Mayor, aldermen work to correct open meetings error

Published 7:25 pm Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

NATCHEZ — After the Natchez Mayor and Board of Aldermen issued its mea culpa at a second special called meeting this week, members worked to correct their errors with the handling of garbage collection proposals.

After a special meeting Monday night to review proposals for a new contract for garbage collection, John Mott Coffey, who reports for Listen Up Y’all Media in Natchez, informed the mayor that he thought one or both of the executive sessions at Monday’s meeting were violations of the state’s Open Meetings Act.

Mayor Dan Gibson informed the aldermen and city attorney Jack Lazarus of the conversation and asked Lazarus to quickly investigate and give an opinion on the matter.

Email newsletter signup

At the beginning of Tuesday afternoon’s special meeting, Lazarus said aldermen believed their executive sessions at the Monday meeting were an exception to the open meetings requirement because the sessions involved the discussion of “sensitive, private matters to be considered by the board.”

However, Lazarus said, based on his review of exceptions to the Open Meetings Act, “the public should not have been excluded from the discussion of the waste collection contract.”

He also pointed out no action was taken by the board during the executive session.

“The action of the board by entering executive session was designed to make the proposal process fair to those companies submitting proposals and to maintain the confidentiality of the financial, competitive and proprietary information contained in the proposals,” Lazarus said. “Nonetheless, it is my opinion that the executive session may have violated the letter, if not the spirit, of the Open Meetings Act.”

Gibson said he and the aldermen called a second meeting as quickly as possible in order to attempt to correct the mistake.

At Tuesday’s meeting, officials handed out a spreadsheet prepared by City Clerk Megan McKenzie, which listed the rates and pricing of all four companies who submitted proposals to become the city’s garbage collector.

Arrow Disposal Services, which currently holds the city’s waste disposal contract ending in May, submitted the lowest rates in its proposals. Waste Management, Waste Pro and Hometown Waste also submitted proposals.

At Monday night’s meeting, the city did not disclose in public the rates provided on each proposal. However, Gibson did announce that Arrow had submitted the lowest costs. It then asked Arrow Vice President Jimmy Moore to join aldermen in a second closed session to negotiate a contract.

After the second closed session Monday evening, the mayor said aldermen had questions for Moore, and he was to report back answers before next Tuesday’s meeting.

On Tuesday, Gibson told representatives of all four companies, who were in attendance, that they now had the opportunity to sharpen their pencils and provide better proposals. Aldermen chose McKenzie to be the point person for each company should it have questions or need more information.

“If you sharpen your pencil and can do better, convey that to the city clerk by Friday. We hope to make a decision at Tuesday’s board meeting,” Gibson said.

Gibson said after seeing all proposals, he thinks the final decision will be good news to the city’s residents.

“I was concerned we would see a very large increase and I am encouraged, after seeing these proposals, that perhaps a small increase will be necessary, but now what some were expecting,”  Gibson said.

He said during the second closed meeting Monday night, aldermen sought a rate from Arrow for collecting “white goods,” which he said are unwanted appliances and furniture, as well as landscape debris.

“We also asked them for a schedule for picking those things up, like once a week or once a month or twice a month,” he said.

Aldermen also wanted to know the cost per ton for disposing of city garbage at a landfill, as well as which landfill would be used.

“Preferably our local rate would be used,” Gibson said.

Aldermen also asked Moore of Arrow Disposal to consider a cap on consumer price index increases in the contract, as well as to do away with a fuel adjustment charge.

All of the garbage collectors have until noon Friday to reconsider their proposals and get them to McKenzie.