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North Miami Beach votes to outsource sanitation department

Sanitation workers Malcom Cobb, Mario Roberts, Perman Terry and Jim Wickett carry protest signs as they gather for a North Miami Beach council meeting Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015. The sanitation workers planned to speak out against North Miami Beach's proposal to outsource its sanitation services.
Sanitation workers Malcom Cobb, Mario Roberts, Perman Terry and Jim Wickett carry protest signs as they gather for a North Miami Beach council meeting Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015. The sanitation workers planned to speak out against North Miami Beach's proposal to outsource its sanitation services. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

After years of consideration, protests and negotiations, the city of North Miami Beach agreed on Tuesday to outsource its sanitation department.

The city council voted 6-1 at Tuesday’s council meeting to approve a contract with Waste Management, about a month after directing the city manager and staff to work out the contract. Councilman Frantz Pierre voted against the item.

The decision came two weeks after union workers from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) local 3293 and sanitation employees protested outside City Hall and asked the council to reconsider. Union members also asked if the city would consider delaying the vote to give people more time to read the contract.

City staff have consistently said that outsourcing the department will save North Miami Beach about $2.5 million a year and keep them from having to raise sanitation rates by about 38 percent over the next three years, if the department remained in-house.

The contract includes several compromises from Waste Management and requires the company to offer jobs to all of the city’s sanitation workers for the next five years at the same pay rate. Employees who live in North Miami Beach will also be given preference to remain on city routes, others will remain with the city or work with the company in other parts of Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

“I just want to keep on working for the city, I love working for the city,” sanitation employee Fidelis Laurencin said.

Council members said their decision was financially based and not on any individual’s performance in the department. The city plans to use the additional savings to support things like the parks and recreation and police departments.

“We’re now at the point where the city needs to make an economic decision and we need to make an economic decision in the best interest of our residents,” Councilwoman Beth Spiegel said. “There’s not a single employee in the sanitation department that we’re disappointed in.”

The city negotiated a $5,000 annual payment to purchase hybrid vehicles for code enforcement officers and Waste Management will continue the cart roll-out service for seniors and disabled residents.

Additionally, Waste Management will handle weekly recycling for the city, instead of their current bi-monthly service, and the company is required to give written notice of its start date and any changes to routes or collection schedules.

Councilwoman Phyllis Smith, who voted against approving the contract negotiations at the July 21 council meeting, said she would watch the company closely but had to support the move.

“When it comes down to this, when it comes down to the contract and the protection of everyone, every ‘i’ has been dotted, every ‘t’ has been crossed,” Smith said.

Waste Management is expected to take over the department when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

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