In an industry once run by big-city mobsters and racketeers, Black-owned Richard’s Disposal Inc. has for the second time come through with the lowest bid among the three competitors for Jackson’s garbage disposal contract. But a majority of Jackson’s City Council members give all appearances of wanting to deprive the small company of its legally won contract.
The council failed to meet in special session Tuesday to consider the bids of Richard’s Disposal ($756,000), Waste Management ($1.11 million), and FCC Environmental ($1.12 million) for the monthly cost of twice-a-week pickups. Even with these bids entered during the last bidding period in 2022, Waste Management and FCC stated that their costs were likely to be increased due to rising cost of supplies and equipment. Richard’s has not indicated any possible increases on its bid during a possible six-year term of service.
Reports from the bids in 2020 indicated that the costs to the city would run around $10.5 to $11 million annually, with another $6-7 million in related costs for an estimated total of $17 million.
In a letter dated March 7, Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba requested that the three companies respond within 10 days about whether they “will honor the prices for twice-per-week collections” cited in October 2020, and if “the related services would decrease, remain the same, or increase” pending a new Request for Proposals (RFP) in the next six months.
RICHARD’S LOWEST BID
Lumumba said Monday that he expected Richard’s to renew its current contract that was awarded as an emergency contract last year while an irreconcilable feud raged between the mayor and at least four members of the council.
“I chose to take the lowest vendor,” the mayor said. “If we have the opportunity to save residents on their bill and still be able to provide more of a service than the alternative offers, then I think it is prudent to do so.”
Two judges rendered different opinions on the dispute, one favorable to the mayor, and most recently one favorable to the council. The mayor has the sole authority to write a contract for city business, the first judge ruled, but the state Supreme Court ruled that the council held the right to deny or reject the contract.
Richard’s Disposal, FCC, and Waste Management have been engaged in a confusing battle of bids and emergency contracts since Waste Management’s former contract expired October in 2020.
In August 2021, Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes proposed that the council accept Waste Management’s new bid of $17.25 per month for each household, although it was only the second lowest to Richard’s Disposal’s bid of $16 per household. FCC at that time bid highest at $19.67 per household.
Waste Management was somehow kept in place until April 1, 2022 when Richard’s Disposal was offered an emergency contract by the mayor, an act that brought on a year-long court fight with the city council over who had the right to issue the emergency contract – the mayor or the council.
Richard’s accepted the emergency contract but was left hanging without being paid due to the recalcitrance of a 4-3 or 5-2 majority of the city council. The company sued for $1.6 million in July 2022 and the city council agreed to pay the accumulated debt and to allow Richard’s to continue to collect the city’s garbage until January 2023, at which point, the council’s attorney said, Waste Management would be returned as the city’s contractor.
Waste Management, however, informed the city and the council that it would not agree to return because of the most recent court ruling allowing only the mayor to offer the contract. The company would submit a new RFP once the request was made, a Waste Management spokesperson said in a formal letter to the mayor.
Councilwoman Angelique Lee has shown her exasperation with the contract dispute and said in October 2022 that Richard’s had met all the requirements to hold the city’s disposal contract.
“Richard’s Disposal won the bid,” she said. “They were the lowest and the best. I polled my ward before we even voted. And they wanted twice-weekly pickups with the lowest rate. And that was Richard’s.”
Richard’s Disposal, FCC, and Waste Management have continued to be caught up in the confusing battle of bids and emergency contracts since Waste Management’s former contract expired in 2020.
Lumumba has reassured the public that he wants to maintain full disclosure and “transparency” with all developments regarding the garbage disposal contract.
“We have committed to transparency from the very beginning of the RFP process to secure a garbage contractor with the City of Jackson,” he said. “We have explained every step of the process to the city council and have held multiple town halls across Jackson to ensure residents we are taking their concerns seriously.”