Councilman, state representatives continue efforts to halt county trash districts

Public hearing slated today on Weber’s transfer station

By BURKE WASSON

With county officials moving ahead on plans to implement trash districts in unincorporated St. Louis County, one county councilman and a handful of state representatives are taking steps this week to stop them.

The Missouri House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Environment was scheduled Tuesday — after the Call went to press — to conduct a hearing on a bill introduced by Rep. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, that would repeal trash districts.

The committee is chaired by Rep. Walt Bivins, R-Oakville, who also has been a vocal opponent of trash districts for the past year.

Additionally, 6th District County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, requested last week that the County Counselor’s office prepare a bill that would not only repeal trash districts, but also allow county residents to be exempt from recycling charges if those residents meet any of the following conditions:

• They generate less than 35 gallons of recyclable material during a seven-day period.

• They take recyclables to “a school, church, or other charitable organization” or take recyclables “to a licensed waste processing facility.”

Campisi’s request for a bill also would remove the county’s new minimum standard that waste haulers provide two bulk-waste pickups per year and instead be allowed to offer that service “at a reasonable fee.”

The councilman also is awaiting a Committee of the Whole hearing on a previously introduced bill that would repeal trash districts and this week planned to share more information on that hearing today — April 10 — when the Department of Natural Resources has scheduled a 7 p.m. hearing at Oakville Senior High School, 5557 Milburn Road, for Fred Weber Inc.’s application to construct a trash-transfer station in Oakville.

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 county Department of Health. The carts are split into two sizes — 64 gallons and 35 gallons.

Residents are not charged for having the recycling carts delivered to their homes.

Residents who would prefer to have a 35-gallon container instead of a 64-gallon container can call the health department at (314) 615-0600 or (314) 615-8428.

With the backing of Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, three state representatives from south county have asked Attorney General Jay Nixon to determine the legality of trash districts that St. Louis County officials want to establish in unincorporated areas.

Because of a state law that went into effect Jan. 1 that requires a political subdivision to issue a two-year notice to waste haulers before establishing trash districts, the elected officials contend that the county’s trash-district program is unconstitutional.

Rep. Jim Avery, R-Crestwood, Gibbons, Bivins and Lembke say that Section 260.247(2) of the Missouri Revised Statutes prevents St. Louis County from establishing trash districts in 2008.

The statute, approved in 2007, states:

“A city or political subdivision shall not commence solid-waste collection in such area for at least two years from the effective date of the annexation or at least two years from the effective date of the notice that the city or political subdivision intends to enter into the business of solid waste collection or to expand existing solid waste collection services into the area, unless the city or political subdivision contracts with the private entity or entities to continue such services for that period.

“If for any reason the city or political subdivision does not exercise its option to provide for or contract for the provision of services within an affected area within three years from the effective date of the notice, then the city or political subdivision shall renotify …”

A total of 28,065 households in such areas already have chosen to opt out. A total of 311 subdivisions — or 26.92 percent of total households in unincorporated areas — petitioned the county to opt out of trash districts, according to county officials.