County councilwoman still skeptical of need for proposal to prosecute trash haulers

Campisi says Dooley’s trying to clean up ‘mess’ that county counselor has made

By BURKE WASSON

Fifth District County Councilwoman Barbara Fraser, D-University City, crossed party lines last December by voting with council Republicans to reject a bill that sought to prosecute waste haulers for servicing unincorporated trash districts not awarded to them by the county.

With county officials again requesting such legislation because of unsuccessful bidders continuing to offer trash pickup in those districts, Fraser remains skeptical of the need to prosecute haulers for “poaching” in a district awarded to another hauler.

“I do not see a tremendous need for the ordinance,” Fraser told the Call. “The opportunity for that ordinance was in an earlier piece of legislation back 11 months ago.

“And it did not pass … And there wasn’t an effort by the administration to bring it back down after that.”

Instead of following through on the administration’s request to enact such an anti-poaching ordinance in trash districts, Fraser believes that county officials should allow the newly implemented trash-districting program to “work out some of the kinks.”

She cites the success of the county’s first trash district, which was established in July in north-central St. Louis County, without having prosecuting legislation. The remaining seven districts went into effect Sept. 29.

“I think the trash program has been successful without the requested ordinance,” Fraser said. “We already have an answer to that. So whether it will be successful in other districts, I do not know … But I think our experience tells us that it has been successful without that requested ordinance.”

After County Counselor Patricia Redington recently acknowledged in court that the 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 that end, 6th District Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, has invited all waste haulers not awarded a trash district in the county to attend a 7 p.m. rally Tuesday, Oct. 21, at Bayless Senior High School, 4532 Weber Road, to restore service to homes in those areas.

In response, County Executive Charlie Dooley has requested the council’s approval of emergency legislation “to prohibit non-contracted trash haulers from providing services to residents within designated trash districts.”

Dooley’s request, on which the council has yet to vote, would penalize unsuccessful bidders servicing trash districts with a fine of up to $1,000 and a year in jail.

The emergency legislation, which would require a supermajority approval from five of the council’s seven members, would not apply to unincorporated subdivisions that have opted out of the county’s trash program.

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 officials 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.

In response to Dooley’s request for legislation, Campisi said he is disappointed with county officials’ decision to correct Redington’s “mess” and put some smaller waste-hauling companies not awarded districts out of business.

“This could be laying off a thousand people easy by putting this legislation forward,” he said. “And, in this economic time, (Dooley) needs to remember that we need to be bringing in jobs rather than getting rid of them … I think he knows that (Redington) has screwed up royally when it comes to designing the legislation that went forward the first time. And he knows she’s in a trick bag and this is a way to get her out of the trick bag. He is cleaning up the mess that Pat Redington has made throughout St. Louis County.”

Redington last week told the County Council that the requested legislation is needed to ensure that waste haulers awarded these trash districts can continue to offer service at their low bid price.

“We’re not able to get the haulers to comply, which for some reason they apparently do in most municipalities,” Redington said. “We didn’t have any problem in our first district. But we are now. So I think it makes sense and the administration has asked you to pass an ordinance that supports the lowest bidders … We want the haulers to comply with the program that they participated in. They bid. They lost. We signed exclusive contracts.”

But 7th District Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin, believes the nature of the term “exclusive” may mean that while the county can award a contract to only one hauler per district, waste haulers and unincorporated residents can do as they wish and choose their service.

“In most of the municipalities I am aware of, what they figure is if they can get a good price, everybody will go to that (city-appointed) hauler because of that price,” Quinn said. “But people are still free to engage any other hauler if they want to. I’m wondering if maybe the word ‘exclusive’ or ‘exclusivity’ … means that the county won’t enter into any of these contracts with any more than one hauler per district. That is not a guarantee that that hauler will have everybody in the district as a customer.”

Fraser, who told council members last week in caucus that she believes unincorporated residents should be allowed to choose their own hauler, later said she agreed with Quinn’s interpretation.

She also is “surprised” that some waste haulers would continue to offer service in trash districts at prices higher than the low-bid price awarded to another hauler.

“The aspect of other people sort of popping up and wanting to sort of horn in on the area was a surprise to me,” she said. “I do believe it is not a particularly successful endeavor in that the contract that the person who won the bid has to be the cheapest and lowest bid. The people who didn’t win all put in higher bids. Otherwise, they would have won. So it’s interesting to me that they are sort of coming back and trying to get business independent of the greater group.

“I guess the bigger point is I’m glad some of these issues are being brought out. But I think in the long run, the system as it’s working, we’ve heard wonderful responses from people who are benefiting from it.”