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Waste Management appeals city’s contract decision

NATCHEZ — Waste Management filed an appeal Thursday to the City of Natchez’s recent decision to award contracts for waste collection and disposal to Waste Pro USA and Riverbend Environment Services.

The Natchez Board of Aldermen decided during a specially called meeting Nov. 26 to contract with Waste Pro USA for waste collection services and Riverbend for disposal for a combined yearly rate of $785,250.

In a statement from Waste Management, the company contends that it offered the city the best price for collection and disposal at $764,730.

Additionally, the release states that the “City of Natchez selected proposals, issued requests for information not included in the publicly issued request for proposals and awarded the solid waste collection and disposal contracts based on factors not contained in the (requests for proposals) in violation of public purchasing law.”

According to the statement, following the submission of proposals, the city asked for additional information regarding collection and disposal services through a letter dated Nov. 14.

None of the information requested, according to Waste Management, was included in the advertised request for proposals, nor was the request re-advertised or re-considered to include those factors.

City Attorney Hyde Carby said state statute allows the city to request additional information not included in the original request for proposals and use that information during considerations to award waste collection and disposal contracts.

Under statute 31-7-13 that outlines bidding requirements, contracts for garbage collection or disposal are exempt for normal bidding requirements.

The statute states that after responses to the request for proposals have been received, the city shall select the most qualified proposal or proposals on the basis of price, technology and other relevant factors, negotiate and enter into contracts with one or more of the companies.

The statute notes that the city is not limited to the terms of the request for proposals when selecting a company or companies with which to negotiate and enter into a contract.

According to Waste Management, the city also refused to meet or negotiate with the company following multiple requests by the company to conduct negotiations and despite the city’s written correspondence to the companies that it would negotiate with them.

That is an “absolute lie,” Mayor Butch Brown said Thursday. Brown said he met with Waste Management more times than he met with Waste Pro and Riverbend combined.

Brown added that he believed Waste Management’s appeal has no merit.

Carby said the appeal will come down to the legal interpretation of the statute.

“We can’t both be right,” he said. “Obviously, I think we’re right, or I wouldn’t have selected the course of action we selected.”

The appeal was filed in Adams County Circuit Court, and a judge will be charged with finding whether the board of aldermen’s decision was outside its authority, arbitrary or capricious.

Waste Management is asking that the board’s decision be reversed or the request for proposals canceled.

Canceling the proposals, Carby said, would presumably mean that the city would have to go through the waste collection and disposal contract process again.

Brown has said that he supports the board’s decision to award the contract to Waste Pro and said he believes the city has been overpaying for Waste Management services.

Buford Clark of Waste Management said he believes statements made about the company overcharging the city were unfair and did not represent the facts.

While the city paid $31.24 per ton of solid waste hauled to the Plantation Oaks landfill in 2012, Clark said that number also accounted for a host fee of $1 per ton of solid waste being disposed into the landfill Waste Management paid the city.

That resulted in a host fee rebate to the city of $95,087 in 2011, meaning that Waste Management had an effective rate per ton of $17.67, Clark said.

“Because of the landfill, because everybody was bringing waste here, the city was receiving enough money back to have one of the lowest rates in the state, if not the lowest,” he said.

The proposal Waste Management recently made did not factor in the host fee, so the company was able offer a proposal as a competitive landfill rather than as a host county landfill, Clark said.

“Riverbend Environmenral Services is offering a host fee, and we are not offering a host fee, so this is our price,” said Andy Yates, Waste Management’s district manager for Natchez.

Clark said regardless of losing the contract, the company plans to make the landfill work.

“If we can’t make it work, at that time it will be a business decision we need to make, but we are not trying to leave Natchez,” he said. “We have a lot of commercial customers, industrial customers, private customers.”

And even though the company lost the pickup and disposal contracts for the city — the company also lost the disposal contract for Adams County earlier this year — Waste Management has not laid off any employees.

Clark said he believed many thought Waste Management’s employees would go to work for another company, but they approached their managers about staying employed with Waste Management.

“Like any good business in the community, we want to keep our local people employed with other opportunities we have here,” Yates said. “Each employee was individually contacted and offered a position with Waste Management.”

The employees who worked the Natchez city routes were reassigned to other areas where Waste Management has contracts, and some are currently working as floaters to cover people who are out, Yates said.

Waste Management also serves areas in Wilkinson County, Woodville, Gloster, Crosby, McComb, Jackson and Baton Rouge.