Harrison County

Gulfport sued over plan to negotiate its own garbage contract

The Harrison County Utility Authority’s contract with Waste Pro ends at the end of September. Gulfport wants to break away from the Harrison County Utility Authority and sign a new contract with the garbage, reyclables and rubbish hauler after HCUA chose two other firms. It looks like Circuit Court in Harrison County will settle the matter.
The Harrison County Utility Authority’s contract with Waste Pro ends at the end of September. Gulfport wants to break away from the Harrison County Utility Authority and sign a new contract with the garbage, reyclables and rubbish hauler after HCUA chose two other firms. It looks like Circuit Court in Harrison County will settle the matter. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

A Biloxi garbage and rubbish hauling and disposal company is suing Gulfport over its plan to sign a contract with another company.

Team Waste, in a suit filed Wednesday in Circuit Court in Gulfport, asks the court to find Gulfport breached the terms of a contract negotiated by the Harrison County Utility Authority, which also is a defendant in the suit, and violated Mississippi law in the process.

Team Waste is in the second year of a 10-year contract with HCUA to dispose of all rubbish, which includes yard waste, tree limbs and such, at its landfill. Gulfport is a member of the authority and had a representative on its board when the contract was negotiated in 2015. Waste Management, which has the garbage side of the disposal contract, isn’t a party to the suit.

When the HCUA asked for bids for a contract to collect and haul garbage and rubbish in the county and its cities, Gulfport sent it a letter in March saying it was leaving the HCUA’s solid waste service contract, which doesn’t expire until 2035, according to the suit. The service contract gives the HCUA the authority to negotiate for collection, hauling and disposal of solid waste for all cities and the county.

HCUA earlier this month signed contracts with Team Waste to haul garbage and Pelican Waste & Debris to haul rubbish in a six-year deal that starts Oct. 1, the day after the old contract expires.

Gulfport was negotiating with Waste Pro, the company that has the HCUA contract that will expire and the end of September. The county’s contract calls for once-a-week pickup of garbage, recyclables and rubbish. Gulfport is trying to sign a hauling and disposal deal that would have twice-a-week garbage pickup and would have recyclables picked up every other week. Team Waste’s suit says that would deprive it of the payments HCUA would make for disposing of rubbish collected in Gulfport in the Team Waste landfill.

Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes said the suit, which he called unnecessary and ill-conceived, didn’t change his expectation that the city would have a decision on a contract by the end of the week that will “provide a lot of clarity and remove any uncertainty.”

“But I’m not going to rush this,” he said. “This is a six-year commitment for our citizens. We need to get this as right as possible. I think we’re close to having something that is going to be pretty good result.”

The suit said Gulfport didn’t follow state law when it left the HCUA contract. Team Waste’s suit says Gulfport should have presented HCUA with a solid waste disposal plan approved by the state Department of Environmental Quality or the federal Environmental Protection Agency before it tried to get out of the disposal contract.

It said the lack of plan also violated state law that governs solid waste management plans. It asks the court to order Gulfport and HCUA to abide by the terms of the HCUA agreement and pay it under terms of the contract.

HCUA Executive Director Daniel Schaar had just received the suit and hadn’t had a chance to read it so couldn’t comment.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton

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