County Council holds measure to prosecute unauthorized haulers

Campisi urges council to vote on bill; Fraser prefers wait-and-see approach

By BURKE WASSON

The St. Louis County Council last week held a bill that would prosecute waste haulers from servicing unincorporated trash districts not awarded to them by the county.

County Executive Charlie Dooley had requested “emergency legislation” to shut down a loophole in county law that would allow waste haulers to serve any trash district.

After County Counselor Patricia Redington recently acknowledged in court that the county’s recently established trash districts in unincorporated areas are unenforceable, some haulers like American Eagle Waste Industries have informed the County Council that they plan on offering service within trash districts not awarded to them.

To combat this possibility, Dooley proposed penalizing unsuccessful bidders servicing trash districts with a fine of up to $1,000 and a year in jail.

Last week, however, the County Council voted 5-2 on a motion to hold the bill from being perfected. Sixth District Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, and 7th District Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin, voted “no.”

Campisi last week pleaded with the council to vote on Bill 279 to decide whether the county would prosecute waste haulers for “poaching” in other districts.

“I think that has been put off long enough,” Campisi said. “The people in the 6th District that I represent have been hanging by their fingernails on this bill for such a long time. There’s got to be some closure to this. I don’t think there really is a good solution to this whole trash-districting situation. I think it needs to be voted on … The people of south county are anticipating us to take some action. And the action is now. We have the trash haulers, both small and large. There’s got to be some closure on this. There really isn’t any other solution. It’s either we’re going to do it or we’re not going to do it.”

Campisi then said he wanted “to take up Bill 279 for perfection” and received a second from Quinn.

“I didn’t hear a motion,” Redington said.

“I just made the motion,” Campisi said.

“She (County Council Chairwoman Kathleen Burkett) already held it, so let’s move on,” Redington said.

“There is no moving on,” Campisi said. “I can bring up a bill if I want … It’s not being held.”

Fifth District Councilwoman Barbara Fraser, D-University City, then said she would prefer to take a wait-and-see approach to whether anti-poaching legislation is necessary, pointing out that the first trash district was established in July and the remaining seven districts went into effect Sept. 29.

“I’d like to speak to what you’re speaking to, Councilman Campisi,” Fraser said. “And I think the point is that … I think the reason this is being held is because earlier this year we had clearly heard many issues related to this. And quite frankly, if I recall correctly, these trash-hauler companies who have this bid and have the contracts have just started doing this. The process had not really been under way except for about 14 days. And I believe that many of these kinks will be sorted out as time goes on. And I, quite frankly, think that we should give it a chance to work out.

“And the process will move quite smoothly. I think we’ve seen in your trash-hauling districts … we have not had a lot of problems. We have not had a lot of altercations. We’ve not had any problems with any people trying to horn in on other people’s business. And so consequently, I know at the (Democratic) caucus meeting a week ago, there was a pretty strong demand. I know you (Campisi) weren’t there. But there’s a strong demand for patience and waiting to see how things are going,” Fraser said.

“And frankly, I think that trying to politicize this issue at this time is not relevant. I think that this is an issue that certainly can take some time. It can take a little bit of having it go forth and see how the process goes on. Then, if in fact a measure needs to be taken to deal with an inordinate array or a group of people who are horning in on a business, then I think perhaps that might be necessary. But the fact is I think at this stage, we just don’t know some of the answers.

“And I certainly believe if the council acts at this time to do something that I think is being overly politicized is absolutely unnecessary. So I think that we should wait and see. And I think the process is in place and we’ve had tremendous success with the redistricting. Let’s wait and see what happens,” she said.

After Fraser’s comments, the council voted 5-2 to hold Bill 279 with Campisi and Quinn opposed.

Fraser broke Democratic party lines last December by voting with council Republicans to reject a bill that would have prosecuted waste haulers for servicing unincorporated trash districts not awarded to them by the county.

The county has established eight trash districts in unincorporated areas with one trash hauler per district. County officials have said this was done in response to unincorporated residents complaining that their neighborhoods were being serviced by multiple trash companies.

County administrators contend that having one hauler per district will result in a more uniform brand of service and lower prices.

The county also has established new minimum standards for trash service. These standards are weekly pickup of trash and recyclables and twice-per-year pickup of bulk waste. But some waste haulers and unincorporated residents have criticized the move because county officials also have stated that districts likely would force some small haulers out of business due to a lack of competition.

Bryan Barcom of American Eagle has told the council that because of trash districts, he has lost more than 13,000 households and $3 million. This amounts to more than 60 percent of his customer base before seven more trash districts were established Sept. 29.