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City to restart trash contract process

NATCHEZ — An Adams County circuit court judge ruled Thursday that the City of Natchez must restart its bidding process to select companies for waste collection and disposal services.

The ruling comes after Waste Management appealed the Natchez Board of Aldermen’s decision in late November to award the city collection contract to Waste Pro USA and disposal contract to Riverbend Environmental Services.

The board decided during a specially called meeting to contract with Waste Pro USA for waste collection services and Riverbend Environmental Services for disposal for a combined yearly rate of $785,250.

Waste Management presented the city with a combined collection and disposal contract for $764,730.

The aldermen voted 4-2 for the contract with Waste Pro, with Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith and Ward 5 Alderman Mark Fortenbery saying they believed the city should take the lower price.

Mayor Butch Brown broke a 3-3 tie voting for the contract with Riverbend. He has said he believes the potential for growth at the landfill in Jefferson County will allow the city to get tonnage rebates.

In the court order, Judge Forrest “Al” Johnson said the city based its decision on factors other than price. That was a clear violation of statute, he said, because the request for proposals did not include that other factors would be considered.

Johnson points out in the order that statute 31-7-13 allows the city to negotiate with the most qualified proposals “on the basis of price, technology and other relevant factors” in an effort to obtain a better price. The statute also says, Johnson noted, that all factors determined relevant by a governing authority “shall be included in the advertisement to elicit proposals.”

“The request for proposals sought by the City of Natchez … was limited to a decision based on rates,” Johnson said in the order.

Even though Waste Management, Waste Pro and Riverbend had actual notice of “other relevant factors” by private letter, the notice failed to satisfy the statutory requirements, Johnson said in the order.

Waste Pro will continue to provide collection services and Waste Management disposal services until new contracts are awarded, Johnson said in the ruling.

The city will select a new request for proposal and will not be bound by the previous request, Johnson said. The new contracts shall be awarded no later than the expiration of Waste Management’s current disposal contract in June.

Buford Clark, manager of public sector solutions for the Waste Management Gulf Coast Area, said in a press release Waste Management agrees with the court’s decision.

“Waste Management has served as a proud partner with the City of Natchez for more than 25 years,” Clark said.

“We stand behind the work we do in the community, and we will be aggressive participants in the new RFP review process.”

Brown said the ruling is actually somewhat good news.

“I’m encouraged now that everybody knows what the others’ prices are, and we’ll probably get a lower price,” Brown said. “We will be extra careful so that Waste Management feels like they have not been slighted.

“Unfortunately, the taxpayers of Natchez have been slighted (by Waste Management) for the last 20 years,” Brown said.

City Attorney Hyde Carby said that while he does not necessarily agree with the court’s finding that the city violated the law, the restarting of the selection process should be favorable to the city.

“We saw significant savings in the first round, and we’ll see even more savings now because of the competitive pressure,” he said.

Waste Pro and Riverbend representatives could not be reached for comment.