Waste Management ‘strong-arming’ city in garbage contract talks, mayor says

Chokwe Antar Lumumba September 14 press conference
Chokwe Antar Lumumba September 14 press conference
Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 2:51 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has declared a state of emergency over its garbage collections, as negotiations with Waste Management have hit a snag.

The city was in talks with the firm to continue garbage pickup after the city council twice voted down the mayor’s proposal to bring on FCC Environmental Services to take over the service.

Waste Management currently provides trash pickup for the city, but its contract runs out on September 30.

The contact has already been extended multiple times and cannot be extended further.

Because of that, Jackson had to rebid the garbage services and did so in March.

Waste Management was one of three companies to submit a proposal to the city. However, the firm did not receive the highest marks during the bid evaluation process.

FCC received the highest rating, and its proposal was taken to the council.

After the council rejected FCC, the administration automatically began talks with the second-highest scorer, Waste Management.

The city has to approve a garbage contract before September 30, when its current agreement with Waste Management runs out.

Lumumba said the company is attempting to strong-arm the city, knowing that it only has days to get a contract in place.

“Negotiations with Waste Management have hit a snag as the company attempts to strongarm the City into a lengthy contract,” the mayor said in a press release. “When it comes to the future of garbage collection in Jackson, we are at a point where accepting the status quo is not only unsustainable, it is irresponsible.”

The press release did not say how Waste Management was strong-arming the city. We reached out to Mayor Lumumba, who was not immediately available for comment.

Officials with Waste Management deny the mayor’s claims and the mayor’s need to issue an emergency declaration.

“Mayor Lumumba’s claim that the city has been ‘strong-armed’ in negotiations over the solid waste collection contract was disheartening to hear, as we have always acted in good faith in our efforts to reach an agreement that complies with the RFP, while also providing a competitive fee for services to the city,” said Tricia Farace, the company’s communications manager.

She went on to say the company “stands ready to work with the city to enter a contract that is favorable and provides a beneficial relationship with both parties for years to come.”

According to the city’s release, the failure to properly collect and dispose of garbage could expose the City to civil penalties of up to $25,000 a day and other legal action by the state environmental arm, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

If an agreement cannot be reached, the city intends to pursue a separate contract for garbage collection until a new contract is legally procured.

The emergency order is effective immediately and will be brought before the city council at its next meeting.

The state of emergency will be in place for seven days. The council then must vote to continue the declaration, which would extend the state of emergency for 30 days.

During that time, the city would not be bound by the normal procurement processes, such as being required to issue requests for proposals for certain services, as long as those services are for addressing the emergency.

Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote said the solution to the garbage problem is not a state of emergency, but bringing the council a contract that will be approved.

“ He needs a solution that will get him four votes and he’s not listening to the council to get those four votes,” he said. “This is an emergency of the administrations’ making because they failed to take care of business.”

FCC was twice voted down on a 3-4 vote. In each case, those voting for the contract were Council members Virgi Lindsay, Angelique Lee, and Brian Grizzell.

Foote said the administration has known for more than a year that it would have to seek a new contract for garbage services, but pointed out that the mayor did not bring a proposal to the council until the last minute.

Council President Virgi Lindsay said the priority for her is ensuring garbage collection continues after September 30. “I have no allegiance to any company or situation. The only thing I care about is, come October 1, our constituents have garbage pickup.”

Lindsay voted in favor of bringing on FCC, in part, because she liked what the company was offering, was concerned about the working conditions for Waste Management employees, and was worried about continued service interruptions under the current provider.

Waste Management’s contract was for 10 years and included four one-year extensions, meaning that the last one-year extension was passed in 2020.

Mayor Lumumba will provide more details at Monday’s regularly scheduled press conference.

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