Cowtown Trashes Minority-Owned Biz Contract Over Bad Service

Garbage truck collecting trash | Image by Dmitry Kalinovsky/Shutterstock
Garbage truck collecting trash | Image by Dmitry Kalinovsky/Shutterstock

A majority of the Fort Worth City Council voted Tuesday night to alter its waste management services contract after a subtractor repeatedly failed to complete trash pickups.

Fort Worth has been seeing missed pickups, among other derelictions on the subcontractor’s part, for several months, as covered by The Dallas Express.

Council members amended the city’s $479 million contract with Waste Management in a 9-2 vote, scrapping a previous provision that required the company to hire minority- and women-owned businesses (M/WBE) subcontractors to complete 25% of its work. Council Members Chris Nettles (District 8) and Jared Williams (District 6) voted against the resolution.

Knight Waste Services, the black-owned subcontractor in question, has worked on behalf of Waste Management for over 20 years.

Cody Whittenburg, Fort Worth’s director of environmental services, told the council members that Waste Management had previously been issued a waiver to allow it to absorb some of the 25% requirement to ensure service delivery to taxpayers. However, Knight Waste Services could still not meet its reduced obligations.

Before the vote, some council members voiced concerns about eliminating the M/WBE provision from the contract.

“I’m concerned about the precedent this sets,” Williams said, noting he would prefer issuing more waivers and keeping the M/WBE requirement.

Other officials placed a premium on the quality of service residents were getting under the current arrangement.

“We’re in this position because we haven’t fulfilled a promise to residents, which is once weekly reliable pickup of your trash,” Fort Worth Mayor Mattie Parker said.

“I think what we need to remember is — what is on the side of our trash cans? It’s not Knight. It’s not Waste Management. It’s the City of Fort Worth. Therefore, it’s on us,” Council Member Charlie Lauersdorf (District 4) said. “I think we’ve given enough time to rectify this situation, and we haven’t seen any improvement.”

Whittenburg said that, to his understanding, M/WBEs would still be allowed to subcontract under the contract, they just would not be entitled to 25% of the work. He added that a more specific percentage would need to be discussed further.

Steve Kellar, Waste Management’s public sector representative, said the company’s longstanding partnership with Knight Waste Services has been great, but the 25% M/WBE requirement has been a difficulty.

Council Member Gyna Bivens (District 5) claimed that no other M/WBE waste collection companies operate in the state.

“This does not feel good, but I know the reality of it is that looking for 25% in this area and in this freaking state, you’re not going to find it,” Bivens said.

“For me, this is about how the City of Fort Worth will address this longstanding issue of ensuring that investments we make through contracts reflect the beautiful diversity of this community,” Williams said, noting that of the $500 million taxpayers spend on city contracted services, Latino-owned businesses receive less than 20%, and black-owned businesses get 5%.

Parker claimed the entire Fort Worth City Council was committed to the M/WBE requirements.

“These are hard issues for us, and it’s not over yet. We’re going to keep working on this,” Parker said.

She added that council members will require Whittenburg and his team to provide updated reports on this item in the future.

Similarly, taxpayers in Dallas have also been dealing with inadequate service delivery related to trash and litter. A 2023 survey from the City of Dallas found that 44% of respondents think the City is doing a “poor” job of maintaining clean streets, as covered by The Dallas Express.

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