Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
Residents are at a loss for what to do regarding trash pickup as the Mayor and City Council remain at an impasse.
Mississippi’s capital city of Jackson is expected to go without trash pick-up for at least 50 days while city leaders work through yet another RFP process.
The emergency contract between the city and Richard’s Disposal, the company that has been collecting the trash for the last year, has expired. On Saturday, Jackson City Council leaders voted down a new contract with the company. The vote was a tie with Vernon Hartley, Ashby Foote and Aaron Banks voting no and Brian Grizzell, Angelique Lee, and Virgi Lindsey voting in favor of the contract. Councilman Kenneth Stokes abstained from voting.
“This is very sad for the city of Jackson and its residents. A slim majority of the City Council has again voted down a garbage collection contract that would save the City millions of dollars, provide good-paying jobs to Jackson residents and prevent us from enduring an unnecessary public health and environmental crisis. Another RFP process will take, at minimum, 50 days. We also know – as does the council – that the overall costs in another RFP will dramatically increase,” said Mayor Chokwe Lumumba in a statement after the vote on Saturday.
The validity of the garbage contract has been an ongoing issue between the city council and Mayor Lumumba. Richard’s was issued the contract on an emergency basis after the council voted down the mayor’s pick last year, resulting in a lengthy and ongoing legal battle between the council and mayor.
How the trash-talk began among Jackson leaders
It all began when Lumumba vetoed a negative action by the city council when members did not vote to affirm his choice for garbage collector Richard’s Disposal out of New Orleans.
Lumumba then declared a state of emergency and hired the trash collector, entering into a contract with them despite the council’s decision.
The mayor claimed that Richard’s RFP won the bid, which has been disputed by the city council. A majority of the council found that Waste Management, the previous trash collection company, had the “lowest and best” score for twice weekly pickup with no cart when compared to Richard’s.
Lumumba’s veto of a “no” vote was challenged by the city council and taken to court where special appointed Judge Larry E. Roberts called the suit “non-sensical,” ruling in favor of the city council. Lumumba then filed an appeal with the Mississippi Supreme Court.
RELATED: Lumumba files appeal in Jackson Mayor vs. City Council dispute over garbage contract veto power
In March, the state Supreme Court upheld the original verdict, saying that a mayor cannot veto a negative action by the city council.
“Because the mayor in a mayor-council municipality may not, in his limited legislative power, veto an action or measure not undertaken by the city council and because no statutory authority exists allowing him to do so, we affirm the judgment of the trial court,” the State Supreme Court in the decision.
Since then, Lumumba has said there is no clear timeline for restoring trash pickup to the city. He has also insinuated that the Supreme Court decision won’t change anything.
City Council and Mayor still pointing fingers at the other
Councilman Ashby Foote released a statement on April 3, placing blame for the current situation that residents are in with no trash collection on the Mayor.
“Jackson just passed the one year anniversary of the Mayor’s illegal action when he gave Richard’s Disposal the notice to proceed in picking up garbage across the City of Jackson without a valid contract,” said Foote. “This was illegal because the Mayor abandoned the RFP Process that had begun in October 2021 after Richard’s Disposal had been voted down multiple times by the City Council in January, February and March of 2022.”
Foote added that if the mayor had continued with the RFP process, another vendor would be in place after at least four votes from the city council. Since Lumumba issued the contract to Richard’s Disposal, the federal government has been overseeing the city’s garbage pickup for the last nine months.
“Sadly, the Mayor has taken little to any action to find a garbage vendor that can get four votes from the City Council. In a cynical move he decided to wait until the last 48 hours of the Federal Court jurisdiction in hopes that the threat of ‘no garbage pickup’ flip one of the Council votes in favor of Richards Disposal,” Foote said.
On Saturday, the flip did not happen.
Foote said the council is now pursuing legal action through Special Chancellor David Clark to find a resolution. The members are seeking a declaratory judgement to negotiate with other vendors that can provide garbage collection under a legal contract.
Richard’s Disposal say they will not continue collecting trash at this time
Richard’s Disposal Chief Marketing Officer, Deidra Jones, told WAPT that they cannot and will not pick up trash without a legal contract. Jones said the company will continue to fight for the contract and believes they won the RFP over the other vendors.
Aaron Banks, another of the city council to vote no on the contract Saturday, said he would be willing to support a 90-day temporary contract with Richard’s. He said this would allow time for leadership to work through a new RFP process for twice a week pickup without a cart.
“To be clear, the Mayor’s refusal to do what was right and this interruption of service is not the fault of the City Council. It is the direct result of a Mayor attempting to bypass the council, ignore the law and only wanting one vendor at the table. A Mayor simply only wanting things done his way,” said Banks.
Citizens are seeking their own resources to remove trash
In the meantime, Jackson residents are at a loss for what to do regarding trash pickup. Some neighborhoods are looking for individual ways to haul off their garbage. According to advertising Nextdoor, a popular neighborhood application, junk removers are requesting a nominal fee to haul off individuals trash during the week.
Justin Ragin, a former JSU football player, and now owner of T&C Movers said he is picking up resident’s trash for $15 a week. Ragin posted on Nextdoor a number for one of his associates, because so many had already reached out about the service.
The city also approved dumpster drop off days for Thursday, Friday and Saturday of this week. Residents can take trash to the Old Dillard’s at the Metro Center Mall between 8:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. for Thursday and Friday. Only household trash will be accepted and it must be in a commercial grade trash bag.
On Saturday, residents can drop off trash from 8:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. at the City landfill on Interstate 55 in Byram.