Wilson: With new contract, Adams County will have highest garbage collection rates in the state

Published 5:05 pm Monday, March 20, 2023

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NATCHEZ — District 2 Supervisor Kevin Wilson revisited the subject of garbage collection at Monday’s meeting of the Adams County Board of Supervisors, ultimately making a motion to reconsider the contract.

However, County Attorney Scott Slover told Wilson because he was not one of the three supervisors who voted in favor of a new garbage collection contract with United Infrastructure Services — previously Metro Services — he could not make such a motion.

Slover also said the final contract would come back to the supervisors for approval.

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“It’s a two-step process,” Slover said after the meeting. Slover said what the board voted on at its Tuesday, March 7, meeting was selecting the company who would have the contract. The supervisors will now have an opportunity to vote on the terms of the contract, he said.

“It’s a bit different than other bid processes,” Slover said. “Typically, you don’t see the pricing or anything change. They did their bid. But the actual terms of the contract still must be approved by both parties.”

The county previously contracted with Metro Services for garbage collection. However, in late December 2022, county residents complained to supervisors about garbage piling up and not being collected at county residences. Turns out, Metro Services, which contracted with the county for garbage collection, filed for bankruptcy at that time, seeking to sell off its assets and get out of its Natchez contract, as well as the contract it had with Jonesville, Louisiana, both which it deemed unprofitable.

The bankruptcy court granted that request, and Adams County was left without a garbage collection provider.

In a special meeting on Jan. 12, the supervisors approved an emergency, 90-day contract with the reformed Metro Services to continue garbage collection.

Only two companies — Arrow Disposal Services and United Infrastructure, the company that emerged from the Metro bankruptcy — bid on the permanent garbage bid.

In a contentious three-to-two vote, the United Infrastructure bid was approved on March 7. Supervisors Warren Gaines, Angela Hutchins and Ricky Gray voted in favor of the contract with United Infrastructure. Wilson and Supervisor Wes Middleton voted nay.

At Monday’s meeting, Wilson said with the new contract for garbage collection as proposed, Adams County would pay the highest price for garbage collection among any county in Mississippi.

Wilson said the county would have to raise taxes to pay for the new garbage collection contract because it is so expensive.

“We never answered that question (how we are going to pay for the garbage collection contract),” Wilson said. “We came up with a few things, but every one basically is a new tax and you’re going to raise taxes. You can call it a fee. You can call it whatever you want to call it. But it’s a tax.”

Wilson said supervisors had an opportunity to negotiate a better contract, but did not do so.

“We did not negotiate when we had two people at the table,” he said. “In speaking with several other people about what we have agreed to pay, we will have the highest garbage rate in the State of Mississippi, which seems kind of odd seeing how we are one of the poorer counties in the state.

“And, we guaranteed them a 4.6 percent rate increase yearly no matter what is going on with the consumer price index. Sure, prices have been rising for the last year, so people need more wages and so on, but now the price index is going down, so we are still going to guarantee them a 4.6 percent raise every year no matter how bad. We go into a recession or a depression; we are still going to have to pay that. Just for clarity. It’s a really one-sided contract. We have no benefits whatsoever, no guarantees whatsoever.

“Did we even ask for a performance bond? If they fail to do their part of the contract, there should be a performance bond for about $2 million to cover their failures. Otherwise, we are left just holding the bad, just like we were the last time they went bankrupt,” Wilson said.

He said he thinks the supervisors should have chosen the option from bidder Arrow Disposal Services, the city’s garbage collection contractor, who submitted a proposal for one-day-a-week collection at a significantly lower rate.

“Lots of people I know say they don’t have the money to pay this extra for garbage collection. I don’t know where the county is going to get this money. The difference between one-day pickup and two-day is $600,000 a year right now. And that will only go up because we are going to give them a 4.6 percent raise.

“I still can’t believe we voted that contract in with zero negotiations. I don’t know if we can do anything about it,” Wilson said. “This contract is so bad people are actually laughing at us throughout the state. I don’t expect to get any answers to my questions, but I do want people to know what my feelings are and what I researched on it.”

Gray clarified his position on the contract and his vote.

“I need to speak about what I said because I don’t want The Democrat to print something somebody else said I said. What I said was we negotiated with trash collectors and Metro won the bid last time. Some of the supervisors wanted to negotiate with the two companies, and brought them back to the table and we negotiated and Metro won it again,” Gray said. “In the process of getting the contract, the pandemic hit. When the pandemic hit, other communities — in Louisiana, I know — had ARPA funds for trash pickup. I don’t know how it was in Mississippi. All I said was they were upside down because of the pandemic. I did not know they had filed bankruptcy at the time. So I did not say they filed bankruptcy because of that.”

Gray said Metro Services did the county a favor at a time it needed one.

“Metro came into this county when Waste Pro quit on us. They didn’t even carry out their duties. They said they were not going to pick up any more trash. For two whole weeks, we negotiated with Metro to come up early and help us clean up this county when Waste Pro wouldn’t pick up no more trash,” he said. “What I am saying is this: Yes, their trucks broke down and they had problems and filed for bankruptcy. What I’m saying is in the process of doing all that, we put out an emergency bid. Nobody wanted to bid on the emergency bid. They came in and bid low just to help Adams County out.”

Gray also complained that Arrow Disposal Services came to a county meeting and brought up the one-time-per-week service after the supervisors had agreed to two-times-per-week pickup.

“It wasn’t until Arrow came in here before the meting and wanted to talk about one day a week. I’m not going to say it was illegal, but the attorney had to cut them off and tell them that they were out of order. If you are a company that has been in business that long, you should know that is not the way you do business, trying to negotiate when the other people weren’t even here,” he said.

He also complained that The Natchez Democrat “lied” about not allowing discussion on the one-day-per-week pick up.

“The Natchez Democrat sits up there and says me and Supervisor Hutchins wouldn’t even allow this board to talk about one day a week and that’s a lie. Once the motion was made and a second, we had discussion like we always do,” Gray said.

Slover said he has sent the contract to United Infrastructure Services for consideration and is awaiting a response at which time it will be brought back before the board.