Mississippi’s capital city may be without trash pickup for the next 50 days after officials failed to come to an agreement on a new contract.
The Jackson City Council and Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba joined for a special meeting on Saturday, one day after the city’s emergency contract with Richard’s Disposal expired. Forging ahead with the nearly two-year dispute, the two sides once again failed to reach terms on a contract with a trash disposal company leaving garbage pick-up across the city in a state of flux.
Richard Disposal, a New Orleans-based garbage collection company, has been serving Jackson residents for over one year following mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba’s emergency declaration in February of 2022.
In October, officials reached a settlement with Richard’s Disposal of $4.8 million owed for six months of work. Richard’s Disposal then agreed to collect trash across Jackson for six more months, with the deadline set for March 31, 2023.
Lumumba has been pushing for Richard’s Disposal to be selected as the city’s primary trash collection contractor since August 2021. Throughout the process, city council members have been requesting a continuation of the previous contract with Waste Management, which has served Jackson residents for 35 years.
The disagreement advanced through the state’s court system, eventually leading the Mississippi Supreme Court to issue a ruling on an ongoing debate on a technicality between the mayor and city council last month.
Following the ruling, city council members were expected to take action on designating a contract to either waste disposal companies prior to the March deadline. Instead, the council convened one day after the agreement with Richard’s Disposal expired, leaving Jackson without a trash collector once again.
During the 30-minute meeting, members of the city council voted 3-3-1 for awarding a contract to Richard’s Disposal, which would designate the company to be Jackson’s primary garbage disposal service for six years.
Councilman Kenneth Stokes was the abstaining vote, with Brian Grizzell, Angelique Lee, and Virgi Lindsay voting in approval of the contract. Those opposed were Council President Ashby Foote, Vernon Hartley, and Aaron Banks.
Stokes then motioned to substitute Richard’s Disposal with Waste Management in the contract, with council members then voting against the change 2-4-1 vote. Hartley and Stokes voted in favor of the change with Banks abstaining.
After the meeting, three of the council members blamed the lack of a trash collection contract in Jackson on Lumumba during a press conference at the law office of Martin & Martin.
“We’ve been dealing with this for over a year and a half. The mayor has a job to do. When he brings us a contract and [it] is voted down, then he has to follow the state RFP process, which he did not do,” Foote said. “What he did was sit on his hands, he waited up until 11:59 — the last minute of the last hour — and said, ‘Vote for this and if you don’t do this, it’s your fault.'”
Lumumba has since issued the following statement in response to the council’s meeting:
“This is a very sad day for the City of Jackson and its residents. A slim majority of the City Council has again voted down a garbage collection contract that would save the City millions of dollars, provide good-paying jobs to Jackson residents and prevent us from enduring an unnecessary public health and environmental crisis.
Four members of the council, against the will of their three colleagues, have done this in favor of a specific vendor, one who was not the top-rated bid in the last two RFP processes and would cost the City millions of dollars more.
Another RFP process will take at minimum 50 days. We also know – as does the council – that the overall costs in another RFP will dramatically increase. How do we know this? The vendors themselves have said so. The City of Jackson cannot afford this and that increase WILL be passed down to residents.
I want to also remind residents that I can only bring a scored and recommended contract forward. It is up to the council to approve it. It is abundantly clear that there is only one vendor the four council members will approve – and it is not based in the best interests of our residents. In fact, it is not based on the RFP process itself – which has been verified as legitimate by the council’s own attorney, and has followed all state procurement standards.
Our hearts go out to all the hardworking employees of Richards who have overcome great adversity to provide residents garbage collection services. We would also like to thank Working Together Jackson and other community activists for coming to today’s council meeting. I will continue to support the best interests of the community.
We will continue to fight to have garbage pickup in Jackson.”
For the time being, Jackson residents are asked to rinse out food containers, tie food in smaller bags, double bag trash, spray down bags with ammonia or bleach, and keep a brick or stone on trash bin lids until trash pickup operations are resumed.