Corrigan joins opponents who decry County Council approval of trash-contract change
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 29, 2010 - The St. Louis County Council reluctantly approved a trash-collection arrangement Tuesday night that allows Allied Services to take over the three district trash-hauling contracts of Veolia Solid Waste Midwest, which is selling its local operations to Allied.
The deal was hotly opposed by close to a dozen critics who showed up to speak against the change, including Republican county executive hopeful Bill Corrigan. Opponents contend that the switch to Allied amounts to a no-bid contract.
The five council members who voted for the shift disagreed, saying that rebidding the contract -- which has only a year left -- could lead to temporary drops in trash-collection service and permanent price hikes for the 30,000 affected residences and businesses.
The five included all but one of the council's Democrats and Republican Colleen Wasinger of Town and Country. Only Democrat Steve Stenger of Affton voted "no,'' saying he was responding to the strong opposition in his district. Republican Greg Quinn of Chesterfield was absent.
The disagreement also resurrected a longstanding dispute over the county's decision in 2008 to divide unincorporated parts of St. Louis County into trash-collection districts that each went to the lowest trash-hauler bid.
St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley, a Democrat, has maintained -- along with top members of his administration -- that the trash districts have reduced costs for homeowners and led to improved service.
Critics say the districts created district trash-hauling monopolies that soon could lead to a countywide monopoly, as haulers gobble up each other and reduce competition. Many small haulers who had been in business before the districts also have disappeared.
Allied already had exclusive rights in two districts and will add three more with the acquisition of the Veolia contracts.
Corrigan said afterward that the controversy demonstrates why Dooley needs to be defeated. "I would never have gotten into this situation,'' said Corrigan, who called on the audience to support his candidacy.
But Councilwoman Kathleen Kelly Burkett, D-Overland, emphasized Tuesday that the trash-district plan originated several years ago with Republicans who previously held a majority on the council.
"Mr. Dooley did not have anything to do with the ordinance'' setting up the districts, Burkett told the disgruntled audience. Their anger, she said, should be directed solely at the council, especially some former members.
In any case, the Allied takeover comes at a bad time for Dooley -- just weeks before the election and just days after a damaging court decision.
A few days ago, County Circuit Judge Barbara W. Wallace ruled that the 2008 changeover violated a state law requiring two years notice to the haulers. The county, which plans to appeal, could face damages in the tens of millions of dollars sought by haulers who were forced out because they failed to win the initial district contracts.
Lawyer Jane Dueker, who represents three of the suing haulers, told the council Tuesday that it ignored numerous warnings that it could lose in court because of failure to abide with the two-year rule.
Burkett replied tersely that she did not appreciate such comments from Dueker, who has been a Democratic activist