BREAKING NEWS (as of 6:37 p.m. on Monday, June 30)

Lawsuit to stop county trash districts goes to Supreme Court

By BURKE WASSON

Three waste haulers’ efforts to stop the establishment of trash districts in unincorporated St. Louis County are now in the hands of the Missouri Supreme Court.

Waste Management of Missouri spokeswoman Lisa Disbrow confirmed Monday that the haulers have appealed their lawsuit against the county to the state Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court appeal comes on the heels of having the lawsuit twice dismissed last week. County Circuit Court Judge Steven H. Goldman dismissed the suit on June 25, and the Eastern Appellate District of the Missouri Court of Appeals on June 27 denied a request for a writ of mandamus submitted by the waste haulers.

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

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

Last week, the Circuit Court agreed.

“I am very happy that this matter has been decided in our favor,” County Executive Charlie Dooley stated in a news release.

“Residents of unincorporated St. Louis County deserve improved trash hauling at a lower cost that includes curbside recycling. Today’s decision is a victory for all of St. Louis County,” Dooley stated.

Redington added in the release that she was “pleased that the ruling was so decisive. I was confident from reading the County Charter that our plan was on solid ground.”

The county’s trash-district plan has recently seen some changes, specifically in the 6th trash district in Lemay and the 8th trash district in Oakville.

Previous low bidder Aspen Waste Systems of Missouri Inc. indicated June 13 that because of the waste haulers’ lawsuit against the county, the company has withdrawn its low bids to service the 6th and 8th trash districts.

Aspen was 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 will offer monthly charges of $13.50 in the first year and $14.60 in the third year.

While Republic Services recently agreed to acquire Allied Waste Industries in a $6.24 billion deal, county spokesman Mac Scott said that Republic Services would honor Allied’s bid to service the 5th district in Affton and the 6th district in Lemay once the deal is completed.

“The actual consummation of the deal doesn’t happen for awhile,” Scott said. “Allied is telling us that they’re prepared to sign the contract for three years and move ahead with the plans.”

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

The county first awarded a contract in its 3rd trash district in north-central county to Veolia Environmental Services at $11.60 per month for basic service, effective earlier this week.

While Veolia Environmental Services was scheduled to begin service in the 3rd trash district July 1, service in the remaining districts is set to begin Oct. 1.

The County Council also has awarded contracts in the 1st, 5th and 7th trash districts.

IESI was the low bidder in the 1st trash district, which will serve more than 12,000 homes north of Interstate 270 near Florissant.

Its bid for the county’s new minimum basic standards of weekly pickup of trash and recyclables and twice-per-year bulk-waste pickup was $12.09 for the first year and $13.14 in the third year.

Allied Waste was the projected low bidder in the 5th trash district, which will serve more than 12,000 homes in unincorporated areas near Affton.

Its monthly charge for those same services will be $12.29 in the first year and $13.29 in the third year.

Veolia was the low bidder in the 7th trash district, which will serve more than 8,000 homes in the Concord area.

Its monthly charge for basic services will be $12.40 in the first year and $13.28 in the third year.

Other low bids to be considered are:

• IESI for the 2nd trash district, which will serve more than 10,000 households in the county’s northeastern corner east of Highway 367. Its monthly charge is $12.03 for the first year and $13.07 the third year.

• Veolia for the 4th trash district, which will serve more than 8,100 households in four separate portions of southwest county along the Meramec River. Its monthly charge is $12.25 for the first year and $13.25 the third year.

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 has grown louder in recent weeks as a handful of residents led by 6th District County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, have 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.

County Council Chair Kathleen Burkett, D-Overland, responded to Campisi’s allegation of a charter violation by saying that the county’s Health and Justice Committee decided in 2006 against using Section 2.180.24 to establish trash districts.