NEW: Judge rules county owes haulers more than $1.1 million

By EVAN YOUNG

A county circuit court judge on Friday awarded more than $1.1 million in damages to three waste haulers who sued the county over the establishment of its trash-district program.

Judge Barbara Wallace on Sept. 2 ordered the county pay a total of $1,159,903.90 to American Eagle Waste, Meridian Waste and Waste Management in their suit that alleges the county failed to provide the state-required two years’ written notification it was establishing eight trash districts in unincorporated areas.

Wallace awarded $261,086.65 to American Eagle Waste; $99,224.20 to Meridian and $799,593.05 to Waste Management. The haulers claimed they collectively were owed roughly $23 million.

They sued in May 2008 after failing to win contracts to exclusively serve the trash districts.

Contracts were awarded to Allied Waste, IESI and Veolia Environmental Services. Veolia last fall pulled its operations from the St. Louis region and transferred its trash district contracts to Allied.

Unauthorized haulers are prohibited from offering service to district residents.

Plaintiffs cited Missouri Statute 260.247, which states in part, “Any city or political subdivision which annexes an area or enters into or expands solid-waste collection services into an area where the collection of solid waste is presently being provided by one or more private entities, for commercial or residential services, shall notify the private entity or entities of its intent to provide solid-waste collection services in the area by certified mail.”

Trash-collection services cannot begin until at least two years after the date of notification, according to the statute, which was modified by the General Assembly in 2007 to include the county. The County Council approved legislation in December 2006 calling for the future establishment of trash districts. Eight districts were implemented by Oct. 1, 2008.

On Jan. 25, Wallace ruled the haulers were entitled to damages.

“The county’s action resulted in a finite loss to plaintiffs of 40,000 customers for the statutory two-year notice period,” she wrote in a Jan. 25 opinion. “By enforcing the exclusivity of its trash hauling districts, the county has effectively prevented plaintiffs from even the possibility of regaining those lost customers in that two-year period.”

Read more about this story in next week’s Call.