Proposal would raise Jackson’s garbage rates by more than $16 a month
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Months after the city council voted it down, a rate hike for sanitation could be back on the table.
At its first meeting next month, the city council is expected to consider increasing rates for sanitation from approximately $20.84 a month to $37 a month.
The city’s finance department and solid waste division brought the proposal to the council at its June 21 meeting.
The proposal was not voted on because it was listed as an “introduction of ordinance.” Ordinances are typically introduced at one meeting and then brought up for a vote at the following one.
Deputy City Attorney Terry Williamson told the council the funds are needed to make up for rising costs and budget shortfalls in the sanitation division.
He said the increase is $2 more than the proposal the administration brought forward in December, in part, because the council did not act on increasing rates at the time.
“Without this increase, there is simply just not enough money to pay for collections and disposals and also operate the sanitation division,” he said.
In December, the Lumumba administration proposed raising rates from around $20.80 a month to $35 a month, in part, to cover fee increases under a new long-term residential waste collection contract.
The increase, at the time, was based on the proposals the city had received for collections, including those from Waste Management and Richard’s Disposal LLC, he said.
The increase now is needed to not only cover rising costs, but to cover the cost of an emergency waste-hauling contract, which is about $244,000 more a month than the city’s last non-emergency contract.
“When the budget was adopted, the line item for private garbage collection was under-budgeted,” said Chief Administrative Officer Fidelis Malembecka. “There was only $6 million that was budgeted, which is less than what it should (have been).”
The $6 million would mostly cover trash collection rates at the start of the fiscal year, which was $564,000 a month, but not the current amount, which increased to $808,000 in November as part of a six-month emergency hauling contract.
Jackson entered into an emergency agreement with Waste Management late last summer after the council rejected the mayor’s proposal to hire FCC Environmental Services. That emergency contract was for six months and expired this year.
Jackson is currently operating under another emergency contract, which also costs $808,000 a month.
Malembecka said tipping fees are also an issue. Tipping fees are what the city pays to drop off garbage at the landfill.
“Once again, the amount that was budgeted was less than what the projections should have been,” Malembecka said. “That right there does present a problem.”
Fees aside, administration officials say rates need to go up to address staffing shortfalls in the solid waste division.
Historically, he said solid waste has been operating at a $1.6 million budget deficit.
Ward One Councilman Ashby Foote agrees that rates need to go up, but said the city also needs to improve its billing collections.
“We’re going to have to raise rates some, but we’re going to have to get collection rates up and make sure the billing system is getting people their bills in a timely manner,” he said. “The burden is on the city to run the water billing system in an effective way.”
The city has struggled to collect water/sewer and sanitation fees for years, largely due to complications with the Siemens contract.
The firm was brought on about a decade ago to replace all of the city’s commercial and residential water meters, install a new billing system and put in a new network of repeaters and transmitters to allow the meters to communicate with the billing office.
The system never worked, and Jackson eventually took Siemens and its subcontractors to court, settling out of court for the full cost of the contract.
Jackson is now in the process of replacing the Siemens meters and should wrap up that work by late next year, city leaders say.
Meanwhile, Foote is unsure how much rates should go up, saying the city currently doesn’t have a valid trash collections contract.
New Orleans-based Richard’s Disposal is currently picking up trash in the city. However, a contract with the company has never been approved by the city council.
Despite not having council approval, Richard’s began working in the city on April 1, after the mayor vetoed the council’s rejection of the agreement.
The city and Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba are currently battling it out in Hinds County Chancery Court over whether the mayor’s veto can stand.
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