‘I do not see this as a victory’: City leaders agree to 12-month contract with Richard’s

Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 3:12 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Hours after a hearing in the case recessed, Jackson city leaders have apparently agreed to resolve the city’s ongoing trash crisis.

After closed-door talks with attorneys, the attorneys for the mayor and council agreed to a 12-month emergency contract with Richard’s Disposal.

“There’s a special council meeting tomorrow. The mayor will declare a state of emergency and [they will vote] on a 12-month contract,” Director of Communications Melissa Faith Payne said. “Trash pickups should resume [Wednesday].”

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba would not declare Monday’s court decision a victory, saying the toll has been too great on residents.

“I do not see this as a victory for anyone, but I do believe there were critical matters that needed to be ironed out in the court, and I am pleased to represent to the residents that their trash will be picked up starting Wednesday,” he said.

The news comes hours after proceedings in a case between the mayor and council were recessed. The council filed suit in February, seeking permission to choose its own trash-hauling contractor after they say the mayor refused to bring the council a company it could support.

At the roughly hour-and-a-half-long hearing, Senior Status Judge David Clark took city leaders for their failure to have garbage picked up, saying both the mayor and council were attempting to be dictators.

“A great example of failure of leadership all the way around,” Clark said. “When leaders won’t talk to each other, when leaders won’t cooperate, when there’s no give and take, when there’s no compromise,” he said. “When you don’t compromise, what you have is a dictatorship... We have a government that’s trying to determine who is the dictator and who pays for it.”

The case has since been dismissed, and the council, mayor have agreed to a one-year emergency deal with Richard’s to continue residential trash collections until a new long-term deal can be approved.

The contract now must be ratified by the council. That vote is expected at a 2:30 p.m. meeting on Tuesday.

A notice announcing the meeting was released Monday afternoon, shortly before officials announced an agreement had been reached.

“The most important thing is that garbage trucks will be running on Wednesday,” Ward 7 Councilwoman Virgi Lindsay said at a press conference outside City Hall.

She told reporters to be on the lookout for information from Richard’s regarding collections, saying it could take some time for the company to address the backlog of trash that’s been piling up.

The majority of residents have been without trash collections for more than two weeks, with the city’s last emergency agreement with Richard’s expiring on March 31.

The emergency prompted members of the Hinds County Board of Supervisors to look into picking up garbage until Jackson got a new contract in place.

“They are not going to be able to pick up the garbage at one time,” she said. “They are going to have to have a formula and strategy on how they pick up the garbage. It’s almost like what happens when there’s been a natural disaster.”

Council President Ashby Foote said the silver lining behind the latest legal battle is that this emergency contract will be cheaper.

Last week, the council rejected a one-year emergency deal with the firm. Under that contract, trash collections would be nearly $970,000 a month. However, following negotiations on Monday, Richard’s has agreed to reduce that amount to $808,000 a month.

“We did save, what, $2 million on this contract today,” Foote said. “I’m thankful for all of my colleagues standing behind us today, so that we got this resolved for the citizens.”

Council President Ashby Foote addresses the media following a recess of court proceedings on...
Council President Ashby Foote addresses the media following a recess of court proceedings on Monday.(WLBT)

Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks said the battle now will be ensuring the city isn’t back in the same position next April.

“This is not completely over, because we have our legislative duty, the mayor has his executive duty and we’ve got work to do to make sure... that we end up with a long-term contract with, you know, a lowest and best bid,” he said. “I think that this legislative body is prepared through its legislative authority to make sure that there are things in place to make sure we’re not here again.”

The council and mayor came to a similar agreement in September 2021, when both sides agreed to a six-month contract with Waste Management, so a new RFP could be issued.

What the next steps will be are unknown. Lindsay says it was unclear if a new request for proposals would be issued, saying that was not part of the discussions on Monday.

“Our focus today is on getting the trucks running again,” she said. “I’m optimistic over the next few months we can reach an agreement and move us along [past the] cycle of emergencies.”

Lumumba would not commit to issuing a new RFP during his own media briefing Monday afternoon, saying a new RFP would mean higher prices for ratepayers.

“I think that the court appropriately noted that if we issued a new RFP, that it would not be to the advantage to the city because of the cost,” he said. “The court noted that from the bench, that you’re not going to find these types of prices on the market if you were to do a new RFP.”

Judge David Clark chided city leaders for not working together during a hearing on Monday.
Judge David Clark chided city leaders for not working together during a hearing on Monday.(WLBT)

The city last issued an RFP for garbage collections in October 2021. Correspondence released by the mayor recently showed Richard’s would honor its price from the 2021 RFP, while the two other firms that responded would not.

“Ultimately, if we’re able to get to a contract, then it will cost the residents far less,” he said.

Richard’s is seeking a six-year, $54 million contract to haul residents’ trash. However, the council has rejected that proposal on multiple occasions.

Last week, the company filed suit against the city for denying that contract in Hinds County Circuit Court, saying the council’s decision to reject the firm was arbitrary and capricious.

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