County Council Committee of the Whole hears testimony on bill to repeal trash districts

Campisi’s bill to nix districts and ease recycling costs fails

By BURKE WASSON

The St. Louis County Council was set to meet this week as a Committee of the Whole to hear testimony on a bill that would repeal trash districts planned to be established this year in unincorporated county areas.

But efforts to include a substitute bill that not only would have repealed trash districts, but also eased extra costs through the county’s new minimum standard of recycling failed last week.

The substitute bill, introduced by 6th District County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, died last week in perfection as the council split 3-3. A majority is required to move a bill past perfection.

Voting “yes” on Campisi’s bill to repeal trash districts and eliminate mandatory re-cycling were 3rd District Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, R-Town and Country, 7th District Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin, and Campisi.

Voting “no” were 2nd District Council Chair Kathleen Burkett, D-Overland, 1st District Councilwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City, and 5th District Council-woman Barbara Fraser, D-University City.

Fourth District Councilman Michael O’Mara, D-north county, was absent from the council’s April 15 meeting.

Campisi’s failed substitute bill would have meant that county residents would be exempt from recycling charges if they met 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 have removed 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 County Council was set Tuesday — after the Call went to press — to hear testimony concerning Campisi’s originally proposed bill, which would eliminate the formation of trash districts.

While the Missouri Attorney General’s Office is of the opinion that St. Louis County must issue a two-year notice to waste haulers before issuing trash districts in unincorporated areas, county officials believe otherwise.

County spokesman Mac Scott has said despite the opinion issued April 7 by the Attorney General’s Office, county officials are not convinced that they are “bound” to it as no court has issued a determination.

“Nothing in this opinion suggests that St. Louis County is bound by these restrictions,” Scott said in a county statement. “We agree that we are a charter county and we are moving ahead with our solid-waste plan.”

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.

As for the seven remaining trash districts, county officials will begin bidding for those in May.

The Attorney General’s Office issued an opinion April 7 concluding that because of a state statute passed last year by the state Legislature that requires a two-year notice to waste haulers before establishing trash districts, St. Louis County must follow suit before it implements eight trash districts planned to be established this year in unincorporated areas.

With the backing of Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, three state representatives from south county asked Attorney General Jay Nixon in February to determine the legality of the trash districts’ establishment.

Because of a state statute 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 Lembke, R-Lemay, Rep. Walt Bivins, R-Oakville, Rep. Jim Avery, R-Crestwood and Gibbons 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 …”

The conclusion issued by Paul C. Wilson, the Attorney General’s Office’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Litigation, said that the law applies to St. Louis County.

That opinion states, “… (I)t appears that the General Assembly’s 2007 amendment to the two-year notice provision of (Section) 260.247, which extended that requirement to all ‘political subdivisions,’ does apply to the activities now being pursued by the county.”

The opinion concludes: “On the basis of the facts presented to us, as set forth above, we conclude that, with the adoption of Ordinances 607.1300 and 607.1310, St. Louis County has decided to ‘enter into’ solid waste collection services for purposes of Section 260.247. Therefore, the two-year notice requirement imposed by Section 260.247 — as amended by the General Assembly in 2007 — extends to the activities now being contemplated by St. Louis County under Ordinance 607.1310.”

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.

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.

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.