Council rejects delay of new standards for county trash service

County Council also denies putting off trash districts to 2010

By BURKE WASSON

Though all county waste haulers will be required to offer recycling by Jan. 1, county spokesman Dave Wrone said “not very many, if any” residents will receive county-provided recycling bins by New Year’s Day.

The County Council last week rejected a bill that would have delayed establishing trash haulers’ new countywide minimum standards of service to mid-April. Those three new minimum standards are once-per-week pickup of trash, once-per-week pickup of recyclables and twice-per-year pickup of bulk waste.

The council voted 4-3 against Bill 370, with 4th District Chairman Michael O’Mara, D-north county, 2nd District Vice Chair Kathleen Burkett, D-Overland, and 1st District Councilwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City, voting “yes.”

Fifth District Councilwoman Barbara Fraser, D-University City, crossed party lines to vote “no” on Bill 370 with 6th District Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, 3rd District Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, R-Town and Country, and 7th District Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin.

By rejecting Bill 370, Wrone said the council also struck proposed measures that “would have put a little more teeth” into the county’s rights to prosecute waste haulers that “poach” service within trash districts to each be serviced by one approved waste hauler.

The council’s Dec. 4 rejection of Bill 370 also eliminated the county’s ability to add two option years onto waste haulers’ three-year contracts to service trash districts.

With weekly pickup of recyclables now being imposed on all waste haulers on Jan. 1, Wrone said the county Department of Health would be hard pressed to deliver 65-gallon recycling carts to homes by the new deadline.

“Had we been able to delay this until mid-April, that would have given us the window of time we needed to get all of the recycling carts distributed,” Wrone said. “So technically, we’re looking at Jan. 1 for the recycling. So at this point, the health department is going to be getting these carts out as quickly as possible … Nobody is forced to recycle. But if they wish to recycle, it’s single-stream and you don’t have to have an official cart to do that. You can put all your recyclable trash in one container and you might just want to label it ‘recyclable waste’ if you so choose. But no one is being forced to recycle. The carts will be delivered in the first quarter of 2008.”

The council last week also rejected two substitute bills related to the implementation of trash districts, which Wrone said would be established by September in all unincorporated areas.

The council voted 4-3 against a proposal introduced by Wasinger that would have delayed consideration of trash districts until 2010 and advocated a county campaign to increase recycling. The bill was supported by Wasinger, Campisi and Quinn.

The council also voted 5-2 against a proposal introduced by Fraser that would have limited individual trash haulers to servicing no more than two of the county’s planned eight trash districts. Only Fraser and Quinn voted “yes” to that proposal.

Despite last week’s failure of these three bills all related to trash collection, Wrone and county spokesman Mac Scott said trash districts are planned to be implemented in unincorporated areas by September. As planned, the county will divide unincorporated areas into eight trash districts in which the County Council will award a bid to one waste hauler in each district.

Because of a perceived monopoly of one business per district as well as a county task force’s own admission this year that trash districting will put some small waste haulers out of business, many unincorporated residents — specifically those in south county — have opposed the move for most of the year. South county is slated to have four of the proposed eight trash districts.

While many residents in unincorporated areas are now planned to be part of trash districts, subdivisions in those areas have the choice to decline that inclusion. Any subdivision that wishes to opt out of trash districts and employ the services of a waste hauler of their choosing has until Feb. 1 to petition the county.

To opt out of a trash district, subdivisions are required to have an active form of governance, follow the provisions of that governance in their petition, gather a simple majority of homeowners opposed to the districts and provide for the minimum levels of trash service to be set forth in 2008.

The county will field bids from February to May from waste haulers interested in providing service to the eight trash districts. Wrone said county officials still expect that the County Council will begin to award trash-district bids to waste haulers in May and June with each trash district implemented by September.

For residents included in the trash districts, monthly trash-collection rates will rise for some. County Chief Operating Officer Garry Earls has estimated that the average monthly fee for residents being serviced through trash districts will be anywhere from $11 to $18. He has said that if residents wish to add on services like pickup of yard waste, which is not included in the new minimum standards, that monthly fee would be “closer to $18.”

Wrone also confirmed last week that the reduction in the county’s 2008 budget for trash districting from $400,000 to around $170,000 is solely because of the county’s recent decision to no longer have the county bill residents. Trash haulers now will be responsible for billing.

Oakville resident Ann Wyrick last week asked the County Council to delay trash districting until officials know the effects that the new minimum levels of services will have on residents’ trash bills.

“I’m just concerned that we don’t really know what the impact is going to be, primarily on cost,” Wyrick said. “So I wonder why we’re rushing to implement the districting plan. Wouldn’t it be prudent to wait for the dust to settle before adding anything else into the mix?”

But Burkett said that like Campisi — who has worked to amend the trash-district proposal at south county residents’ request — she is also listening to her 2nd District constituents, who she said “overwhelmingly” support trash districts.

She later added, “… As Ms. Wyrick explained or pointed out, Councilman Campisi represents her. That’s who he should answer to. I answer to my constituency in the 2nd District. Councilmember Wasinger, Councilmember Fraser, your bills just didn’t do what I thought was necessary. I’m perfectly happy with the existing bill. So I don’t want you to take it as just the way that I feel. But I’ve listened and I’ve listened and I’ve listened. And not one of these comments have come from the 2nd County Council District. I’m just doing my job as a councilmember representing my district.”