County Council approves transfer of trash-district contracts to Allied

Stenger casts sole ‘no’ vote on transferring pacts to Allied.

By EVAN YOUNG

The St. Louis County Council last week granted a transfer of trash-district contracts between two waste haulers, avoiding what one county official said could have been a “public health emergency.”

Council members voted 5-1 Sept. 28 to approve Veolia Environmental Services’ request to assign contracts for its three trash districts to Allied Services.

Sixth District Council Vice Chair Steve Stenger, D-south county, voted against the proposal. Seventh District Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin, was absent last week.

Allied as of Oct. 1 is the exclusive waste hauler in five of the county’s eight trash districts in unincorporated areas.

Besides owning contracts for trash District 5 in Affton and District 6 in Lemay, Allied on Friday picked up contracts for District 3 in north-central county, District 4 in four separate parts of southwest county along the Meramec River and District 7 in Concord.

Under the terms of the new assignments, Allied must provide the same services as Veolia for the duration of the contracts.

It also cannot raise charges for those services.

The county awarded Allied, Veolia and IESI the trash-district contracts through competitive bidding in 2008.

The contracts expire in October 2011 and will again be put out for bid, according to county officials.

A regional manager for Veolia recently told the council that officials at the company’s corporate headquarters in Milwaukee decided in late August or early September to move out of the St. Louis region and sell its assets and operations to Allied.

Opponents of the contract assignment contended the county is heading toward a trash monopoly. They wanted Veolia’s trash contracts put out for competitive bid.

Before last week’s vote, county Chief Operating Officer Garry Earls outlined to council members a “contingency plan” for trash districts 3, 4 and 7 if the council did not approve Veolia’s request.

“The important thing to us is 30,000 homes would have to have reliable, high-quality trash services, and have to have them very quickly,” Earls said, calling the scenario a “public health emergency.”

While the county would’ve placed Veolia’s contracts out for emergency bid, the winning hauler would’ve had to quickly provide 22 trash trucks and drivers, as well as transition Veolia’s billing system, Earls said.

Most importantly, he added, the hauler would’ve had to agree to charge customers prices similar to those in the original 2008 contracts.

First District Councilwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City, and 4th District Councilman Mike O’Mara, D-Florissant, said during the roll-call vote they were in favor of the proposal because the arrangement is only for one year.

O’Mara also noted that Veolia’s decision to leave the St. Louis area was made at its national headquarters, not locally.

Third District Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, R-Town and Country, said while she initially favored re-bidding Veolia’s contracts for the remaining year, she reconsidered after consulting with other haulers, who said the county likely would get higher bids than it did in 2008, if any.

She added that Allied had a strong service record.

Stenger, however, said he has received many comments from unincorporated south county residents, who he contends have been most impacted by the trash-district program.

Stenger decided to vote against the proposal — consistent with the “seems-to-be unified voice” of his constituents and in the best interest of all county residents, he said.