Council hears residents’ opposition to county trash plan

Residents plead with council to reconsider unincorporated trash districts

By BURKE WASSON

Just days after south county residents opposed the county’s trash-district plans and advocated forming a new city or county at a meeting of the Tesson Ferry Township Republican Club, the County Council itself heard those sentiments.

Concord resident and former Republican Rep. Catherine Enz told the County Council Aug. 14 that if the council will not allow unincorporated residents to opt out of the trash districts, residents “probably” will start efforts to form a new city or county.

Numerous south county residents have opposed the trash districts predominantly because they lose the right to choose their own hauling service, their rates likely will increase and also because some small haulers will be forced out of business.

Due to these factors, Enz said breaking away from the the county could be an option worth considering.

“We want to stay in St. Louis County,” Enz said. “But we just feel that this particular legislation that is crafted to a certain industry could start to create some type of monopoly, increased costs … many issues that we just feel like is not good for business in south county. We would ask for an opt-out option if we may. If not … we are organized and we probably would start efforts to possibly incorporate a city or county in our area.”

Subdivisions in unincorporated areas will have the opportunity to opt out of the service contracted in their specific districts, but only if they are already under contract with a waste hauler. Those subdivisions will have up to three years after a trash district’s implementation to keep their contracted haulers.

A task force of 19 county officials concluded July 31 that “there is merit” to forming more than 20 trash districts in unincorporated areas during 2008 and 2009.

The County Council unanimously voted in December to divide unincorporated areas into more than 20 trash districts and hire a single waste hauler for each district. Sixth District County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, who now opposes those plans, said former 3rd District County Councilman Skip Mange, R-Town and Country, misled him when he voted in favor of the proposal. Campisi thought he was voting in favor of designating two day per week to pick up trash and not in favor of awarding trash districts to haulers.

The trash-district plan will remove residents’ right to choose their own trash hauler and transfer that responsibility to the County Council.

County officials have said reasons for the districts include ensuring a uniform price range, setting a standard service range, the need for more recycling and a desire to improve appearance and reduce wear and tear on county roads by lowering the number of trash trucks driving through the county at one time.

Task-force members additionally recommend the formation of a Trash Service Commission “to provide citizen input and advice” on the implementation and operation of trash-district contracts.

The task force further concluded that by December, county officials should establish a district boundary map and a request for proposals and standard contract for trash-collection services.

Further recommendations include advertising for two trash-district contracts by February 2008, awarding contracts for those two districts by May 2008, advertising four more district contracts by August 2008, awarding contracts to those four districts by October 2008, advertising for all remaining districts by November 2008 and awarding contracts to all districts by January 2009.

The task force also concluded that an “unintended consequence” of the county’s plans is that small haulers will be put out of business because they cannot compete with larger waste companies in bidding.

Concord resident Chas Kelly told the County Council last week that because such small haulers will go out of business, he believes the county’s plans are unnecessary.

“I for one would hope that county government would stick to their business of government …,” Kelly said. “There are areas where the county proposes to set up a whole office of people to handle complaints … In my opinion, you’re taking jobs from the small-business people, which I certainly and truly object to.”

Lemay resident Mel Hock said he would prefer to award contracts to haulers through his subdivision and added that because the method has caused no problems over the years, he is opposed to the notion of the county choosing his subdivision’s trash hauler and the price for that service.

“We go out for bids every two years and we’ve been completely satisfied,” Hock said. “And that eliminates the problem that I know some have where you have two or three trash haulers coming in frequently. We’ve never had a problem.”

Besides south county residents pleading to the County Council last week to reconsider the trash districts, Rep. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, also tried to persuade the Legislature to prevent all Missouri counties from controlling trash service in their unincorporated areas. Lembke tried to attach such a provision to a bill in May, but was ultimately voted down.

Despite that, Lembke told the County Council last week that, when it comes to trash service, it is better handled by the people and not the government.

“When you have an issue that comes be-fore you as an elected official where you have dozens of your constituents that either contact you by phone or by e-mail and express their position on an issue, then you need to stand up and take notice,” Lembke said. “And that’s certainly happened with me on this issue. I had the opportunity to attend a (March) meeting that Councilman Campisi put on in our district where 400 members of the community came and voiced their concern about these trash districts. Having served in the Legislature for five years … I believe this theme of less government means more freedom and, just the opposite, more government and more different areas that government gets involved means less freedom for the people.

“And I just think that for us as individuals to be able to contract for our own trash pickup or, as happens in my little cul de sac down in south county … my neighbors come together each year and we put it out to bid. And we have two or three different companies that actually give us the best bid over our area. And that’s worked just fine. And I think in order to keep competition in this area, it’s better to let individuals in subdivisions do this rather than the government do something that we the people can do for ourselves.”

Reiterating those comments, Enz told the County Council that if residents in unincorporated areas already are adequately handling trash service, she sees no reason for county officials to mandate specific haulers, services and rates.