The Rules Committee of the Jackson City Council rejected a contract for the wastewater program management required by a federal consent decree. The meeting grew contentious at times as Mayor Tony Yarber and the committee sparred over the proposed contract. Anna Wolfe reported in the Clarion-Ledger yesterday:
Los Angeles-based engineering firm AECOM, along with local partners, "The Jackson Five," wanted to show the city how to get an "A" in wastewater management. But on Monday, the Jackson City Council Rules Committee voted down the deal, which would have made AECOM Jackson's new consent decree program manager.
Currently, Jackson does not have anyone in that position, which has caused work to halt and could put the city at risk of failing to meet deadlines set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency. Now, Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber will have to bring the proposal before the council again in hopes that it will pass on a second try.
Yarber expressed dismay at the vote.
"I thought it would at least get out of committee to get to the full council.....
Councilmen Ashby Foote, Tyrone Hendrix and Melvin Priester each voted against sending the AECOM proposal to the full council, a move Yarber called negligent. The councilmen did not express strong objections to the proposal, but some of their questions surrounded the selected subcontractors, or "The Jackson Five."
Marques Hall, who owns TMMHall Professional Services and who worked for the Mississippi Department of Transportation up until last week, would have received 16 percent of the contract under a mentor-protégé agreement. He stood to gain $368,000 each year.
Johnny Crisler, brother of Marshand Crisler, Jackson's deputy chief administrative officer, is listed as a partner of Hall's in the proposal.
MDOT Commissioner Dick Hall said his employee's involvement in the lucrative contract was brought to his attention last week and when MDOT officials confronted Marques Hall, the engineer resigned.
"We do business with some of those people he's associated with, so he can't work for us and work for them," Dick Hall said.
Another subcontractor is Jackson Redevelopment Authority Commissioner Andria Jones' Access Training, which would have provided training to "boots-on-the-ground" workers hired under the contract....
"The explanation of what these people do is very superficial. As much as we're paying them, over $1 million a year, that's worthy of more specifics about the tasks they will be required to carry out," Foote said. "The consent decree is a specific set of tasks. To turn it into a jobs program and a mentoring program for young professionals is a recipe for coming up short on the objectives that the EPA and Justice Department have presented us with."
Subcontractors M&M Professional Services, Q Solutions, MA3 Architecture are also included in "The Jackson Five."
Yarber suggests that when it comes to consent decree management, the city need look no more. He said he's found what the city's looking for in AECOM, who has managed over 40 consent decree projects throughout the nation. "We have the best option in front of this council," he said.
He emphasized that AECOM is an internationally renowned engineering firm whose proposal includes 43 percent minority participation....
Yarber thinks that in the city council's eyes, "it's always about the contractor. It's never about the people."...' Rest of article.
Perhaps it's time JJ posted the AECOM proposal so people can read it for themselves and determine whether it should be approved.