Dooley says he’s responsible for serving citizens, not waste haulers

‘You and your brother had an opportunity to compete … and you lost,’ Dooley says


With some waste haulers vowing to ignore St. Louis County’s recently established trash program by offering service to residents in trash districts awarded to other companies, County Executive Charlie Dooley said he simply is trying to serve residents — not trash haulers.

Addressing the County Council last week, brothers Bryan Barcom, who owns American Eagle Waste Industries, and Chuck Barcom, who owns Meridian Waste Service, alleged county officials “lied” when they established trash districts in unincorporated areas.

While county officials said their intention was to award a contract to one hauler per district based on the lowest bid, County Counselor Patricia Redington recently revealed that the county has no ordinance to prosecute haulers from servicing districts not awarded to them.

Chuck Barcom alleged county officials knowingly deceived residents and haulers by telling them the districts would be exclusive to one hauler without such a prosecuting ordinance.

“I would like to know when this council decided it was OK to lie to me, my employees, the citizens of St. Louis County and all the other haulers who either bid and did not get a district or who did bid and get a district?” Chuck Barcom said Oct. 7. “As a business owner and a taxpaying citizen of St. Louis County, I would like to know how much this lie has already cost the county in court and lawyer fees and how much more you anticipate that this lie will cost with upcoming lawsuits … Knowingly deceiving the citizens of this county is completely unacceptable in my book.”

In an effort to close the loophole allowing unsuccessful bidders to service other haulers’ trash districts, Dooley requested emergency legislation to “to prohibit non-contracted trash haulers from providing services to residents within designated trash districts.”

Dooley’s emergency request, which the council would have to approve by a supermajority of five of its seven members, would penalize unsuccessful bidders servicing trash districts with a fine of up to $1,000 and a year in jail.

In a heated response to Chuck Barcom’s allegations that county officials lied to residents and haulers in explaining the trash program, Dooley said he is not responsible for trash companies’ well-being.

“I owe you absolutely nothing,” Dooley said. “I represent the people in St. Louis County, giving the best cost for the best price and the best service that they can get in St. Louis County. That’s my job. We did it competitively. We did it above board. And nobody lied to anybody. Now, if you can’t read, I can’t be responsible for that. But I will tell you this. I don’t apologize for nothing this county does.

“It’s always above board and transparent. We did it for the right reasons, for competitive prices and we received those competitive prices. You and your brother had an opportunity to compete like everybody else. And you lost.

“All I’m saying to you is my responsibility is to the people of St. Louis County. I’ve been with this council since 1995 and I think what we did was the right thing to do at the right time. So I don’t apologize for what you may think. And I’m not responsible to you. I’m responsible to St. Louis County residents, not just a portion or just one business. I’m responsible for all of St. Louis County.”

The county has established eight trash districts in unincorporated areas with one trash hauler per district.

County officials contend that having one hauler per district will result in a more uniform brand of service and lower prices. 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 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. The first trash district began in July in north-central St. Louis County.

“You guys can fix this whole problem by doing the right thing,” Bryan Barcom said. “There’s no way small businesses or anybody else in St. Louis County should be put out of business when you don’t have the things in order that they should. And now, you’re trying to fix the problem that you guys created.”

If the County Council approves Dooley’s recommendation to prosecute haulers for servicing trash districts not assigned to them, Bryan Barcom said American Eagle would refund his customers for service completed by his company after the districts were established Sept. 29.

“We’ll give refunds to everybody that paid us up to the point that they deserve a refund,” Bryan Barcom said. “Then, we’ll go ahead and wait for the courts to rule the way they’re going to rule.”

American Eagle has filed two lawsuits against the county. One suit, filed with Meridian Waste and Waste Management of Missouri, alleges that the county violated a state law requiring that notice be provided to all haulers in the county two years before trash districts are implemented.

The second lawsuit, filed with south county resident Brett Buchanan and north county resident Greg Porter, alleges that when county officials set up trash districts, they violated the County Charter. The plaintiffs believe the charter requires residents of each district to approve their implementation through elections.

As for haulers awarded trash districts through the county’s competitive bidding, attorneys for Veolia Waste Services and IESI last week told the council that they are in favor of the council approving Dooley’s proposed anti-poaching ordinance.

IESI attorney Edward Dowd reminded the council that the ordinance approved to establish districts gives awarded haulers the “exclusive right” to serve those districts.

“It’s also in the ordinance that the county will take all reasonable measures to enforce that for us,” Dowd said. “… Every one of those (households) that leaves is costing us money because our bids were based on the density of the people that we were going to be picking up their trash from. So when you start taking a lot of people out of there, that increases our cost and reduces our profit and we’re not getting the benefit of the bargain that we made with the county.”

But 3rd District Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, R-Town and Country, said the success of the first trash district set up in July shows that districts can work well without an anti-poaching law.

“The law as it was enacted worked fine before this (in the first trash district),” Wasinger said. “Ultimately, people will probably pick the lower price. If they don’t want to, they don’t have to … The program itself doesn’t have to have this provision to be successful.”