Aldermen choose to negotiate future contract with Arrow Disposal but may have violated Open Meetings Act

Published 7:07 pm Monday, March 18, 2024

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NATCHEZ — The Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen gave a nod to current garbage collector Arrow Disposal Services as providing a proposal with the “best offer” for a new garbage collection and disposal contract for city residents.

However, it may have all been for naught, as the mayor and aldermen may have taken into a closed session business that should have been conducted in front of the public.

John Mott Coffey, who reports for Listen Up Y’all Media, challenged the mayor and aldermen Monday afternoon about whether they could review proposals for the garbage contract or negotiate rates and services in closed session, also known as executive session.

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Following the meeting, Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson said he would seek advice from City Attorney Jack Lazarus on the issue.

“After our special called meeting today, during which we held discussions on the proposals received by the city for garbage and disposal services, a local reporter shared with us information indicating we may have improperly held some of our discussion in executive session rather than in public,” Gibson wrote in a statement released shortly after Monday evening’s meeting. “We have asked our city attorney to look into this and report to us as soon as possible. If it is found we did anything improper, we will immediately call another special meeting to resolve the issue. It is not our intention to do anything improper, only to do what is best for our citizens. If we made a mistake we will be the first to admit it and correct it. And we are grateful this was brought to our attention.”

At the beginning of the garbage collection contract discussions, Gibson said the proposals received from the four companies — Arrow Disposal, Waste Management, Waste Pro, and Hometown — were just that, proposals and not bids.

“The board has chosen to act as a full committee and review the proposals,” Gibson said. “We also understand that some aspects of the proposals may be negotiated.”

The board voted to go into a closed session to review and consider the proposals. After about 45 minutes, the board emerged from the closed session.

“Arrow, our incumbent garbage collection provider, is offering the best proposal and the best offer,” Gibson said. “The city would like to negotiate with Arrow before the city makes the final decision.”

He said aldermen were interested in additional services, such as removing excess household furniture and appliances and landscape debris. Aldermen then voted to go into another closed session and invited Jimmy Moore, who was in the audience, to represent his company, Arrow Disposal, during those closed negotiations.

After about a 30-minute closed session, Gibson and the aldermen came back into the public session and said no final decision would be made Monday.

“We had good discussions with our current provider,” Gibson said on behalf of the aldermen. “We will not make any final decision until we hear back on some final details with Mr. Jimmy Moore and Arrow Disposal. We hope to have things clarified before we meet next week. And because we are in negotiations, we are not releasing figures at this time.

“We believe at the conclusion, citizens will be pleased and we will have chosen the best and most affordable services and enhances services for our citizens,” Gibson said.