BREAKING NEWS (as of 3:09 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 21)
Court rules St. Louis County must follow state law regarding trash-district notice
October 15, 2008 - Three weeks after St. Louis County implemented seven of its eight trash districts in unincorporated areas, an appellate court has ruled that the county did not follow state law concerning notice of those districts' establishment
The Eastern District of the Missouri Court of Appeals has issued an opinion that would require St. Louis County officials to adhere to a state-mandated two-year notice to waste haulers before implementing trash districts in unincorporated areas.
In an opinion handed down Oct. 21, the court states that 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.
The opinion partially states: "... we correct the (St. Louis County Circuit) court's interpretation of section 260.247, holding that it is a general statute of state-wide public policy. Thus, the county may not exercise its constitutional legislative authority to override section 260.247."
American Eagle Waste Services, Meridian Waste Service and Waste Management of Missouri were in court as recently as Sept. 30 appealing the dismissal of the suit they filed in May against the county. In the suit, they allege the county failed to provide a two-year notice to haulers before establishing trash districts as required by state law.
The St. Louis County Circuit Court had denied the haulers' request for a writ of mandamus and also denied their request for declaratory judgment.
Waste Management spokeswoman Lisa Disbrow said her company is pleased with the appellate court's decision and she is awaiting to see what remedy will be determined in St. Louis County trial court.
"Waste Management is pleased with the decision issued today by the Missouri Court of Appeals," Disbrow said. "The Court of Appeals agreed with the haulers that St. Louis County failed to provide a required two-year notice by state law before implementing the trash districts. And right now, we're in the process of evaluating the decision as it's been referred back to the trial court to determine the remedy."
County officials have not returned calls seeking comment on the Court of Appeals' Oct. 21 ruling.
The county has established eight trash districts in unincorporated areas with one trash hauler per district.
County officials have said this was done in response to unincorporated residents complaining that their neighborhoods were being serviced by multiple trash companies.
County administrators contend that having one hauler per district will result in a more uniform brand of service and lower prices.
The county also has established new minimum standards for trash service. These standards are weekly pickup of trash and recyclables and twice-per-year pickup of bulk waste.
But some waste haulers and unincorporated residents have criticized the move because county officials also have stated that districts likely would force some small haulers out of business due to a lack of competition.
Bryan Barcom of American Eagle has told councilmembers that because of trash districts, he has lost more than 13,000 households and $3 million. This amounts to more than 60 percent of his customer base before seven trash district were implemented Sept. 29.
As for haulers awarded trash districts through the county's competitive bidding, attorneys for Veolia Waste Services and IESI last week told councilmembers that they are in favor of the council approving County Executive Charlie Dooley's proposed anti-poaching ordinance.
A bill for that ordinance was held last week. The proposal would prosecute unawarded haulers serving trash districts with one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.