarpon River and George English Lagoon affected by the earlier breaks. It is my personal promise that we will develop detailed and thorough plans for restoration of both waterways. 

In closing, I urge everyone to take every step possible to stay healthy as we fight off the COVID-19 virus. 

Keep your social contact to a minimum. Avoid large groups. Stay home if you’re sick. If you have a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, then seek medical attention. And please, wash your hands frequently and cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. 


Events before COVID-19 emergency regulations
Mayor Trantalis joins the students of Pine Crest Middle to support their Vertical Farming exhibit.
Mayor Trantalis and Commissioner Glassman enjoy the 13th Street Beer & Wine Festival + Car Show.
Mayor Trantalis celebrates with Betty Shelley on her longtime service to Fort Lauderdale at the Imperial Point dedication ceremony in her honor.
Mayor Trantalis and members of the City Commission thank the Fraternal Order of Police for their service at the annual FOP Banquet.
Mayor Trantalis helps to break ground for the Village View affordable housing apartment complex.
Mayor Trantalis joins local elected officials to brief Broward County for the first time on COVID-19.
Mayor Trantalis welcomes guests to the new location of HANDYat 1717 N. Andrews Ave.
Mayor Trantalis joins the Carolina family to help open their new fitness center, OsteoStrong.
Mayor Trantalis greets neighbors at the start of the city's annual Neighbor Support Night.
Mayor Trantalis celebrates the South Florida Flag Football League and the teams playing in the Sunshine Cup.
Mayor Trantalis honors James Carras on 35 years of service to Fort Lauderdale.
Mayor Trantalis recognizes International Women’s Day at the 3rd Annual "Excuse Me, That’s My Seat!"