City council members apologized to Wendell Outlaw, owner of Bobby Outlaw Disposal, during a special City Council meeting Tuesday at the Council Chambers.
Outlaw currently provides solid waste disposal services to the City of Oak Grove. Outlaw’s five-year contract with the city expired April 2019.
“When we agreed to extend (Outlaw’s) contract, I thought it was said and done. I thought we had secured him for the next five years,” said Jackie Oliver, Oak Grove city councilwoman. “But in all actuality, we dropped the ball. We didn’t know what we were supposed to be doing.”
During Tuesday’s meeting it was determined that a decision made by the council during the March 5 meeting regarding the extension of Outlaw’s contract with the City of Oak Grove was unconstitutional, according to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
During the March 5 meeting the council voted with all in favor to extend the present garbage franchise. However, this decision was found unconstitutional.
“There is a constitutional provision in the Kentucky Constitution that says franchise agreements must be bid out for 18 months before they can be instated or renewed,” said City of Oak Grove Attorney Mark Gilbert. “That didn’t happen under the previous administration, therefore we had to start the process.”
Gilbert added this issue “sneaks up on a lot of cities.”
“The best way to do this is to start the 18-month clock as soon as possible, so this won’t be a problem in the future,” he said.
The clock will begin when bid advertisements are made public. Advertisements are expected to be published by Friday.
The council discussed having Gilbert write a 18-month contract with Outlaw until the bidding process is complete. After all bids are received, the council will decide who to award the 20-year franchise agreement to, Gilbert said.
City of Oak Grove Mayor Theresa Jarvis said the bidding process is important, because it gives residents an opportunity to know all of the options available to them.
“We have many residents who have asked why we aren’t recycling and we also have residents who want tree limb pick up … there is a company that does offer limb pick up service with their trash, so I think it’s important our residents have a word in what they want to do with the trash pick up,” Jarvis said.
The city can have franchise agreements with multiple trash companies, she added.
“If other companies want to come in and make franchise agreements with us, we are open to that as well if it benefits our residents,” she said.
The franchise agreement has not been bidded out in more than 20 years, Jarvis said.
During the meeting, Jarvis repeated “We’ve got to do it right and we’ve got to do it legal” multiple times when discussing the franchise agreement.
“We don’t want to be sued by another company for doing it wrong and not giving them the opportunity to bid as well. Franchises are very strict about how they operate and the state is very strict about how they tell us we can do it,” Jarvis said. “We just want to get it right and give (Outlaw) that 20-year contract if that is what our council decides they want to do with it.”
The topic was discussed by council members for more than 30 minutes during the meeting. Janet Edwards, Oak Grove city councilwoman, said the error was embarrassing for the city.
“This is a huge break down in our city government,” Edwards said.
She also apologized to Outlaw, who sat in the audience.
“There is nothing to apologize for,” Outlaw replied.
After the meeting adjourned, Oliver hugged Outlaw and apologized again.
Despite everything, Outlaw said he will continue to serve Oak Grove residents.
“Nothing has changed. Quality of service won’t change,” he said. “This is a great council. This is a great city.”
Outlaw said he doesn’t hold any negative feelings toward the council or city.
“The council has been great through all of this. They haven’t done anything wrong. This is a law that no one knew about,” he said.
To avoid any future administrative errors, Jarvis said the city will be improving its practices to be more organized, updating ordinances and following the city officials handbook.
“Going through our ordinances is very important, because we have a lot of old and outdated ordinances to try and make the city a little better place to live,” she said.