September 3, 2008

Residents Sue St. Louis County Over Implementation of Trash Districts

By Angela Riley

In an effort to prevent St. Louis County from dividing its unincorporated areas into eight different trash districts, two residents filed suit alleging that the county violated its own charter by not allowing citizens to vote on the proposal.

The residents, Brett Buchanan and Greg Porter, were joined by American Eagle Waste Industries, which submitted a bid for the new plan but was not among the winners, in its suit filed in St. Louis County Circuit Court.

"I personally don't like that I don't have the right to choose my own hauler," said Buchanan, who lives in unincorporated section of the county near Affton and Bayless. "But it's the not voting on the issue that is the real problem for me."

In December 2006, the St. Louis County Council passed an ordinance that would divide the 100,000 homes in the unincorporated parts of the county into eight different trash districts. Through competitive bidding, the county will hire one trash hauler for each district. Previously, subdivisions or individuals would select their own haulers for removing their trash.

"We were receiving complaints from residents in unincorporated sections that trash trucks were coming through subdivisions five to six days a week," said Mac Scott, director of communications for St. Louis County. "They were saying that there were trash trucks in their neighborhood all the time. Also, many people weren't using trash collection and illegally dumping it."

The program has been effect in District Three for about a month. All other districts will switch over to the system on Sept. 29.

The lawsuit against the county sites a provision in the county charter that allows for the county to create districts in unincorporated areas, after approval by a majority vote.

One of the plaintiffs' attorneys, Robert Schultz, of Schultz & Associates, argued that the creation of the districts was a way for the county to establish a monopoly on its trash services. The plaintiffs are also represented by Lester Stuckmeyer.

"Residents should have more options for their trash haulers," Schultz said. "The county shouldn't shove monopoly trash service at its residents. Since when is a monopoly good for anyone? The other process supported capitalism. This system is going to eliminate all the smaller haulers and will be fraught with conflicts of interest."

The county believes it doesn't have to conduct a vote to implement the trash districts and says the charter allows for the county to legislate issues relating to public health. The county argues the collection of trash is a health issue.

"This is a lawsuit that we feel cannot succeed," said Patricia Redington, county counselor. "They're challenging us on our own interpretation of the county charter. The section regarding public health allows for the County Council to enact the trash districts. They would argue that too much responsibility was delegated to the County Council, but that is not the case. Our actions were within the charter."

In another lawsuit regarding the trash districts, American Eagle and other trash haulers, Meridian Waste Management Services and Waste Man-agement of Missouri, asked St. Louis County Circuit Court for a writ of mandamus to stop the county from forming the trash districts.

The writ was denied by the circuit court, appeals court and Missouri Supreme Court.

The trash companies' second count asking for declaratory relief is pending in the Eastern District Court of Appeals.

Originally published by Angela Riley.

(c) 2008 St. Charles County Business Record. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.