State of Mississippi seeking to hire a contractor for O.B. Curtis

2022-10-16 11:55:24 By : Ms. Tracy Zhang

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency is looking for a private company to staff the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant, and other aspects of the water system, for one year under an emergency contract, according to a request for qualifications issued by MEMA on Friday.

The request comes one month after the 45-day long boil water notice in Jackson and Byram was lifted, and after state and federal partners stepped in to bring the plant, which is owned by the city of Jackson, back online following flooding that overwhelmed the plant.

"MEMA is acting as the coordinating agency for the procurement of this contract. Staffing has been a critical issue at these facilities, and we are ready to move to the next phase of stabilizing Jackson’s water services. Our top priority is life safety," MEMA Executive Director Stephen McRaney said in a news release. The release also said that this move came at the request of federal partners.

When Gov. Tate Reeves declared an emergency order on Aug. 29, it opened the door for workers to come to the plant from throughout the state and nation under mutual aid agreements. Staff members at the plant were joined by counterparts from the Mississippi Rural Water Association, and from states as close as Louisiana and Georgia and as far away as Michigan, in an effort to bring the plant back online quickly.

However, the emergency order is scheduled to end Nov. 29, with the current mutual aid agreements ending as early as Oct. 20, according to the release. While Reeves and McRaney have previously said the emergency order could be extended, it remains set to end the last week of November.

Additionally, Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba has been seeking a private company to enter a maintenance agreement to work at the plant since before the state took charge of operations there. Lumumba has stood adamant in his opposition to privatizing the city's water system but has been supportive of hiring private contractors to work aspects of it. The RFQ issued by MEMA states that entering a contract with the state would not prevent a company from entering one with the city as well.

"The award will be for a one (1) year emergency contract and the successful Proposer will be eligible for additional procurements made by the City of Jackson for similar services," the request reads.

There has been conflict between the city, state and federal governments throughout the water crisis, particularly over which entity will retain control over the Curtis plant in the long-term. The RFQ document says that MEMA is working "in unified command with the City of Jackson" on this bidding process.

A spokesperson for the city said they are aware of the RFQ, but they have no comment at this time.

Lumumba has previously said the city was at one point close to a maintenance agreement contract, only for the company involved to pull out claiming they were going to seek one with the state instead. Reeves denied knowledge of any such negotiations at that time.

One of the key issues that has been identified at the Curtis plant has been a lack of adequate staffing.