MIAMI – Clean parks, lawns, homes, and streets create a better quality of life. Efforts and options are being discussed to find a way to keep Miami cleaner and to strive for better standards all across the city.

The City of Miami administration, staff and Miami City Council met this week to discuss possible opportunities and enterprises to implement to enforce code compliance and accomplish abatement work more efficiently.

Citywide Cleanup

Director of Community and Economic Development Kristi McClain gave a report on Nuisance Code Compliance efforts from January to December of 2016. Code Compliance conducted over 1,700 inspections and re-inspections and of those 876 nuisance code violations were corrected.

112 abatements were completed by hiring a contractor to mow or remove trash from these properties in Miami. Once this is completed liens are then placed on the property to allow the City of Miami to attempt to recoup the funds for the work done.

So far this calendar year, Code Compliance has conducted 100 inspections and re-inspections.

McClain explained to the council how new processes implemented by Code Compliance more recently have affected abatement efforts by increasing the numbers.

“We changed our process and how we approach things,” McClain said.

For instance, just 44 new inspections were conducted in January of 2016 as opposed to 74 new inspections in January of 2017.

By the end of January, 26 violations were voluntarily corrected, according to McClain, and 20 work orders for abatement have been issued in January of this year, with 19 court packets created.

“We are taking a lot more to court now than we ever have before,” she said. “A little different in how we’ve done in the past, we’re taking them to court in hopes of this being a deterrent.”

Now the staff is also looking at possibly considering stiffer fees and fines in the future. Fines are determined by City ordinance and would need to be changed by a change of ordinance voted on by city council.

“We get very little back on abatement,” McClain said. “We are backlogged on abatement. Now we have the front end of the process and we’re looking at the back end.”

Nuisance code compliance issues in 2016 occurred most often at 32 percent in rental occupied properties, according to city records.

In 2016 overgrown and unmowed grass and weeds topped city code violations at 51 percent, followed by trash at 40 percent, boarding, inoperable vehicles and other violations making up the rest.

“I don’t know how long it’s been since we’ve had this much focus on code compliance,” McClain said.

The city has been split into three segments for inspections, northeast of Main Street and Central, northwest of Main Street and Central and south of Central. A week is spent in each section of the city on a rotation for inspections.

“It’s much more structured and has a very wide goal,” Public Works Director Alicia Hogan said.

A Facebook post is made each Monday morning on the City’s page giving a compliance tip and letting residents know which part of the city is being worked.

“This is how we approach code compliance now,” McClain said. “Code officers are working the worst sections of town first.”

The hope is residents will take advantage of the upcoming Citywide Cleanup Week scheduled for March 13 for the Northwest and Southwest section of the city. Items should be placed curbside no later 7:30 a.m., Monday, March 13. The second half of the Miami’s city cleanup is scheduled for the week of March 20 for the Northeast or Southeast section of the city. Items should be placed curbside no later than 7:30 a.m., Monday, March 20.

The intention is for crews to make one pass through of each section only. No hazardous materials will be accepted. Paint cans must have lids removed and the paint must be dry. Air conditioners, freezers, and refrigerators must have the compressors removed. No construction debris or roofing materials will be accepted. Tires can be taken to the Solid Waste Facility for a small disposal fee. Tires cannot be attached to the rims.

As of Jan. 27, McClain said, 200 property owners or occupants have been notified of non-compliance issues. Once the cleanup is completed code officers will go back to the addresses in the system checking for compliance.

Failure to participate in the Citywide Cleanup will result in the immediate issuing of a Nuisance Code Compliance 10-day letter.

Mowing and Abatement

In the somewhat recent past, 2011, the council and administrative staff made the decision to contract out mowing and abatement work. Now, the current administrative staff is asking the council to return to in-house employee work.

The staff is asking the council to consider hiring three full-time employees and one part-time employee for abatement work. The cost of contracting the work for 2016/2017 is estimated at $161,313 and for 2017/2018 at $161,313 versus an in-house estimate of $119,394 for 2016/2017 and $160,868 for 2017/2018.

This option would not only be financially sound but also should help remedy the challenges created by contracting the work, according to McClain and Hogan.

“We’ve experienced some challenges in contracting out abatements for mowing when we’ve had a contractor working for us - this is not their priority,” McClain said

This year the City of Miami only received two bids for mowing with cost increases anticipated from both contractors. McClain presented other challenges faced with using contracted work including; the philosophy concerning code compliance has changed, an increase in abatements, contractors often work for multiple businesses and the city’s work is not always the priority.

McClain told the council the lack of quality control, need for city crews to go in and clean up after mowing, increased contractor costs are all factors in asking for the move back to in-house for mowing abatements.

Bringing on the four new employees for a total of $125,868 in salary at $11 an hour and benefits to complete abatement work has many advantages, according to McClain and Hogan. This will lend to a more flexible workforce with abatement as a main priority with year-round work for general clean up of city right-of -ways, railways, ditches, downtown areas, parking lots, planters and at the Travel Center as well as for special events.

The new challenge is finding reliable employees to fill the spots.

“It’s a challenge, but we’re up for the challenge, and we won’t settle,” Director of Human Resources and G.A.R. Cemetery Kim Horn said.

The new employees would be brought in under the Parks Department to add to the six current employees. This department is responsible for caring for 13 parks including the fairgrounds, 500 acres of boom mowing and slope mowing, 300 acres of Toro mowing around town, 300 acres of brush hogging, the City Pool, five sports complexes, six bathrooms and a fish cleaning station. The City’s new splash pad project underway will also be added to the department’s responsibilities.

Capital investment to bring the mowing in-house is estimated at $9,00 to purchase equipment for a trailer, mower and weed trimmer, use of remaining budget funds of an estimated $103,228 and a carryover of $56,919 for the mowing budget would cover the costs.

The decision will be put before the council at the next regular meeting to give council members time to review the issue before voting.