Residents Clear At Solid Waste Sunshine Meeting: Don’t Mess With Our Trash Service

Ariel Fernandez

Founder & Editor
[email protected]


On Thursday, October 27th, the Coral Gables City Commission held its long-awaited Sunshine Meeting on Solid Waste.

The meeting had been requested by the Commission on May 31st. It was initially scheduled for August 18th and rescheduled following Gables Insider‘s reporting on the meeting being improperly noticed and scheduled in the middle of the day, limiting resident ability to participate. It was then rescheduled twice, providing staff with nearly five months to prepare for this important meeting.

However, preparation was seemingly inadequate.

In May, the Commission had requested that staff be prepared to answer questions on how to cut costs. As Gables Insider reported last week, only one cost-cutting option was presented, and it was one that residents have overwhelmingly stated they would not accept.

Staff presented three options: leaving things as they are, using 96-gallon bins picked up at your backdoor or using 96-gallon bins picked up curbside. Curbside was the only “cost saving” option, although even that was questioned by residents. The Commission stated that that option was not under consideration, even thought it was on the presentation.

County Pass-Throughs

The Commission discussed County Pass-Throughs, fees assessed by the County for services provided to municipalities. In this case, the fees to dispose of the waste. Staff was asked to provide the amount of the pass-throughs and the Manager confirmed an amount of $250,000 to $300,000, but the Assistant Public Works Director for Solid Waste, Paula Rodriguez, said it was between $100,000 and $150,000.

Mayor Vince Lago addressed this point. “There is ever increasing County pass-throughs that we must deal with. This year, the Commission for the first time that I am aware of, did not pass that money on to the residents. We took it out of the budget. That pass through did not go to the residents this year. This year, we as a City, voted by the Commission, decided to take it upon ourselves and take it out of our budget.”

Vice Mayor Michael Mena added that, “we didn’t pass through the cost from the County, but its a matter of time before those costs are going to get passed through to the residents.”

However, resident Maria Cruz questioned this matter during her public comment. “When we talk about subsidizing, who pays for us?…our taxes, the taxes that we pay. So if we choose to have the services and the money comes from the taxes that we pay, that’s a choice we make.”

Cruz was referring to the fact that the City Commission does not have a budget of their own, nor does the City create revenue. The money used to cover this pass-through is actually taxes paid by property owners. So at the end, residents paid for it from the taxes they already pay, not from an additional fee assessed by the City.

As a point of reference, Gables Insider recently reported that the City Manager presented a budget for the next fiscal year, which was unanimously approved by the Commission, that provided over $637,000 in raises for himself and the top 54 “executives” in the City.

City’s Garbage Fee

“I think what we have here is a little bit of a fudge. Many many years ago since probably nobody knows when it was done, there was a budget issue and rather than increase taxes they decided to put in a waste fee. And all of a sudden we have a waste fee,” stated resident Juan Galan, Jr. who explained that he was a former municipal accountant and served on the City’s budget advisory board in the past.

Although Galan was discussing the financial component from his standing as a financial specialist, Lago questioned Galan, “since you mentioned you are a consultant, you have an extensive background as you always mention, will you be so kind and explain to me what would you do to stop illegal dumping here in the City?”

The point of illegal dumping is Lago’s explanation for having removed his own trash pit, although he did explain during the meeting that, “even though I may not have a trash pit, at the end of the day, I still put things out in the curb” once or twice a month. Galan rejected Lago’s attempt to change the subject, “that has nothing to do with how you pay for it.”

Green Matter

“The amount of green matter we dispose of, is off the charts.” Its just unsustainable the amount and it goes to show that this green matter is coming from somewhere else outside the residence,” added Lago.

Galan explained that he used to reside on Coral Way, which is lined by large historic Banyan trees. He explained that “we are known as the Green City. The Green City means we have trees. I challenge you to prove to me that any other city has more trees than we do. So I don’t think that’s an appropriate comment.”

Galan was referring to the City’s designation as Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. The City was one of the first municipalities in Florida recognized and has held the designation for over 37 years. As such, Coral Gables can easily be spotted by flyers departing from and arriving at Miami International Airport due to its lush tree canopy.

Goal Of The Meeting

Residents who addressed the Commission expressed their concerns over the possibility of removing trash pits. Lago continuously argued with them and stated that they should not believe what they believe in “blogs” and that no one is stating that the City wants to get rid of trash pits.

Partially explaining resident’s concerns would be Lago’s words:

  • “I think that we need to incentivize individuals to consider removing their trash pits.”
  • “If we are going to allow trash pits to continue, again I have already said we are not here to remove trash pits, this is something that is out there 24 hours a day 365 days a year.”
  • “I think we need to divert as much trash from the trash pits, one way or another.”

Resident Emilio Calleja explained that “one of the qualities of life I enjoy in Coral Gables is the system we have.” “We have a Cadillac system, we have a Rolls Royce system. You want to take that away, that’s what I am hearing. I am hearing that we are discussing deleting one of the things that makes us want to live in Coral Gables.”

Lago went into a lengthy diatribe discussing their 30-year friendship, personal connections and the Calleja being “a smart man,” then questioned why he didn’t believe Lago when he said he didn’t want to get rid of trash pits.

Calleja answered, “from what I hear, it sounds that way. To be honest with you, when you say, ‘I don’t have a trash pit, I want to do away with it.’ And this guy doesn’t have a trash pit and ‘we want to eliminate,’ what do we get?”

Resident Candido Quintana rose to speak after Calleja and stated “Mr. Mayor it does sound like the elimination of the pits is a consideration and I want to be totally against that.”

Former Commission candidate Javier Baños also agreed with Calleja and Quintana. “I can read between the lines and, I know the Mayor can say and the rest of the Commission can say that you’re not taking trash pits, but you are not exactly not endorsing the idea so reading between the lines, it seems to be where we’re heading.”

Costs

Although they are the experts on the subject matter, City staff was unable to answer basic questions with detailed facts.

When asked about the annual cost per household for garbage, trash and recycling, the Commission was given a ballpark figure of “around $1,200.”

Commissioner Rhonda Anderson who had asked for the presentation’s breakdown comparing other municipalities include the costs associated and volume for each, never received her answers. “I did ask you to present to us some estimates and what it costs in other municipalities to have these different services, do you have any of those figures available?”

Rodriguez replied, “I don’t have that information available today. We could work and provide it to you at a later date.”

As the Commission had asked for cost-cutting options, Anderson asked, “Are there any other options we have to look at for saving costs?” After no response from staff, Lago allowed them off the hook, shifting the conversation “I think we need to divert as much trash from the trash pits, one way or another.”

Baños also chimed in on the costs, questioning the only cost-cutting option presented by staff. “I don’t see the marginal savings when you add into account the fact that this is just the trash pits, getting rid of the trash pits or modifying the trash pits would only be a reduction of a portion of those $1,200 and then you are going to add to it the additional cost, the upfront cost, of modernizing your equipment, in order to allow for the 96-gallon tanks plus buying the tanks.”

Staff explained that trash pick up accounts for 48% of the annual trash costs per household.

Galan had brought up the costs in his comments. He explained that he lives in a large home and that he “expect[s] to pay more” than someone in a smaller home or with a smaller lot. “Why is it that we are charging everybody the same charge when our houses and our property taxes are vastly different?”

Vice Mayor Mena balked at this idea, stating that residents in larger homes “are paying more than a smaller home with lesser property tax bill for public works, streets, police, fire. They are paying more for all those things already and I don’t necessarily think that a bigger home uses the street more or uses police and fire more than a slightly smaller home.”

Referendum

Cruz explained that she believes residents should ultimately make the decision on what the City does regarding trash pits and services. She stated that the Commission should put the issue up for a referendum on the ballot.

Mena thought Cruz’s point was valid and something the Commission should consider.

However, Commissioner Jorge L. Fors, Jr. stated that there may not be a need for a referendum, asking staff how many households have trash pits. Staff did not have a concrete answer. “It might be a built-in referendum. How many people do have it? If less than 50% of people have them, then you may not even need a referendum.”

Poll Results

Gables Insider conducted a poll of subscribers on the issue of trash pits. 477 of you took the poll. Here are the results.

What Comes Next

Lago stated that he would send a memo to the Commission discussing only allowing green matter in trash pits and ways to “make a real push and follow the code on that front.” The memo would be discussed at a future Commission meeting, where the Commission is able to take legislative action.

Watch The Meeting

To watch the video of the meeting, you can click here to visit the City’s YouTube Channel.

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30 thoughts on “Residents Clear At Solid Waste Sunshine Meeting: Don’t Mess With Our Trash Service

  1. Jim Jensen, You are not the type of person that should be in Coral Gables. You are disrespectful, crass and should not bring in political narratives. You sir, are a disgraceful person. Respect others as God is watching.

  2. Making fun of someone—that hits below the belt— cheapens the value of the Gables Insider.

  3. Lourdes has a geranium in her cranium. Medicare is socialized medicine- government run health care- ask your Republican Trump friends if it should be eliminated? The pits are awful. A vocal minority invaded the commission meeting because the rest of us are working to fund the socialist programs you are feeding off Lourdass.

  4. Man, Lourdes, who peed in your coffee this morning? You sound like a total snob.

  5. Happy the pits are staying! First the liberal, socialist newcomers allow Pickup Trucks, despite the City’s victory in court. We spent thousands in legal fees. Now the radicals want us to drag bins curbside. I drive through Miami on collection days and all the bins obstructing the roads are UGLY. Guess blue collar roots, values and aesthetic are what BAD neighbors pushing for. Why did these people move to the Gables? I thought people moved here to escape VULGARITY. CCTV can deter illegal dumping in trash pits. In reality, the pits should be for ONLY green waste, but there are so many assholes who don’t want to break boxes, large objects or wish to spend on trash bags. City officials probably decided NOT to enforce this in an attempt to push pit removal agenda.

  6. Totally agree with Ann Fisher’s common-sense comments and suggestion. That could work just fine. But residents need to start taking responsibility. If your dog craps on someone else’s property have the decency to pick it up and throw it in your own garbage. Stop being lazy people!!

  7. STUPID CITY EMPLOYEES & RESIDENTS are partially to blame for excessive Green Waste & clogged Storm Sewers. They both have been planting trees, which will have HUGE canopies, close together. I’ve seen new tees on swales only 10 feet apart. People want instant shade or don’t want others parking on the swale, so they plant trees way too close. We have tree excess & then no one trims these trees as often as needed. Let’s not forget to mention the MANY, NUISANCE FICUS trees the City promised to remove years ago, yet hasn’t gotten around to removing. These fig trees are WHITE FLY MAGNETS that later encourage people to use TOXIC, CANCER CAUSING sprays on hedges. We’re surrounded by MORONS!

  8. It seems there is a consensus here – raise the fines and enforce the present code- and if you do not want to be responsible for other people’s trash in front of your home – fill in the pit——

  9. Just to clarify, we still put out yard clippings on our pickup day in our driveway as we would have if we still had our trash pit. If there is small debris that could blow away, we bag it. The debris is not there the rest of the week and we no longer have others using our yard for their waste. For household items we either call for special pick ups from CG, a private company and participate in recycling days. It works well for us.

  10. The trash pit is a problem for the mayor and the 4 commissioners to solve. The residents put the trash pit problem directly to them at the meeting.

    What happened at the test? The mayor’s and the 4 commissioners’ minds went blank. They didn’t solve the problem at the meeting.

    They won’t solve it tomorrow or some other day in the future, because, time after time, they have shown they don’t know how to govern. Remember the mobility hub and the recent excess salaries.

    So, don’t expect the right answer from them, even if they take the problem home to solve and get some good answers from the residents. They have failed the test. Grade them with an “F” at the upcoming election.

  11. My uncle who lived in Nigeria for a while had a man die in front of his house. He called all the pertinent authorities, and nothing happened. Eventually he paid someone to pick up the body and poetically dump it in front of city hall.
    Take a drive around other parts of the county and really freak out.
    What are you all pit deniers complaining about? Some dog crap in a plastic bag? Give me a break.
    This is a de minimis situation. Do a census, house by house, and let the chips fall where they may.
    By the way, I do not have or need a dog and rarely dispose of anything other than yard waste in the pit.
    pit.

  12. I do think it is very convenient to have these trash pits available but they are an eyesore for our community. We have a beautiful city but it is incredulous to me that we have trash lining our streets all week long. Most people don’t respect the rules and it looks like a third world country at times. It is difficult to enforce code violations because how can you be sure it was the home owner or someone who just dumped their trash in your trash pit. I am not sure what the answer is but having trash on our streets all week long is not it!

  13. Governor Ron DeSantis’ salary is $130,000.00 per year.

    Yet, city manager Peter Iglesias’ salary is over $230,000.00 per year. City attorney Miriam Ramos’ salary is also over $230,000.00.

    Are they doing a better job than Governor DeSantis?

  14. Right now my trash pit with my tree cuttings has been uncollected since thursdays regular pick up after doing 2 service requests to no avail & despite paying amongst the highest solid waste fees in the USA. Yet the city mgr & commission take our taxpayer dollars & duck new hire salaries to provide themselves with unmerited >$637,000 raises to top 54 staff, on top of their already sky high salaries city mgr alone makes more money yearly than each POTUS & AG. The current govt system in CG needs a major overhaul shifting & diluting decision making power away from the top and giving it to a binding citizens group.

  15. I don’t object to green waste in trash pits…just to the other trash that is put there. If lawn people are required to remove green waste they will just pass the extra cost on to residents so that is not a good idea. I also have observed that when a resident gets rid of a waste pit, they and the neighbors just use someone else’s. Residents could have the option of calling for and paying the cost of a special pickup of non-green trash (I disposed of an old mattress this way a few years ago and was happy to pay the fee). Or, the city could consider a dump site only Coral Gables residents could used for non-green trash. It needn’t be as elaborate as county dumps…it could just contain lots of dumpsters. It could have limited hours and be manned by only one person to check resident ID’s. I would be happy to make the trip to a location like this with non-green waste that can’t go in my trash or recycling. If only green waste is allowed, then other waste should just be left and not picked up. Initial fines are not a good idea and hard and costly to enforce. When a resident calls to ask why his non-green trash wasn’t picked up he would be advised that he must he dispose of it another way. When the policy was established to require cardboard boxes to be broken down and disposed of with the recycling (great idea!) one of my neighbors continued to put cardboard boxes on his trash pile for months and the city kept taking them away. If they had been left there I’m sure the
    neighbor would have called to find out why and could have been told of the new policy.

  16. We share our trash pit with our next door neighbor. We’ve been doing it for over 20 years. The people who dump in our pit without permission are neighbors who don’t have one because it doesn’t look “nice”, and dog walkers who dump their dogs’ waste. They all are Coral Gables residents.

