Harrison County

Gulfport, HCUA running out of time to resolve garbage dispute

A Waste Pro truck picks up garbage in Gulfport with a side-arm truck. Gulfport said those trucks leak hydraulic fluid and scattered garbage across town.
A Waste Pro truck picks up garbage in Gulfport with a side-arm truck. Gulfport said those trucks leak hydraulic fluid and scattered garbage across town. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

The city and the Harrison County Utility Authority agreed to try one more week to settle their differences.

There are five sticking points that stand in the way of Gulfport leaving the HCUA solid waste management pact and hiring its own company to haul and dispose of rubbish and garbage.

Gulfport officials said they were not happy with the way the HCUA was handling garbage and rubbish hauling and disposal. For example, Mayor Billy Hewes said the side-arm trucks required by HCUA have leaked hydraulic fluid and tend to allow garbage to blow out of the trucks.

The HCUA was on the verge of voting to block Gulfport from leaving for those reasons when it decided to give a settlement one more shot.

“If we don’t find a way to talk about them and agree on them, I don’t know what we’re going to do,” said HCUA attorney Jim Simpson.

“There’s room to talk,” responded Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes.

But, Simpson reminded him, there isn’t much time to talk.

One problem is a suit by Team Waste that asks a court to prevent Gulfport from leaving the pact. Team Waste was HCUA’s choice of garbage hauling and recycling. It also has the contract to dispose of rubbish such as tree limbs and yard clippings in its landfill in Biloxi. And it unsuccessfully sought Gulfport’s contract as well, but Gulfport chose Waste Pro, the company that has the current HCUA contract.

Team Waste would drop that suit if it gets a satisfactory assurance that Gulfport also will use its landfill for rubbish, corporate attorney Cody Waters said.

Under a contract approved unanimously by the City Council on Thursday, the monthly price per customer under the contract with Waste Pro will be $14.36, three cents more than the rest of the county’s households will pay under the Team Waste contract negotiated by the Utility Authority. Both contracts will take effect Oct. 1.

Another problem is payments made to HCUA by Team Waste and garbage landfill operator Waste Management. Those payments are based on the number of homes that use the HCUA hauling and disposal service. That number would be cut by about a third, costing HCUA about $30,000 a year, according to attorney Jim Simpson. He said the contract Gulfport signed with Waste Pro on Thursday doesn’t require the landfill payments, but at least some city officials believe that it should receive the money from HCUA.

“Everybody’s voting on contracts and doing stuff that they don’t know what they’re doing,” Simpson said. “Nobody’s had a conversation about it yet. That is an issue, though it’s not a lot of money, that has to be talked about. If you vote today to let them out, you write that off.”

The third problem is the way Gulfport will collect and haul rubbish. It often will be put in the same truck as the garbage. Team Waste charges $9.44 a ton for rubbish and Waste Management charges $15.88 a ton for garbage, which means Gulfport could be paying the higher price. And Team Waste might not get as much rubbish as it did under the HCUA contract. Pelican Waste & Debris will haul rubbish for the rest of the county.

Gulfport also doesn’t have a state Department of Environmental Quality-approved solid waste management plan, which HCUA can require before it votes on whether to let Gulfport out of its agreement.

And finally, county Supervisor Angel Kibler-Middleton, who is a Gulfport resident, is concerned the city seems to be discouraging recycling by cutting in half the number of days it will pick up recyclables.

Gulfport’s new contract calls for twice-a-week garbage and rubbish pickup with recyclables picked up every other week.

“It’s our responsibility to promote recycling, not put in on the back burner,” she said. “If you guys would improve your recycle plan, I’d be quiet. We’re the second largest city. We need to be an example for everyone.”

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton