Editorials

It’s time Gulfport, Harrison County Utility Authority put their differences in the dumpster

Biloxi police and firefighters spread out across Atkinson Road to keep motorists away while work crews clean up hydraulic fluid that leaked from a Waste Pro truck on Monday.
Biloxi police and firefighters spread out across Atkinson Road to keep motorists away while work crews clean up hydraulic fluid that leaked from a Waste Pro truck on Monday. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

At least the Harrison County Utility Authority and Gulfport are talking outside of court.

That gives us a glimmer of hope that the two sides will settle their differences and drop what could become a protracted and expensive legal fight.

Here’s one thing that both sides appear to agree on: Waste Pro, the company that is contracted until Sept. 30 to pick up garbage, rubbish and recyclables throughout the county, is not doing a good job.

On Monday in the middle of a hearing on the squabble over who’ll be the contractor Oct. 1, a Waste Pro truck spilled so much hydraulic fluid on a Biloxi street, the street was closed for cleanup.

Tuesday, District Two Supervisor Angel Kibler-Middleton posted a list of streets that Waste Pro had missed this week.

Gulfport, which is challenging the HCUA’s authority to negotiate such contracts for the whole county, is trying to go it alone and keep Waste Pro. It says it has assurances Waste Pro will clean up its act and blames most of the problems on HCUA. HCUA has contracted with Team Waste and Pelican Waste & Debris for the rest of the county, saying it is tired of Waste Pro not living up to terms of its contract.

But the major difference in the new contracts focuses on recycling. Gulfport would have half as many recycling pickups, two a month, as HCUA. It would have twice as many garbage pickups, two a week, as HCUA. Gulfport’s contract would cost 3 cents more per household per month than HCUA.

Gulfport says too few people recycle to justify weekly pickup. HCUA says it has a plan to boost recycling.

HCUA argues that it has the exclusive power to negotiate such contracts and to decide whether Gulfport must participate in its deal. The authority said those rights come under a 1991 solid waste management agreement between its predecessors and the cities and counties. Gulfport is challenging both the agreement and HCUA’s authority.

We are not the only ones wondering, what about One Coast? That, we believe, is the concept that there are advantages to the Coast acting as one and speaking with a unified voice.

Current events are undermining attempts to nurture that unity.

When people say they don’t trust government, or they are tired of government wasting money, this is what they are talking about. Government suing government using the taxpayers’ money.

There are 11 days (from Tuesday) before the new contracts begin. The sooner these differences are settled, the sooner the taxpayers can be assured that someone will pick up that can full of garbage regardless of whether that can is green or brown.

And when this dispute is settled, our leaders must get back on the same page, and decide whether we’ll be One Coast or just a string of cities along the beach.

The editorial represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board. Opinions of columnists and cartoonists are their own.

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