Coral Gables Commission votes to raise sewer, waste fees

07/25/2014 5:30 PM

07/25/2014 5:47 PM

Storm water, sanitary sewer and solid waste collections fees are going up in Coral Gables.

The storm water fee will increase from $8.20 to 8.80 per month. Sanitary sewer charges will go up from $33.29 to $35.26 per month minimum, for those whose water usage doesn’t pass 700 cubic feet. The fee for those who go over 700 cubic feet will go from $4.76 to 5.04 per hundred cubic feet.

Solid waste fees will increase from $715 to $729 annually for single-family homes. For those who pay quarterly, the fee will go from $199 to $203. For auxiliary living units and apartments, the annual fee will increase from $357 to $364, and the quarterly fee will go from $97 to $100. For duplexes, the annual fee will jump from $1,430 to $1,459. If paid quarterly, it will go from $399 to $407.

The increases will be go into effect Oct. 1, the beginning of the city’s 2014-15 fiscal year.

The City Commission voted to up the fees Tuesday after city officials said they need to cover increasing fees from the county and higher operating expenses on the city side. Miami-Dade Water and Sewer bills customers in Coral Gables for the service and directs of portion of the money to the city for operating expenses and improvements.

Diana Gomez, the city’s finance director, told commissioners that apart from higher county fees, the city needs to plan for future infrastructure improvements.

“Revenues will not cover expenditures, so we need to increase the fee a little bit as well as start generating a fund balance in order to be able to handle the issues that will be coming up,” she said.

Public works director Glenn Kephart said the city’s sewer system is about 50 years old and will continue to require upgrades.

“I think we’re in a very good position right now,” he said. “We’re on top of it; five years ago we weren’t. We need to keep up that level of effort so that we get our system, as it continues to age, up to the proper standards.”

In other business, the city held a workshop to discuss the financing plan for the upcoming streetscaping of Miracle Mile. How the city and business owners should pay for the long-awaited and much-discussed project was the topic.

The city has proposed going 50/50 with property owners on and around the Mile to fund the estimated $18 million project. The property owners in the Business Improvement District would split their half, to be paid through a special assessment tax, depending on their location — 35 percent would be paid by properties directly on Mile and Giralda and 15 percent by adjacent properties.

During the workshop, some representatives for property owners said they found plan unfair.

Sabrina Rodriguez, an attorney representing the Westin Colonnade Hotel and commercial properties at 10 Aragon Ave., asked commissioners to reconsider the proportion to be paid by the property owners because some of the work to be done will include general maintenance of infrastructure and because upper floors of taller buildings don’t benefit as much as ground floor properties.

“We believe that a 50/50 split including general maintenance is burdensome to the taxpayer,” she said.

Members of the BID reiterated their request for the city to look into increasing parking meter rates by up to 50 cents per hour to help reduce the property owners’ share of the cost.

The City Commission will consider the financing plan at its August meeting, where a public hearing will be held.

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