Audits Say Jungle Island Is Not Keeping Pledge to Government Loans
ble to pay down the federal loan that financed its move.
As guarantors of the loan, Miami and Miami-Dade County have shelled out more than $26 million in principal and interest. But even that hasn’t been enough to keep the park afloat.
In 2009, the city loaned Jungle Island $800,000 — and agreed to defer $1.9 million in rent payments. That was the deal that also required Jungle Island to award half of all park jobs to low- and middle-income workers.
Two years later, Jungle Island commissioned an economic impact study in which the Washington Economics Group consulting firm found that 1,169 jobs exist because of Jungle Island.
“In total, operations of Jungle Island, along with the associated visitor expenditures, generate almost $41 million in labor income for workers in the city of Miami each year — a significant contribution,” the consultants wrote.
It was not clear how or if the city audit findings could affect the $25 million federal loan. HUD did not immediately respond to questions.
Miami Auditor General Theodore Guba asked for a legal opinion on the matter in an Oct. 26 email to City Attorney Julie O. Bru, records show.
On Tuesday, Bru said she had not yet weighed in. She declined further comment, saying the audit was still in draft form and considered confidential.
City Manager Johnny Martinez also declined to comment.
Commission Vice Chairman Marc Sarnoff said he was troubled by the findings.
Sarnoff, who had not yet reviewed the audit report, pointed out that Jungle Island has had issues upholding its end of the bargain in the past.&a