City pivots to ask for commercial trash pickup proposals

STARKVILLE — State law caused city officials to pivot Tuesday on a plan to contract out its commercial garbage collection service to a private company.

Aldermen voted 6-1 in a suspension meeting at City Hall to send out a public request for proposals to privatize the service.

Originally, the board planned to consider a subcontract with Waste Pro Mississippi to support pickup for more than 300 commercial and apartment complex customers. But officials discovered before Tuesday’s meeting a state law that requires the RFP process for solid waste contracts over $50,000.

In the Waste Pro contract proposal, the company would have taken over the pickup of the city’s 4, 6, and 8 cubic yard commercial dumpsters at the same rates the city currently charges, as well as adding a customer option for a 2- cubic yard dumpster. Waste Pro also planned to buy these dumpsters from the city in stages. The city would remain responsible for billing, at least initially, and pass on fare collections to the contractor.

Mayor Lynn Spruill told The Dispatch after the meeting that the city would consider proposals from other companies based on rates, how quickly they could purchase the dumpsters and the city’s two commercial collection trucks – which would eventually knock the city out of commercial pickup altogether.

“The goal is to make sure that a private company can provide a service that we can be proud of (before completely transforming it),” Spruill said.

Business services costs continue to outpace revenues, health and environmental services manager Christopher Smiley told the board.

Unlike residential pickup, the city does not have a franchise for commercial pickup, meaning these customers can contract directly with companies like Waste Pro. It happens more often, he said, especially since the city doesn’t offer services like commercial recycling.

“That’s really the driving force behind it,” Smiley said. “Over the past few years, we have lost customers.

The contracting out is also expected to save the city approximately $300,000 for the purchase of a new front-loading truck for commercial service.

While most aldermen voiced support for contracting out the service, Ward 7 Alderman Henry Vaughn – the only vote against the RFP – raised concerns about outsourcing a service from the city.

Vaughn noted his opposition to outsourcing the city’s parks and recreation management to a third party, which the council pushed through in October. He said that by outsourcing commercial garbage collection, it would set a precedent that would inevitably lead the city to outsource residential collection one day.

Spruill pushed back, saying she would not support privatizing residential pickup during her term as mayor.

“If you all do it, I’ll veto it, so you better bring five,” Spruill warned, noting how many aldermen votes it takes to override a mayor’s veto.

“You registered me, 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 finished, it will happen.”

In other cases, the aldermen approved an updated unified development code.

First adopted in 2019, the updated version consists mainly of small tweaks and typographical fixes. However, it also adds requirements for citizens to obtain a permit to erect exposed structures and submit a plan to repair the structure and remove the panels within 180 days.

The code, which takes effect Oct. 20, applies to residential and commercial structures, both vacant and occupied.

Zack Plair is the editor of The Dispatch.

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