‘Opt-out’ legislation drafted by Campisi fails in 3-3 tie vote

Wasinger plans to draft similar bill for homes to opt out of trash districts

By BURKE WASSON

While a proposal that sought to allow homeowners in unincorporated St. Louis County to opt out of trash districts was killed last week by the County Council, new legislation that would allow blocks of homes to opt out could be introduced this week.

Sixth District County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, said last week that 3rd District County Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, R-Town and Country, was considering the introduction of such a bill Tuesday — after the Call went to press.

That move would come a week after the County Council split 3-3 on Campisi’s bill that sought to provide individual homeowners an opportunity to opt out of trash districts.

Fifth District County Councilwoman Barbara Fraser, D-University City, 7th District County Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin, and Campisi voted “yes” on the proposal.

Fourth District County Council Chair-man Michael O’Mara, D-north county, 2nd District County Council Vice Chair Kathleen Burkett, D-Overland, and Wasinger voted “no.” First District County Councilwoman Hazel Erby, D-University City, was absent.

Although the vote was a 3-3 tie, a bill must attain a majority of votes from councilmen present to advance to consideration for final passage. Because of the tie, Campisi’s bill died in the perfection stage.

But while his proposal was killed, Campisi said he is optimistic that Wasinger, who did not support his bill, would introduce legislation this week allowing blocks of unincorporated homes to opt out of trash districts. As of now, only subdivisions can opt out of trash districts.

Campisi said that Wasinger voted “no” on Nov. 20 to his proposal allowing individual homes the right to opt out of trash districts out of concern for trash haulers’ convenience.

“What she would like to see, I think, is that what she was saying is that it would be a lot more hectic for a trash hauler,” he said. “For me, I don’t care. But for a trash hauler to go to a house, skip two, go to a house and maybe go to three and skip four.

“You know? That kind of a thing. What she wanted to have was to have the houses contiguous. And that would exclude businesses in between houses. It would be maybe five or 10 contiguous homes that would be able to opt out, which would make it a lot easier for the hauler … Colleen is going to have something drafted that would make the homes more contiguous. So, it’ll come down Tuesday (Nov. 27) from what I understand. It’s very similar to mine. Only the homes are contiguous.”

Campisi, who initially had suggested conducting elections in each of the eight trash districts to let residents decide whether they should be implemented, proposed last week to have individual unincorporated homeowners decide whether to opt out.

“It was to have each house opt out and not each district,” Campisi said. “An individual would have their right to say whether or not they were going to be in or out. I thought that was fair. That’s basically the way it is now.”

As county officials are moving forward on plans to implement trash districts by Sept. 1 and adhere by April 15 to new minimum standards of once-per-week pickup of trash and recyclables as well as twice-per-year pickup of bulk waste, many south county residents have protested the move because of a provision that will strip those residents of the right to choose their own waste hauler. Four of the eight trash districts will be in south county.

While Campisi joined the rest of the County Council in December 2006 by unanimously approving a revised waste-management code forming trash districts, he since has opposed the move.

The councilman has said he was misled by former 3rd District Councilman Skip Mange, R-Town and Country. Campisi has alleged that Mange told him the proposal would have designated two days per week for trash pickup while still allowing all residents to choose their own trash haulers.

But after he learned earlier this year of the ordinance’s full language, Campisi believes the plan runs counter to the will of south county residents and has reiterated that they be given opportunities to decide for themselves.

Officials have posted the finalized trash-district plans on the county’s Web site at www.co.st-louis.mo.us and have established multiple deadlines for the districts’ formation.

Any subdivision that wishes to opt out of the trash districts, which will each be serviced by one trash hauler chosen by the County Council, has until Feb. 1 to petition the county. At that time, the county will be fielding bids from waste haulers from February to May.

And while county officials will gather bids, they also will deliver 65-gallon receptacle carts to unincorporated residents from January to April.

For some residents included in the trash districts, monthly trash-collection rates will rise.

County Chief Operating Officer Garry Earls has estimated that the average monthly fee for residents being serviced through trash districts will range somewhere from $11 to $18. He added that if residents wish to add on services like pickup of yard waste, which is not included in the new minimum standards, that monthly fee would be “closer to $18.”

Earls also has estimated that because the county will pay each hauler for trash service and then bill residents for it, the savings to residents will be roughly 20 percent because haulers will not have to issue billing statements.

County Director of Public Works Sheryl Hodges has said that the plans to form trash districts will accomplish uniform service and pricing while also improving the county’s waste-diversion rate and saving landfill space.

A 2003 study showed that the county’s residential waste-diversion rate was at 30 percent, according to County Director of Environmental Protection Janet Williams.

The county’s goal is to reach 50 percent by 2010. Conversely, the state’s average waste-diversion rate is 40 percent, she has said.

Hodges said that subdivisions that would like to opt out of the trash districts must submit an application by Feb. 1. To opt out, subdivisions are required to have an active form of governance, follow the provisions of that governance in their petition, gather a simple majority of homeowners opposed to the districts and provide for the minimum levels of trash service to be set forth in 2008.

Campisi said while he is disappointed with his bill dying in perfection last week, he is encouraged that Wasinger could introduce similar legislation this week.

“While she (Wasinger) voted ‘no’ for mine, she’s still in favor of that type of legislation and the referendum,” Campisi said. “And it looks like so does Barbara. But I don’t know. Who knows what might happen next week?”