Aspen withdraws low bids to service trash districts in Lemay and Oakville

Council chair says ‘some legislators’ also caused hauler to withdraw

By BURKE WASSON

Because a lawsuit filed against St. Louis County by three trash haulers “may have merit,” Aspen Waste Systems of Missouri Inc. has withdrawn its low bids to service trash districts in Lemay and Oakville.

American Eagle Waste Industries, Meridian Waste Services and Waste Management of Missouri filed suit May 29 against the county contending state law requires the county to issue a two-year notice to waste haulers before establishing trash districts in unincorporated areas and awarding contracts for trash collection.

County Counselor Pat Redington has said that the notification requirement does not apply to St. Louis County because it is a charter county.

But Aspen General Manager Chris St. Peters indicated in a June 13 letter sent to County Director of Procurement Toreen Parker that because of the pending lawsuit against the county, his company has withdrawn its low bids to service the 6th trash district in Lemay and the 8th trash district in Oakville.

“Due to the recent events with the legislators of Missouri and the pending litigation against St. Louis County by Waste Management, Meridian Waste and American Eagle Waste Services, we at Aspen Waste Systems based on conversation with our counsel have decided to withdraw our bids for District 6 and District 8,” St. Peters wrote in the letter to Parker.

“Our counsel has made us aware that the pending matters may have merit and ordering equipment at this time that may or may not be utilized could be a detriment to our company. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and would like the opportunity to work with St. Louis County in the future after the pending matters have been resolved,” the letter stated.

Aspen was the low bidder in both districts, offering monthly charges of $11.31 in the first year and $12.11 in the third year to provide the county’s minimum standards of once-per-week pickup of trash and recyclables and twice-per-year pickup of bulk waste.

With Aspen now out, the low bidder in the Lemay district is Allied Waste Co., which would offer monthly charges of $13.50 in the first year and $14.60 in the third year.

In Oakville, the low bidder is now IESI, which would offer monthly charges of $13.09 in the first year and $14.23 in the third year.

Both districts would go into effect Oct. 1.

Second District County Council Chairwoman Kathleen Burkett, D-Overland, said at last week’s council meeting that she believes the actions of “some legislators” as well as the lawsuit caused Aspen to pull out and that the county is not to blame.

“It seems to me that by this lawsuit, what has happened is exactly what we did not want to happen,” Burkett said. “The smaller companies which we were hoping would participate — and they did — are now pulling out. I don’t think it’s because of us, but because of the pending litigation.”

The county has established eight trash districts in unincorporated areas with one trash hauler per district.

County officials contend that having one hauler per district will result in a more uniform brand of service and lower prices.

But some waste haulers and residents, mostly in south county, have criticized the move because county officials also have stated that districts likely would force some small haulers out of business due to a lack of competition.

That criticism from south county grew louder last week as a handful of residents led by 6th District County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, told the County Council that trash districts can’t be created without a vote in each district.

Additionally, Campisi has called for Redington’s resignation for not advising the County Council during its consideration of trash districts in December 2006 of Section 2.180.24 of the County Charter, which states that “the council shall have, by ordinance, the power to: Provide for the creation of districts in the unincorporated areas of the county within which may be provided … garbage and refuse collection and disposal, and such kindred facilities as the voters therein by a majority of those voting thereon may approve, the same to be paid for from funds raised by special assessment, general taxation or service charge …”

Redington has responded that the County Council created trash districts “under charter authority” other than Section 2.180.24.

Last week, Burkett said that the county’s Health and Justice Committee decided in 2006 against using Section 2.180.24 to establish trash districts.

“It was discussed at that time about a separate taxing district and another level of bureaucracy,” Burkett said. “And it was felt at that time that it really wasn’t something that would probably work well. And that’s why it was not put into this legislation, or into this ordinance.”

Fourth District County Councilman Mike O’Mara, D-north county, said last week that the county has the right to establish trash districts in Section 2.180.19.

“Go back to paragraph 19 of our charter,” O’Mara said. “It clearly states that it gives us reference because we regulate through the Health Department waste management.

“So you need to go back to paragraph 19 and read that paragraph. This is not a taxing district. I just want to make that comment. You’re reading into it what you think is that interpretation, and it’s not.”

Section 2.180.19 states that the county shall have the power to: “Adopt by reference, with or without modification, codes, standards, or regulations prepared by a national technical trade or a service association, the state of Missouri, or any of its agencies, or the United States, or any of its agencies, relating to traffic, building, planning, electrical installations, fire prevention, food products, air and water pollution, and all other subjects which the county has power to regulate …”