Party-line vote kills Campisi’s bill to stop county trash districts

Ex-councilman Mange disputes allegation he ‘misled’ Campisi about trash districts

By BURKE WASSON

The County Council last week denied a bill that would have stopped the establishment of trash districts in unincorporated areas.

The bill, introduced by 6th District County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, was killed on a party-line vote with the council’s four Democrats voting “no” and three Republicans voting “yes.”

Though the bill to terminate trash districts failed, council members indicated that they would like to tweak the components of their establishment. Third District Councilwoman Colleen Wasinger, R-Town and Country, said last week that she plans to reintroduce legislation she proposed in November that would delay the trash districts.

“I requested that we delay implementation of the districting plan and allow our community to measure our results on our own accord …,” Wasinger said at the council’s April 22 meeting. “I still support that legislation and I would like to reintroduce that next week. I just think in order to further that goal, that’s the better way to go to give us time to evaluate and see where we’re going as a community.

“And consequently, Councilman Campisi’s plan to eliminate the districting now, it gives us all time to take a breath and see if it’s going to work on its own. Districting can always be introduced.”

Additionally, Fifth District Councilwoman Barbara Fraser, D-University City, will push for legislation that would limit the number of trash districts that a waste hauler can be awarded.

County officials plan to establish eight trash districts in unincorporated areas in which the County Council would award one bid to a trash hauler per district and contend that having one hauler per district would result in a more uniform service and lower prices. Bidding for those districts is expected to begin in May.

But some waste haulers and residents, mostly in south county, have criticized the move because county officials also have stated that districts likely would push some small haulers out of business due to a lack of competition in unincorporated areas.

Fraser said last week that to prevent a “monopoly” of one hauler being awarded several districts, she would like to see county officials pursue legislation limiting a hauler to be awarded possibly no more than two districts.

“I think it’s worthy of note that there will be people who certainly will not get contracts who will lose business in this county,” Fraser said. “I think that’s significant. I think that’s very important that we take these people into consideration.

“But I believe it is premature to halt the process. I think this districting is key to the concept of recycling. I think there are economies of scale and that ultimately lower costs will occur as a result of districting. I think that again there are issues that we as a council have to be absolutely on top of.

“We cannot have one person get all eight contracts. I absolutely do not believe that … Earlier legally, we had legislation that the county counselor said no more than seven. If we can have no more than seven, it seems to me we can put in a law of no more than two or no more than three. What’s the difference? … I’m very, very concerned about one person getting a monopoly on all of the business in this county.”

While Fraser believes that trash districts are needed to improve the county’s goal of increased recycling, Seventh District Councilman Greg Quinn, R-Ballwin, said the county simply can enforce its new minimum standard that haulers must offer recyclable pickup rather than establish eight districts.

“Curbside recycling can be implemented by requiring the haulers to provide curbside recycling,” Quinn said. “We don’t need a very large program that does a lot of other things to implement curbside recycling. The people that want to use it will use it and will pay for it … The best system of regulation if you have a problem with your hauler is to just fire the hauler. It’s a lot more effective than to just complain to the council.”

On the flip side, County Executive Charlie Dooley said trash districts are needed to hold waste haulers more accountable and to ultimately improve the quality of service and cost through weighing bids in each district.

“It makes sense from a lot of perspectives,” he said. “If it works, it works. If it doesn’t work, we won’t do it. But give it an opportunity to move forward …

“We are concerned if someone doesn’t get the service that they’re supposed to get in this county. But I’m also concerned that when people are paying too much for something and we can’t account for why they are … And if somebody tells me ‘I’m doing it because I can,’ that is not good enough for me in this county. We have to be respectful to people and be accountable for what you do. And in most cities, if somebody comes back with a bid that is unacceptable, they won’t do it.

“Or if somebody comes in and says: ‘We want to raise the price,’ you have to tell folks why you’re going to do it. And if it’s not in the contract, you don’t have to do it. Those things are safeguards in the budget within the proposal itself. And oh, by the way, in this county right now we do all our business by bid process. It’s the lowest, most valued bid. That’s how we do business … I hear your concerns. I’m concerned with you about this because I want the best value. But I believe we are going in the right direction for our county and for recycling and for improving the county itself and the landfills,” the county executive said.

But Campisi said that in introducing the bill to eliminate trash districts, he simply is adhering to the will of residents in his district who are opposed to districts primarily because they lose the right to choose their own hauler.

“It’s not about the recycling,” Campisi said. “The outcry in my district has been to the effect of they are not in favor of this trash program. And I believe a number of people that have opted out so far have been in the south county area of St. Louis County … This particular bill simply gets rid of the trash districting … I’m answering the call of the majority of the people that are in my district. They are 51 percent of the trash districting in my area. I have always helped the people in my district.”

The County Council initially voted unanimously in December 2006 to implement trash districts in unincorporated areas as part of an amendment to the county’s solid-waste management code.

Campisi since has contended that he was misled by that plan’s organizer — former 3rd District Republican Councilman Skip Mange — and that Mange had told him that trash districts were not included in the bill.

However, Mange last week told the council he still is in support of trash districts and that they were discussed as part of the county’s solid-waste plans for much of 2006.

“It’s key to understand that the concept of including recycling in the basic contract together with franchising of a single hauler in districts is, in my opinion, the only way to significantly increase recycling and lower the overall cost to everyone,” Mange said. “As a region, we need to do something to address the reduction of landfill space and the cost of transportation. Doing one of these procedures without the other will not work …

“It has been alleged that I misled or actually lied to a council member as to what was included in the bill that was finally passed (in 2006). In an effort to set the record straight, nothing could be further from the truth. Every aspect of the bill was before the council and had been public for months. No efforts were made to hide anything from anybody.”

With the County Council now rejecting Campisi’s bill to eliminate trash districts, a group of local state representatives still is working to get rid of them with action from the state Legislature on a bill introduced by Rep. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay.

A public hearing on that bill is scheduled for 7 p.m. today — May 1 — at the Weber Road Branch County Library, 4444 Weber Road.

The hearing will include Lembke, Campisi, Rep. Walt Bivins, R-Oakville, Rep. Sue Schoemehl, D-Oakville, Rep. Pat Yaeger, D-Lemay, and state Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood.