South Miami

South Miami rejects plan to privatize trash collection

Applause spilled out of the doors of the commission chambers at South Miami City Hall on Tuesday as commissioners unanimously rejected an ordinance that would have privatized the city’s solid waste department.

City Manager Steven Alexander and his staff worked on the proposal with Waste Pro of Florida Inc., which could have saved the city more than $600,000 annually. Eleven jobs within the city’s public works department would have been affected had the proposal passed.

“I don’t think that I feel comfortable moving with this outside of a complete understanding of the budget and a necessity to do this,” Mayor Philip Stoddard said at the meeting. “I share the residents’ concerns. I see the obvious financial benefit. Public waste is certainly not broken. We get excellent services.”

Commissioner Bob Welsh suggested the commission defer the item and seek proposals from other trash-collection companies, but found little support.

“It was a franchise agreement that needed four votes to pass,” Alexander said. “It became clear that there wouldn’t be four votes. It’s about $600,000 we had that we are going to have to take out of the proposed budget.”

South Miami did not solicit proposals from trash companies, but planned to use the same agreement Waste Pro of Florida holds with the Village of Biscayne Park, established on a competitive solicitation.

Biscayne Park has a population of around 3,000 residents compared to 12,000 in South Miami.

“My feeling is even after an RFP [formal search for a trash company], whatever company came in, the results would be exactly the same as they are now,” Vice Mayor Walter Harris said at the meeting.

The city held a workshop Aug. 4 where financial experts from the city and Waste Pro discussed future plans with prospective employees.

“I would like to make it clear that from the start it was always what was in the best interest of the employees,” Harris said at the meeting. I say we had 22 remarks (Monday) strongly against going forward. I would vote no, not to defer, but to vote on it.”

Waste Pro has more than 165 municipal contracts with cities including Hollywood, North Miami, Pembroke Pines, and Biscayne Park.

“I would like to thank our city manager and his staff for doing their very best to look after the residents with the budget,” Stoddard said. “They have put forward what I think is a good proposal. We have not supported it, but I think we are all extremely appreciative that the manager has worked so hard to save us money and enable us to do more good things for the residents. ...

“I would also like to recognize Waste Pro for putting up the proposal to hire all of our employees. I would like to thank all of the residents and employees who spoke eloquently and conducted themselves civilly. You are always welcome back in City Hall.”