Future of Jackson’s trash pickup just days away

Richard’s Disposal, Inc. truck at staging area on March 21, 2023. Photo BY Christopher Young

By Christopher Young,

Contributing Writer,

On April 1, 2022, Richards Disposal, Inc. began picking up solid waste in Jackson under an emergency contract, set to last one year. We are now one week away from that contract expiring and Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba insists that trash will continue to be picked up.

Lumumba had vetoed the Jackson City Council’s 4-3 no vote in February 2022, on awarding the contract to Richards Disposal. Most of the council initially had voted for Richards, but then Councilwoman Lindsay changed her vote, which aligned her with what had been the lockstep votes of Councilmen Stokes, Hartley and Banks.

So the mayor moved forward with his veto, and the City Council filed suit, setting off a firestorm of litigation, costing the city untold hundreds of thousands of dollars, that ultimately ended up at the Mississippi Supreme Court. Two weeks ago, they held with the lower courts ruling that the mayor is not legally entitled to veto, a no vote or a negative action.

On March 13, 2023, the Clarion Ledger reported, “Lumumba said that Richard’s Disposal remains the winning bid and will continue to be the garbage contractor when the city’s emergency contract expires at the end of March.” On March 21,2023, veteran reporter Ross Reily wrote for the Clarion Ledger, “with a March 31 deadline looming before the current Richard’s Disposal contract with Jackson for trash pickup expires, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said in a Monday press conference after Mississippi Supreme Court ruled against him in his fight with the Jackson City Council over garbage collection, that he intends to put a new contract before the city council in the ongoing saga over trash pickup.” He added, “Last week, Lumumba issued a statement, saying the ruling “changes nothing.”

Reily focused on the cost saving realized by Richards in comparison to the other two bidders, FCC and Waste Management, and included their 2021 bids in the Table shown below.

Additionally, Reily writes, “Also, according to letters provided by the city to the Clarion Ledger, Jackson has reached out within the last two weeks to discern if previous quotes are still valid.”

In a brief summary, on March 10, 2023, FCC indicated that they cannot honor the initial pricing due to changing market conditions. Waste Management indicated March 10, 2023 that the RFP is no longer in effect and that they would be happy to participate in a new RFP process. On March 13, 2023, Richard’s Disposal indicated that they would honor the initial pricing for two times per week pickup with or without a cart. They also indicate that if a new RFP process occurs within the next six months that their prices would increase. 

A clearer picture does seem to be emerging. What really remains is how City Council members will respond. Can we look forward to more drama at taxpayer expense, remaining stuck in thinking that somehow a decades’ old vendor that has been bilking our city is the right choice moving forward? Or can we look forward to moving on with a new vendor that has clearly demonstrated their ability to provide us this important service and do so with a substantial savings to taxpayers?

We all know there was a rocky start for Richard’s Disposal. Any new vendor new on the scene would struggle when they are not provided route maps. Waste Management sure wasn’t going to provide them, and the city had not been keeping up with the routes because Waste Management had been doing the job for decades. 

Then there was the squabbling over the hours that the landfill would be open for Richards. Many local broadcast stations seemed to be going out of their way to air times when routes were missed, or when residents complained. Then there was the whole Hawkins Field staging area fiasco. It was rough going for the new company to say the least. But if we are honest, how many complaints have there been in the last six months? Richard’s Disposal has persisted, even when not being paid, and they have overcome. 

When the mayor makes his presentation to the council, we can only hope that clear minds dedicated to serving the city will prevail.

Christ Tabernacle Church Pastor Hosea Hines is fond of sharing the service-centric reminder, “It’s about us, it’s about we. It’s not about I, and it’s not about me.”

Any councilmember voting in favor of wasting over one million dollars of taxpayer money per year on a trash contract, or any other contract, is really not for us. Can you imagine how many potholes could be fixed with a million dollars each year? Let’s embrace Richard’s Disposal moving forward – a black contractor, serving our black city, for millions less than the other guy.

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