The City of Miami is moving forward with plans to offer recycling - but the related business partnership with a local tribe remains in a holding pattern.
City attorney David Anderson has advised that the city not enter into an agreement with the Modoc Tribe until more is known about the tribe's willingness to waive its sovereign immunity within the bounds of the business agreement.
Interim Public Works Director Jill Fitzgibbon approached members of the city's special utility board last month with a memorandum of understanding that, if approved, would unite the city and the Modoc Tribe into a business venture that she said will take the city's recycling efforts to the next level.
“We spend about $700,000 a year in transportation costs and landfill tipping fees,” Fitzgibbon said. “In Phase II we propose to implement a recycling drop-off center to pull some of our recyclable materials out of our waste stream thereby reducing some of those costs.”
City attorney David Anderson told special utility board members that he has drafted a new memorandum and is attempting to contact the tribe's legal counsel but, as of Monday, had been unable to do so.
“That is a legal hold on what Tim(Wilson) and Jill (Fitzgibbon) and others are working on,” Anderson said. “In the absence of a waiver or other securities, such as purchasing an insurance policy, … the city would have limited, if any, recourse if the tribe or a third party would raise a claim against the operations engaged in by both the city and the tribe.”
Anderson said he is in no way trying to hinder a partnership.
“I am not trying to dampen a good thing,” Anderson said. “I am doing my best to discharge my duties to keep the city's exposure limited.”
Anderson said he and Miami City Council member John Dalgarn have had conversations over the past month regarding the proposed partnership.
Dalgarn is a longtime law enforcement official and has had extensive experience with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and matters of tribal significance.
Dalgarn said he wants to see the governing body of the tribe consenting to the partnership between the City of Miami and the tribe's subsidiary - Red Cedar Recycling. Additionally, Dalgarn hopes that the tribe will also offer a document that says they will stand behind the merits of the contract
In the meantime, the city is continuing with renovations of a facility at the solid waste site.
Mayor Brent Brassfield said that the city's effort to move forward with recycling is a fiscal responsible move and a necessary step.
“We have to reduce the amount of the waste that we are carrying to a landfill,” Brassfield said.
Brassfield said he has no problem with the scrutiny of the memorandum.
“This is not only about exposure to liability,” Brassfield said. “This is about setting a precedent in how we might partner with tribes in the future as tribal involvement in economic development continues to grow.”
The proposed partnership
If the city and the Modoc Tribe can agree on a plan for partnership, both entities will benefit from the resale of recyclable items as the revenue would be split equally between the two.
The plan proposes that the city provide the building - a large garage northwest of the existing solid waste facility - as well as maintenance, utilities and insurance of building. City staff will also take care of public promotion of the drop-off site.
The tribe will contribute personnel, equipment, maintenance of the equipment, tools and supplies for operation and office and will take the lead in marketing the recyclable materials.
“The city's initial investment will be $53,000 with an annual cost of $8,000,” Fitzgibbon said. “The tribe will have an initial investment of $19,000 with an annual cost of $22,000.”
City administrators have targeted Sept. 1 as the potential start-up date. Hours of operation will be the same as the solid waste operation — 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays.