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Jackson City Council votes down trash contract

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 2:29 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The Jackson City Council has again voted down a proposal from the mayor to bring on FCC Environmental Services for a six-year waste hauling contract.

This is the second time the council has rejected down the proposal.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba brought the contract to the council again Thursday, after renegotiating terms with the firm and after hosting three town halls to drum up support for it.

Following negotiations, FCC had reduced the contract from $10.9 million a year to around $10.4 million.

Despite those efforts, the council again voted the measure down, and again by the same margin it did on August 9.

Voting in favor of the measure was Council President Virgi Lindsay, Ward Two Councilwoman Angelique Lee, and Ward Four Councilman Brian Grizzell.

Voting against it were Councilmen Ashby Foote, Kenneth Stokes, Aaron Banks, and Vernon Hartley.

Some council members were opposed to the measure because they said costs were going up, while pickups were being reduced from twice to once a week.

The city bid out the service in March. As part of its request for proposals, it told companies to submit cost estimates for once and twice-a-week pickups.

The administration opted to go with the once-a-week service because it likely will have to dip into city coffers to cover contract costs.

Garbage collection fees are calculated based on fees per household. Those fees, in turn, are added to households’ water bills and are supposed to be paid every month.

However, the city has been unable to collect many bills due to complications with its water meter billing system.

Additionally, some customers stopped paying due to a moratorium on water shut-offs put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a result, the city has had to make up contract costs elsewhere. The mayor said $5 million in Siemens settlement money, for instance, went to Waste Management to cover fees it could not collect on.

Jackson is expected to end the moratorium on shutoffs on September 1. Work has also started to replace the water meters and billing system that was installed as part of the city’s 2012/13 Siemens contract.

Even so, the city argued that the FCC proposal was the best option for the city. In addition to having what the mayor said was the lowest cost for customers, the company also agreed to make hoppers full time and to provide employees with full benefits, such as retirement, health insurance, uniforms, and boot allowances.

Lumumba touted other benefits as well, such as FCC’s decision to provide automated trucks to make working conditions better for hoppers and to set up a call center to answer customer concerns.

For their part, FCC officials told the council they had already found a place to put the call center had the contract been approved.

The council voted down the measure after almost no debate.

Meanwhile, a motion made by Ward Three Councilman Kenneth Stokes to bring Waste Management back on died for a lack of a second. A second is required before a vote can be taken on an item.

Stokes requested that the council vote to accept the second-lowest bid for twice-weekly pickup services.

Waste Management provided that bid, at $17.25 per month, more than two dollars less than the $19.67 estimate provided by FCC, but a $1.25 more than $16-per-household estimate provided by Richard’s Disposal Inc.

However, city attorneys advised the council that members, by statute, could not introduce motions to enter into contracts.

Waste Management’s current contract with the city expires on September 30.

Lumumba advised the council that if the vote on Thursday failed, Jackson “would be in the position of having to negotiate with another vendor, and they would have a strong hand.”

Said Lumumba, “We would have to see how those negotiations pan out and try to present you something.”

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