Council Votes No on $15 Million Waste Hauling Contract | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Council Votes No on $15 Million Waste Hauling Contract

Ward 2 Councilman Melvin Priester Jr. was the lone yes vote in favor of the Denali/Garrett proposal.

Ward 2 Councilman Melvin Priester Jr. was the lone yes vote in favor of the Denali/Garrett proposal. Photo by Imani Khayyam.

The Jackson City Council overwhelmingly said no to a proposal for hauling biosolids from a city wastewater treatment plant, leaving the completion of the work uncertain for the time being.

With three members and Mayor Tony Yarber absent, only one member voted in favor of a proposal from the joint venture between Russellville, Ark.-based Denali Water Solutions and Garrett Enterprises to remove 304,000 wet tons of biosolids from so-called geotubes at the Savanna Street Wastewater Treatment plant.

Ward 2 Councilman Melvin Priester Jr. was the lone yes vote. The other members attending (Ward 1 Councilman Ashby Foote, Ward 5 Councilman Charles Tillman and Ward 6 Councilman Tyrone Hendrix) voted no on the contract.

"What just happened is unprecedented," Dorsey Carson, an attorney for the Denali-Garrett team, told the Jackson Free Press after the meeting. "It's instances like this that cause national companies not to want to do business with the city of Jackson."

Garrett, a principal in the firm who attended the meeting, declined to speak with the JFP about the action.

In June, the City issued a request for proposals for disposal of sludge at the Savanna Wastewater Treatment plant and received proposals from Denali-Garrett and Baltimore-based Synagro-WWT Inc. and Fisher Construction and Transportation. After two rounds of negotiations, Denali's proposals came in at $15.46 million, which Garrett's attorney, Carson, says is less than Synagro's offer of $15.53 million.

Wilson Carroll, an attorney for Synagro-Fisher, told the Jackson Free Press and showed a slide at city council this morning stating that his client's best and final offer is $13.6 million.

At times, the meeting had the feel of a courtroom with Carson interrupting the proceedings, which drew rebuke from Priester, the council president.

Kishia Powell, the city's public works director, said at this morning's council meeting that representatives of the Synagro-Fisher team made statements in today's meeting that were not part of the firm's original evaluation interviews.

Earlier in the week, Powell described the award as a "cost proposal" rather than "low-bid process" and said that Synagro-Fisher's proposal lacked detail that "lessened our confidence in the price they proposed." Specifically, Powell said Synagro-Fisher's proposal did not demonstrate that the company had negotiated a tipping, or disposal, fee with landfills, nor did it specify transportation routes.

"One team laid out a specific proposal with travel estimated times and mileage, which gave us more confidence in that proposal," Powell said, referring to Denali-Garrett, on Sept. 14.

In 2012, the city approved a $9-million contract with Russellville, Ark.-based Terra Renewal Services to remove the sludge now stored in three lagoons at the treatment plant. As part of the consent decree with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the city has until December 2017 to remove the waste from the site, putting crews on a tight timetable, officials said.

Carroll said he was pleased with the vote and hopes his client will be considered to receive the contract.

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