Jackson City Council decries secrecy surrounding Richard’s JMAA agreement

Published: Apr. 13, 2022 at 1:02 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Members of the Jackson City Council are decrying the decision allowing Richard’s Disposal to house garbage trucks at Hawkins Field.

Wednesday, the council voted 4-1-2 to approve a resolution in objecting to the use of the general aviation facility to house Richard’s trucks.

Trucks with the New Orleans-based Richard’s have been stationed at the airfield since the company rolled into Jackson in late March.

Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes initially questioned why the trucks were allowed to be parked at Hawkins, near an underserved neighborhood. He previously called it an example of environmental racism.

“As people prepare for summer and barbecuing and those kinds of things.. with garbage trucks in your neighborhood, where you’re going to have rats as big as cats, horseflies and all of those kinds of insects, on poor people who can’t afford lawyers... it’s just the wrong thing to do,” Stokes said.

Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks questioned where Richard’s stores garbage picked up on Sunday.

“We know the disposal yard is closed on Sunday. Sunday morning, on my way to church, the garbage trucks were running in Brookleigh. They were running down Lakeshore. They were running in Swan lake. They were running in Lost Lake Circle. If the disposal yard is closed, where does that garbage sit? It sits at the airport until Monday,” Banks said.

“I think this causes other problems... This is very close to Councilman Stokes’ ward, and I agree with his sentiments.”

Trash picked up by Richard’s is supposed to be taken to the Waste Management Transfer Station on Country Club Drive. The city currently has an agreement to deliver solid waste there.

Ward 4 Councilman Brian Grizzell, though, questioned Stokes’ argument, saying that the transfer station also is located in a residential area.

“It’s been there for a very long period of time. It is a residential area. It sits on the border of wards 4 and 2. You have churches all around it. You have a nursing home right up the street. You have elderly people living down the street,” he said. “Even when I was running for this seat, I would sit out there on the porch with senior citizens and smell the filth that would come down the street...”

“I just really wish that this council, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, if we’re going to set a precedent of looking at solid waste companies operating in our city, that that company not put that transfer station right there... on the corner of Country Club Drive and Northside Drive.”

The Jackson Municipal Airport Authority (JMAA) voted to approve an agreement with the company allowing it to park trucks there, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba previously told the city council.

He also said the agreement had been signed off on by the Federal Aviation Administration.

According to FAA documents, “federally obligated airports may use airport property only for aviation-related purposes unless otherwise approved by the FAA.”

Some council members questioned why they’ve been unable to get a copy of JMAA’s contract with Richard’s and why they’ve been unable to find out how much the agreement costs.

“I just have one question I’d like to know the answer to... what is the compensation the airport is receiving for use of their parking facilities there? If someone has that or can get it to me, I’d appreciate it,” Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote said.

“We’ve have tried to get that information, Councilman Foote, and it’s not available,” Stokes said. “Now, whether the contract has been signed, we can’t get that. We hear verbally that it has, but we don’t have copies of any of that.”

It also was not known when any agreement was approved. Stokes alluded to a 2-1 vote taken by the JMAA board of commissioners. However, he questioned whether one commissioner who voted was eligible to do so.

The latest minutes available on JMAA’s website date back to January 2022, and those minutes do not indicate any action related to Richard’s Disposal had been taken.

While councilmembers complained of secrecy, JMAA has also yet to fill an open record request filed by WLBT.

3 On Your Side’s March 30 request asked for any an all agreements between Richard’s and JMAA to house vehicles at Hawkins Field and other JMAA-owned sites. WLBT also asked for any and all email and written communications between JMAA and Richard’s officials dating back to January 1, 2022.

On April 7, JMAA spokeswoman LSherie Dean sent WLBT a letter to WLBT saying that additional time was needed to compile all the documents requested.

We followed up with Dean multiple times asking why we could not be provided with a copy of the Richard’s agreement and as of April 14, have yet to get a response.

“It’s like they’re trying to hide something,” Stokes said after the meeting. “And what they’re trying to hide is that they’ve allowed these garbage trucks to come to these poor neighborhoods without any authority whatsoever. And that’s absolutely wrong. Somebody needs to be fired.”

Richard’s officials were not immediately available for comment.

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