Councilman backs 90-day contract with Richard’s until new vendor chosen
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Days after voting down a six-year, $54 million contract with Richard’s Disposal, one city councilman says he would back a three-month agreement with the firm to keep trucks rolling until a new vendor is chosen.
The decision leaves residents with few options but to store their trash or put it on the streets in hopes that the city and mayor can work out an agreement.
It also puts Jackson in danger of being fined $25,000 a day by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality for each day waste is not picked up.
“Sadly, we are in a predicament that could have been avoided,” Ward Six Councilman Aaron Banks said in a Monday afternoon statement. “It is the direct result of a mayor attempting to bypass the council, ignore the law, and only wanting one vendor at the table.”
Banks says he would support a 90-day emergency contract with Richard’s, while the RFP process can be started again. However, he says the mayor and the city council would have to work together “in good faith... to identify a neutral, third-party evaluator, who will conduct a new RFP process.”
At the heart of the matter is the October 2021 request for proposals for residential trash-hauling services.
The council refused to back the only vendor the mayor has brought forward, in part, citing problems with the RFP.
RFPs are issued by cities seeking professional services, like garbage hauling.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba released a memo Monday afternoon in response to Banks’ statement showing the RFP was done in good faith.
WLBT first reported on that memo in March 2022.
According to the document, the RFP was “extremely well-conceived... comprehensive, well organized, easily understood, and included useful references and attachments.”
As for whether he would support 90-day contract, Lumumba says the city is “discussing our options with Richard’s... the Office of the State Auditor and the Department of Environmental Quality as we move forward this week,” he said. “We have not yet received confirmation from these parties regarding [the] next steps, therefore, until we receive that confirmation, we cannot legally move forward with an emergency.”
MDEQ spokeswoman Jan Schaefer confirmed Monday afternoon the agency had not yet provided correspondence to the city.
Meanwhile, the city is offering tips on its social media platforms for residents to store their garbage, while Richard’s employees are getting customers to sign on to a petition they hope to present to the city.
Council President Ashby Foote also wouldn’t say whether he would back a short-term deal with Richard’s but said the council is seeking permission in Hinds County Chancery Court to negotiate with the other vendors that responded to the October 2021 RFP.
The RFP was issued after the city council and mayor were at loggerheads over the mayor’s previous choice for garbage pickup - FCC Environmental Services. Lumumba supported FCC saying it was the most affordable option at the time. But the council didn’t like the fact that the company would only offer once-a-week pickups.
Under the new request, vendors could respond to four options: twice-a-week collections with or without a required 96-gallon cart and once-a-week options with or without a cart.
Three companies responded - FCC, Richard’s, and Waste Management - and proposals were evaluated based on criteria including price, references, and past experience.
Richard’s won the option for twice-a-week services with a cart, and the mayor took the proposal to the council for consideration.
Banks, though, said most council members didn’t want the cart option and that Richard’s only received the best score because it had the lowest price.
“The lowest bid does not necessarily mean the best bid,” he said. “Such is the case with Richard’s. Richard’s was the lowest as it relates to the cost of the contract. However, on the service side, Richard’s [also] scored the lowest.”
Documents provided by the city council show Richard’s was outscored by its competitors in every category except price, including innovative approach, plan for performing, experience, qualifications of personnel, references, and Equal Business Opportunity Plan.
|RFP scores||FCC Environmental||Richard’s Disposal||Waste Management|
|Plan for Performing||16.4||12.8||17.4|
|Qualifications of Personnel||9.6||8.4||9|
Banks said after looking into Richard’s performance in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, he “felt this was not the appropriate time [for the city] to try a new company.
In January, Nola.com reported Richard’s “has recently seen increasing numbers of missed pickup complaints” and has “amassed a monthly average of 1,280 complaints of missed pickups over the second half of 2022.”
The company, according to Nola.com, provides residential collections in Algiers, Mid-City, and upriver neighborhoods. Richard’s owner Alvin Richard told the publication the missed pickups were due to a lack of staffing.
The company employs about 80 people in Jackson.
Dozens of Richard’s employees gathered outside City Hall ahead of Saturday’s vote.
One worker, Lisa Harris, told reporters that the company had proven it can do the job. “We’re wondering how we’re going to feed our families because they have families. We all have families,” she said. “We just want a signed contract.”
Richard’s took over waste-hauling duties in Jackson on April 1, 2022, under an emergency contract awarded by the mayor.
The council voted down that agreement, but the mayor vetoed the council’s vote and issued a notice to proceed.
In response, the council filed suit against the mayor asking the court whether he could veto a no vote. A special appointed judge in Hinds County Chancery Court ruled he could not. The Mississippi Supreme Court upheld that decision in March.
Richard’s, meanwhile, filed suit against the city for failing to pay for services provided. The city eventually settled out of court, agreeing to pay Richard’s millions of dollars in back pay and to keep the company in place until after the Supreme Court ruling was handed down.
The company’s contract expired on March 31.
Lumumba told reporters on Saturday the High Court’s decision was why he cannot issue a new emergency contract.
Officials with Richard’s would not commit to continuing under an emergency agreement when asked following Saturday’s meeting.
“You’ve got to lease the trucks for that one year, [and] get the money back, have employees signed up for a year, not knowing if they’re going to have a job the next,” said Kimberly Mueller, a government and business affairs official with Richard’s. “It’s beneficial to all, cost-wise... to have that six-year contract.”
We reached out to Richard’s on Monday for additional comment but have yet to get a response.
Like Banks, Foote said all of this could have been avoided had the mayor moved forward with the RFP.
“In a cynical move, he decided to wait until the last 48 hours of the federal court jurisdiction in hopes that the threat of ‘no garbage pickup’ [would] flip one of the council votes in favor of Richard’s,” he said. “It is shameful to create and then use citizen anxiety as a negotiating ploy.”
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