Jackson City Council slated to take another look at trash contract Thursday

Mayor Lumumba touts a solid waste contract at a town hall meeting Tuesday.
Mayor Lumumba touts a solid waste contract at a town hall meeting Tuesday.(WLBT)
Published: Aug. 18, 2021 at 8:29 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Less than two weeks after the Jackson City Council narrowly voted it down, the mayor is again asking members to approve a city-wide trash-hauling contract with FCC Environmental Services.

A special meeting is slated for 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Jackson City Hall, where the council is expected to again consider entering into a six-year, $11-million-per-year agreement with FCC to provide solid waste collection and hauling services.

Days earlier, on August 9, the council voted 4-3 to deny the contract, with some members saying they hadn’t had enough time to review details of the agreement, and others questioning the increase in trash pick-up fees associated with the deal.

Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote, who opposed the measure at the August 9 meeting, wouldn’t say how he would vote Thursday.

However, he said he and residents in his ward were wary about the increase in collection costs.

“Almost all of the feedback I’ve gotten from constituents who have reached out to me are concerns about the increase in price,” he said. “The contract he (the mayor) wants passed is causing everybody’s cost to go up, with services going from twice a week to once a week. That’s the big deal.”

Foote previously said collection costs would go from a little more than $20 a month to between $35 and $40. Meanwhile, trash would only be collected once a week, compared to two times a week under the city’s current agreement with Waste Management.

Ward Four Councilman Brian Grizzell, though, said on his Facebook page that trash pickup is currently $4.80 per week, not the amount mentioned by Foote. He also said that citizens right now are not getting what they pay for.

Grizzell, along with Ward 2 Councilwoman Angelique Lee and Council President Virgi Lindsay, voted in favor of the contract.

“Some days my trash is collected and some days it’s not,” he said in his post. “This has been ongoing long before COVID.”

Grizzell hosted a town hall meeting Tuesday, where he, the mayor, and representatives with FCC discussed the proposed deal.

For his part, the first-term councilman told those in attendance that collection fees would be going up regardless of which firm the city contracted with.

“The city has not raised its sanitation rate since 2012. To me, it was not the best thing to do because now we’re in a bad position,” he said. “At the end of the day... Ronald McDonald, Taco Bell, Brian Grizzell, anybody who gets this contract – your rates are going to increase.

“That’s the truth. The good, the bad, and the ugly.”

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba spoke to other provisions in the FCC contract, including the fact that all garbage trucks would be equipped with GPS monitoring equipment to ensure trash is picked up, as well as the trucks having automated arms to make working conditions easier for collectors.

He told the crowd that several hoppers had spoken to him about working conditions and that they had considered striking.

Meanwhile, Lumumba said litter crews would be assigned to every ward in the city to help address illegal dumping, while all homes would be provided with a new 96-gallon cart to use to store trash until pickup days.

“Their proposal and what we will put before the council on Thursday represents the lowest price at this point from all the respondents and the highest value,” the mayor said. “So it is the lowest price from everyone.”

Lumumba also touted the fact that the company would install a call center locally, staffed with people who know Jackson well, and would make all hoppers - the individuals who ride along the back of the garbage truck - full time with benefits.

Dallas Johns, a spokesman for the company, reiterated those points Tuesday evening.

“The overwhelming majority of the labor force that picks up your garbage daily is temporary labor. That means they have no benefits. That means they can be replaced at any time. They have no sense of career because it’s temporary,” he said. “FCC is offering 83 high-paying jobs - all employees with full benefits, dedicated only to the city of Jackson.”

He said the average median income for FCC workers in the city would be $63,000 a year, more than three times the city’s $19,000 median income. (Jackson’s median income is around $22,500, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.) “That is tripling the quality of life for the people that do the hard work we don’t want to do,” he said.

By comparison, drivers with one Waste Management subcontractor in Jackson currently earn $16.50 an hour, while hoppers make $14.

And while Johns says the average median income for FCC would be around $63,000 in Jackson, as of August 11, the median income for FCC employees in other areas they service is about $8,000 a year less.

Ziprecruiter.com shows that in Orlando, the median income for FCC workers was a little more than $55,000, with salaries ranging from $18,493 to $150,721.

Broken down, Ziprecruiter states that 19 percent of FCC employees in the Florida city earn between $18,493 and $30,500, while 29 percent earn between $32,514 to $42,534.

Ziprecruiter.com shows the median salary for FCC employees in Orlando is around $55,408 a year.
Ziprecruiter.com shows the median salary for FCC employees in Orlando is around $55,408 a year.(WLBT)

Ziprecruiter.com shows the median salary for FCC workers in Dallas also is around $55,000 a year, with 19 percent of workers there earning between $20,000 and $33,000.

One source close to the situation questioned whether FCC would be able to fill 83 hopper positions.

“All garbage companies use temp staff. Waste Management does use temporary employees, but that’s the nature of the business as it relates to hoppers,” the source said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “FCC is going to use temporary hoppers if they get this contract.”

Jackson’s contract with Waste Management expires on September 30. The city has already exercised all options to extend it, meaning the service again needed to be bid out.

On March 25, the city issued a request for proposals for solid waste collection and hauling services with one-day and two-day-a-week pickup options.

Three firms responded to the request: FCC, Waste Management, and Richard’s Disposal. Proposals were opened on May 11.

According to city documents, at the conclusion of negotiations, FCC would provide once-a-week pickup, litter pickup, and other services for $16.90 per customer.

Included in that fee is what each customer would pay to be provided with a 96-gallon trash bin. The firm also would install and pick up trash from 100 public receptacles installed across the city.

Based on the number of households (53,869), the total contract comes out to around $10.9 million a year.

Grizzell said FCC was the only company to submit a bid in compliance with the RFP. “Somebody went back and asked the other companies for one (a compliant RFP)... one declined. Why do we have to ask companies to come back and submit a compliant bid?”

Lumumba Chief of Staff Safiya Omari told the council on August 9 that the contract offered was “the best contract with the best services for the city of Jackson.”

According to city documents, FCC would charge $3.20 a week, or $13.87 a month for once-a-week collections, compared to $14.12 a month for Waste Management and $14.25 a month for Richard’s Disposal.

However, that amount does not include the more than $3.2 million the city is being charged for cart costs. Broken down, that comes out to about $59.72 per customer, or around 83 cents a month for the first six years of the contract. It was not clear how much the company would charge for carts if the contract was extended.

Cart costs were included in the initial estimates provided by Waste Management and Richard’s, but no break-outs for those costs were provided, despite Public Works making a request for them, according to documents.

For twice-weekly pickup, FCC had the highest cost: $4.54 a week, or $19.67 per month, followed by $17.25 a month for Waste Management and $16 a month for Richard’s. Again, FCC’s estimate does not include cart costs.

With cart costs included, FCC would have the highest weekly and monthly rates for once-a-week and twice-a-week collections.

A breakdown of garbage collection fees by company, per city of Jackson documents.
A breakdown of garbage collection fees by company, per city of Jackson documents.(WLBT)

It was not clear how much the city would be paying to dispose of the waste, which would have to go to a landfill operated by Waste Management.

Proposals were reviewed and evaluated by a five-member committee made up of former Public Works Director Charles Williams, former interim CAO Marlin King, Solid Waste Supervisor Lakesha Weathers, Chief of Staff Omari, and interim Director of Facilities Management Tony Jones.

Williams, who is not being reappointed as public works director, was the only one of the five to rank Waste Management highest in both once-a-week and twice-a-week options.

A copy of all solid waste documents provided to council members is shown below.

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