Contractor disputes city's version of 'Dump-Gate'

October 17, 2012 11:27:07 AM

Jeff Clark - [email protected]


The Dump-Gate saga continues. 


In what is, at best, a misunderstanding and, at worst, a flurry of lies, the controversy over whether or not the city allowed the county to use its landfill took another turn Tuesday. 


A day after City of Columbus officials denied county officials' claims that the county had been denied access to the city's landfill, a supervisor with Phillips Contracting stepped forward to back up the county's version of events. 


Benny Weeks of Phillips Contracting said several loads of debris had been dumped at the city landfill when one of his drivers was told he could no longer use the site.  


"I called the landfill and the man said he didn't know why we couldn't dump the eighth truck but he allowed us to dump it anyway," Weeks said. "I called Terry (Thompson) and I said, 'The man at the landfill said we could not bring anymore out.' She then called me back later and said, 'Don't worry about it. We've got a place out on (Highway) 45 that we're going to haul it to.' That's how I left it." 


Lowndes County Purchasing Agent Terry Thompson said she was personally denied a request to allow the county to charge for dumping in the landfill. 


"Tombigbee Water Management started the project on Monday, Oct. 1," Thompson said. "We thought they wouldn't do the hauling for about a week. The city had tabled (the county's request) and they needed to start hauling on Wednesday. I called the city landfill to arrange for the county to charge when they dump at the landfill. I was told the county did not have a charge account and we could not charge. I don't know the person's name that said this, but it was whoever answered the phone. I know the county has a charge account -- community director Sylvester Harris uses it all of the time with the fine workers. We've never paid by the load." 


Thompson said the denial created an additional problem for the county. 


"Since we weren't allowed to charge at the dump, we had to hire a contractor to do the hauling and Phillips Contracting had a truck available," Thompson said. "Phillips is paying for the dumping and is invoicing the county. It's costing a lot more than if the county were to do the dumping because they charge us tax, among other things. I was called Thursday by someone with Phillips Contracting and told they were not allowed to dump any more branches and stumps without explanation. We had to find another place to haul the rubbish. Someone with the City of Columbus told Phillips Contracting they couldn't bring any more stumps and limbs to the city landfill at about 4:15 on Thursday, Oct. 4." 


The controversy began with a project between the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors and Tombigbee Water Management to improve drainage for residents in the Pickensville Road/Pickens Drive area.  


The county had asked the city to waive its fees for use of the landfill, but the city council, citing name- calling by supervisor Harry Sanders as a reason, tabled the motion at its council meeting on Oct. 2. County workers began their part of the work on the project two days later. 


With no waiver from the city, District 4 Supervisor Jeff Smith asked the board during its Oct. 15 meeting to increase grant funds from Tombigbee Water Management from $25,000 to $50,000, citing increased dumping fees as the reason for his request.  


During Monday's board of supervisors meeting, District 1 Supervisor and board president Harry Sanders said the county, which contracted the dumping to Phillips Contracting, had been denied dumping privileges at the city landfill due to a lack of a "charge account." Sanders said the dumping was instead sent to a site in the Cal-Kolola area and it was costing approximately $100 a load for the haul from the drainage project. 


City officials on Monday denied Sanders' claim. Mayor Robert Smith said any requests to stop the county from dumping at the city landfill would have to go through him, saying, "I would have been the one to have denied it. It would have had to have gone through me and I didn't deny the county anything."  


City Public Works Director Mike Pratt Tuesday said the county's allegations were not true. 


"No -- absolutely not," Pratt said when asked if he had denied the county or any county contractors usage of the city landfill, located on Armstrong Road. "No one has called me about the county or any county contractors dumping anything. Neither me nor any of my employees denied the county the right to use the landfill. I verified this with my employees. No one has talked to the county." 


Billingsley contradicted Pratt's statement Tuesday afternoon and voiced his frustration with the city. 


"Terry Thompson was told by someone from with Phillips Contracting that (Phillips) could not use the dump," Billingsley said. "All the city had to do was waive the fee. We've done hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of work for them. All they had to do was waive the damn fee." 


According to Weeks, the project has currently been placed on hold due to some alleged complaints from residents in the Pickensville Road/Pickens Drive area.