Natchez considers bids for waste hauling

Published 12:10 am Wednesday, April 11, 2018

NATCHEZ — City officials opened Tuesday the final bids for the city’s next waste and recycling contract, as a last-ditch effort to add a fail-safe requirement failed.

The city received bids from Arrow Disposal Service Inc., Metro Service Group Inc., Red River Waste Solutions, Waste Management and Waste Pro for solid waste collection, as well as one bid from Express Recycling for recyclable material processing.

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Before opening the bids, however, Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith made a motion to amend the city’s request for proposals to add a requirement for a performance bond.

The bond, Smith said, would protect the city in the event that the selected hauler fails to provide adequate services for whatever reason.

Ward 4 Alderwoman Felicia Irving said she was unaware of what exactly a performance bond is, which prompted City Attorney Bob Latham to explain.

“A performance bond is kind of like an insurance policy,” Latham said.

If the company that is awarded the hauling contract failed in its performance, Latham said, the bond would allow the city to continue having its garbage and recyclables collected all without incurring an additional expense.

Smith moved to require a performance bond of $500,000, which Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell said would “keep the city afloat” for a six-month period in case of emergency.

But no alderman offered a second, meaning the motion died.

Requiring the performance bond would have delayed the process for at least five business days to allowd companies to resubmit bids with the additional language. Ward 1 Alderwoman Joyce Arceneaux-Mathis said the delay could prove detrimental at this stage of the process.

“They would have to go back, take them back, and rewrite their submissions, because they did not rewrite them originally with performance bonds in them,” Arceneaux-Mathis said.

She referenced a meeting between city leaders and representatives of prospective haulers, at which ADSI Vice President of Government and Public Affairs Jimmie Moore said his business would already be stretched for time even without a delay, because ADSI would need a few weeks to prepare to service the city in the event they were awarded a contract.

Another factor in Arceneaux-Mathis’ decision is that the performance bond would likely mean the haulers would charge higher rates to the city, she said.

Immediately, Smith responded, saying she believes the city could put itself in a precarious position without a bond.

“I don’t think this is a city that’s tax base is as large as we need it to be,” Smith said. “We struggle every year, so I think getting in a situation that could put us in peril would not be smart for us.”

After further discussion, resident Chesney Doyle spoke up from the audience and asked if Smith could restate her motion to see if someone would offer a second this time around.

Smith did so, but still the motion failed again.

With the performance bond now a moot point, the board will begin evaluating the proposals.

Aside from the debate about the bond, another issue looms — the matter of whether the public is entitled to see the proposals.

Natchez Mayor Darryl Grennell opened the bids and read aloud the names of all the companies, but what he did not read was any specific information about pricing contained in the proposals.

That is because the city claims that disclosing the information would negatively affect the city’s ability to negotiate with companies, Latham said after the meeting.

Latham then said he was awaiting word from the Mississippi Ethics Commission, whom he had contacted about the matter of whether the proposals should be public record.

Mississippi code states that proposals submitted to municipalities become public record unless it meets the criteria of certain exemptions. Latham could not cite a specific exemption immediately following Tuesday’s meeting.

With less than eight weeks until the city’s emergency contract with Waste Pro expires, Latham said the city hopes to name a new hauler very soon. The company awarded with the contract will need to begin hauling by May 1.