North Miami Beach took a step toward outsourcing the city’s sanitation department by voting to allow NMB staff to negotiate a contract with Waste Management of Florida.
The city council voted 5-2, with council members Frantz Pierre and Phyllis Smith voting no, to give City Manager Ana Garcia direction to work on the contract. If negotiations with Waste Management are unsuccessful the resolution allows the manager to negotiate with Waste Pro of Florida, the second-ranked bidder.
The discussion of the item was occasionally tense and emotional from both the dais and in the council chambers as sanitation employees and residents asked NMB to reconsider. Staff said outsourcing the department will save the city about $2.5 million a year and will aid the department, which has operated in the red for several years and been unable to cover expenses.
Additionally, staff has promised that jobs will not be lost and the five-year contract will have an option allowing the city to issue a new request for proposals before it expires.
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“This decision cannot be about feelings or emotions, we can certainly hear people’s opinions, but the facts are that the numbers don’t lie,” Garcia said.
Under the proposal, she said, about 10 sanitation employees would remain in-house and 20 to 22 employees would go to the private company.
Residents and employees said that no matter what savings are proposed they think the level of service and the personal relationship with residents will be damaged.
“I don’t believe these private companies are going to do the job we can do in-house,” employee James Wickett said.
Council members said they sympathized with the employees but they had to make a financial decision. Staff estimated that sanitation rates would increase by about 38 percent over the next three years if the city continues handling the department.
“I answer to just about 43,000 residents who I don’t believe can afford a 38 percent price increase in their sanitation over the next three years, that’s a big increase,” Councilwoman Beth Spiegel said.
The lengthy discussion on the dais became tense when Mayor George Vallejo asked Pierre to expedite his discussion on the item and responded to a claim that he was pictured with a representative from Waste Pro in a brochure.
“Councilman Pierre, I’m going to tell you something very clearly, I can assure you that I have not done anything wrong,” Vallejo said.
Pierre threatened to leave the meeting momentarily after Vallejo continued to ask him to speed up his questions, but returned to his seat.
“I’m trying to help you, but we have to move forward,” Vallejo said.
Pierre responded and continued his questioning.
“Mr. Mayor you cannot help me, you’re not my mom, you’re not my dad, you’re not my girl,” Pierre said.
Consideration on outsourcing the department goes as far back as 2012 and restarted last July when the council asked for a new request for proposals and rejected an existing proposal.
Staff anticipates bringing the negotiated contract back for council approval in September.
“We may not like what we have to do, it’s not something we’re choosing to do, but it’s something that we feel is our responsibility,” Councilwoman Marlen Martell said.