Council rejects Fred Weber’s appeal on trash-transfer station for Oakville

By Alyson E. Raletz

The County Council recently threw out a proposal by Fred Weber Inc. to construct a trash-transfer station in Oakville, backing the Department of Health’s Sept. 22 denial.

Fred Weber Inc.’s appeal to construct a trash-transfer station on 5219 Baumgartner Road unanimously was rejected, 5-0, by the County Council last week during a Committee of the Whole meeting in which 6th District Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, was able to participate.

While Campisi noted he was pleased that County Counselor Pat Redington had upheld the legality of legislation authored by Campisi that now prohibits any waste-management facility from being constructed within 1,000 feet of residences, churches, schools and other buildings, the majority of the councilmen’s executive session discussion April 27 did not involve the trash-transfer station proposal.

Councilmen gave more attention to Fred Weber’s recent motion to disqualify Campisi from that very hearing. The company alleged Campisi, who publicly opposed the proposal, would bring an unfair bias to proceedings involving Fred Weber.

Before considering Fred Weber’s appeal last week, councilmen addressed the issue of Campisi’s involvement in the hearing with a 4-1 vote.

Chairman Skip Mange, R-Town and Country, Councilman Greg Quinn, R-west county, Councilman Kurt Odenwald, R-Shrewsbury and Campisi voted to deny the motion and let Campisi participate in the Fred Weber appeal decision.

However, Councilman Mike O’Mara, D-north county, voted to accept the motion to disqualify Campisi from the council’s decision on the Fred Weber appeal.

Councilman Kelly Burkett, D-north county, and Councilman Hazel Erby, D-north county, were absent.

After casting his vote to deny Fred Weber’s appeal to construct the Oakville trash-transfer station, O’Mara told councilmen, “I still think Councilman Campisi should refrain from voting on this issue … He did come out in public against this before a decision was made on an executive decision. I think this is putting ourselves in the middle of litigation, which could be costly to the county.”

After O’Mara’s comments, Quinn praised Campisi for his involvement with the trash-transfer station applications.

“I think it’s something Councilman Campisi should be commended for. Speaking out on a particular cause, I think that he owed a duty to the constituents that he represents. He’s done that thoroughly in this particular instance,” Quinn said. “He’s determined what their views are on this particular issue and he has represented them vigorously …

“I think that it sets a very bad precedent for people to come before the council and seek to disqualify councilmen for essentially doing that — for representing their constituents,” he added. “Constituents, I think … (deserve) to know where you stand, where their council member stands on a particular issue … I think he has done them a service. And I think it is a very dangerous precedent to set to allow petitioners to attempt to disqualify the council member from the district where the petitioned matter is sought … I think this is a situation we should take very seriously.”

Odenwald also spoke in favor of Campisi’s participation on the matter.

“I think this underscores the tenaciousness of the advocates for each party in this case certainly trying to find some procedural advantage, which really doesn’t address the substance of what we’re here about today,” Odenwald said. “I think all of us as council members, as we look at issues and evaluate issues, we reach conclusions. We reach opinions. And the important thing is that the process continues and that process continues despite the opinions you may have reached at some point …”

He commended Campisi for “taking a stand” and taking the time to look into the issue — also agreeing that disqualifying councilmen because they may have an opinion on an issue would set a “dangerous” precedent.

O’Mara told the Call he was more concerned with saving the county from a potential lawsuit.

“I thought it would be an easier process if he (Campisi) disqualified himself and then if there was litigation, it would eliminate that portion of litigation,” O’Mara said. “I’m just trying to save the county from getting into any litigation over this. And I thought, they were going to vote for it anyhow, if he abstains then at least they can’t bring that upon us that, you know, he came out before the health department made a decision. I felt it would keep us from litigation down the road.”

Asked if he was biased in his decision to deny Fred Weber’s appeal last week, Campisi told the Call, “Absolutely not. I have no bias at all. It was strictly on the facts. With the whole list of concerns that not only the health department had, but the constituents around the area had, this proposal was nothing but bad development from the start.”

The health department denied Fred Weber’s application last September, citing noise and public safety concerns and determining the proposed trash-transfer station would be hazardous to the public’s health. The department also stated that the station would violate the county’s 1,000-foot restriction to certain buildings.

Robert Epstein of Gallop, Johnson & Neuman, an attorney for Fred Weber Inc., told the Call April 27 he was unsure what the company’s next step would be for the 5219 Baumgartner proposal and if Fred Weber would pursue the matter in court.

“I’ll have to concur with my client to make that decision,” Epstein told the Call. “It’s too early to say what we’re going to do. We just received the findings of fact and conclusions of law five minutes ago, so we’re going to need to review those.”

Tim Doyle of Oakville attended the executive session and said he was pleased with the council’s decision to deny Fred Weber’s appeal. According to Doyle, who lives on Baumgartner Road, he had worked for Fred Weber Inc. for 18 years and then was “let go” the day after he spoke out against the company during a Dec. 11 public hearing.

The hearing was conducted by the Department of Health to gather public input on a current application from a Fred Weber subsidiary, F.W. Disposal South, to construct a trash-transfer station on 4200 Baumgartner Road.

Doyle said he wholeheartedly agreed with the comments made by Odenwald and Quinn during the meeting.

Doyle noted that if he had continued to be employed by Fred Weber, he was supposed to work on a trash-transfer station that was just completed in Valley Park and he had been told he would work on a trash-transfer station that was going to be built in south county.

“So, I seriously doubt that we’ve heard the last of a solid waste trash-transfer station in the south county area. This may be the last you hear at that particular site (5219 Baumgartner), but he’s pretty determined to build one in Oakville or south county,” he said.