Garbage rates may rise for Natchez residents

Published 1:15 am Saturday, November 18, 2017


NATCHEZ — Residential garbage rates may go up soon, as Natchez city leaders prepare to renegotiate a contract with Waste Pro USA, just months after effectively jilting the collection company.Natchez aldermen initially cancelled the city’s contract with Waste Pro months ago, but failed to properly follow the steps necessary to seek a new contract.

Now with the existing contract set to end on Nov. 30, city leaders have no time to seek a new contract and are effectively over a barrel with Waste Pro.

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City officials plan to meet Monday with Waste Pro officials to determine how garbage collection will be carried out in the immediate future.

Though Waste Pro Regional Vice President Randy Waterlander said he has enjoyed and hopes to continue working with the city, a price hike is likely.

“I can’t say (for sure) at this point, but rates are probably going up,” Waterlander said.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said he is unsure at this point what impact increased rates would have residents’ bills.

“I guess it really will depend on what they’re talking about in terms of an increase in rate,” Grennell said. “I certainly don’t want to put a burden on the residents with any kind of rate increase. We’ll just have to see when we meet with them Monday.”

Grennell said the board would have to decide if it wants to continue with Waste Pro after the meeting.

Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith, who chairs the city’s utilities committee, said she had hoped to keep rates the same.

“It’s just a shame that they wouldn’t work with the city,” Smith said. “Since there have been so many issues with customer service and pickup, and we’ve received a lot of pressure from the public to do something, this would be a golden opportunity for them to increase the level of their customer service and prove that they are willing to (improve) their services for the City of Natchez.

“But since it sounds like they’re not willing to work with us … They’re missing an opportunity.”

Waterlander, who plans to attend Monday’s meeting, would not comment on whether his company sought a short- or long-term extension.

Smith said regardless of how Monday’s meeting goes, the city would ensure that residents’ trash is collected.

“We’ve also got some backup plans. If something did not work out, we will get the garbage picked up,” Smith said emphatically.

The city voted in August to terminate its contract with Waste Pro to seek proposals from additional companies, but with less than two weeks before the contract expires no such request for proposals (RFP) has been published.

RFPs are a way for municipalities to seek services — regarding this instance, the services are waste collection and recycling. The RFP sets forth certain parameters for what the city desires, including pricing, specific services such as limb pickup, weekly versus twice-weekly pickup, and many other specifications.

After an RFP is advertised by the city and proposals are received, officials select what they believe to be the best proposal and negotiate with that company.

Various city officials estimated the RFP process should typically require 30-45 days to complete.

As for what happened that derailed the city’s plans, Grennell provided a couple reasons.

First, Grennell said the county’s decision to extend its contract with Waste Pro rather than work with the city on a joint RFP threw the city for a loop.

The Adams County Board of Supervisors voted Aug. 21 to extend the county’s waste collection contract for another year, 13 days after the aldermen’s decision to decline their extension.

The next factor Grennell pointed to was the city’s vote not to contract with a third-party consultant, Waste Tech Services out of Franklin, Tenn., whose help the city considered for drafting the RFP.

“That’s where the ball got dropped,” Grennell said.

Waste Tech representatives spoke before the board at an Aug. 22 aldermen meeting, but those representatives said the company had not worked with municipalities before. The aldermen decided not to contract with Waste Tech, leaving the responsibility on the city’s shoulders to draft an RFP.

City Attorney Bob Latham said by Oct. 10 he had prepared and disseminated such a draft to the aldermen for review, though this document was simply an aide the aldermen would need to develop a new RFP, Latham said.

No action was taken on the draft RFP in October.

But with a Nov. 30 deadline looming, aldermen at their latest meeting on Tuesday expressed that no real discussion amongst the group had taken place. Both Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis and Ward 6 Alderman Dan Dillard expressed at that meeting aldermen had been too bogged down to meet the deadline.

At the Aug. 8 meeting in which the aldermen unanimously voted to end the contract, Smith asked the rest of the board if they would be willing to extend the contract with Waste Pro on a month-to-month basis, which she said the city would need to do by Aug. 19 if it decided to terminate the original deal.

Grennell then agreed, while Dillard responded, “I don’t think we have a choice on that.”

Yet no such agreement has been reached to date.

Smith said Thursday the expectation to have the RFP completed by the end of November was unrealistic considering the city spent much of July through September trying to crank out a balanced budget for this fiscal year.

“That’s just not enough time, passing a budget in September and then putting out an RFP (for waste collection),” Smith said.

“Had we had (Waste Tech) to really take over helping us plan that out, it maybe could have happened in that time frame.”

Smith, Grennell and Latham are all scheduled to attend Monday’s meeting with Waste Pro representatives.