Garbage collection fees are something people either shrug off or give little attention to, because they’re usually incorporated into property tax bills.
That’s what Cutler Bay resident Fred Meyers, 89, thought.
The World War II veteran, who moved to Cutler Bay with his family after the war, said he was using a private garbage company to collect his trash for years until 2008, when he was brought Miami-Dade blue and green trash bins and was told that the fees would be included in his property tax bill.
“I asked him [the Miami-Dade employee] how much I’d have to pay, and he said, ‘Nothing, they’ll be assessed into your taxes,’” Meyers said.
That turned out to be false; Meyers had not been assessed for garbage fees and is now being retroactively charged what the county says he owes, plus late fees of around $100 of a month. The bill totals nearly $4,000.
“I don’t feel I owe a thing,” Meyers said. “I never got a bill. How am I supposed to pay something that I never got?”
The county discovered the lapse after Meyers called in for a tree-trimming pickup.
“First they told me my property was a vacant lot, then they said I hadn’t paid the garbage bill,” Meyers said. “The whole thing is a goof, and I’m the one who is paying the penalty.”
Meyers said due to his age, he doesn’t take time to go through the bill, but rather pays whatever the total amount is.
Cutler Bay Town Manager Rafael Casals said his office has no direct role in the dispute.
“We’re doing what we can. Unfortunately, this is a county issue and a dispute between Mr. Meyers and (Miami-Dade) Public Works and Waste Management,” said Casals. “All we can do is help facilitate between the two parties.”
PWWM did not respond to an email request for comment.
An email sent to Meyers’ friend and advocate Stephen Zarzecki from the office of Miami-Dade Commissioner Lynda Bell stated that PWWM offered a payment agreement to alleviate the impact of the back billing but Meyers refused the agreement.
“They wanted to do some sort of installment plan,” Meyers said. “That just doesn’t make sense. I’m not going to settle for that amount. It’s not my fault.”
Meyers said he is willing to settle but for a reasonable amount, not one that includes the late fees he is being assessed.
“You shouldn’t be liable for a vendor of service coming in and telling you one thing when the truth is something else altogether,” said Zarzecki. “That is where the injustice lies.”
According to Bell’s office, PWWM Director Kathleen Woods-Richardson is in the process of compiling information and will prepare a detailed letter about the case.
However, the situation has not been resolved.
“I just want to get this damn thing over with,” Meyers said. “I’m just too old and too tired for this.”