Three public forums scheduled on county’s trash-district plan

Campisi wishes more citizens would attend council meetings

By BURKE WASSON

While hundreds of south county residents already have spoken out against St. Louis County’s pending trash-district system, county leaders now will provide more opportunities for input.

County officials have scheduled three public forums this month to further explain their plans to standardize trash service in unincorporated areas.

The first forum will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 12, at Hazelwood Central High School, 15875 New Halls Ferry Road. The other two forums will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 17, at Parkway South Middle School, 760 Woods Mill Road, and from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Sept. 24, at Affton High School, 8309 Mackenzie Road.

County officials at each forum will present information about the County Council-approved plan to divide unincorporated areas into eight to 10 trash districts.

Under the plan, the County Council would award a contract to one trash hauler in each district to ensure uniform service.

County officials also have recommended setting standards in each district of once-per-week pickup, recycling and twice-per-year bulk pickup.

Additionally, a statement released last week by county officials states that the single-hauler trash districts “will eliminate the widespread phenomenon of multiple hauling firms servicing the same residential street.”

But some residents in unincorporated areas, specifically south county, are opposed to the trash-district system for a variety of reasons.

Numerous south county residents have opposed the trash districts predominantly because they lose the right to choose their own hauling service, their rates likely are to increase and also because some small haulers will be forced out of business.

Sixth District County Councilman John Campisi, R-south county, said last week that because he and many of his district’s residents are concerned with the proposal, he is pleased that county officials decided to schedule the open forums for the benefit of those residents.

“Pretty much everything is at a standstill for the moment,” Campisi said. “I think we’re waiting to hear back from the residents in the county as far as the meetings go. They still want to get input from people in the meetings, which is good to hear.”

Campisi said he also is encouraged by a recent county task-force recommendation to allow subdivisions in unincorporated areas to opt out of the proposal for a period of time. Under the task force’s recommendations, any subdivision that already has contracted for trash service at the time the districts are implemented in 2008 and 2009 will have the right to petition the county to not be included in the trash districts.

At the same time, that same task force of 19 county officials concluded July 31 “there is merit” to forming the trash districts.

The County Council unanimously voted in December to divide unincorporated areas into trash districts and hire a single waste hauler for each district.

While Campisi joined the rest of the council by voting in favor of that plan, he since has said former 3rd District County Councilman Skip Mange, R-Town and Country, misled him. Campisi thought he was voting in favor of designating two days per week to pick up trash and not in favor of awarding trash districts to haulers.

The trash-district plan will remove residents’ right to choose their own trash hauler and transfer that responsibility to the County Council.

County officials have said reasons for the districts include ensuring a uniform price range, setting a standard service range, the need for more recycling and a desire to improve appearance and reduce wear and tear on county roads by lowering the number of trash trucks driving through the county at one time.

Task-force members additionally recommend the formation of a Trash Service Commission “to provide citizen input and advice” on the implementation and operation of trash-district contracts.

The task force further concluded that by December, county officials should establish a district boundary map and a request for proposals and standard contract for trash-collection services.

Further recommendations include advertising for two trash-district contracts by February, awarding contracts for those two districts by May, advertising four more district contracts by August, awarding contracts to those four districts by October 2008, advertising for all remaining districts by November 2008 and awarding contracts to all districts by January 2009.

The report states that one reason for the phasing in of trash districts is because of south county residents’ “highly energized” opposition.

The task force’s report states: “South county citizens appear highly energized and oppositional. Starting in north county and proving the value of the districting could be advantageous to the overall process.”

The task force also concluded that an “unintended consequence” of the county’s plans is that small haulers will be put out of business because they cannot compete with larger waste companies in bidding.

Because of these concerns and more, Concord resident and former Rep. Catherine Enz, R-south county, told the County Council Aug. 14 that if the council will not provide an option for all unincorporated residents to opt out of the trash districts, they “probably” would start efforts to in-corporate a city or county.

Campisi said while he and county officials will do all they can to solicit input from residents, it ultimately is up to the residents themselves to attend these meetings and forums if they would like changes to be made.

“This is definitely something that’s going to affect them for a long, long, long, long time,” Campisi said. “And all I can offer them is the times that we have at our (County Council) meetings on Tuesday night, my town-hall meetings and the meetings that we have for this trash districting. Just to get motivated, I wish more people would show up at the council meetings. That’s all I can do.”

While the county has planned the three public forums, officials also are making the copies of the trash-district task force’s recommendations more available to the public.

Along with a copy of that report continuing to be available at the county’s Web site, paper copies will be available for residents at three of the county’s satellite centers. Residents can pick up copies of the report at the South County Satellite Center at Keller Plaza, 4544 Lemay Ferry Road; the West County Satellite Center at the Clark-son Wilson Centre, 82 Clarkson Centre, Chesterfield; and the North County Satellite Center at Village Square Shopping Center, 21 Village Square, Hazelwood.