(WSVN) - A battle over water continues between two South Florida cities. For the residents stuck in the middle, the frustration is now overflowing. Kevin Ozebek has tonight’s 7 Investigates.

Janice Spann-Givens washes the dishes as fast as she can.

Kevin Ozebek: “Do you make a conscious effort to try to conserve how much water you use?”

Janice Spann-Givens, Miami Gardens homeowner: “I absolutely do.”

Lanette Jones also tries to limit turning on the tap.

Lanette Jones, Miami Gardens homeowner: “I try not to use the ice maker. Even the ice maker, because that’s coming from the water.”

We first met Lanette and Janice in 2019, when we reported that many Miami Gardens residents were getting hit with high water bills.

Kevin Ozebek: “In terms of your water bill, what has changed from then to now?”

Lanette Jones: “Absolutely nothing. We’re still paying this surcharge, which is not fair.”

The two homeowners get their water from the Norwood Water Treatment Plant, which is in Miami Gardens, but the plant is owned by the City of North Miami Beach, and North Miami Beach tacks on a 25% surcharge to all water customers outside its city limits.

So that means Lanette and Janice get slapped with an extra fee for water from this plant that is less than two miles from their homes.

Lanette Jones: “Why are we being charged this surcharge when the water is being produced and filtered right here in our community?”

A recent study done by Miami Gardens shows the typical bill for its residents who get their water from North Miami Beach is $160.50.

For residents who get the service from Miami-Dade County Water and Sewer, the bill for the same amount of water is just $91.68.

Oliver Gilbert, Miami-Dade County Commission chairman: “It’s a huge difference, especially in these times when people are struggling.”

Miami-Dade County Commission chair Oliver Gilbert has led the fight against the pricier water bills.

When he was mayor of Miami Gardens, the city sued North Miami Beach over the surcharge.

Oliver Gilbert: “We don’t believe that we should be their cash cow, especially since it’s water that’s coming from Miami Gardens, underneath Miami Gardens, in a plant that’s being processed in Miami Gardens.”

Just this month, the Florida Supreme Court refused to hear the case, so the battle between these two cities will eventually end in a lower court.

Attorneys for Miami Gardens are seeking damages.

Matthew Dates, attorney for Miami Gardens: “I think the most significant thing is that we are still alive in this suit.”

Attorneys for North Miami Beach said the surcharge has always been within the law.

Ian DeMello, attorney for North Miami Beach: “It’s a 25% surcharge that’s authorized by the Florida Legislature.”

Janice and Lanette are hoping their city wins this water war.

Lanette Jones: “If you’re charging this much money, you’re taking away from my financial future.”

Janice Spann-Givens: “It’s ludicrous.”

But for now, they are still keeping tabs on their tap and conserving the best they can.


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