Campisi pushes for hearing on bill to nix trash districts

Councilman discusses issues with recycling carts delivered to homes

By BURKE WASSON

A bill that would eliminate trash districts in unincorporated St. Louis County has been held for more than a month, but soon could have a hearing.

Sixth District County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, is pushing for the council to schedule a public hearing as a Committee of the Whole to discuss his bill, which would eliminate the future establishment of eight trash districts in unincorporated areas.

Campisi planned to ask for the hearing this week and release a date for it April 10 when the Department of Natural Resources has scheduled a 7 p.m. hearing at Oakville Senior High School, 5557 Milburn Road, on Fred Weber Inc.’s application to construct a trash-transfer station in Oakville.

“There is no consensus on the dais right now as to which direction we’re going to go,” Campisi said. “I still have my bill trying to take it out altogether, and that’s pending. This Tuesday (April 1), I’m going to try to push for a date when we can have a hearing so that people know when this is going to come up.”

Campisi, whose council district would contain four of the eight trash districts, has contended that 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.

The county already has taken bids for one of eight trash districts planned to be implemented in July as a “pilot district” in the 2nd County Council District represented by Council Chair Kathleen Burkett, D-Overland, who has been a vocal proponent of trash districts. As for the seven remaining trash districts, county officials could begin bidding for those as early as May.

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 and contend that having one hauler per district would 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 have also stated that districts would likely push some small haulers out of business due to a lack of competition in unincorporated areas.

Separate from the trash districts, county officials also this year established three minimum standards of service countywide. These standards to be offered by haulers are once-per-week pickup of trash, once-per-week pickup of recyclables and twice-per-year pickup of bulk waste.

To help facilitate the new standard of recyclable pickup, recycling carts have been distributed by the St. Louis County Department of Health. The carts are split into two sizes — 64 gallons and 35 gallons.

While he believes the county’s purpose of increased recycling is well-intentioned in delivering these carts, Campisi said the carts also are creating some confusion among residents. Because the bidding and implementation of trash districts is pending, Campisi does not believe that waste haulers are required to pick up recyclables right now if recycling was not already included in that hauler’s contract with residents.

“Some of these haulers are saying they’re not going to pick up the recyclables because it’s not in their contract,” he said. “The minimum standards are in place. We’ve offered it before. But they haven’t bought it. So there’s another question. Will the hauler pick up your recyclables right now? Because you have a contract, actually you can hold that hauler to the contract regardless of what the county says. You can take that to court and say ‘This is what I’m paying for it. He’s got a minimum standard. But my contract says this and this is what I’m paying.’ That’s just the way it is … There is no recourse for the county to actually enforce this until every one of the contracts are up and in place and renegotiated (through awarding bids for trash districts).”

Furthermore, Campisi reiterated that there is no charge to residents for having the recycling carts delivered to their homes and those who prefer to have a 35-gallon container instead of a 64-gallon container can call the county Department of Health at (314) 615-0600 or (314) 615-8428.

“There is no charge for the can,” Campisi said. “The 64-gallon container is going to be delivered first. If you don’t want that 64-gallon container, you can call the St. Louis County Health Department. They will take back your 64-gallon container and give you a 35-gallon. But your 35-gallon probably won’t be at your house until four to six weeks after you call. They need to go purchase the can and bring it over to you.

“During the time that you have that 64-gallon can, you can put it on the side of your house. Chances are that you’re not going to be using that 64-gallon can for your current hauler because obviously the minimum standards, while in place, you haven’t been contracted to have picked up. So you can put it on the side of your house, which is permissible now because trash cans had not been permissible to be on the side of the house until recently when legislation was passed. Or you can put it in your back yard or your garage. We’ve had people asking us if they have to pay for the cans. No, you do not have to pay for the cans. The cans stay with the house. They are the county government’s can. So if you move, the can stays with the house.”

Residents who have recently moved within the county and would like to establish trash pickup are also asked to contact the county Department of Health.

While the actual recycling cart is at no charge to residents, the pickup of those recyclables is not free as haulers who choose to participate in recycling likely will tack on that charge to residents’ bills.

“That’s a double-edged sword,” Campisi said. “You’re not paying for the can. But you are going to be paying for recycling now. So in a sense, yeah, you are going to be paying for recycling whereas you weren’t before. Some people were asking do they have to recycle? No, you don’t have to recycle. And you can keep that can up there next to your garage forever. And you can still take your recyclables to the schools or wherever in the community that you take them, too. But you’ll be paying for recycling anyway because it’s a minimum standard … Your current trash hauler is probably going to have to come back to your subdivision and renegotiate the fee for picking up your recyclables. I don’t think he’s going to do it for free.”