JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) – Months after city council rejected it, a sewer rate hike could be back on the table.
At its first meeting next month, the city council is expected to consider raising sewer rates from about $20.84 a month to $37 a month.
The city’s finance department and solid waste division presented the proposal to council at its June 21 meeting.
The proposal was not voted on because it was listed as an “ordinance introduction”. Ordinances are usually presented at one meeting and then voted on at the next meeting.
Assistant City Attorney Terry Williamson told council that funds were needed to offset rising costs and budget shortfalls in the sanitation division.
He said the increase was $2 more than the proposal put forward by the administration in December, in part because the board did not act on the rate increase at the time.
“Without that increase, there just isn’t enough money to pay for collections and disposals and also to run the sanitation division,” he said.
In December, the Lumumba administration offered to raise rates from about $20.80 per month to $35 per month, in part to cover fee increases under a new long-term collection contract. residential waste.
The increase, at the time, was based on proposals the city had received for collections, including those from Waste Management and Richard’s Disposal LLC, he said.
The increase is now needed not only to cover rising costs, but also to cover the cost of an emergency waste haul contract, which is approximately $244,000 more per month than the last contract not city emergency.
“When the budget was passed, the budget item for private garbage collection was under-budgeted,” said chief executive Fidelis Malembecka. “There was only $6 million budgeted, which is less than it should have (have been).”
The $6 million would primarily cover garbage collection rates at the start of the fiscal year, which were $564,000 per month, but not the current amount, which rose to $808,000 in November as part of a six-month emergency transport contract.
Jackson reached an emergency deal with Waste Management late last summer after the council rejected the mayor’s proposal to hire FCC Environmental Services. This emergency contract was for six months and expired this year.
Jackson is currently operating under another emergency contract, which also costs $808,000 per month.
Malembecka said tipping fees are also an issue. Tipping fees are what the city pays to deposit garbage at the landfill.
“Once again, the amount budgeted was lower than the projections should have been,” Malembecka said. “This poses a problem.”
Fees aside, administration officials say rates need to rise to address staffing shortages in the solid waste division.
Historically, he said solid waste has operated with a budget deficit of $1.6 million.
Ward 1 Councilor Ashby Foote agrees rates need to rise but said the city also needs to improve its billing collections.
“We’re going to have to increase some rates, but we’re going to have to increase collection rates and make sure the billing system allows people to get their bills in a timely manner,” he said. “It is the city’s responsibility to effectively manage the water billing system.”
The city has struggled to collect water/sewer and sanitation fees for years, largely due to complications with the Siemens contract.
The company was hired about a decade ago to replace all of the city’s commercial and residential water meters, install a new billing system, and set up a new network of repeaters and transmitters to enable meters to communicate with the billing office.
The system never worked, and Jackson eventually sued Siemens and its subcontractors, settling the full cost of the contract out of court.
Jackson is now in the process of replacing Siemens meters and should wrap up that work by the end of next year, according to city officials.
Meanwhile, Foote isn’t sure how much rates are expected to increase, saying the city currently doesn’t have a valid garbage collection contract.
New Orleans-based Richard’s Disposal is currently picking up trash in the city. However, a contract with the company was never approved by the city council.
Despite not having council approval, Richard’s began working in the city on April 1, after the mayor vetoed council’s rejection of the deal.
The city and Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba are currently battling in Hinds County Chancery Court over whether the mayor’s veto can stand.
Richard has not yet been paid for the services provided.
Want more WLBT news in your inbox? Click here to subscribe to our newsletter.
Copyright 2022 WLBT. All rights reserved.