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Mayor confident and ‘at peace’ trash will be picked up on April 1

Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 12:57 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said he is confident trash will be picked up beginning April 1.

Just who will pick up that garbage, though, remains to be seen.

Lumumba discussed the city’s trash controversy at a press conference Monday, just days before the city’s current waste-hauling contract expires, and with questions remaining as to which company’s trucks will be rolling come Thursday morning.

“The only thing I would say is that I’m at peace. I made a decision in this process a long time ago to just focus on what I believe is in the best interests of the residents and move forward,” he said. “I don’t know how things are going to be determined from either of the court proceedings... I think they are very consequential to what happens next.”

Either way, he said, “Thursday still exists and there’s still a very important and pressing matter to be dealt with there... But I’m confident garbage will be picked up come April 1, and that gives me peace.”

Trucks with Richard’s Disposal began mobilizing in the capital city this weekend, and are currently being stationed at Hawkins Field.

Meanwhile, Waste Management, the city’s current hauler, is still jockeying for the city’s trash business, saying the mayor should enter into talks with the company after the city council rejected the mayor’s proposal to hire Richard’s.

Hearings are slated for Wednesday and Thursday in two cases that could help answer who has the city’s contract.

Lumumba wouldn’t say how he expects those cases to turn out. However, he intimated that if Richard’s isn’t allowed to move forward, it could be costly for the city.

“A fear that we’ve always had is that if we don’t honor our processes, the financial threat to the city is much more severe than if we were to go in another direction,” he said.

The mayor’s contract with the company includes a provision that would require the city to reimburse Richard’s for mobilization costs if the contract was not allowed to move forward in certain circumstances.

The city could be on the hook for startup costs for the Richard's Disposal contract if the firm...
The city could be on the hook for startup costs for the Richard's Disposal contract if the firm is not allowed to begin work on April 1.(WLBT)

Lumumba did not know how much those charges would be. “I don’t have the numbers at hand. It’s difficult to forecast. It could be tremendous if we demonstrate in any way (a lack of) commitment in any way to the process we outlined as a city and we don’t want to see the result.”

It was unclear what process the mayor was referring to.

The council twice voted down proposals to hire the New Orleans company earlier this year. In February, the mayor declared a state of emergency over trash collections and inked a one-year emergency deal with the company.

The mayor issued a notice to proceed on Feb. 24, while the state of emergency was in place.

At a meeting the same day the notice to proceed was issued, the council voted to do away with the mayor’s declaration, with the city attorney saying the emergency no longer existed because an contract was in place.

After council members realized that lifting the declaration would have affirmed Lumumba’s decision to award Richard’s a one-year deal, the council narrowly voted to leave the emergency in place but to amend it to award another emergency contract to Waste Management.

The council then voted down two measures to ratify Richard’s contract at a meeting on March 8. However, those items were not added to the agenda by the mayor.

Lumumba filed suit the following day in Hinds County Chancery Court.

The case was assigned to Judge Jess Dickinson after all four chancellors recused themselves. A hearing in that matter is slated for Wednesday, March 30. A hearing in another case, in which the mayor is seeking a court order for all council minutes dating back to September, is slated for Thursday, March 31, in Hinds County Circuit Court.

According to court documents, Richard’s has been preparing for weeks to take over Jackson’s collections services.

“Since entering into the emergency agreement, Richard’s has taken the necessary actions to be ready and able to perform waste collections beginning April 1,” company President Alvin Richard wrote in an affidavit to the chancery court.

He went on to state that his company has already taken several steps to prepare to begin collections including “securing trucks and personnel in Jackson, Mississippi, to perform the services required under the emergency agreement.”

Court documents did not say how many employees Richard’s would have in Jackson. It also was unclear where Richard’s would be located.

Lumumba said the company had found a location in the city and that it had been approved by Jackson’s Planning and Zoning Department. However, he did not know where the location was.

Richard’s is listed with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office. According to its 2022 corporate annual report, the company has a local address at 1121 Dorsey St., Jackson.

WLBT has reached out to Alvin Richard and is awaiting comment.

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