center-liberty_web.jpgMIAMI — Concerns raised by community leaders could yield jobs for local workers at a $2.5 million health center under construction in North Central Miami-Dade County.

Employment of residents surfaced during the recent formal groundbreaking for the Liberty City Health Center, 2520 N.W. 75th St., which is being funded by the state. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., raised the jobs questions during the event.

“This project was designed for the people of Liberty City,” said Wilson, who called for local contractors to work with “stakeholders” to hire local “painters, plasterers and dirt haulers.”

“This is what we need to see. I’m asking you personally as  the congresswoman in our district,” Wilson said. Elaine Black, president/CEO of the Liberty City Community Revitalization Trust, added that her focus was “to ensure that our residents get employment.”

Black said that she contacted Lillian Rivera, administrator of the Florida Department of Health’s Miami-Dade Office concerning local jobs for the 10,000-square-foot health center.

“She came to our office within a week,” Black said. Similar remarks came from Emmanuel Washington of the Liberty City Community Economic Development Corporation. He said he spoke with Andy Wallace, operations manager for Ajax Building Corporation, which is building the center, after the groundbreaking. Washington said that while all contracts have been issued, Wallace promised to provide him with a list of contractors awarded jobs on the project and a schedule of the work to be done at the site.

“I will try to remind the contractors to make sure that we find out how many people from the community can be hired,” Washington said.

According to Washington, Wallace promised to call the contractors ahead to help facilitate constructive dialogue.  

“I feel good about him.  He will be my hammer,” Washington said. For Washington, the “first hurdle” is to get local workers on the job site.  The second is to assure that wages are fair.   On that point, Washington was confident that fair pay would not be a problem, based on federal and Miami-Dade County laws.  

Washington told South Florida Times this week that Wallace sent him a list of about 18 contractors on Friday, just over a week after the groundbreaking.  The same day, Washington said, one of the contractors called him looking for workers. 

“He asked for welders,” said Washington, who said that he hoped that local workers would be on the job at the site by “next week.”
Activist Ken Knight said that the work that he, Washington, and others are doing for local workers is important. 

“They have no advocates,” said Knight, who also said that people’s lack of familiarity with the process is often used against them.  “If you don’t know how [the staffing process goes], people will tell you anything,” he said.
Wallace said at the groundbreaking that construction began the middle of July, with completion expected in March 2014.  The roof and windows will be installed in October and partitions will be put in by November.

The ceremonial groundbreaking at the site brought together elected officials and representatives of the Florida Department of Health’s Miami-Dade Office (DOH), the Jessie Trice Community Health Center and Florida International University (FIU).

The event cemented a partnership among some of the community’s most important health providers and was billed not only as a celebration of that collaboration but also a key event in the build up to the coming implementation of major elements of the Affordable Healthcare Act, also known as “Obamacare.”

Attendees present were excited that services will be provided by what Rivera said were numerous local providers such as her agency, Jessie Trice, and FIU’s schools of medicine and nursing.

Annie Neasman, president/CEO of Jessie Trice, spoke glowingly of her agency’s “delight that we are partnering with FIU.”

“You can’t have anything better than this partnership we are putting together,” added Wilson. Wilson was also upbeat about the expected financial impact for nearby businesses such as dry cleaners and restaurants. “This one health clinic will be an economic catalyst,” she said.

Alluding to the controversy still surrounding the new health care law, Wilson said that the efforts to move forward with the full integration of the measure is “another battle.” Health Insurance Marketplaces will debut in 2014 and will, according to healthcare, gov, “offer a new way for people without insurance to get coverage and to find out if they can get lower costs for private insurance. They can also find out if they qualify for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.”


ARTIST RENDERING:  What the Liberty City Health Center will look like when completed.