The Hancock County Regional Solid Waste Authority contracted with Coastal Environmental Services for county-wide collection earlier this year.

The attorney for the Hancock County Regional Solid Waste Management has filed a motion to dismiss a Louisiana company’s claim that it improperly awarded the waste removal contract to Coastal Environmental Services earlier this year.

Coastal Environmental, based in Lacombe, La., was awarded the contract for county-wide solid waste collection in April of this year, replacing the former contractor, Waste Management, Inc. It began pick-up in Hancock County on May 1. Registered agents for the company in Mississippi include Darin Bordelon and Dominick Fazzio, according to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office.

Pelican Waste & Debris, based in Houma, filed a notice of appeal in Hancock Circuit Court in April, claiming Coastal Environmental’s bid on the county contract was “considerably higher than that of Pelican,” according to the filing. Registered agents for Pelican are Charles Roberts in Gulfport and Roddie Matherne in Houma.

State law and the Authority’s own request for bids and specifications required that the contract would be “awarded on the basis of the lowest and best proposal or the lowest and best combination of base proposal and those schedules which produce a total within available funds,” according to the suit.

“Upon information and belief, Pelican was not only the lowest bidder, but was the selected bidder by the Authority. … Upon information and belief, Pelican’s proposal for services would have saved the Authority and the citizens of Hancock County approximately $27,000 per month or approximately $324,000 per year or approximately $1,944,000 for the term of the six-year contract for solid waste collection.”

Pelican claims that the Authority did not provide any reason why it rejected the Pelican bid and selected Coastal Environmental.

The claim further states that the Authority’s selection of Coastal Environmental Services’ proposal was “arbitrary and capricious, discriminatory, illegal and without a substantial evidentiary basis … and ha(s) caused serious and irreparable injury and damage to Pelican Waste & Debris.”

The company asked for an expedited hearing on the appeal, and asked the court to reverse the action of the Authority. It also asked for “injunctive relief against the Authority in order to avoid further irreparable damage and injury.” The suit also asks for “any and all other relief and legal damages, attorney’s fees and costs.”

The Solid Waste Authority’s attorney, Heather Smith, filed a motion to dismiss the claim in May. According to the motion, the circuit court does not have jurisdiction in the case.

On June 22, Smith filed a rebuttal to Pelican’s claims, saying that even though the company knew “the Authority neither accepted its bid nor took any action” in the matter at its March 14 meeting, and “knowing that the bids were going to be evaluated … Pelican failed to check Waveland City Hall or Compton Engineering’s door for notices of subsequent meetings of the Authority.”

Included in Smith’s motion was a notice of the “special called meeting” on March 17.

“After receipt of bids for Solid Waste Collection Services from four different companies at the duly-noticed meeting,” according to the rebuttal, “the Authority ranked the proposals and then authorized negotiations of contract terms with Coastal Environmental Services. … The March 17 meeting minutes reflect that the Authority determined that Coastal was the ‘lowest and best proposer based upon the technology and plans submitted in the written proposal and follow-up interview, experience presented and prices presented (specifically when factoring in the price of additional cart and the fact that Coastal … was the lowest proposer for the County — the largest customer account for the contract.’”

The board then ordered the chairman of the Authority to “further negotiate with Pelican, Waste Pro, and then Waste Management, in that specific order, if negotiated terms could not be agreed upon with Coastal,” according to the rebuttal.

The Authority passed a motion to authorize the award of the contract at its duly-noticed meeting on March 25, according to the rebuttal, and the “final contract with Coastal was brought back to the board for approval and signed by the Authority on April 11, 2022, at its duly-noticed meeting.”

The rebuttal also claims that Pelican did not appropriately appeal the decision.

“As a disgruntled bidder, Pelican chose to appeal to the circuit court on April 4, 2022. … According to Pelican, it inquired with the Authority’s engineer, Compton Engineering, whether a decision had been made on the solid waste services contract. The written response from Authority employee, Dawn Malley, via electronic mail, that the contract ‘will be awarded to Coastal Environmental at this time … (was the) ‘decision’ of the Authority that Pelican appealed.”

However, the rebuttal said, “a written notice of appeal to the circuit court must be filed with the circuit clerk within 10 days from the date at which session of the … governing authority .. rendered the judgment or decision.

“The email its employee sent on March 25 notifying Pelican that the services contract was to be awarded to Coastal cannot serve as the Authority’s decision from which to appeal. … The March 25 email from the Authority Administrator to Pelican is not a final, appealable decision of the Authority.

“Furthermore, the Authority did not authorize the contract with Coastal until April 11. The decision of the Authority from which Pelican should be appealing occurred on April 11.”

The rebuttal said that Pelican filed its notice of appeal on April 4, based “solely on the Authority’s administrator advising it via email” that the contract had been awarded to Coastal, but that “Pelican’s right to appeal the Authority’s decision did not arise until the Authority approved the collection services contract on April 11. … and the deadline to appeal (the decision) passed 10 days later on April 21. Because Pelican file its notice of appeal within that statutory timeframe, Pelican lost its ability to appeal the … decision to contract with Coastal to provide solid waste collection services.”

The rebuttal also claims Pelican’s notice of appeal did not comply with the mandatory requirements by failing to name Coastal Environmental as a party in the notice of appeal; and that the Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure state that there “is not mechanism” under those rules to add Coastal Environmental to the appeal.

“Because Pelican has not complied with the statutory and jurisdictional requirements to affect an appeal and because Pelican cannot now correct its errors in the notice of appeal, the circuit court is without jurisdiction to hear this matter,” so the case should be dismissed according to the rebuttal.

Smith said the case is now awaiting a judge’s ruling on the motion to dismiss. Circuit Judge Randi P. Mueller has been assigned to the case.

(1) comment

barberrr

Despite the legal technicalities offered for rejecting Pelican's appeal of the board's decision, no explanation is provided as to why their low bid wasn't chosen in the first place.

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