Regarding trash plan, Campisi opposed to ‘whole damn thing’

Councilman plans to introduce legislation to nix trash districts


Regarding the county’s plan to establish trash districts in unincorporated areas, County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, is “opposed to the whole damn thing.”

For that reason, Campisi expects to introduce legislation to rescind an ordinance approved last year that would establish eight to 10 trash districts in unincorporated areas and assign one trash hauler to each district.

Starting Jan. 1, all waste haulers in the county will be held to a new minimum standard of service that includes once-per-week pickup of trash and recyclables as well as twice-per-year pickup of bulk waste.

But what many south county residents have protested for much of 2007 is a provision that would strip them of the right to choose their own waste hauler.

That responsibility would be passed to the County Council, which unanimously approved the trash-district proposal and minimum standards of service last December. Those districts would be phased in from Jan. 1, 2008, to Jan 1, 2009.

While Campisi joined the rest of the County Council last year in voting in favor of the trash-district plan, he since 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 now believes the plan runs counter to the will of south county residents.

“I’m still opposed to the whole damn thing …,” Campisi told the Call. “You can put that in there. I’m still opposed to the whole damn thing. The problem is will the other council members opt to drop it out or make a resolution to drop it out? I’m only one vote up there. So I doubt that I’m going to be able to do it by myself. But south county has definitely made a difference and an impact on the decision that’s going to happen. I can tell you that.”

During a Sept. 24 open forum at Affton High School, county representatives heard from roughly 60 speakers out of more than 500 residents overwhelmingly opposed to the trash-district system being implemented in unincorporated areas.

Campisi said that a task force of county officials is expected to release revised recommendations on the trash-district system based on comments they heard at three such open forums in September.

After he studies those new recommendations, Campisi said he plans to hone legislation to eliminate the trash districts altogether.

One possible area of revision that Campisi is waiting to study is an option that would allow subdivisions in unincorporated areas to opt out of the trash districts and still be able to choose their own trash haulers. Subdivisions, however, still would be required to bid for the county’s new minimum standards of service of once-per-week pickup of trash and recyclables and twice-per-year pickup of bulk waste.

“Are single households going to be able to opt out of a district?” he said. “Or is it going to be just a subdivision? What’s the number of them in a subdivision, the minimum number in a subdivision that can opt out? Is that going to drop? Or with the percentage of households in that subdivision, how many of those households are actually going to have to sign up in order for them to qualify? There’s just a whole lot of questions that haven’t been answered yet.”

Campisi said he also expects to schedule a town-hall meeting in south county after the task force has released its recommendations.

“I’ll probably have a meeting in south county, which is what I want to do to bring that report out to everyone so that everyone has a copy of it,” Campisi said. “And then it gives them a chance to look at the copy and make a decision for themselves on what they really want to do.”

County Director of Public Works Sheryl Hodges has said that county officials also will schedule more hearings in each proposed trash district to further explain residents’ options.

County Chief Operating Officer Garry Earls is optimistic that the trash plan will be a service to residents and that the districts would likely be a cheaper alternative to citizens hiring trash haulers because haulers will next year be faced with the new minimum standards.

Earls estimates the cost of services in trash districts to range from $11 per month to $18 per month.

That monthly rate, he said, also largely depends on whether residents in certain districts would like to be offered services like pickup of yard waste, which is outside the county’s minimum requirements. Yard waste, Earls said, would push that monthly rate “closer to $18.”

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

Still, many south county residents op-pose the county’s plans for one simple reason — their loss of a right to employ their own trash services.

“As said before, my other council members, they’ve brought up the question as to why is south county so opposed to it,” Campisi said. “And the answer is simple. Nobody in south county wants anybody to pick the trash company for them. That’s plain and clear. Period. And that’s where I stand. I don’t want the whole thing to happen. But if it happens, I want to be sure that south county is at least represented up there on the council. And if we can negotiate something in there that’s going to make it better for the people of south county, I want to be involved in that.”

Rep. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, also is organizing an effort to legally challenge the county’s trash-district plans. He has cited Article 1, Section 13 of the Missouri Constitution in his belief that the county’s prevention of residents from entering into contracts is unconstitutional.

Lembke, who met last week with two attorneys and plans to continue those talks this week, said they also are considering the County Council’s legal authority to create “a new utility.”

“There are two areas they are looking at,” he said. “The first one being the one that I cited looking at and comparing the ability to contract. And the second is, interestingly enough, it’s the idea of a local government creating a government-sponsored monopoly, which is only the state’s purview. It’s the idea of you know like what the state does with utilities that, in essence, what’s happening here is the creation of a new utility, which is not a local government’s purview. It’s only the state’s purview”

Lembke said he is pleased with Campisi’s consideration of a resolution to terminate the county’s trash-district plans because it reflects what many south county residents would like.

“I think that Councilman Campisi is responding to the will of people, which is a good thing to see,” Lembke said. “Often when you’re elected to office, it’s very difficult to get the pulse of your constituency on every issue.

“But when it’s clear — crystal clear — through tax-force meetings or e-mails or letters that you’re receiving or phone calls that your constituency is against something, then you have to act. So I believe if that’s what John is doing, I support that a thousand percent and am glad to hear that he’s doing it.”