STARKVILLE — State law caused city officials to pivot Tuesday on a plan to subcontract its commercial garbage collection service to a private company.
Aldermen voted 6-1 in a recess meeting at City Hall to send out a public request for proposals for privatizing the service.
Originally, the board expected to consider a subcontract with Waste Pro Mississippi to take over pickup for more than 300 commercial customers and apartment complexes. But officials discovered before Tuesday’s meeting a state law that requires the proposal request process for solid waste contracts that exceed $50,000.
In the Waste Pro contract proposal, the company would have taken on pickup for the city’s 4-, 6- and 8-cubic-yard commercial dumpsters at the same rates the city currently charges, as well as add a customer option for a 2-cubic-yard dumpster. Waste Pro also planned to purchase those dumpsters from the city in phases. The city would remain in charge of billing, at least at the outset, and pass rate collections to the subcontractor.
Mayor Lynn Spruill told The Dispatch after the meeting that the city would look at other companies’ proposals based on rates, how quickly they could purchase the dumpsters and the city’s two commercial collection trucks — which would eventually move the city out of commercial pickup entirely.
“The goal is to make sure a private company can provide service we can be proud of (before we turn it completely over),” Spruill said.
Costs for commercial service continue to outpace revenue, sanitation and environmental services director Christopher Smiley told the board.
Unlike for residential pickup, the city has no franchise for commercial pickup, meaning those customers can contract directly with firms like Waste Pro. That’s happening more often, he said, especially since the city does not offer services like commercial recycling.
“That’s really the driving force behind this,” Smiley said. “Over the last several years, we’ve been losing customers.”
Subcontracting also should save the city an estimated $300,000 to purchase a new front-end loading truck for commercial service.
While most aldermen voiced support for subcontracting the service, Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn — the lone vote against requesting proposals — raised concerns over outsourcing a city service.
Vaughn noted his opposition to the city’s outsourcing of parks and recreation management to a third party, which the board pushed through in October. He said by outsourcing commercial garbage pickup, it sets a precedent that would inevitably lead to the city one day outsourcing residential collection.
Spruill pushed back, saying she will not support privatizing residential pickup during her tenure as mayor.
“If y’all do it, I’ll veto it, so y’all better bring five,” Spruill warned, noting the number of aldermen votes it takes to override a mayor’s veto.
“You’ve got me on record, so (if residential pickup is privatized), it would have to be after 2025. … The private sector can’t do residential pickup better than we can.”
Vaughn stood firm on his prediction.
“It may not happen on your watch,” he said. “But when your watch is over, this is going to happen.”
In other business, aldermen approved an updated Unified Development Code.
First passed in 2019, the updated version is mostly small tweaks and typographical corrections. However, it also adds requirements for citizens to obtain a permit to board up exposed structures and submit a plan to repair the structure and remove the boards within 180 days.
The code, which will go into effect Oct. 20, applies to residential and commercial structures, both vacant and occupied.
Zack Plair is the managing editor for The Dispatch.
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