A ‘reward for failing’? County OKs emergency 90-day contract for garbage collection, sees $150K in additional costs

Published 3:24 pm Thursday, January 12, 2023

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NATCHEZ — In a special meeting on Thursday, the Adams County Board of Supervisors approved an emergency, 90-day contract for garbage collection that one supervisor said “rewards (the contractor) for failing.”

Metro Services, who for the last eight years or so have been contracted to collect garbage of county residents, has filed for bankruptcy.

In its bankruptcy filing, Metro has asked to form a new company and purchase the assets of Metro and shed two of Metro’s unprofitable contracts — Adams County and Jonesville, Louisiana — said Scott Slover, attorney for the Board of Supervisors.

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He said the court is set to rule on Metro’s bankruptcy request on Jan. 21, and will likely rule in its favor.

“It’s something called business judgment and the business has lots of discretion, so I expect the court to rule in its favor,” he said. “The obligations of the contract would cease immediately and would create an emergency situation for Adams County. It’s a duty of the county to pick up garbage.”

At the same time, Metro Services on behalf of the new company it anticipates forming, submitted a bid for the emergency contract to collect the county’s waste.

Metro Services’ current contract is $9.97 per month per residential unit. In its bid for the emergency contract, the new Metro company bid $19 per residential unit per month for twice a week pickup — almost double its current rate.

The county has approximately 5,071 residential units, Slover said.

“This short-term thing is Metro also. Basically, we are rewarding someone for failing. Are there any other alternatives?” asked Supervisor Kevin Wilson.

“There is, but it’s more expensive and it’s only once-a-week garbage collection,” Slover said.

The only other bid submitted for the emergency contract was made by Hometown Waste of Concordia Parish, which bid $25 per residential unit per month for once-a-week pickup.

Supervisors agreed once-a-week pickup does not work in Adams County. Supervisors Warren Gaines and Angela Hutchins said when the county tried once-a-week pickup in the past, trash ended up everywhere. “They accumulated too much trash for once a week,” Hutchins said.

Gray said Metro’s original bid is too low and said he thinks its emergency bid is too low, too.

“The bid was low from the start and every knows the bottom fell out of the economy. This is just me saying this because the sheriff came to us and said about the gasoline and the oil and the road department came to us and said the same thing. The only thing I regret is this company didn’t come back to us and let us know what was going on,” Gray said. “There is no way possible they could continue a contract losing the amount of money they were losing. And now we hear the $19 amount and I don’t even know if you’re going to break even with the $19. I don’t know.”

The emergency contract will cost the county an additional $150,000 over the next 90 days. However, county residents don’t have to worry about ponying up more money, at least not right now. The county residents will continue to pay $15 per month for trash collection, and the county will have to pay the balance.

Wilson asked if Metro was going to pay the bills it currently owes to local businesses.

“I know a couple of people who are out $30,000 for fuel. We have a lot of local vendors Metro is dealing with that they aren’t paying. Are they going to pay the money they owe these local businesses?” Wilson asked. “We are still going to be dealing with a company that is being unfair to the locals and perhaps put some out of business.”

Slover said the bankruptcy court would determine which creditors get paid.

“There is a bankruptcy in place and that has an order of who gets paid when and where for now. If you are an unsecured creditor, that’s not a good position to be in in any bankruptcy. There is a settlement between the creditor’s committee and the owner of Metro. It’s a legal thing. It’s not fair, but it exists to keep businesses going when they can,” Slover said.

Gaines said supervisors were caught in a Catch 22 situation.

“You don’t have time to get anybody else and you don’t want to reward people for not paying people, but we have got to have somebody pick up the garbage,” he said.

“Who are we rewarding?” Gray asked. “They are doing us a favor at $19.”

“When I said rewarding someone, Ricky, they are doubling their contract. They made a bad contract. Nobody can look into the future, but when you make a bid for something long term, you have to put those things in. And they didn’t do it. Help went up and fuel went up, but some of that should have been built into the contract,” Wilson said.

Supervisors unanimously approved the emergency contract with Metro Services’ new company, though reluctantly.

“Can I vote yes, but unhappy?” Wilson asked.

The county also set a date of Feb. 6 for opening new bids for a permanent garbage collection contract, giving companies three weeks to prepare a thorough bid.