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Trash contractor to council: ‘If you guys just don’t want me here, then I don’t want to be here’

Alvin Richard, founder of Richard's Disposal in New Orleans, speaks to the Jackson City Council.
Alvin Richard, founder of Richard's Disposal in New Orleans, speaks to the Jackson City Council.(WLBT)
Published: Jan. 25, 2022 at 7:34 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Alvin Richard couldn’t hide his frustration Tuesday at the barrage of questions that were leveled against him on everything from the cost of trash carts to his firm’s ability to pick up customers’ waste.

“If you guys just don’t want me here, then I don’t want to be here,” the founder of Richard’s Disposal said.

“And all of the problems (you’re) talking about, it seems like they’re not my problems. Seems like they’re your problems.”

The Jackson City Council met Tuesday to discuss waste hauling in the capital city. The meeting was called, in part, to give council members a chance to ask questions about the administration’s choice for trash-hauling.

After the meeting, Richard said he felt the council had belittled and embarrassed him.

“Ever since I came to the meetings with the council, in which I was the qualified bidder and won the contract, I have been asked questions that were really belittling my company and belittling me, and embarrassing to me,” he said. “The first council member asked, ‘Am I qualified to do this job? Can I afford to do it, and this that and the other.’”

“That’s a hell of a question to ask a person that put up a million-dollar bond to come in to build a contract and I’ve been bidding on it three times,” he said. “If I wasn’t qualified, I wouldn’t be here.”

For more than an hour, members grilled the city attorney, the mayor, and officials with Richard’s Disposal on various topics, including the number of trash carts that would be included with the contract, to whether or not it would be better to begin a new recycling program than it would be to have customers pay for uniform trash bins.

Richard’s Disposal was one of three firms that responded to the city’s request for proposals (RFPs) for hauling residential waste. The firm was evaluated by a six-member RFP evaluation team and received the highest score for the option of providing twice-a-week pickups with a trash bin.

The council voted 2-4-1 to reject bringing on the firm at a meeting last week.

Even so, Alvin Richard’s the company’s president, as well as his attorneys and other company representatives, attended to address council members’ concerns.

At times, tensions ran high.

Early on, Ward Six Councilman Aaron Banks asked what it would cost the city for the contractor to provide an additional 8,869 trash carts.

He brought up the fact that the contract only calls for Richard’s to supply 45,000 carts, while the current contractor picks up from more than 53,000 homes.

City Attorney Catoria Martin asked where Banks got that number from, and he told her, “Listen, I’m asking questions as a member of the council. I’m going to use my own judgment to make my own decision and I don’t want to feel steered or led... by the city attorney,” he said.

Councilman Aaron Banks discusses a trash contract with City Attorney Catoria Martin.
Councilman Aaron Banks discusses a trash contract with City Attorney Catoria Martin.(WLBT)

At another point, the mayor took exception to claims that some council members had not seen the RFP and had not been given enough information to vote on the contract last week.

On January 18, Ward Five Councilman Vernon Hartley said he hadn’t had enough time to review the contract prior to the vote. A copy of the contract also had not been included in the council packet.

For his part, Lumumba said he and the city attorney have been discussing the RFP and the RFP process for months.

“To say that information is not available, when one, our city attorney’s office, at several council meetings, has not only outlined the process, (but) given you the scoring metrics, and told you at that time... that the RFP was published on the city’s website. So no matter whether you didn’t get an email, no matter whether it wasn’t put in your box, no matter whether you didn’t do your research, all you had to do was type in www.jacksonms.gov, and pull down the RFP like any of these vendors did,” Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said. “This vendor... has now responded to three RFPs.”

An RFP is a request for proposals. Governments issue RFPs for certain professional services, such as waste hauling. Jackson issued an RFP for residential trash collections in October. The contractor chosen will receive a six-year contract, with four one-year options to extend.

Council President Virgi Lindsay attempted to keep the meeting on track and remind colleagues that this was an opportunity to ask specific questions of the vendor. But those requests appeared to fall on deaf ears.

Ward Four Councilman Brian Grizzell, who previously voted to hire Richard’s, said he was also concerned by the amount of time members had spent discussing trash.

“When we learned back in November who the three vendors or firms were that submitted a bid... I knew they submitted bids before. It was not uncharted territory. On December 22, on or around, the (council) clerks had a luncheon at Iron Horse Grill. I attended, my clerk attended, Banks’ clerk attended, Hartley’s clerk attended, Foote’s clerk attended... And one of the subcontractors who submitted a bid with Waste Management showed up and paid for that lunch,” he said.

“I paid for my own, and I paid for my clerk’s,” he said. “When I saw that person show up because we were not supposed to have any kind of contact with anyone who submitted a bid, I knew this was going to be taken to a whole new level.”

Council President Virgi Lindsay said she was unaware of the luncheon until afterward. When she found out that it had been paid for by a Waste Management subcontractor, she said the contractor was reimbursed.

Following the discussion, the council went into an executive session to discuss comments that were made at that meeting.

Lindsay said a “potential legal matter” was discussed but couldn’t provide details.

As for the meal, she did not recall how much the meal cost.

Grizzell could not be reached for a follow-up comment.

It was not known what matters were discussed, nor was it known if or when the mayor would bring Richard’s Disposal would be brought up for a second vote.

It was also unclear what the city’s next step would be.

As for Alvin Richard, he said the clock is ticking. The city’s current emergency contract with Waste Management expires at the end of March.

Richard says if he is to hit the ground running come April 1, he needs to know soon.

He previously did not accept a contract from the city under the last RFP, because he didn’t have time to get the trucks and personnel in place.

Richard, the mayor, and the city attorney refute previous claims that the company did not have the capacity to do the work.

However, Richard says if the city doesn’t award the contract soon, he will again have to withdraw his proposal.

“It depends on how I’m going to get truck ordered... I’ve got them on hold now, but how long will they hold them without me having a contract?” he said. “I can get the carts anytime, but not the trucks. And then, to hire the people...”

“It’s actually putting everything I have on hold.”

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