CATEGORY: EDT Editorials


Tupelo's City Council, led by Ward 7 Councilman Danny Barrow's change-of-mind vote, revised its commercial waste-hauling ordinance Tuesday night in a way that could produce long-term benefits for the city and the region.

The change hinges on whether or not Mayor Jack Marshall veto Thursday of the Council's actions is overridden. An override requires six votes.

The Council had voted Dec. 19 to maintain a de facto monopoly with Waste Management Inc. for commercial garbage hauling through 1999. The Council voted 5-4 Tuesday night to rescind that ordinance. Then it voted 6-3 for a new ordinance, proposed by Barrows, that, beginning today, would lower the franchise fee and open the way for competition within the private sector.

Barrows' motion sets a $10,000 annual fee for commercial and industrial waste haulers, plus a 5 percent fee based on the Tupelo-generated revenue of franchised haulers. The action is seen by some as a sure way to allow the entry of BFI, Inc., another giant in the waste hauling/waste storage business and Waste Management's chief competitor.

Barrows, using figures developed from data used by Three Rivers Planning and Development District and Neel-Schaeffer Engineers, believes the city can generate $113,000 per year under the new ordinance. The previous ordinance had set a $98,500 fee for commercial hauling through 1999 and a $10,000 fee for industrial haulers.

The new ordinance is believed by supporters to create a competitive advantage for city consumers from at least three angles:

- It would break a monopoly and put private-sector competition into the commercial waste-hauling business in Tupelo, potentially helping business and/or industry get better prices and service for hauled waste.

- It would almost certainly guarantee more commercial waste volume at the Three Rivers Regional Landfill in Pontotoc County, lowering tipping fees which then could be passed on to residential consumers in Tupelo. An authority spokesman said each additional 10,000 tons per year stored at the landfill would lower per-ton tipping fees 50 cents. Tupelo could generate 40,000 additional tons a year, creating a potential $2 per ton reduction in tipping fees for customers in Tupelo and other members of the authority.

- It would create new, more productive revenue streams for commercial and waste hauling in Tupelo, offsetting the $98,500 franchise fee under the Dec. 19 ordinance.

The mayor and others opposing the new ordinance believe firmly that a separate contract with Waste Management obligates the city through 1999 regardless of a new ordinance.

Those supporting the new ordinance disagree, thus setting up the probability of lawsuits by several parties under several differing scenarios. We hope expensive court action can be avoided. We believe a starting place would be a meeting between Mayor Marshall and representatives of the Three Rivers Regional Solid Waste Management Authority. Regionalism has become a more critical factor since Tupelo first negotiated a contract in 1983 with Waste Management. Tupelo's future is tied inextricably to the rest of Northeast Mississippi. Cooperation in the Three Rivers Regional Waste Management Authority is in Tupelo's best interests.

A 6-3 vote will be required to override the veto. However, if an override vote is required, the key councilman almost certainly would be Ward 4's Steve Mayhorn. Mayhorn voted to enact a new ordinance, but he said Thursday he wouldn't vote to override a veto because he did not know the mayor would exercise one. We hope a reasoned presentation of the facts will change Mayhorn's mind.

The overriding argument is not about Tupelo and its waste haulers. It is about regional unity, cooperation and the future of intergovernmental relationships in Northeast Mississippi. We hope the Council and Mayor Marshall take the longer view toward the region.

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