  17. Reading this article makes me feel like I am in grade school. First I hope Lago does not have the power to make us do what HE wants us to do. You do not like the pit, then do not have one. You have been such a disappointment as a Mayor anyway. Larger homes DO have more trash as they have more land and more green. Unprepared employees are shameful but we do not expect anything less from a City Hall led by a self serving Manager. Large fines are fine but can be devastating to a resident who had someone else deposit trash in their pit in the middle of the night. We were fined $350 and it was from a utility company. Not all landscapers have a truck to haul the green away so are they not allowed to work in CG? I have never heard such rubbish from people before over a trash issue. Do not touch our pits and if you do not like it, then fill it. We pay one of the highest fees for trash compared to other Cities. Clean up your budget, stop stupid projects and waste, and be fiscally responsible. You will then be able to offer the services we expect.

  18. We eliminated our waste pit because it was being used by neighbors for their trash and by anyone passing, for their dog waste. That waste all sat for a week. Imagine how unsanitary that becomes in the sun. We have no dog by the way. We removed our waste and asked our landscaper to take the yard waste and no more dog waste. We don’t now and never have added to a neighbors waste pit. The pits I pass on my daily walk are full of dog waste. That seems so unsanitary. Why is that ok?

  19. Why not require all commercial landscapers to remove debris and fine them substantially if they violate it. The trash pits will be much smaller if only resident-owners doing their own landscape maintenance are using them.

  20. Great topic! Clearly CG trash pickup is one of the most loved services in the city. Any change needs careful consideration and full disclosure of costs, and analysis of issues. Most important is how to separate compostable materials from plastic and appliances/ furniture/ garage and home trash. Bins won’t do it. Perhaps the trash pits can be limited to compost, and residents allowed to take other trash to county collection sites? Currently city residents are turned away from county sites, except for hazardous waste.

  21. I had my pit removed and simply put bulky trash on the driveway the night before pickup. Easy peasy. My neighbor who had been using my trash pit without permission was upset but they got over it.

  22. I agree with Maria Elena Lopez. On my street, there are houses with no Trash Pits, yet those that don’t use someone else’s. In fact, one is right across from my home. They don’t so they use the next door. Not saying that is bad, is just been like that for 22 years since I lived here.

    Never seen anyone dumping, if anyone is doing it, are the landscaping people. You really cannot tell if what they are placing came from the house they are servicing or from a house in Coconut Grove

  23. Houses who don’t have trash pits, like my neighbor, should be charged more, since they use the trash pits of others, like mine. Very convenient to remove your trash pit and have others worry about its content.

  24. Wed, Nov 2 at 6:44 AM

    Beautiful Coral Gables City, it is a bad sanctuary from method no mechanically to pickup garbage & rehuse material plastic & cartons made pickup by people 2022.

  25. As to the solid waste or trash, we need to consider our natural green waste of our trees. The city allows growth without taking in consideration natural environmental events that makes our City beautiful. If you want to be called the City Beautiful then absorb the cost. If this is about the cost how come property taxed have not absorbed the increase. Our property value continue to appreciation due to increased Real State sales prices; therefore the taxes that we pay have increased at a faster pace, the funds to pay for this should be in the budget. We are missing a bigger picture if we are called the City Beautiful, our roads are eroding, holes all over the streets. That is a bigger mandate.

  26. No, let’s fine them $10,000 every time that will solve it. Your ideas are absurd.

    Guess who dumps trash in my pit during the week, my next door neighbor who eliminated his pit because he didn’t like the way his looked. My gardeners come Tuesday afternoon and pick up is Wednesday, his come Fridays. He doesn’t care because it’s not his house.

    I have never seen people from outside the city dumping in my pit, it’s ALWAYS my neighbors and their service people without pits of their own.

  27. A small vocal minority of homeowners from smaller older homes goes to a commission meeting to overwhelm our commissioners and the ugly disgusting pits remain. Well let’s start strictly enforcing the code. If there is garbage in the pits fine the homeowner unless it is put out the night before. If the homeowner protests and states it’s not their garbage, then get rid of the pit. By the way increase the fines – start them at $500.00 – you will see how fast the pit problem disappears.

  28. Fine ($3,000) anyone who misuses the trash pit. It will stop any problem. It’s simple and very effective.

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