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Mayor breaks tie, votes for garbage

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Waste Management employee Steve White collects garbage on Merrill Street in Natchez Monday. After a Monday vote by city leaders, the company will no longer handle pickup in the city.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The original version of this story incorrectly reported that residents will be charged an additional fee for curbside recycling. City Attorney Hyde Carby said Tuesday he misspoke Monday about the fee and said curbside recycling will be provided to residents at no additional cost.

NATCHEZ — After 30 minutes in executive session and four different motions made by three aldermen, the city awarded waste collection and disposal contracts at a specially called meeting Monday.

The collection contract was awarded to Waste Pro USA, and the disposal contract to Riverbend Environmental Services for a yearly rate of $785,250 combined.

But comparing the numbers at face value, that may have not been the cheapest offer on the table, and Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith and Ward 5 Alderman Mark Fortenbery voiced concerns that the city did not go with Waste Management’s combined collection and disposal contract for $764,730.

Fortenbery made the first motion to go with Waste Management’s combined collection and disposal contract. The motion failed with Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis, Ward 2 Alderman Rickey Gray, Ward 4 Alderman Tony Fields and Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard voting against it.

The board voted after a 30-minute executive session during a specially called meeting Monday.

Fortenbery and Smith voted for the motion.

Dillard then made a motion to award the collection contract to Waste Pro USA that passed 4-2 with Fortenbery and Smith voting against the motion.

Dillard also made a motion to award the disposal contract to Waste Management saying he believed it was the best deal. The motion failed, then after discussion, was seconded by Fortenbery.

Mathis, Gray and Fields voted against the motion. Smith, Fortenbery and Dillard voted for the motion.

Mathis first declined to vote and then voted against the motion after the other aldermen voted.

Fortenbery and Smith said they did not understand how Mathis could listen to the other aldermen vote then decide how she was going to vote.

Fortenbery said Mathis’ move to not vote when it was her turn should have counted as an abstention from voting.

“That’s not right,” he said.

Mayor Butch Brown broke the tie by voting against the motion.

Gray then made a motion to award the disposal contract to Riverbend Environmental Services. The company’s landfill is located in Jefferson County.

Mathis, Gray and Fields voted for the motion, and Smith, Fortenbery and Dillard voted against the motion.

Brown broke the tie by voting for the motion.

Overall, the city will be saving approximately $57,000 annually with the two new contracts compared to what they paid with Waste Management in the past.

Awarding the collection contract to Waste Management could have added an additional $20,000 to the savings, but Brown said he believes Waste Pro USA was the right choice for the city.

Brown said he was impressed by Waste Pro’s commitment to community service, as well has the “newness” the company will bring to city waste services as far as new equipment and management.

Fortenbery and Smith said they believed the other aldermen were overlooking the math of the contracts and the fact that Waste Management has been a good corporate citizen for many years.

Fortenbery said he did not know what motivated the other aldermen to vote the way they did, but he said he was simply looking at the numbers.

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Ward 5 Alderman Mark Fortenbery leans back in frustration after his motion to contract with Waste Management for garbage collection and disposal failed on a 4-2 vote.

“I thought that’s what we were put into place for was to save the taxpayers some money,” he said.

But that was not really the goal, Brown said.

“We’re not trying to change the rates (for residents),” he said. “The important thing is that we’re not increasing the rates.”

The savings the city will receive with the new contracts over what it paid last year will be used in the Natchez Public Works budget, Brown said.

For example, he said, the city needs more money spent on mosquito control, so the city can now afford to increase its mosquito control efforts without increasing fees to residents. Mosquito control is included in the monthly fee residents pay for waste collection and disposal, sewer and other services.

Dillard said although Waste Management’s numbers may look the most favorable on the surface, he was not sure they were the best choice.

Brown and Dillard both said Waste Management was unresponsive to the city’s request to include a rate for disposal to Riverbend’s landfill.

Instead of giving the best rates possible, Dillard said some of Waste Management’s numbers were based on whether the company would get both contracts.

“They would say, ‘This is what we’ll do if,’ — and that’s the problem — if we get the disposal contract,’” Dillard said.

Brown said Waste Management’s original proposal could have been thrown out because it did not follow the guidelines set out by the city by not including a rate for disposal at Riverbend.

Curbside recycling is part of the contract with Waste Pro USA. City Attorney Hyde Carby said the recycling will not be immediately implemented. He said there will be a six-month period in which Waste Pro will be setting up the recycling service and educating residents.

The recycling is optional and will be provided to residents at no additional cost.

Additionally, Brown said that splitting the contracts between two companies was beneficial.

If Waste Management was awarded the collection and disposal contracts, and the contracts’ lengths were different, Brown said the company could essentially dictate the rates to other companies for collection once the collection contract expires because the company would still have the disposal contract.

Riverbend is the better choice for the disposal contract, Brown said, because the landfill has experienced tremendous growth in the last year. Brown said he predicts that because the city receives a $1 per tonnage rebate for every new $26,000 tons of waste brought into the landfill, the city will experience savings in the per-ton rate it pays with continued growth at Riverbend.

In his opinion, Brown said he believes Waste Management has been overcharging the city.

“(Waste Management) didn’t come in and offer us any help (with rates) until they had competition,” he said.

The city was paying $30 per ton with Waste Management. The city will pay $18 per ton with new contract.

“We’ve been paying through the nose for collection and disposal since 1982,” he said. “That’s a long time to overcharge for a service.”

Brown said he has been told that any employees laid off by Waste Management will be hired by Waste Pro.

Carby said the length of the contracts will be negotiated with each company. He said a collection contract can be up to six years and a disposal contract 25 years.