Water War: Miami Gardens sues North Miami Beach following pricey water bills

(WSVN) - Every time we turn on a faucet, the water meter starts running. But in Miami Gardens, residents and city leaders both agree the price of water is too high. Now, they’re fighting back. 7’s Brian Entin has more on their “Water War.”

Turning on the water in Miami Gardens is pricey these days.

Janice Spann-Givens, Miami Gardens resident: “I’m looking at my bill, and even last month, $225 in one month!”

Lanette Jones, Miami Gardens resident: “It keeps increasing and increasing and increasing, and now when they went to this monthly billing, it’s just out of control.”

Miami Gardens gets its water from the Norwood Water Treatment Plant in Miami Gardens, but the plant belongs to the City of North Miami Beach. North Miami Beach tacks on a 25 percent surcharge for providing water outside its city limits.

When the billing cycle recently changed from every three months to once a month, customers started feeling the pinch.

Janice Spann-Givens: “My thought pattern was, ‘OK, they’ll be billing me monthly, so that big bill I got would now be divided into three,’ literally, and that was not the case. In fact, my bills were almost twice as much.”

Complaints flooded Miami Gardens City Hall, and city leaders got steamed.

Mayor Oliver Gilbert, Miami Gardens: “It is a fight. The City of Miami Gardens is suing the City of North Miami Beach.”

Miami Gardens filed a lawsuit against North Miami Beach, demanding the surcharge be dropped.

Mayor Oliver Gilbert: “North Miami Beach isn’t bringing us their water; they’re taking our water. The aquifer is actually underneath Miami Gardens. The pump station, the processing plant, is actually in Miami Gardens, so essentially, they’re actually giving Miami Gardens residents and businesses their own water and charging a 25 percent surcharge for it.”

Residents are complaining, and so are businesses. At Prestige Beauty Salon, owner Nicole Warde says bigger water bills are cutting into her profits.

Nicole Warde, business owner: “I did not raise my prices yet because this is Miami Gardens. These people can’t afford to pay more, so I didn’t do anything as yet. It’s difficult.”

Both cities met last month to discuss the issue, but nothing was resolved.

North Miami Beach speaker: “We could not commit to uniformity right here if we wanted to.”

North Miami Beach refused our request for an interview but said in a statement, “The surcharge … is similar to the surcharge that a number of municipalities around Florida rely on to provide utilities outside their boundaries.”

The statement went on to say, “We look forward to increasing public involvement while we … identify more opportunities to create long-term savings and equitable rates…”

Miami Gardens says that’s not good enough.

Mayor Oliver Gilbert: “We’re vested in challenging the law as it applies to us. We hope that they see reason and eliminate the surcharge for Miami Gardens residents.”

There will be one more public meeting on the issue. After that, the fight over the surcharge will be in the hands of a judge.

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