Jackson Trash Crisis: Mayor calling special meeting Monday to vote on disputed waste-hauling contract

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba watches on Feb. 7, 2023, at the state Capitol in Jackson,...
Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba watches on Feb. 7, 2023, at the state Capitol in Jackson, Miss., as lawmakers debate a bill that would expand the patrol territory for the state-run Capitol Police and create a court system with appointed rather than elected judges. People in Mississippi's majority-Black capital city say the mostly white state Legislature is trying to encroach on their rights of self-government. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)(Rogelio V. Solis | AP)
Published: Apr. 6, 2023 at 12:20 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba is calling a special meeting of the city council next week to again vote on a contract he hopes will get garbage trucks rolling again in the capital city.

At a press conference Thursday, the mayor announced he will again ask council members to approve a six-year, $54 million contract with Richard’s Disposal.

Key takeaways from Mayor Lumumba’s press conference:

  • Special meeting slated for Monday to again vote on garbage contract. More details to follow.
  • Says three council members have refused to meet with him to discuss Richard’s deal.
  • Lumumba researching crediting customers’ bills, so they don’t pay for services not received.

The meeting will come more than a week after the council previously rejected the contract, leaving the city with no residential solid waste collection services.

“We chose Monday because the council already has a work session scheduled for that day, and Councilmen Foote, Hartley, Lee, and Lindsay have already indicated that they will be there,” he said. “If they don’t approve the contract... I don’t have any tricks up my sleeve.”

“I can’t create a garbage company. I can’t create the capacity for the city to pick up trash. I don’t have another garbage company waiting in the wings.”

Lumumba was referring to Council members Ashby Foote, Vernon Hartley Angelique Lee, and Virgi Lindsay.

Foote and Hartley were among four council members absent at a meeting last Thursday, preventing a vote on the Richard’s contract.

Two days later, the council voted down the agreement on a 3-3-1 vote, with all members present.

Thursday’s press conference was the second time the mayor spoke since that vote.

The mayor again told reporters about the dumpsters set up at the Metrocenter Mall, where customers can drop off their household waste. He also said the city is researching a way to credit customers’ bills so they will not be paying for garbage collections without service.

“I want to thank the citizens of Jackson who have stepped up on their own to assist residents, especially the elderly. I want to thank PDT Logistics for helping hundreds this week, and several other folks who stepped up to help others pick up trash as well.”

While thanking some, Lumumba called out Foote, Hartley, and Ward 6 Councilman Aaron Banks for rejecting his request to hammer out any concerns they have with the Richard’s proposal.

“Councilman Foote flat out said, ‘no.’ Councilman Hartley never replied. Councilman Banks accepted my invitation. However, he never showed up for our meeting,” Lumumba said. “Later, all three gentlemen asked to sit down with me collectively... but I declined.”

“The city attorney advised me against that meeting, citing the statute surrounding the Open Meetings Act... After reading that particular statute, while it does not represent a quorum, the statute is quite clear that it could lead to a violation.”

Hartley, who represents Ward 5, says he has not seen Lumumba’s invitation. However, he refuses to talk with him one-on-one.

“I refuse to meet with him alone because of the lack of transparency and his relationship with the truth,” he said in a text. “We must be willing to follow the laws.”

He also says this is the first time the mayor has wanted to negotiate the Richard’s deal, saying he has refused to do so in the last year and a half.

North Jackson resident Steve Jones tosses trash into a roll-off Dumpster from the back of his...
North Jackson resident Steve Jones tosses trash into a roll-off Dumpster from the back of his pickup. He was one of hundreds of residents who dropped off their trash Thursday with the city still not providing pickup services.(WLBT)

The mayor disagreed, saying every issue council members have had with the contract has already been addressed.

“At one point, I think, early in the process, Councilman Lindsay expressed concerns over, ‘well, I don’t know if the trucks are small enough to go through alleys that are, you know, in my ward.’ And, so, when that happened, she then took the opportunity to ride with Richard’s to show them the alleys... and discuss what their solutions were,” he said. “And she was able to walk away satisfied in their capacity to do that.”

“There was a concern related to whether our house count was proper and whether or not we would purchase enough bins to meet each house and whether it would amount to a higher cost,” he said. “And, so, we changed the contract.”

The bins in question were the 96-gallon trash carts customers would be required to have for pickup service. Some council members questioned the cost of the bins and if those costs would be passed on to customers.

A subcontractor on the 2021 Richard’s contract would provide carts to the company. Each house would be given one bin under that agreement.

“We talked about fair market, that we would go to the market and get a fair market value on those... in order to avoid that challenge,” Lumumba said.

Where can I drop off my trash?

  • Thursday and Friday: Dumpster at Metrocenter Dillard’s parking lot, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Saturday: Jackson Rubbish Landfill, I-55 South Frontage Road, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The mayor says he’s also reached out to Mississippi State Auditor Shad White to discuss options moving forward, as well as the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

Lumumba previously said the city could be fined up to $25,000 a day by MDEQ for each day trash is not collected. He said MDEQ officials would not be available until next week.

“Knowing that we can be penalized, knowing that we’re trying to put mitigating factors in here and see how we can resolve this, we need to know MDEQ’s stance on this, not only so that we can protect the city and protect the residents, but so that we can bring that information back to the council and communicate how that relates to the timeline in which we solve the problem,” he said.

“We want to resolve this as soon as possible... I want to resolve this now,” he said. “So that is why we’re hosting these conversations. It is also why... I didn’t try to put up the contract today. One, I know there’s still resistance. There’s still a lot of discussions taking place all over the city and arguments being made.”

The mayor said after meeting with the auditor, he determined the “best path forward” would be to again introduce the Richard’s contract.

Fletcher Freeman, spokesman for the auditor, confirmed the meeting with the mayor, saying it “was an update regarding the garbage issue in the city of Jackson. If the city needed help interpreting state statutes, they will have to contact the Attorney General’s Office.”

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