Thursday, February 19, 2009

Councilman Says County trash-district program a 'debacle.’

(The following article is from the Call Newspapers. Comments which have been added appear in parenthesis. )

In the wake of mounting complaints with trash-district service in south county, 6th District County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-south county, is drafting legislation to address those issues.

Stenger said his County Council office has been inundated with calls from south county residents upset that haulers have missed pickup days. (Residents are also reporting harassment by vendors threatening the filing of liens and collection agency efforts.)

All of unincorporated St. Louis County since last fall has been part of a trash-district system in which each district is served by one county-appointed hauler. County officials established eight such districts as a way to standardize service and reduce costs through competitive bidding.

"I could devote a heck of a lot more time to tax assessments if I didn't have to pick up and clean up the mess of these haulers. So it's a real drain on especially our district." — 6th District County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-south county

But some unincorporated residents complain they no longer get to choose their own hauler while haulers who were not awarded contracts are upset that the county has taken away customers. As for south county, in which four of the eight trash districts were established, Stenger said complaints with trash service have become a "drain."

"From an allocation-of-resources perspective, the trash plan as it exists and the haulers as they have been performing are draining county resources," Stenger said. "And it's them draining. It's not the constituents. It's them. The constituents are doing what anyone would do. They are reporting problems with the system, problems with the haulers. And we are spending probably 75 percent of our time easily on these trash issues."

(A drain on county resources is a direct expense to all county residents.)

Stenger has criticized Veolia Environmental Services for failing to pick up on trash-collection days in the 7th trash district in Concord because of inclement weather. Similar problems have occurred with Allied Waste's service in the 6th trash district in Lemay and IESI's service in the 8th trash district in Oakville, he said.

"It's a debacle the likes of which I have never seen," Stenger said. "I can't believe it. And it's all of them. Primarily, we've had issues with Veolia. But it's every one of the companies we have had in south county. All three ... (It’s a pretty well known fact that all three of the national haulers undercut the local haulers to win their bid. Since they undercut the market, they must trim expenses when ever and where ever they can.)

"And that's what's so disappointing. It's hit our district the hardest. We're getting nailed. There are other things that people want me to do and things that we need in the 6th District. This trash problem is just something that just simply doesn't need to be. It could be much better."

If unincorporated residents are having problems with trash collection, Stenger and county officials request that residents leave their trash out and call their hauler.

County spokesman Mac Scott said if residents still are not satisfied after contacting their hauler, they are encouraged to call the county at 314-615-HAUL (4285). (This amounts to nothing more than finger-pointing. If the hauler doesn’t respond, call the County. If the County doesn’t’ respond, call your Councilman. If the Councilman doesn’t respond, call the hauler. It’s an unnerving circle of worthless time and events.) (Click on photos to enlarge.)

"Their contract is with the hauler," Scott said. "We're only the 800-pound gorilla looking out for the best interests of the citizens of St. Louis County." (WHAT? The resident has a contract with a hauler? The “contract” was made by St. Louis County. The County is responsible for the service, to include pricing.)

After calling the county, a county employee then will verify if the caller's address is not on a list of households that did not have trash set out on collection day. At that point, the county will dispatch an employee to see that the trash is on the curb and then advise the hauler that they have 24 hours from the time the county contacted it to pick up the trash. (Oh my gosh. And the County says their expense for the trash program is minimal. County residents are smarter than that.)

If an inspector finds that the hauler still has not picked up trash after the county's 24-hour warning, the county will assess the hauler with a fine for each such missed pickup. Stenger said haulers will be fined $10 per household for missed trash collections after the county has given the 24-hour warning.

"It appears perhaps that the haulers don't have adequate resources to serve us," Stenger said. "And maybe they're allocating their resources in different areas on different days. But I think that it's getting out of hand. And when you have one bad-weather day, you might as well forget about them. (Hello! The haulers undercut the local haulers in “buying” the business. They have adequate resources, but not at the rate they’re charging residents. In this case, bigger if far from better.)

"Obviously, one of the chief public policy concerns is public safety and health. And when you think about trash rotting in people's lawns and in their garages and on the sides of their homes, I just don't think that the public's being served." (The County continues to spout “public safety and health” but will not pursue the biggest health issue of all – SMOKING in public places.)

While Stenger is addressing these problems from a legislative perspective, the fate of trash districts still could be decided in court.

The Missouri Supreme Court last month denied County Counselor Patricia Redington's request to reconsider an Oct. 21 appellate-court ruling requiring county officials to provide a state-mandated two-year notice to waste haulers before establishing trash districts in unincorporated areas. The St. Louis County Circuit Court now will consider the Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals' ruling.

In the ruling, the appellate court states despite county officials' claims that the County Charter supersedes Missouri Revised Statute 260.247 mandating the two-year notice, county officials' claims of home rule do not apply in this case.

St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Steven H. Goldman last year ruled that the 2007 state law requiring the two-year notice does not apply to St. Louis County. Goldman's ruling then was overturned by the appellate court.

Scott previously said county officials believe that the state law requiring the two-year notice must be considered and not necessarily followed. (Considered? When does one not follow the law, but just considers it? St. Louis County officials continue to ignore Court rulings.)

Stenger said that his main concern with trash districts are residents who couldn't afford trash service before districts were established and now face unpaid bills and collection agencies because the service is required by the county.

"This is a major issue ... People understand it from the perspective that they have screwed-up trash service," he said. "But the multiplier effect is so enormous. It's draining. It's taking away from time that could otherwise be used doing things we need. This is something that should be taken care of already. I've never seen even the smallest municipality have this kind of trouble with trash."


  1. Anonymous9:08 PM

    Blame Charlie Dooley, Blame Gary Earls, Blame the County Council.....don't blame the voters, they didn't want this trash change.
    The County and the Administration deserve all the blame on this issue, they caused it. It all could have been avoided, if they would have listened to the voters.

    If any county resident has a problem with their waste services, they should call Dooley first, and their councilperson second.

    Dooley and the Council caused the problems.

  2. Anonymous10:07 PM

    Its great to see that the government can impose a monopoly on its citizens. I have so many issues with Veolia it is crazy. I have also been through the bureaucratic machine, and it is true, you keep going around in a circle. (good luck with gov't health care)

    Anyway, something needs to be done. I am tired of bending over for my TRASH company because I don't have another choice. If you read this send me an email and lets take action!