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After years-long internal feud, Jackson picks a long-term garbage vendor

Since the fall of 2021, the city of Jackson’s garbage pickup has gotten by with piecemeal measures due to a lack of consensus among City Council members in selecting a vendor. The chaos peaked last spring, when resident’s garbage went uncollected for two weeks as city officials continued to quibble over picking a contractor.

On Tuesday afternoon, the council finally voted in favor of executing a six-year contract with Richard’s Disposal to collect the city’s garbage. The contract includes four one-year options to add on.

The vote was 4 to 3, with council persons Angelique Lee, Brian Grizzell, Virgi Lindsay, and president Aaron Banks voting in favor, and council persons Ashby Foote, Kenneth Stokes, and Vernon Hartley in opposition. In past votes when the mayor’s office proposed Richard’s as the vendor, Banks voted against the contract, but last week the council president told the Clarion Ledger he was left with no other option but to change his vote.

The council also voted to amend the contract by removing the 96-gallon carts that Richard’s had planned to provide to residents. Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba’s office will have to negotiate the amended contract with the vendor.

Last month, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality fined the city $900,000 for the period it did not pick up garbage last year. However, the city will only have to pay $375,000 as long it collects garbage for the next two years.

Throughout the process, the opposing council members argued that Lumumba was steering the council towards voting for his favored vendor, Richard’s. Lumumba and his office repeatedly argued that Richard’s, a Black-owned business that employs mostly local residents for its Jackson operation, provided the best bid to the city in the previous RFP — request for proposals — process. Moreover, the mayor argued, it’s his role to pick the contract to present to the council.

“You can’t be the executive body and the legislative body at the same time,” Lumumba said during Tuesday’s meeting.

During this RFP, the city only received two bids: Richard’s and National Collection Systems. NCS’s bid, the mayor’s office said, didn’t meet the minimum requirements for the RFP, including being able to pay for backup trucks and to get an insurance bond to repair trucks as well as having enough residential pickup experience. Thus, Richard’s was the only remaining bid. Dissenting council members argued that it was suspicious that no other bids met the city’s requirements.

“We’ve been goaded into this selection,” Hartley said.

Other members countered that no other vendors were willing to deal with the city at this point.

“We’re wondering why we don’t have a number of bidders, it’s because they don’t want to deal with this dysfunctional body,” Lee said.

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