By Gloria Lloyd
St. Louis County is dumping one of its trash providers following numerous service complaints in South County and across multiple County Council districts.
The county and Meridian Waste have finalized a mutual agreement to terminate their current contract to provide waste collection services, effective Jan. 1, 2020, the county announced Thursday. The contract was set to run through 2022, after going into effect in 2017. Since the parting of ways is a mutual decision, the county will not have to pay a penalty for severing the contract.
The county is looking to sign up a new provider in the next month, with a goal for a contract to be signed by Oct. 16. The new hauler would start service to Meridian’s former customers Jan. 1.
The county provides trash service for unincorporated areas of the county through eight trash districts, with each district competitively bid out to the lowest bidder.
Meridian is one of those providers, and in South County, the trash hauler provides service to Lemay. Lemay is in District 6 of the trash districts, which are different from County Council districts.
District 6 switched from Republic to Meridian in 2017 with the new contract. Republic, Meridian, Waste Connections, or Progressive Waste, and Waste Management bid on all eight districts. Meridian was one of three trash haulers that took the county to court over the start of the trash district program, which courts later found violated state law.
Residents have complained about Meridian consistently throughout the almost three years of the contract, with some posting on social media with their surprise when the company actually did its job of picking up trash.
The county even set up a special hotline in the last month for Meridian customers to call to lodge their complaints about the service, 314-615-HAUL.
Noting the problems, 7th District Councilman Mark Harder, R-Ballwin, said at the Sept. 10 County Council meeting that residents “will hopefully have a voice and a new contract going forward in the future.”
Other cities have already kicked Meridian to the curb this year: Crestwood aldermen said last year they wanted to end the city’s contract with Meridian, and Webster Groves, Florissant and Wildwood actually ended their contracts with the trash hauler.
Crestwood looked into canning Meridian after several aldermen said the trash was regularly not being picked up from their own houses and they were inundated with complaints from constituents with the same problem. Ultimately, however, the city didn’t end the contract early since it would not have been able to find another provider in time.
The company says that the problems arise because the company merged multiple companies together.
But residents were complaining about the company from the start of the latest contract in 2017, inundating council Presiding Officer Ernie Trakas, R-Oakville, who voted for the contracts in his first meeting as a member of the council. Meridian also provides service in trash districts inside the council districts of Harder and 3rd District Councilman Tim Fitch, R-Fenton.
Most of the initial complaints around the trash company revolved around communication, Trakas said at the time.
“Nobody’s calling me telling me how glad they are about trash,” Trakas said.
Harder brought up the issue at last week’s council meetings, noting, “I just want to let the public know that we’ve had issues with Meridian Trash Company…. We need to hold these, this vendor accountable to their contract.”
Consistently, Lemay residents have been upset with how they have been treated by Meridian.
A representative of Meridian attended a Lemay Neighborhood Association meeting in 2017 to apologize for the rollout of new service, and the topic was also brought up again at meetings this year attended by county officials. The theme throughout was residents complaining about their service.
In 2017, new customers of Waste Connections in Oakville said they called customer service repeatedly and were told they are 99th in line, and new Meridian customers in Lemay told a similar tale.
“We’re two months into it now, and people are calling and still telling me they’re getting these huge wait times — by their own admission, in Meridian’s case,” Trakas said. “They’re apologetic for it. So the constituents can’t be exaggerating.”
Given all the problems years into the contract, it’s a relief to cut Meridian loose, county officials said.
“This is the best possible outcome for all parties involved, given the timeframe and expectations of both parties,” acting Public Health Director Spring Schmidt said in a news release. “Our priority is to provide the best service to our community and now we will continue that mission, only going in a different direction.”
All contracted services will remain the same. Pricing for services will be provided to residents effected by new district waste hauler via mail with instructions regarding any potential cart replacement. The St. Louis County Department of Public Health (DPH) says it will work closely with both Meridian Waste and residents to make this a smooth transition and to minimize any inconvenience while navigating this change.
The DPH Waste Management Program is responsible for managing the Waste District Program service contracts for residential curbside waste collection in unincorporated St. Louis County. The Waste District Program was established in 2008 with a goal of providing cost-effective waste collection services and to minimize truck traffic on residential streets. Subdivisions could opt out at that time and are still not affected by the county trash districts.
Anyone with any questions or concerns is urged to call the Waste District Program at (314) 615-HAUL (4285).