Going it alone? Jackson issues its own RFP for water system manager

This is an aerial view of of the City of Jackson's O.B. Curtis Water Plant in Ridgeland, Miss.,...
This is an aerial view of of the City of Jackson's O.B. Curtis Water Plant in Ridgeland, Miss., Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022.(Steve Helber | AP)
Published: Oct. 19, 2022 at 2:48 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A day after the mayor said Jackson would not agree to a request for qualifications it did not contribute to, the city has issued its own request for proposals to hire a water system manager.

On October 18, the city posted an RFP for an operations, maintenance and management firm to take over operations of its two water treatment plants, well water facilities and water tanks.

Proposals are due at 1 p.m. on November 7.

The firm hired would manage the city’s water system for 12 months.

The RFP was issued the day after Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said Jackson would not go along with the RFQ issued by the state, saying the city did not have the opportunity to “contribute, revise or approve the language” before it was released.

“The city is the entity that is going to pay for the third-party contract. There was also some language that needed to be included [in the RFP] by the EPA,” Jackson Director of Communications Melissa Faith Payne said.

Jackson is currently in talks with EPA and U.S. Department of Justice regarding bringing its water system into compliance with the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

In a press release Monday, Gov. Tate Reeves said Jackson’s decision not to cooperate with the state would be a “huge mistake,” and threatened to cut the state assistance as Jackson comes out of a major water crisis.

Payne would not say whether the city was worried about the state pulling out, but “appreciates all the help from all the state, federal and local parties who are vested in helping the city.”

“The city will continue to work with all parties [willing to help],” she said.

Both the state and Jackson’s requests have several similarities, but also several differences, particularly in how the proposals would be scored and how a firm would be chosen.

Under Jackson’s RFP, proposals would be evaluated by a three-member team that includes two public works staffers and one subject matter expert from the U.S. Water Alliance.

That team, in turn, would be advised by two other subject matter experts, one each from the U.S. EPA Region IV and the Mississippi State Department of Health, who would provide technical assistance, but would not participate in scoring.

Under the state’s RFQ, qualifications would be evaluated by a the Unified Command team, which would then take proposals to a technical evaluation committee made up of one member of the city’s Public Works Department, one subject matter expert from the Mississippi State Department of Health and one subject matter expert from the EPA. Meanwhile, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency would conduct the financial review. From there, scores for the financial review and technical evaluation would be combined and the top vendor would be chosen.

The winning proposer would be responsible for operating, maintaining and managing Jackson’s O.B. Curtis and J.H. Fewell water treatment plants, its well water facilities and its water storage tanks.

Curtis was the epicenter of the August/September water crisis, after equipment failures there left people across the city and in Byram without running water.

MEMA issued a request for qualifications to take over operations and management of Jackson’s beleaguered water system last week.

Both the state and the city will score proposals on a 100-point scale. The city gives a maximum of 65 points for technical requirements and 35 points for price. MEMA’s RFQ gives up to 80 points for technical competence/requirements and 30 points for price.

Under both proposals, the contract would be for one year, with the city expected to begin advertising for a longer-term contract in 2023. The winning firm would be able to compete for both longer-term contracts, the RFP and RFQ state.

State officials were unavailable for comment.

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