City of Jackson will issue new RFP for trash collections, mayor says

Published: Nov. 9, 2023 at 1:31 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson is again on the hunt for a new solid waste contractor.

But even before a request for proposals is issued, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said costs are going to go up.

On Thursday, Lumumba announced the city would issue a new RFP for residential trash collections, saying the request would be issued likely by November 21.

The news comes about a week after the city council ordered the administration to issue a new RFP, citing months of inaction on the mayor’s part.

Lumumba says he’s not issuing the request per the city council’s order, but rather to prevent Jackson’s residents from again seeing their services interrupted.

“We’re choosing to do it because we believe that it is the best path going forward, considering what’s now available to us,” he said. “But that comes with regrets, and that regret is the cost will be higher for our residents.”

In a statement, the council applauded the mayor’s decision. “Previously, the only option before the city council was to extend the contract of his recommendation. The contract that the mayor is referring to was issued as a solution during the state of emergency created when garbage service stopped. The city is no longer under this state of emergency.”

Lumumba also said the RFP is not in response to ongoing talks with the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, which is considering fining the city for failing to provide trash collections this spring.

The city went without trash collection for approximately 18 days this spring after the city’s previous emergency contract expired. Jackson could face hundreds of thousands of dollars to millions of dollars in fines from the state regulatory agency as a result.

Lumumba held a media briefing Thursday in his ceremonial office. He was joined by City Attorney Catoria Martin, Chief of Staff Safiya Omari, Chief Administrative Officer Louis Wright, and Chief Financial Officer Fidelis Malembeka.

The mayor said he had been in talks with the council about extending the existing contract with Richard’s Disposal, and that at least four members had agreed with the plan prior to his trip to China.

“A majority of the council had indicated that they agreed with that, only for a slim minority to throw confusion in the process,” he said. “One of the council members said that they didn’t want me to win... My problem with that is that their focus was on me, as opposed to the focus being on the residents.”

Lumumba was in China for approximately 12 days on what he says was a bipartisan trip to talk about economic development.

“Both the United States government and the Chinese government believe that a lot of the conflict between the nations can be solved by people on the local level, essentially because we have the same challenges,” he said. “We are looking and trying to figure out how we fix roads, how we work to build the economies for our communities, how we deal with the everyday challenges that people see.”

“I was joined by a number of mayors including our very own Robin Tannehill of Oxford. She was with me, and there were mayors [from] all up and down the Mississippi River.”

Prior to leaving, the mayor said he had been in talks with the council on an agreement that would extend the city’s emergency contract with Richard’s for two years. During that time, he would agree to issue a new RFP for trash collections and would agree to allow a third party to oversee that effort.

“And then Richard’s would have dropped their lawsuit,” he said. “So, it wasn’t a win for me. There is no win for me. I’m agnostic.”

A source tells WLBT the council was initially on board with the mayor’s proposal, after being advised by the city attorney that extending the contract with Richard’s could result in lower fines from MDEQ. However, MDEQ officials later told the council the city attorney was never told that.

Meanwhile, the council has set a special meeting for November 13 to request that the Office of the City Attorney seek to get the Richard’s suit dismissed.

Lumumba said now that the agreement with the council is off the table, so is the option of using a third party to evaluate proposals.

“I’m just going to do it the standard way, and however it comes out, shakes out, we’ll submit that,” he said. “Everybody has a fair opportunity to give their very best price.”

Earlier this year, Richard’s filed suit in Hinds County Circuit Court seeking the court to overturn the council’s decision to deny the company a long-term contract.

Richard’s is currently hauling waste in the city as part of a one-year emergency agreement.

“When it comes to companies, the only thing I care about is the price... In the process of issuing several RFPs, I’ve done three different things. The first time, I declined all of them and gave Waste Management a one-year option, right? The second time, FCC won... I put them forward and they voted that down. And then, when Richard’s won, I put them forward and they voted down that.”

Lumumba said he couldn’t tell reporters all the terms of the new RFP but said the city’s intent would be to “make it easy.”

He said the RFP will be “streamlined,” without all of the options of the last request issued in October 2021.

That RFP gave contractors the ability to bid on two options for providing twice-a-week service and two options for providing once-a-week collections.

“I do want to remind you with those options, I delivered it to the council and gave them the alternative or the option of choosing which one they wanted best,” he said. “We gave them the data, and so they left two remaining alternatives, and I chose the cheaper of the two.”

City Attorney Catoria Martin said once proposals are received, it should take about 30 days to evaluate them. Any company, including Richard’s, is eligible to respond to the request, even with the pending litigation.

“Socrates Garrett, he’s had pending litigation against the city of Jackson for probably the last 10 years,” she said. “He’s consistently on every other agenda... with contracts.”

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