Sunday, February 27, 2011

County Wants to Change Trash Rules

St. Louis County wants to change the rules on its trash districting program - again. This should come as no surprise to those residents who have been following this highly contentious issue from its start back in 2007. Prior to the implementation of the county-wide trash districting program in 2008, St. Louis County constantly changed its rules, procedures and start-up dates, including a “pilot” program that never materialized, all reminiscent of a moving target.

Now, county executive Charlie Dooley and his administration wants to change the rules again by increasing the current three-year contracts to five years, according to a recent news story published on February 20 in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The million dollar question is whether the county administration seeks to lengthen the current three-year contracts of the two “county designated haulers” (Allied and IESI) to five years or whether the administration wants the county council to pass legislation making the change effective when the current contracts expire on September 30 of this year.

In the event that the administration seeks to increase the current contracts to five years, this will effectively eliminate any bidding on trash districts by competing haulers, thus assuring a near trash monopoly for another two years in unincorporated St. Louis County.

According to Sheryl Hodges, director of highways and traffic and public works, increasing the contracts from three to five years could lead to a savings of between $24 and $45 per household over the five year period of the contracts. Hodges’ claim is disputed by Lester Stuckmeyer, an attorney representing some residents who have filed lawsuits challenging the county’s controversial trash districting program. Stuckmeyer contends that a $24 savings over a five year period equates to $5 a year and pennies a month. Stuckmeyer said “the county is putting another Band-Aid over problems relating to the districts.”

The county administration is also seeking county council approval to change trash regulations to require a waste hauling contract for all occupied premises, as opposed to the current ordinance which mandates contracts at “premises where waste is generated.” This action is the result of the county losing a simple municipal trash violation case to a South St. Louis County resident on appeal to the Missouri Court of Appeals. David Skaer successfully proved to the appellate court that he recycles all of his trash and does not generate any waste. The pending legislation attempts to plug that loophole in the ordinance. According to county counselor, Patricia Redington, it was difficult for county inspectors to prove a residence generates trash, requiring surveillance of the home of anyone who makes such a claim.

The following are recent comments from county residents:

>> “A trial to determine the amount of damages owed the haulers has been moved from Feb. 24 to May 31 at the request of St. Louis County. This delay now allows enough time for the New Waste District bids to be rebid and awarded. Does anyone smell more manipulation?”

>> “With regard to Dooley and company, one never knows what to expect next. I can’t believe that they are still trying to make changes to this trash program with four lawsuits pending. It just goes to show that they think they are above the law and can do whatever they want. And, it also shows that they want this to be a near or complete monopoly.”

>> “If costs are the issue, the items that would have the largest benefit at cost cutting are:

- Single Payer system, the county needs to come up with the funds and pay the contractor directly. This has the ability to substantially lower costs.

- Eliminate the OPT out program. This OPT out allows for almost 30% of the county to avoid the program, thus, putting more trucks on the street to do the same job, and weakness in the program.

- Include yard waste/green waste into the program, this would also spread out the cost and lower the cost. As well as stop yard waste from being thrown into the MSD sewers and behind shopping centers and onto empty lots. This would save the county hundreds of thousands of dollars.

- The county is now only running a program at about 60% effeciency, and having to monitor the administration of it. With the changes above, the program almost runs itself, and everyone is included, eliminating costly county administration.

Either do it, and do it right, or get out of it.”

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