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Waste companies willing to submit new proposals to city

NATCHEZ — The City of Natchez has the option to appeal a judge’s ruling that it must reselect trash companies, but officials say the city is likely to restart the process as ordered by the judge.

The city has 30 days to appeal Circuit Court Judge Forrest “Al” Johnson’s Thursday ruling that the Natchez Board of Aldermen’s November decision to award city’s collection contract to Waste Pro USA and disposal contract to Riverbend Environmental Services violated the law.

Waste Management appealed the aldermen’s decision to circuit court.

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.

Representatives from Waste Management, Waste Pro USA and Riverbend Environmental Services say their companies will submit proposals if the city issues new a new RFP.

Waste Pro will continue to provide collection services and Waste Management disposal services until new contracts are awarded, Johnson said in the ruling. The new contracts shall be awarded no later than the expiration of Waste Management’s current disposal contract in June.

Waste Pro consultant Deuce McCallister said the company will continue to work with the community, and restarting the RFP process, he said, will not interfere with Waste Pro’s plan to roll out a curbside recycling pilot program in April.

“We will be great corporate citizens,” McCallister said. “Just because we don’t have a contract or may not get the contract doesn’t mean we’re going to back out on them…we’ll proceed as if this didn’t happen.”

Buford Clark, manager of public sector solutions for the Waste Management Gulf Coast Area, said in a press release Thursday Waste Management has served as a proud partner with the City of Natchez for more than 25 years.

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

Riverbend Vice President Andrew Densing said Riverbend will submit a new proposal, but he said until he sees the new RFP, it’s difficult to say if his price will change.

“Until I see what they’re going to ask for, I don’t know,” Densing said. “I don’t foresee mine going up, but I don’t know. We just look forward to at some point doing business with the city.”

The idea, Mayor Butch Brown said, is for the price to go down since the competitors have seen each other’s prices.

“Now we know what the market is, and we’re going to test it and see what the city can do to reduce our price without sacrificing service,” Brown said.

Brown said he and City Attorney Hyde Carby met Friday morning and discussed appointing two or three aldermen to a committee to draft a new RFP with himself and Carby.

Carby said he has not had time to carefully consider nor talk to the aldermen about whether the city should appeal the court’s ruling.

“We would like to take a look at what out needs are, making sure they are the same before, and all the things we’re interested in are included, as opposed to raising the more specific things during negotiations,” he said.

Other factors beyond price that came up during negotiations last time, Carby said, were a company’s commitment to hire local residents, invest in the community, help civic groups host events and other services beyond just collection and disposal.

“We need to get a real firm grip on what those things are and rather than just put down ‘other evaluation factors’ in the request, we put down specifically what they are,” he said.

Johnson ruled that the city’s award of the contracts violated the law because the award was made on factors other than price. The request for proposals, Johnson said, did not stipulate that other factors would be considered.

But if the list of other factors gets too big, Carby said, the city might be better off with a more basic RFP, which is what Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard said he would prefer.

“All that extraneous information is good to have, but in a bid process, I just want simple numbers so I can make a determination,” Dillard said.

In the previous bid process, Dillard said, Waste Management provided three sets of numbers that depended on whether the company was awarded both the collection and disposal contracts, whether it had to dispose at another landfill or whether it could dispose at its own landfill.

“It was really hard to get apples to apples,” Dillard said. “I’m really looking for two numbers. What’s your collection price per household monthly and what is your price per ton to dispose?”

Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith, who voted against awarding the contract to Waste Pro, said she still believes the city should take the best price.

“They’re all quality companies from what we know, and they all offer good things,” Smith said. “We need to go with what works out to be the best price for the city. We need to make sure everything is apples to apples, and everybody’s offering the same thing for their price.”

Brown said he believes Carby will consult with Community Development Director James Johnston on drafting the new request for proposal since Johnston negotiated similar contracts while county administrator for Claiborne County.

Brown said he would like to see, included in the RFP, language that prohibits the companies from attempting to lobby the aldermen after proposals are received.

“Every aldermen started complaining about these people beating them to death after the short-list process,” he said.

“We will learn from our good experiences and the bad experiences,” Brown said “We know we’re going to get a good product.”

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