Gulfport mayor expresses concern over possible HCUA legal action

Gulfport mayor expresses concern over possible HCUA legal action

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Just hours before Harrison County Utility Authority holds another discussion over Gulfport's plan to hire its own garbage collector, a new letter seems to create a new mess for everyone on the board.

That three page letter comes from Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes. He sent it at 12:02 p.m. to members of the HCUA board. A board member shared it with WLOX News. The letter focuses on concerns the mayor and his city have about the HCUA considering legal action against Gulfport.

The issue is over garbage collection.  Gulfport decided to venture out on its own and negotiate its own garbage and recycling contract.  "Because Gulfport is plowing untested ground," Mayor Hewes wrote, "We are not only being castigated, but are being treated in a punitive fashion."

The mayor noted "taking a different path is a departure from the norm." But, he also stressed, "It should not create an atmosphere of hostility that invites punitive action against ANY member of the authority."

Gulfport has a six year contract with Waste Pro to have garbage picked up twice a week and recycling picked up every other week. The HCUA has its own six year deal with Team Waste and Pelican. Under that agreement, garbage cans will be emptied once a week, as will larger recycling cans. Gulfport's deal is three cents more expensive each month than the county agreement.

Thursday's special meeting agenda says the HCUA will discuss a memorandum of understanding for Gulfport. That MOU is the only thing blocking Gulfport's new garbage arrangement. Mayor Hewes believes it's best for everyone if the HCUA endorses the MOU. "The facts are that the HCUA has entered into a waste collection and disposal contract with Team Waste. Gulfport has entered into a similar contract with Waste Pro. Forcing Gulfport into the HCUA contract is not an option," the mayor writes.

However, the mayor notes an amended MOU has been rejected, and the original MOU was rescinded. "Ultimately, if this matter cannot be resolved, and the HCUA administration persists in giving advice to members that puts things on a war footing," Mayor Hewes said in his email, "Gulfport will have no choice, but to take action to challenge the validity of the HCUA as an organization."

He stressed Gulfport would rather not file a legal challenge. "In this instance, reason would dictate that the only real losers are the taxpayers, as legal costs would likely eclipse any savings or perceived damages," he wrote.

Pass Christian Mayor Chipper McDermott chairs the HCUA board. He read the letter late Thursday afternoon. "It's a mess," he said during a phone conversation with WLOX News, "and I hope we end this mess tomorrow."

Mayor Hewes ends the email by emphasizing there are viable options to consider and pitfalls to avoid. "Without a resolution we are all facing a zero-sum game. Again, there is no 'winner,' for it is the taxpayers who will ultimately lose," he wrote in his letter to the HCUA board.

Thursday's Harrison County Utility Authority meeting begins at 10:30 a.m.

Copyright 2017 WLOX. All rights reserved.