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Jackson City Council votes down mayor’s choice for trash contract... again

Jackson city council
Jackson city council(WLBT)
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 2:18 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - The third time is not a charm for Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba, whose choice for garbage collection services was again voted down.

Tuesday, the council voted 2-4-1 to reject his recommendation to hire Richard’s Disposal to haul the city’s residential garbage.

Lumumba left the meeting prior to the vote but had already chided the council for the numerous questions members directed at the company’s owner, Alvin Richard.

“When you have the law, you argue the law. When you have the facts, you argue the facts. When you have neither, you just argue,” he said. “And that’s what’s going on right now.”

This is the third time in a matter of months the council has rejected the mayor’s choice for trash-hauling.

Last summer, the council twice rejected hiring FCC Environmental Services, which the mayor had hoped to hire to replace its previous contractor, Waste Management.

The council also had rescinded the mayor’s state of emergency regarding waste collections, meaning an emergency contract that Lumumba had inked with National Waste United also was nullified.

Voting against the measure were Councilmembers Virgi Lindsay, Ashby Foote, Aaron Banks, and Vernon Hartley. Members Angelique Lee and Brian Grizzell voted in favor, while Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes abstained.

“The system we have now is currently working and I believe what is not broken, let’s not fix it,” Hartley said, adding that he had received “zero requests” from his constituents for garbage carts.

At the heart of Tuesday’s discussion were the 96-gallon garbage cans, or carts, which were required for most residents under the new garbage contract, as well as whether Richard’s could do the work.

Stokes asked to speak to John Walker, an attorney for Richard’s, who also was present at the meeting.

“John, can he perform the contract? I ask that way because the word is, if you get the contract, you might not be able to perform it,” he said. “I don’t know what happened in New Orleans... it might be all kind of good... but we want to make sure.”

“We don’t want people to say we get the contract out there, and then, it’s not performed (and) trash is not picked up,” he said.

Walker said he had “complete confidence” that Richard’s could perform.

Previously, city leaders said Richard’s did not have the capacity to do the work.

Richard’s was one of three firms that responded to the request for proposals the city issued last March. Richard’s came in third in the scoring evaluation process.

After the council rejected the FCC, the firm with the highest score, the mayor entered into talks with Waste Management. After those talks fell through, the mayor issued a state of emergency to bring on National Waste.

City Attorney Catoria Martin told the council Richard’s does have the capacity but did not have time to respond to the March RFP after FCC was voted down a second time and after talks with Waste Management fell through.

FCC was voted down in mid-August, only days before the city’s contract with Waste Management was set to expire.

“When we realized the contract the mayor (recommended) was voted down, we went back to Mr. Richard and asked if he would be able to do the contract. He informed us (he did not have) sufficient time... for him to purchase trucks,” Martin said. “The way he runs his business is that he purchases the vehicles, he does not lease them.”

“30 days was not enough for me to come in and start a contract,” Richard said. “All I was going to do was a discredit to me and a (disservice) to you because I wouldn’t be able to perform... If I can’t service you, I don’t want the contract.”

Richard told the council that he currently picks up trash for approximately 74,000 homes in New Orleans and another 26,000 in Baton Rouge.

“(I have) been in business 44 years, have 110 vehicles, 120 employees,” he said. “We have a contract for the city of New Orleans in Area 1, which I’ve been doing since 2006... and I still have that contract.”

For his part, Foote was disappointed that the contractor and the administration would not provide more details on subcontractors and minority business participation.

“He was trying to get a $50 million contract over six years and that’s an inadequate response,” he said. “There was so little detail given to us.”

The contract would have been for six years, for approximately $756,000 a month. If approved, the city would have had the option of extending the contract for four one-year periods. Under terms of the deal, each home would have been provided with a 96-gallon cart to store garbage in. Richard’s Disposal would own the carts through the duration of the contract and would replace carts free of charge if they are damaged at no fault of the owner. Richard’s also would provide a one-time replacement for any cart that is reported stolen. Any additional replacements would cost individuals $90.

The proposal was more than $100,000 less expensive per month than the proposal submitted by another firm for twice-a-week trash-hauling without carts.

The council’s vote comes a week after members told the mayor they wanted to continue twice-a-week trash collections in the city.

The city issued a new trash RFP in October. The request asked respondents to include options for once-a-week collections with and without trash carts and twice-a-week collections with and without trash carts.

Three firms responded to that proposal: Waste Management of Mississippi, FCC Environmental, and Richard’s.

Richard’s had the highest score for the twice-a-week collections with a cart, Martin said. Richard’s did not receive the highest score for twice-a-week collections without a cart.

It was unclear what would happen next. The city’s current emergency contract with Waste Management expires on March 31.

Lumumba could not be reached for comment.

A copy of the contract was not included in the agenda packet.

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