Harrison County

Looks like they’ll be talking trash in Harrison County Chancery Court

A suit could wind up determining who’s garbage can ends up in front of your house.
A suit could wind up determining who’s garbage can ends up in front of your house. ttisbell@sunherald.com File

The Harrison County Utility Authority has asked a chancery judge to stop Gulfport from breaking with the authority and contracting on its own for garbage and rubbish collection and disposal.

Gulfport negotiated a deal with Waste Pro to haul its garbage and rubbish after HCUA agreed to a six-year deal with Team Waste that didn’t include Gulfport. The authority wants the court to issue a temporary injunction to force Gulfport to allow the authority to collect and dispose of Gulfport’s garbage and rubbish, also known as solid waste, and to require Gulfport to pay for that service. And, to require Gulfport to approve the HCUA budget, which requires the unanimous consent of the authority board that is made up of representatives from Harrison County and its cities. That budget has to be approved by the end of the fiscal year Sept. 30 and would take effect Oct. 1.

A hearing on the injunction is set for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 11 before Chancery Judge Jennifer Schloegel at the courthouse in Gulfport.

HCUA also asks for a judgment that would make the same demands permanent. That suit contends Gulfport is bound by a 1991 solid waste service contract, which it says gives the authority the right to negotiate solid waste contracts for the county and all its cities.

Earlier in July, the authority asked Gulfport to pay about $1.5 million. The authority contends that is how much more its customers will pay because the contract without Gulfport costs more per house than one with Gulfport, the largest city in the county, in it.

The suit, though, does not seek any money for damages, said Tim Holleman, one of the attorneys hired by HCUA to handle solid waste litigation.

Team Waste also sued Gulfport and HCUA asking a court to block Gulfport from striking out on its own. Gulfport’s contract is with Waste Pro, the same company it said it has problems with during the contract that ends Sept. 30. Gulfport will have garbage and rubbish picked up twice a week and recylables picked up every other week. HCUA’s contract is for once a week pickup for both garbage and recyclables.

“It was early 2015 when Gulfport began communicating with the Authority, expressing grave concern over poor management, rising prices, and the near doubling of staff during the previous several years,” Gulfport Council President Rusty Walker wrote in a lengthy Facebook post. “By December of that year, Gulfport informed the Authority of its intent to leave the contract for solid waste collection if the Authority did not address and correct these issues. It has been and remains Gulfport’s belief that contracts for service are best held closest to the citizens they serve.”

He urges Gulfport residents to call Supervisors Marlin Ladner and Angel Kibler-Middleton, who serve on the HCUA board, and urge them to vote to allow Gulfport to have its own contract. The board, by unanimous vote, could allow Gulfport out of the agreement.

“It’s going to cost the citizens of Gulfport, the county and the other cities money,” Holleman said. “They’re upset because they are wrong.”

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton