Close this search box.

Jackson Garbage-Pickup Mess Unresolved As Deadline Looms

Headshot of Mayor Lumumba in a black jacket speaking at mics
Jackson, Miss., Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said on Jan. 22, 2024, that officials are still reviewing proposals for the next vendor to take over garbage-collection services in the city. The city’s current emergency garbage-collection contract expires on March 31, 2024. File photo by Kayode Crown

Jackson leaders still have not decided on a vendor to handle trash-collection in Mississippi’s capital city just over two months before the City’s current emergency trash-collection agreement is set to end on March 31. Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba said on Monday that officials are still reviewing garbage-collection requests-for-proposal submissions and have yet to make a recommendation.

“We’re committed to an honest process,” Lumumba said at a press conference on Monday. “We’re committed to a legal process, and we’re committed to a process that leads to our residents having the best possible price and reducing the burden on our residents. That’s what we care about.”

Since 2021, Jackson residents have witnessed a back-and-forth between the Jackson City Council and the mayor’s office over which company should be responsible for handling garbage-collection services and how involved the council should be in the RFP process. That back-and-forth resulted in three emergency garbage-collection contracts and a series of lawsuits over the matter, including a currently ongoing lawsuit with Richard’s Disposal.

Those disagreements came to a head last April after local leaders failed to find a middle ground and finalize a contract that resulted in an 18-day lapse in trash-pickup services in Mississippi’s capital city. For more than two weeks, trash piled up in front of homes and in the parking lots of businesses in Jackson. Some residents scrambled to find private hauling companies to collect their trash, while some community organizers stepped up to haul the trash to city-approved dump sites.

A group of 10 people in matching shirts that work for Richard's Disposal
Richard’s Disposal workers gathered outside Jackson City Hall on March 30, 2023, after four members of the Jackson City Council did not show up to vote for the mayor’s recommendation of the company for a garbage-disposal contract. On April 1, 2023, the body voted down the proposed contract, leaving the city without a means to collect garbage. Photo by Kayode Crown

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality sent out a letter addressed to the mayor and all city council members on April 7, 2023, threatening the City with $75,000 in daily fines for multiple Mississippi code violations during the garbage-pickup debacle.

At last week’s Jackson City Council meeting, Ward 5 Councilman Vernon Hartley pleaded with officials from the mayor’s office to work alongside the council to get a new garbage-collection contract in place to avoid any hiccups in service.

“We need to get on the same page for the sake of the people,” Hartley said on Jan. 18. “No holding back information for the last minute, nothing along that line. We need to show the public that we’re working together and we have their interests at the center of what we’re doing.”

At the same meeting, City Council President Aaron Banks asked each council member in attendance if they had any input in the current garbage RFP process, saying that Mississippi procurement law allows the council to be included in the process.

“We were not allowed to have any input,” Banks said on Jan. 18. “At the end of the day, the law is clear.”

A man standing in front of a curved staircase. He is wearing a blue suit, maroon tie, and black glasses
City of Jackson Ward 5 City Councilman Vernon Hartley said on Jan. 18, 2024, that the mayor’s office should work alongside the council to make sure residents do not have to deal with another lapse in garbage-pickup services. Photo courtesy City of Jackson

Mississippi purchase law outlines the responsibilities of “a governing authority” such as “governing authorities of all municipalities” when entering into a contract for garbage collection or disposal but does not outright mention the council or mayor.

On Monday, Lumumba accused Banks of making an effort to confuse the public about the council’s role in the process. “I know that Councilman Banks made a point to poll the council about their participation in the RFP process,” he said. “It’s quite interesting that the question is about their participation in this RFP when, (for) one, that is not the role of the council. We do hundreds of RFPs each and every year, and the council never participates in an RFP because that’s not their role.”

“Their role is that once a contract is selected, they vote. They either approve it or they disapprove,” Lumumba said Monday.

He said that governmental checks and balances would not allow for the council to be involved in the proposal review and selection process and also be the decision makers to approve who gets awarded the new contract.

“That was an effort to confuse people, I believe,” the mayor said on Jan. 22. “We don’t want people to believe that this administration isn’t participating and cooperating and, more importantly, adhering to state law. That’s what we’re doing. That was a misrepresentation.”

City of Jackson Solid Waste Supervisor Lakesha Weathers said at the council meeting on Jan. 18 that officials evaluating the current garbage-collection proposals plan to have a recommendation for a new garbage-pickup vendor presented to the city council either by the next council meeting, which is Jan. 30, or by Feb. 1.

Can you support the Mississippi Free Press?

The Mississippi Free Press is a nonprofit, nonpartisan 501(c)(3) focused on telling stories that center all Mississippians.

With your gift, we can do even more important stories like this one.