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Jackson Mayor Moving Forward With Garbage Pickup Bid Process After Two-Year Impasse

Mayor Lumumba in a black jacket speaking at mics
Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said on Nov. 9, 2023, that the City of Jackson will issue a new request for proposal for a garbage-collection contract on or before Nov. 21, 2023. Lumumba said his priority is ensuring Jackson residents do not see an increase in cost for garbage-collection services. File photo by Kayode Crown

The City of Jackson will issue a new request for proposal for garbage-pickup services on or before Nov. 21, Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba announced alongside other city officials on Nov. 9. Governments use RFPs to solicit bids from potential contractors.

The plan for a new RFP comes one year after the Jackson City Council voted twice to reject a proposed six-year garbage-collection contract from Richard’s Disposal, a company the mayor had previously come into agreement with for the service. The ongoing dispute left residents without garbage pickup for weeks earlier this year.

Lumumba said he anticipates that a new RFP means Jackson residents will pay higher costs for trash-pickup services.

“There was an effort on my behalf and the administration’s behalf to reach a compromise (with the Jackson City Council),” he said. “In this process, because we weren’t agreeing, I’m just going to do it the standard way, no third party. Everybody has a fair opportunity to give their very best price.”

The mayor said he was recently in negotiations with council members for a consensus on how to best move forward so that residents would not have their garbage services interrupted again or incur an increased cost for the service. After negotiations fell apart, though, he said he chose to request proposals for a new contract. The City’s current emergency contract for garbage pickup with Richard’s Disposal expires on March 31, 2024.

‘A Disservice to the People of Jackson’

Since 2021, Jackson’s trash collection has been the subject of a series of disagreements between Mayor Lumumba and the Jackson City Council.

Following the council’s rejection of Richard’s Disposal in 2022, Waste Management, the company that previously collected trash for Jackson residents, sued the mayor; the company accused him of ignoring their proposal for services.

Two weeks later, Waste Management filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit.

The mayor has issued three emergency contracts for trash collection in recent years to avoid interruptions in garbage pickup, but the issues came to a head earlier this year.

trash bags with trash strewn outside a home
In April, after Jackson leaders failed to enact a contract for trash collection, garbage piled up in yards and business parking lots across the city. Photo by Kayode Crown

In April, residents dealt with an 18-day lapse in trash-pickup services after local leaders failed to find a middle ground and finalize a contract. For over two weeks, trash piled up in front of homes and in the parking lots of businesses in the capital city. Some community members scrambled to find private hauling companies to collect their trash while others had to take their garbage to city-approved dump sites.

“It’s a disservice to the people of Jackson,” Jackson resident Emelle Broome told WJTV on April 7. Broome said the council and the mayor’s “back-and-forth” created an “inconvenience” for residents who had to deal with the fallout.

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality wrote a letter addressed to the mayor and all city council members on April 7, threatening the City with $75,000 in daily fines for multiple Mississippi code violations. MDEQ called the City’s plan for residents to use designated trash drop-off sites “inadequate.”

“Furthermore, on Friday, April 7, 2023, MDEQ personnel conducted visual observations of neighborhoods within all seven wards of the City of Jackson,” MDEQ Executive Director Chris Wells wrote. “These observations revealed that garbage and other solid waste has been dumped, stored, stockpiled, and otherwise placed curbside and in streets by residents of the City. These conditions are a result of the lack of adequate collection and disposal services being provided by the City.”

The city council sued the City in February, seeking the authority to enter into their own contract negotiations with other vendors and citing the mayor’s inaction.

Then-City Council President Ashby Foote told the Mississippi Free Press in February that “the Mayor abandoned the RFP Process that had begun in October 2021” after the city council voted down Richard’s Disposal multiple times in January, February and March of 2022. Lumumba said Richard’s Disposal presented the most cost-effective solution to garbage collection.

A group of 10 people in matching shirts that work for Richard's Disposal
On April 17, 2023, Special Chancery Court Judge David Clark mediated a temporary settlement between council members and the City, allowing a one-year emergency contract for Richard’s Disposal to do waste collection in the city. That contract expires on March 31, 2024. Photo by Kayode Crown

After 18 days with no garbage collection, Special Chancery Court Judge David Clark mediated a temporary settlement between council members and the City to go into a one-year emergency contract with Richard’s Disposal. The City of Jackson is currently entangled in ongoing litigation with Richard’s Disposal after the Louisiana-based company sued following the council’s rejection of a six-year contract Lumumba proposed.

“The peculiar circumstances are that there’s no cooperation between the city council and the mayor,” Clark said at the April 17 court hearing. He referred to the governing authorities of Jackson as “dysfunctional.”

‘This Is Government 101’

At his announcement on Nov. 9, Mayor Lumumba said Jackson residents will have to pay a higher rate for garbage pick-up because of inflation-related costs in gas and the cost of garbage collection trucks compared to two years ago.

He said his priority throughout the saga has been ensuring residents do not see an increased cost in trash-collection services.

“That is what we were trying to avoid. It would be unfair to the administration that when that happens, for the blame to be laid in our laps,” he said.

“We were getting an excellent rate (in previous negotiations). We have told the council that and if the costs increase, they have to own up to the cost increase because of their decisions and their insistence,” Lumumba added. “Our residents cannot afford for us to levy this unfortunate tax on them for this routine service that they need.”

Councilman Foote told the Mississippi Free Press on Wednesday morning that he is pleased with the mayor’s plan to initiate a new RFP for garbage collection. “That’s the way it should be done,” he said. Foote said citizens from every ward have suffered and that they would be well-served if city officials could find a middle ground.

“It’s been a challenge over the past year and a half with this garbage RFP. This is government 101. We’ve got to be able to get this right,” Foote said.

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