Capital city residents will have to wait longer for a garbage-disposal contract after the Jackson City Council shot down Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba’s proposal of Richard’s Disposal a second time on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022.
After the 3-3 vote with one abstention, the mayor and the city council have just two months to stand up a new contract before the six-month emergency contract with Waste Management ends March 31. The emergency contract increased monthly garbage-disposal payment per household, after the first month, from $10.56 to $15, with the City paying the difference.
City Council President Virgi Lindsay, Ward 2 Councilwoman Angelique Lee and Ward 4 Councilman Brian Grizzell voted in favor of the contract, while Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote, Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes and Ward 5 Councilman Vernon Hartley voted no. Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks abstained.
The body had earlier rejected the vendor when the contract came before the council on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022, in a 4-2 vote.
Rejecting the Cheapest Option
City Attorney Catoria P. Martin said the January order to adopt Richard’s Proposal provides for $16.80 per extra cart if the number of households exceeds the 45,000 in the request for proposal. She said the new order does not have that provision.
Before voting in support of the proposal Tuesday, City Council President Lindsay said the financial consideration determined her vote.
“And at the end of the day, I think for me personally, and as the ward seven city councilperson, the money that is being talked about here today is a deciding factor for me,” she added. “Whatever happens, colleagues, we’ve got to keep in mind that we must have garbage collection come April 1st.”
Lindsay said she was pleased that the company’s management visited some neighborhoods in her wards. “Mr. Richards did spend time, he and his staff did spend time with me touring my ward yesterday,” she said. “They were very interested in the concerns that I had concerning the (narrow) alleys; they’ve been able to satisfy my concerns about that.”
The mayor explained that compared with the next best option, which was for pickup without a cart twice a week, Richard’s Disposal will save the city $1.2 million a year and with twice-a-week cart pickups. The company has carried contracts in cities larger than Jackson, he added.
“I spoke to the mayor of Baton Rouge; I spoke to the mayor of New Orleans, and they both have assured me that they have the utmost confidence in his ability to perform this contract, especially with the scope that we are asking,” Lumumba said. “I think that it is notable that as we have gone through this contract and the various iterations, the first time we really get into a discussion over capacity is when it is a Black vendor; and that is problematic, that is problematic.”
Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote said Richard’s Disposal scoring the least in the technical evaluation was concerning. The RFP included 25% for presentation, 10% for Equal Business Opportunity, which lays out minority participation, and 30% for the blindly judged technical proposal, totaling 65%. The scoring for cost is the remaining 35%.
Richard’s Disposal Scored Lowest
Out of the three vendors that submitted proposals, the mayor put forth vendor 2—Richard’s Disposal. At the Tuesday meeting, the city attorney revealed that vendor 3 was Waste Management; it became clear that vendor one was FCC Environmental Services. She announced in November that those were the three respondents.
Based on the technical, EBO and presentation evaluations, FCC Environmental Services scored 56.4, Richard’s proposal scored 46.8, and Waste Management scored 57.4. Richard’s Disposal, however, emerged with the highest score for the twice-a-week, pick-up-with-a-cart service because it consistently had the lowest cost, which attracted the full 35 marks.
The evaluation committee members were the City of Jackon’s chief of staff, chief administrative officer, the director of public works, deputy director of general services, and solid waste manager, Public Works Director Marlin King said Tuesday.
“I think the evaluation was to determine the ability of the vendor to accomplish, complete the task for which was going to go on for six years; it was going to cost in the vicinity of $50 million for those six years,” Foote said. “So this is a serious issue that the council needs to be prudent about and diligent about in looking at all the analysis.”
“My concern is that for an expensive contract like this with a six-year period, and then extensions beyond that, I have concerns over the fact that we’ve got the lowest, the one that’s scored the lowest of the evaluation committee on these different categories and interviews and all.”
‘He Did a Phenomenal Job’
Public Works Director King pushed back and said that Richard’s Disposal having the lowest evaluation score does not mean that the company was incapable.
“I think that there’s a misunderstanding when we look at Richard’s, and we think that because they maybe had the lowest score, that it’s a less-than,” he said. “He did a phenomenal job. It’s just the other two vendors did a better job.” He added that working in the business since 1978 highlights Alvin Richard, the owner of Richard’s Disposal’s credibility and ability.
Chief of Staff Safiya R. Omari said Richard’s Disposal met the minimum requirement based on the RFP. “There are a number of reasons why that part could have been lower that have nothing to do with their capacity to do the job,” she said. “They qualify; they were the lowest bid for what we considered, and that’s what’s most important.”
Ward 2 Councilwoman Lee said that having a Black contractor before the county is a unique opportunity. “Today is the opportunity for us to make a historic vote,” she said. “We’ve heard from our business community who want Black contractors at the table, we’ve heard from our pastors who are concerned that we are consistently rejecting Black-owned businesses.”
“If we’re worried about capacity resources, I’ve spoken with several businessmen, administrators, school superintendents in New Orleans and Baton Rouge who are currently more than satisfied with Richard’s Disposal. They serve over a hundred thousand houses.”
Ward 4 Councilman Grizzell said the council should not overlook Richards Disposal’s record of success. “Richard’s Disposal won the bid fair and square,” he said. “And I think that according to the statute, we need to go ahead and support this contract.”
Ward 5 Councilman Hartley said having the carts was problematic because it could add to the public works department’s issues. “I’m hearing from my constituents that if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it,” he said. “And right now we don’t have folks calling over there, to Solid Waste saying, ‘Hey, I got a misplaced cart, I got a stolen cart, I got this thing with, I got broken wheels.’”
Ward 3 Councilman Stokes said that though he abstained from voting in January, he had decided to vote no. “I think that we don’t need to have these garbage cans. People don’t want them in my ward. People don’t want them in the city.”