/Jackson mayor blames City Council for consent decree delays

Jackson mayor blames City Council for consent decree delays

According to a letter obtained from Mississippi Today dated October 6, Yarber stated that Jackson’s City Council was “interfering in and jeopardizing” the City’s ability continue in compliance the Consent Decree. In November 2012, Jackson signed the consent decree with the EPA, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, for violating the federal Clean Water Act. According to the EPA the violations include 2,300 illegal sewer discharges into Pearl River. This equates to 2.8 billion gallons minimally treated sewage. Jackson must make major improvements to its sewer system and pay a $437 916 civil penalty and other penalties if they do not meet certain deadlines. Yarber and city council members have been at odds for months over the appointment of the program manager to oversee consent decree work. In March, The Clarion-Ledger reported that the main issue of contention revolves around Yarber’s selection for the position as program manager. According to The Clarion-Ledger, the city council did not approve a $2.6million a year contract with AECOM Technical Services Inc. partly because of questions about the involvement of several principals with the company. One of these was a Jackson Redevelopment Authority member, who was indicted for Medicaid fraud in June. Yarber, who was previously the mayor of Greenville, cites the impasse as a reason for his letter to Toney. Yarber stated that his administration started laying the groundwork for hiring a consent decree program manager in 2015. The Rules Committee of the city council declined to approve the hiring by AECOM on June 6. Yarber requested that the council reconsider the matter the week following, but it was pulled from the agenda after it became apparent that he did not have the votes. Yarber asked the council again to reconsider the contract in October. It was rejected in committee. Yarber wrote that the failure of the City Council in taking action is hindering the Department of Public Works’ ability to implement and comply with the Consent Decree. Yarber stated that the absence of a program manager would hinder the submission of a report which includes a digital computerized map of the sewer system, hydraulic modeling, and a plan for organizing the city’s sewers in groups. De’Keither Stamps, Ward 4 Councilman, stated that it is the right of the city council to vote in the taxpayers’ best interests. Stamps stated that he was unsure about the idea of switching program managers. The previous firm, joint-venture AJA/Waggoner, managed the program. He favors asking the EPA for an amendment to the agreement. “The (Yarber Administration) has many options as to how to proceed. Personally, I believe we should move towards renegotiating this consent decree. Stamps stated that we shouldn’t agree to $800 million for work if there is no other way. Consent-decree documents state that the city could be fined up to $2,000 per hour for failing to submit a report. Consent decrees are also in effect for Mississippi’s cities of Vicksburg and Meridian as well as Greenville, Hattiesburg, Starkville, Greenville, Hattiesburg, and Meridian. WDAM-TV reported Hattiesburg having racked up $163,000. That’s $1,500 per daily — for not meeting a May 1 deadline.