Green Park board rejects seeking new bids for city-funded trash pickup

By MIKE ANTHONY

A majority of the Green Park Board of Aldermen last week rejected seeking new bids to have the city pay for residential trash pickup.

A motion by Ward 1 Alderman Judy Betlach to seek new bids to have the city pay for twice-weekly residential trash collection was defeated 4-2 at the Nov. 20 meeting.

Besides Betlach, Ward 2 Alderman Jackie Wilson voted in favor of the motion. Mayor Steve Armstrong initially had declared Betlach’s motion dead for lack of a second until Wilson seconded it.

Opposed were Ward 1 Alderman Bob Reinagel, Ward 2 Alderman Chuck Deters, Ward 4 Alderman Mark Hayden and board President Fred Baras of Ward 4.

The Board of Aldermen voted 4-1 with Wilson abstaining to have American Eagle serve as the city’s residential trash hauler. Betlach was opposed to the motion made by Hayden and seconded by Reinagel. An ordinance formalizing the board’s action will be considered Dec. 18.

As proposed, the cost of residential trash pickup would be $10 for collection once a week and $12 for collection twice a week.

Senior citizens would pay $9 for collection once a week. Hayden’s motion stipulated the contract would not include recycling until recycling is required by St. Louis County. At that time, Green Park would pay for the mandatory recycling at a cost not to exceed $48,000 per year.

In the meantime, however, residents who desire recycling could have such service for an additional fee.

The city received four responses to its request for proposals for residential trash pickup. Of the four proposals, American Eagle’s bid was the lowest. The company initially proposed charging $14 per month for once-per-week pickup of household trash, recyclables and small household items and $16 per month for twice-per-week pickup of the same service. The city also received bids from Waste Management, IESI Services and SCS Trucking.

Armstrong and City Administrator/City Clerk Diana Mize later met with Bryan Barcom of American Eagle to discuss the company’s bid.

In a memo to the board, Mize wrote, “To reduce the cost for picking up residential waste without compromising the city’s goal of encouraging all residents to recycle, the city could fund and provide curbside recycling for all residential properties and take the lead as a community to help reduce the amount of solid waste being dumped into our nation’s landfills.”

As a result of that meeting, American Eagle revised its proposed rates and stipulated the cost of recycling would not exceed $48,000 the first year.

In September, a motion by Betlach to offer free residential trash service died for lack of a second. At the Nov. 20 meeting, she again raised the issue.

“… For the people who weren’t here at previous meetings, one of the issues … is that the city has like a $3 million surplus, and so we talked about, gee, could the city pay for the whole bill?” Betlach said. “Because that’s where the savings really is, is in terms of billing … The consensus of the board, I tried to move that several times and it didn’t work, is that the board’s going to wait for a year and get data to find out what that cost is going to run, how many people do waste pickup of yard waste and things like that. So there is a movement on the board to consider full payment or at least come to that decision point …”

The Ward 1 alderman also asked if the proposed contract prohibited the city from providing just trash pickup — and not recycling — until recycling becomes mandatory.

While the proposed contract could be revised, Armstrong said he believed city officials should encourage recycling and residents should start to recycle. The recycling provision was included in the city’s request for proposals for residential trash pickup, he said.

“… St. Louis County hasn’t forced that requirement down, but is the board now not wanting to recycle?” the mayor asked.

Betlach noted that the board was not willing to subsidize residential trash pickup, but now is considering subsidizing the cost of recycling.

“… That’s fine because then people on fixed incomes don’t have to worry about it,” she said. “But if that doesn’t happen, then I think we ought to consider revising the contract to not make recycling mandatory until the county requires it as well.”

Armstrong said, “It’s up to the board. If the board doesn’t want to include it, I guess we were looking to keep the spirit of what you guys had defined originally …”

At one point, Reinagel voiced his support for recycling, and Betlach said, “I think it’s noble to want to try and recycle, but if we’re willing to say we’re going to subsidize recycling, why don’t we subsidize the citizens for the first year, whatever that cost is, until it becomes mandatory. You know, we need to give something back to the citizens. We have a $3 million surplus.

“If we can’t afford picking up all the trash, we ought to give them a piece of it, and then when it becomes mandatory, then install some kind of recycling.”

Reinagel said, “Well, in discussions we’ve had to date, we have talked about picking it up. But not knowing what we’re going to pick up, we don’t know who takes one a week. Who takes two a week. We don’t have any facts or figures to even get a handle on that. After we go through this for the first year, we’ll have a handle on exactly what we’re doing or pretty much what we’re doing, and at that point, we can make a consideration …”

But Betlach proposed using the $48,000 the city was offering for recycling to reduce the cost of trash pickup to residents.

“… When it comes time to recycle, then we either pick up the whole thing or just pick up part of that,” she said. “I’m just looking for a way so that the citizens can benefit somewhat from the city and the $3 million surplus.”

Hayden asked if the recycling could be removed from the proposed contract, later noting he was not changing “his direction” on this issue.

Armstrong said, “… When it (recycling) kicks in, I don’t know how we would … I guess I don’t have the answer to that.”

At Betlach’s suggestion, the board decided to hear residents’ views about residential trash pickup. Former Ward 2 Alderman Fred Hoehn was among those who spoke.

“… Why don’t you pay for all the trash for the citizens for a year, the first year?” he suggested. “And if you find you can’t handle it, then come to the citizens and say: ‘Hey, we can’t handle it. We’d like you to take on some of the cost.’ Why don’t you think the reverse for once?”

Because the city does not know which residents have their trash picked up once a week and which have their trash picked up twice a week, Reinagel later said, “We don’t really know what that bill is going to come to. I have one pickup. A lot of people here have one pickup. Once we know the cost, we’ll be in a much better position to just pay that in blanket cost.”

But Hoehn contended city officials could calculate the maximum cost, even if every resident wanted their trash collected twice a week.

For example, American Eagle’s revised price of $12 for twice-a-week trash collection would cost the city $141,840 based on 985 homes. Adding the $48,000 for recycling would bring the cost to $189,840.

Hoehn said he believed the city could afford to pay for residential trash collection, adding that residents should pay for the collection of yard waste and for recycling if they desired those services.

Other speakers, including former Ward 2 Alderman Tony Konopka and resident Don Nauert, said they believed the city should not be mandating that its residents recycle.

“… I’m recycling now legally and I don’t need it. I don’t need to pay for something I don’t need …,” said Nauert, who also said the city should not provide trash collection.

During a period for public comment near the end of the meeting, Hoehn said the four aldermen who voted against seeking new bids to have the city pay for residential trash collection had “failed the city.”

“Alderman Betlach, congratulations on trying to get the city to fund the trash. You did a good job. Alderman Wilson, I like the abstention. At least you’re thinking about it,” he said.

“Alderman Reinagel, Alderman Deters, Alderman Baras and Alderman Hayden … you people have failed the city. You got the money and you decided not to do it, and that was for no good reason whatsoever,” Hoehn said.