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Aldermen should sign on dotted line

When making decisions on behalf of taxpayers, Natchez aldermen should consider signing on the dotted line.

Tuesday, aldermen decided against requiring performance bonds from waste collection companies who want to do business in the city.

Simply put, performance bonds are an insurance policy against losses incurred when a company fails to deliver.

Instead of insurance, aldermen decided to gamble Tuesday and take the risk that whichever company they choose to haul the city’s trash will hold up their end of the bargain and fulfill whatever is specified in the contract.

Aldermen have decided to incur whatever losses might result if the city’s future waste collection company suddenly declares bankruptcy or otherwise defaults on its contract.

The State of Mississippi requires performance bonds from any contractor entering into a construction contract for projects greater than $25,000. This requirement — not an option — applies to all counties, cities or public bodies in the state.

If a contractor does not complete the project specified in the contract, the bonding company will either pay for the completion of the project or hire a contracting firm to complete the project.

Such performance bonds are not required for other government contracts, including waste collection contracts. Although such contracts are just as large, public bodies are left to weigh the risks and decide if such bonds are necessary.

Performance bonds raise the bar of what is required and can lead to higher garbage collection rates, a point that was made in Tuesday’s meeting.

Aldermen also suggested requiring a bond would delay the process several more days.

Only Ward 3 Alderwoman Sarah Smith decided a performance bond was necessary. Her motion to require one, ultimately failed after no one on the board seconded her motion.

Not unlike motorists who drive the city streets without insurance, the other aldermen decided the odds of encountering problems with whichever company is chosen is low enough to incur the risk.

But how confident are city leaders in making such a decision?

Are they so certain they made the right decision that they would be willing to sign their own “performance bond” with taxpayers?

Would they would be willing to stake their personal salaries to protect taxpayers against possible loses that might be incurred if they made the wrong decision?

My bet is that they wouldn’t.

The board’s track record on this one issue alone is less than perfect.

After ending the contract with Waste Pro, the board was forced to renegotiate a temporary agreement with the company after failing to properly follow the steps necessary to seek a new contract.

City leaders were left with no time to seek a new contract and found themselves over a barrel with Waste Pro.

The situation effectively ended curbside recycling. City residents who were committed to recycling were forced to take their buckets of trash to the convention center.

The situation doesn’t leave taxpayers feeling confident about the decisions — or lack of decisions — being made in the council chambers.

And yet, aldermen seem confident in their most recent decision that puts taxpayers’ money at risk.

Maybe they should also risk a little of their own and sign on the dotted line. 

Ben Hillyer is the news editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-3549 or by email at ben.hillyer@natchezdemocrat.com.