Bipartisan coalition opposed to establishment of trash districts growing in south county

Campisi plans to introduce bill stopping trash districts

By BURKE WASSON

A bipartisan coalition of elected leaders and candidates opposed to the establishment of trash districts in unincorporated St. Louis County is growing.

In the past week, three south county Democrats have announced their opposition to the county’s plans to establish trash districts — Rep. Pat Yaeger of Lemay; former Rep. Joan Barry of Oakville, who is seeking the 1st District Senate seat; and former Mehlville Board of Education member Jan Polizzi, who is seeking the 97th District House seat.

Sixth District County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county; Rep. Walt Bivins, R-Oakville; Rep. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay; and Mehlville Board of Education President Tom Diehl assembled at a Jan. 25 press conference to push fellow elected officials and candidates to oppose the county’s trash districts.

Two local candidates — Mehlville Board of Education Vice President Karl Frank Jr. and Vicki Englund, a Democrat running for the 85th District House seat — both spoke out against the trash districts on the day of the conference.

Elected officials had planned to reveal more opponents to the county’s trash-district plan in a conference last week, but the meeting was postponed due to inclement weather. The group now will meet at 10:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 8, at Andre’s, 4254 Telegraph Road.

Lembke, who plans to oppose Barry in the race for the 1st District Senate seat being vacated by state Sen. Harry Kennedy, also introduced a bill in January in the Missouri House that would stop trash districts from being formed as planned by September.

In addition, Campisi planned Tuesday night — after the Call went to press — to introduce an amendment to the county’s revised solid-waste management code approved in December 2006 that would eliminate the establishment of trash districts.

“It’s a small paragraph we’re asking to be deleted from the waste-management code itself,” he said. “And it basically gets rid of the trash districting that everybody wants gone. So it’s the last thing that I can possibly do to get rid of this trash districting.”

County spokesman Mac Scott confirmed Friday that the county plans to implement one of eight planned trash districts in July as a “pilot district” in the 2nd County Council District of Chair Kathleen Burkett, D-Overland, who has been a vocal proponent of trash districts.

The county will solicit bids for that district in March and have not committed to a date to begin the bidding process for the seven other trash districts, four of which would be located in south county.

County officials plan to establish eight trash districts in unincorporated areas in which the County Council would award one bid to a trash hauler per district.

Reasons given by county officials for forming the trash districts, which were unanimously approved in December 2006 by the County Council, include reducing truck traffic in residential areas and setting up a uniform system of standards and pricing to encourage more recycling.

Trash haulers already are adhering to the county’s new minimum standards of trash service that went into effect this year.

Those standards that now must be offered by all waste haulers in the county are once-per-week pickup of trash and recyclables and twice-per-year pickup of bulk waste.

But for almost a year, numerous south county residents have opposed the establishment of trash districts because of the perceived monopoly they would create by allowing only one waste hauler per district and because of concerns that the new minimum standards would increase the cost of trash collection. Residents and waste haulers also have criticized the move because county officials have stated that districts likely would push some small haulers out of business due to a lack of competition in unincorporated areas.

In a statement last week sent to the Call, Polizzi said while she appreciates the county’s goal of increased recycling, the proposed trash districts would create a “monopoly” by allowing only one hauler per district.

“… Trash haulers are already adhering to the minimum standards without creating a monopoly,” Polizzi said. “There is nothing in the current proposal to clearly define the bidding options in an RFP. Health and environmental concerns to encourage recycling should be the paramount concern in moving forward with safe and cost-effective waste management.”

Campisi, whose County Council district would contain four of the eight proposed trash districts, recently said the plan is being administratively forced by county officials rather than the County Council as the council collectively has voted “no” on four separate amendments specifying dates and methods of their establishment.

He has also reiterated that when he voted in favor of establishing trash districts in December 2006, he was misled by former 3rd District Councilman Skip Mange, who allegedly told Campisi that the districts would not be confined to one hauler.

In a press release last week, Barry called for trash districts to be decided by “a vote of the people” instead of by allowing subdivisions in unincorporated areas to opt out of the districts. The deadline for subdivisions to petition to opt out was Feb. 1.

“… The plan has failed due to a lack of citizen input and the narrow constraints of the opt-out provision,” Barry said. “I am also concerned with how the plan might negatively affect small businesses and our freedom of choice. With these issues in mind, I believe that this entire process should be put to a vote of the people.”

Yaeger told the Call last week that as noble as county officials’ goals of increased recycling and fewer trash trucks in residential areas are, she does not believe the methods they have used have been beneficial to citizens.

“I don’t think (the County Council) knew the full ramifications of it,” Yaeger said. “… I really, truly felt that after they had their public meetings and whatever, they were going to kind of see the light of the day that this plan is not ready. But that wasn’t where they were. And so I basically told them I’m off the reservation. I can’t sit by and watch this. I can’t do that anymore.”

In terms of unincorporated county areas that would like trash districts, Yaeger said it would be wrong to prevent them.

At the same time, she stressed the need for residents in the proposed trash districts, specifically in south county, to have the right to decide for themselves.

“There are some areas who truly want this,” Yaeger said. “So help the areas that want to do it and let them go with it … What (county officials) are trying to do isn’t so bad in itself. It’s just the way they’ve gone about it that I think is what’s causing the people to feel so angry about it. Just forcing it on people that are already happy and don’t have a problem in their area. Deal with the areas that want it or have a problem. Encourage recycling. I think we should recycle more. But I don’t think you can force it.”