HIALEAH (CBSMiami) – At Rossie Nail Tech Salon, owner Irma Rossie spends her time filing forms rather than nails.
“We’ve been going through hell,” she said.
“This one has new license. This one has annual license,” said Rossie as she pointed to boxes on forms from the city.
She’s paid the City of Hialeah more than $1,200 for those licenses only to learn they aren’t valid.
“We’ve been paying every three months. Now, literally, that license does not show up in the system,” Rossie said.
Now, dozens of jobs are on the line, she and her workers are scared.
“What are you worried about the most?” CBS4’s Ty Russell asked.
“That they come and shut us down,” she replied.
Across town, Antonio Aleman has been living that same hell, only his has been more expensive. He’s paid the City of Hialeah more than $5,000 for licenses that may not be worth the paper they are printed on.
“I’m 58 years old. This is all I know how to do. Nobody else is going to give me a job,” Aleman said.
Rossie and Aleman are two of the more than 70 business owners in Hialeah who feel they have been scammed by their own city.
“The city is ultimately responsible,” Carlos Hernandez said.
Hernandez is the wastewater division chief for Miami-Dade’s Department of Environmental Resources Management or DERM.
Any new businesses countywide need DERM’s approval before they can be attached to the sewer lines, especially since the city’s sewer lines routinely leak or overflow. Hernandez said that Hialeah officials ignored his office and allowed many owners to open by selling them bogus business licenses.
“They knew that they needed DERM’s approval, they’ve always known they needed DERM’s approval. They made a decision for some reason to bypass the process,” Hernandez said.
In May, the county discovered that Hialeah was, in fact, connecting shops and restaurants to their sewage system. Fearing Hialeah’s actions could lead to a hazardous and smelly impact in neighborhoods, DERM began its own crackdown.
Now businesses like the ones owned by Rossie and Aleman are at risk of being shut down. The jobs of dozens, if not hundreds, of people are at risk.
CBS4 News wanted to talk to the mayor for answers. After several attempts to set up an interview or speak to him by phone, Russell tracked him down at a Thanksgiving turkey giveaway.
“It’s important to help them. That’s what we are doing to make sure none of the businesses are closed,” Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez said.
The mayor didn’t answer who’s responsible and he didn’t explain why businesses were open on bad sewage lines.
As for owners who had to dig deep in their pockets on the temporary business licenses, Aleman and Rossie are hoping for a solution sooner than later.
So far, there are 25 businesses left in limbo. CBS4 asked some of the owners if they’re still paying that renewal fee every several months, they all said that has since stopped.