Monday, September 20, 2021
Getting a garbage-collection contract for the City of Jackson is coming down to the wire after Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba declared a state of emergency on Friday, Sept. 17, saying that Waste Management is "attempting to strong-arm" the City into a “lengthy contract."
Waste Management holds the current waste collection and hauling services contract with the City. The expiration date for the contract is 10 days away—Sept. 30, which puts Jackson at risk of being overrun with undisposed waste.
Company Denies ‘Strong-Arming’ Allegation
Waste Management Communications Manager Tricia Farace provided a statement to the Jackson Free Press Friday, in which the company denied the mayor's “strong-arming” accusation.
"Mayor Lumumba's claim that the city has been 'strong-armed' in negotiations over the solid waste collection contract was disheartening to hear, as we have always acted in good faith in our efforts to reach an agreement that complies with the RFP (Request for Proposal) while also providing a competitive fee for services to the City," Farace said in the statement.
"We value our customers and take pride in providing exceptional services to the City of Jackson, as we have for many years," she added. "Waste Management stands ready to work with the City to enter a contract that is favorable and provides a beneficial relationship to both parties for years to come."
The declaration of emergency contains a warning of disease and unsanitary conditions from uncollected garbage from residences throughout Jackson if the City goes through with a regular contract-procurement process. The failure to properly collect and dispose of garbage could expose the City to civil penalties of up to $25,000 a day and other legal action by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, City of Jackson Executive Writer Justin Vicory noted in an email statement on Friday.
"The declaration (of emergency) comes as the City's garbage contract is set to expire Sept. 30, and negotiations with the current provider, Waste Management, have been unsuccessful," Vicory wrote. "Without a contract in place, the City will have no means to collect garbage from residences and businesses, beginning Oct. 1, which could result in a public safety crisis."
Mayor Points at Jackson City Council
The declaration of emergency did not mention Waste Management. Instead, it pointed at the failure of the Jackson City Council to approve an agreement with FCC Environmental Services LLC., which it twice voted down in August. Waste Management and Richard's Disposal also submitted proposals.
"The mayor attempted to negotiate in good faith with the two remaining proposers, but was advised by one of the proposers that it could not meet the requirements of the Request for proposals beginning October 2021 and with respect to the other remaining proposer, could not agree to terms for a contract," the emergency declaration stated. The latter refers to Waste Management.
“The city intends to contract for the collection of residential solid waste beginning on October 1, 2021 continuing until such a time as a new contract is legally procured,” the declaration added.
In a 900-word opinion piece by Lumumba sent to local newspapers including this one, the mayor expressed displeasure with the current contract with Waste Management.
"In recent weeks, I've talked to residents across all wards, and what I continue to hear is they are fed up with inconsistent service and a growing menace of litter and illegal dumping in their neighborhoods," the mayor wrote. "I've talked to those who work with our current provider, Waste Management, often on a temporary basis, and find themselves with little job security."
"So, when it comes to the future of garbage collection in Jackson, we are at a point where accepting the status quo is not only unsustainable, it is irresponsible," he added. "Negotiations with Waste Management have hit a snag as the company attempts to strong-arm the City into a lengthy contract."
Waste Management Says Job Security Is Good
In a phone interview on Monday, Sept. 20, with the Jackson Free Press, Waste Management Public Affairs Area Manager Buford Clark denied the allegation about lack of job security. He said that the company operates an open-door policy where workers express their grievances and that they are happy with their jobs, which offer upward mobility and scholarships for those who want to improve their educational standing.
Clark explained that temporary workers choose to work a few days a week, and the company can employ as many people as want full-time employment. He said the company only has about an average of four complaint calls a day and that the negotiation with the City hit a stag when the mayor asked for a one-year contract instead of the six years listed in the RFP.
"We made our proposal based on what they requested, which was a six-year contract, and based on state statute, you really can't change it; you can't go in and change it in the middle of the process," Clark said. "We did what they asked for, and then they came in in negotiations and wanted to change it to one year."
"We don't know (why the mayor) wants a one-year contract, I don't know," he added. "We don't know what the problem is, I'll be honest with you, but we're still willing to meet with him and talk about a contract."
Email story tips to city/county reporter Kayode Crown at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @kayodecrown.