The North Miami Beach council rejected a plan to negotiate with a private trash-hauler on Tuesday — to the delight of union members, city employees and residents who had turned out to protest the outsourcing of garbage pick-up.
“I am grateful,” said Janice Coakley, the president of the union American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, Local 3293 in North Miami Beach, after the meeting. “I lost sleep over this.”
Earlier this year North Miami Beach put out a bid to gauge the cost of using private sanitation company. The city has budgeted about $10 million for the sanitation department in the upcoming fiscal year, according to Assistant City Manager Mac Serda, and expect to save about $2.5 million by going with a private hauler.
The failed resolution would have allowed the city manager to enter into contract negotiations with trash hauler WastePro.
Even though the resolution did not pass it can be brought before the council again, according to the city clerk.
“I don’t know anyone who doesn’t look in their private life to look for the best deal. Everyone looks to get the best value for their money,” said Mayor George Vallejo, the only councilmember to vote in favor of starting talks with the hauler, in an interview after the meeting. “As the stewards for the public’s money it’s our responsibility to make sure we get the best value.”
The vote on the resolution brought in an overflow of people in the council chambers, some of whom had to stand in the hallway because of a lack of seats.
Union members, including some city sanitation employees, employees with other city departments, residents and local politicians were among those who spoke in favor keeping the sanitation department in-house.
“Please heed the cliché: If it’s not broken don’t fix it, don’t change it,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally A. Heyman at the meeting. “As you deliberate, and you have been for months please remember we are government and our business is public service. Private companies are in the bottom line, for-profit business.”
Councilwoman Beth E. Spiegel said she would like to see the city do an analysis of the sanitation department to see if the city can run the in-house service more efficiently before making any decisions.
“I am all for saving our resident’s money but I want to do it responsibly,” said Spiegel at the meeting . “I want to do it for the long hall, for the long term, and I am not certain at this time that the appropriate decision is to take apart our sanitation department.”
Spiegel went on to say she wants more concrete numbers explaining how the city will save money with privatization. She also asked the union leaders to make concessions during budget negotiations.
“I am just not sold that we have done the right in-house analysis to see if we can do this more efficiently. I think that the city probably can do it more efficiently with less employees,” at a lower cost, Spiegel said, adding that changes such as changing routes could improve the service. “If we have four bidders who come in, who all say we can do the same service you are doing for less money and at a lower cost, it’s telling me number one, we are not doing it efficiently and number two salaries, benefits, pensions costs are too high.”
Coakley said the union will “continue negotiating with the city in good faith.”
Prior to the meeting, members of the union presented the city clerk with a petition with nearly 700 signatures in favor of keeping the city’s sanitation services the way they are following a rally at city hall.
Shawn Raines, a North Miami Beach sanitation employee, was among those who collected signatures and attended the meeting.
“It’s in your heart, you have to love what you do,” said Raines after the meeting. “And I love picking up trash.”
In other business:
The council voted against the first reading of an ordinance that would have permitted alcohol services and nude dancing in the city’s three existing adult establishments by exempting them from a current law that prohibits the mixture of the two. The resolution failed on a 3-4 vote.
Vallejo, Councilwoman Barbara Kramer and Councilwoman Marlen Martell voted for the ordinance.
SMG Entertainment, the group that owns the adult-entertainment club Swinging Richards, filed a lawsuit in June against the city which claims that the city exempted Miami Gold, the former name of Swinging Richards, from the provisions of 1989 ordinance that regulates alcohol in all-nude adult entertainment establishments.
The lawsuit also cites among damages.
The city has filed a motion to dismiss the case which is set to go before a circuit court judge on Aug. 24.