Founder & Editor
On Thursday, October 27th at 5:00PM, the Coral Gables City Commission will hold a Sunshine Meeting to discuss the City’s Solid Waste.
The meeting has been rescheduled several times with residents holding their breath on what the future of their trash pickup will look like.
Coral Gables residents pay an added tax for garbage, trash and recycling pickup in the form of an annual fee. The cost has been increasing annually for several years and was only maintained the same this year due to the Commission’s desire to address the issue at a Sunshine Meeting.
May 31st Commission Meeting
The meeting was requested by the Commission at the May 31st Commission meeting.
At the time, staff was seeking to increase the annual fee by $24 per household, even though they explained that there had been an 8% reduction in bulk waste from bulk waste pickups.
City Manager, Peter Iglesias, who recently gave raises in the five figure range to himself and numerous members of the City’s upper management, told the Commission that he was seeking an increase in the fees, in order to hire more temporary staff and reduce costs.
Mission To Remove Trash Pickup
At the Friday, October 21st Sunshine Meeting regarding sidewalks on Venetia Terrace, Mayor Vince Lago led off the meeting discussing his desire to remove bulk trash pickup, remove trash pits and have residents pay their landscapers to remove their waste. Lago went as far as arguing with a resident who wanted to shift the discussion back to the purpose for the meeting, sidewalks, and Lago told her “I can walk and chew gum at the same time.” The resident replied that she believed his comment was “the most condescending thing you could have said, I can walk and chew gum at the same time, but we are here to talk about sidewalks, not trash pits.”
For months, Lago has been touting his removal of his own trash pit in an attempt to entice residents to give up on this service. He has offered the possibility of a financial incentive for those who do so.
However, the removal would not come at a major discount. In fact, staff has stated that the reduction of the garbage fees would only be in the $50 to $70 range.
According to a memo presented by staff at Lago’s 2020 Sunshine Meeting on Solid Waste the fee had risen by 18.2% since 2011.
At the Venetia meeting, Lago mentioned that staff had prepared a presentation for the solid waste meeting, which would be eye-opening.
Gables Insider made the request for said presentation immediately following his comment.
As previously reported, the initial response from staff was that no such presentation existed. After days of attempting to secure staff’s presentation, Gables Insider was able to secure a copy on Wednesday afternoon, after it was released by the City Manager.
Earlier this year, the Commission had changed the Code to remove the requirement that presentations be available in advance of meetings. Now, presentations can be shown to residents for the first time at the meetings, allowing them no time to review and prepare for the meeting.
Unlike our investigation into staff raises and executive benefits and the City Manager’s comments that the City has “numerous financial issues,” which have gone unaddressed by the Commission, this presentation seems to fall short on the Mayor’s promise of being eye-opening.
Its explanation of “what is allowed” does not cover the basics of size and location of pits, and contrary to the repeated City spin of uncontrolled costs due to tonnage, it shows a fairly stable annual tonnage with a downward trend. In fact, the peak was in 2016 and 2022 is projected to fall in line with the second lowest year since 2016.
As for the “current trash collection,” it shows an annual cost of $5.88 million with $200,000 in assessed excess fees. However, as with the budget, there is no baseline or comparison to prior years.
The presentation displays the services offered by seven other municipalities and the county, but it does not show their total costs or the taxes assessed by each on their residents.
It displays images of “issues,” which include a person crossing the street with a wheelbarrow as “illegal dumping,” “unidentifiable waste/bagged in pits” and “garbage/pet waste in pits.”
Illegal dumping is often used as a “reason” for needing to remove the services from residents by staff and the Mayor.
The memo from the 2020 meeting, actually states that the Commission would need to have “a discussion on how we can address the growing concern of private landscapers illegally dumping landscape debris in the City of Coral Gables which are a contributing factor in the solid waste fee.” A discussion was had and it pointed at a need for further enforcement, but seemingly Code Enforcement, under the tutelage of the Development Services Director, has been unable to address the issue.
The Commission has also been discussing the possibility of forcing residents to use clear bags for trash placed in the pits, something residents believe to be a violation of privacy.
Other Collection Methods
The presentation considers three options for solutions. 1) a 96-gallon trash can picked up from the same location as garbage and recycling behind the home, 2) scheduled bulk waste pickup twice or four times per year and 3) a 96-gallon trash can picked up at the curbside. This last option, it claims, is “Not being considered – Included for Comparative Purposes Only.” But it is displayed as the most cost effective option with the backyard pickup raising the cost from the current system.
The trash can options would require an investment of nearly $5 million in new equipment.
As previously reported, the department has purchased new equipment in recent years, which has never been used due to the impracticality. Of five trucks with with a built in claw, one has been sold and two are still parked in the lot. The issue being it requires the driver to move the truck from pit to pit and change from the driver cab to the claw operation cab, consuming many additional hours.
The final page focuses on their successes in recycling cardboard boxes, which require residents cut, fold or crush or risk them not being picked up.
Gables Insider wants to know your opinion on this issue. Please click here to take a quick two-minute poll!
The Sunshine Meeting will take place at 5:00PM on Thursday, October 27th at the City Commission Chambers. To participate or watch the meeting via zoom, visit: https://zoom.us/j/3054466800.