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By MARK EVANS
STE. GENEVIEVE HERALD
Ste. Genevieve will not be going to one required trash provider in the immediate future.
During a Dec. 14 work session, the board of aldermen voted 4-2 (with one undecided) not to pursue having a single provider in town.
The topic has been discussed in recent months, due to concerns over the wear and tear multiple trash trucks seem to be causing to city streets.
Since this summer, the city has been looking into possible options, including limiting the size trucks garage collectors can use on city streets or contracting for all city residents to use one provider.
Currently, residents are free to contract with whichever services they want. Republic, Freedom Waste (owned by Waste Management), Woody’s and Top Tier are all providing service in the city.
A survey was taken this summer on the topic. All the questions about having a single trash collector received very positive responses but one, residents being required to use the chosen provider. That, however, would almost definitely have to be part of the contract, if the city went with a single trash carrier.
The topic sparked considerable debate during the work session, as it had in previous meetings.
City Administrator Happy Welch reported that he had talked to Republic Resources about the subject. The company estimate the cost would be $11-$28 per resident. Republic currently has exclusive contracts with 25-30 cities in southeastern Missouri.
Ward 4 Alderman Joe Prince brought up issues the city of Wildwood has had since going to a single trash provider.
“They’re dealing with nothing but complaints about the deal negotiated by City Hall,” he said. “Their trash bills are higher than what they were told. They’re not getting as good a service. They would call the city. The city would say, well, you need to call the trash provider. They’d call the trash provider. They’d say, well, our contract with the city, you need to … And they’re getting a runaround on pickup.”
Prince continues to oppose the idea.
“The exact same stuff that I had talked about the last time we talked about this, I am still 100% against it,” he said. “You know, everybody’s got the right to pick and choose who they want. They can negotiate their own rate. A few years ago, one of my neighbors was complaining about how much she was paying for trash. She only fills her trash can about halfway each week and she ended up calling the company and wanted to go to bi-weekly pickup and they asked her why and she said, ‘Well because I don’t fill it up every week and I feel like I’m paying too much for a full container.’ They’d worked with her and they kept an eye on her trash and they went ahead and started picking, or kept picking it up every week but only, they cut her bill in half just due to the volume of trash she was coming in.
“The standard rate is what most people pay, but you have the right to negotiate your own contract with all these companies, and I don’t think government should be stepping in and doing that for us because it very seldom works.”
Ward 3 Alderman Joe Steiger argued that 95% of Republic’s customers have renewed their contracts noting that, “There are a lot of happy customers.”
Prince again complained of “government overreach.”
“If we’re going to start regulating trash, what are we going to start regulating next? What beer distributor can come into town, you know, to eliminate how many trucks are coming in to deliver beer?”
He said he is “totally against it.”
“I’m telling you, there are too many of my properties up in St. Louis that I used to manage and it was a nightmare, each single one of them that tried it,” he said.
Ward 2 Alderman Bob Donovan agreed with Prince that the current competing companies have kept costs down.
“I think the competitiveness that we’ve brought in by allowing these smaller companies to come in,” he said. “I mean, if you look around town, you’ll see a definite change in color of containers. And that’s the competitiveness that we’ve allowed to happen. And I think that’s key in small town. I think, again, it’s another government overreach we just don’t need to be involved with. I don’t think we have the people to take those calls, manage those calls. I think we’re fine the way we are.”
Some debate took place as to whether individual bills would decrease if the city went with one carrier.
Steiger said he knows of no one in town who is paying only $11 a month currently for trash pickup.
“There is nobody at $11 for trash service,” he said. “Not even close.”
“Well they can promise all they want, but it never turns out that way,” Prince said.
“But they’re getting it,” Steiger replied.”
Ward 4 Alderman Mike Raney asked Welch about having a quality assurance evaluator (QAE) to make sure good service was being provided.
Welch said the city currently does that with the streets and water work.
Raney said he didn’t feel the city was doing a good enough quality assurance job in dealing with Alliance Water Resources (who now handles street work in addition to water and wastewater) and that adding another entity to oversee would make things even more difficult.
“If we continue to talk about it and it gets to passing, I would need to know that all these gray areas are locked up pretty tight,” Raney said. “Like, we have somebody who runs herd over that. Like, one person is the focal point for that.”
A discussion also took place about putting a referendum on the ballot to let voters decide.
City Attorney Mark Bishop, however, expressed concern about that approach.
“You’re not authorized to spend the money in the election to form the vote in that community,” he said.
One option might be to hire a professional polling company to do a broader survey of residents.
In the end, Raney, Bennett, Donovan and Prince voted against pursuing a single-provider, while Steiger and Ward 1 Alderman Patrick Fahey voted for it. Ward 1 Alderwoman Kristi Cleghorn said she felt she needed more information before asking a decision.
After the vote, Steiger expressed frustration.
“We’re in favor of a lot of trucks and really high prices,” he said. “That’s what we’re in favor of.”
MAJOR CASE SQUAD
The board agreed that Welch would bring back an ordinance, authorizing the city to join the St. Francois County Major Case Squad.
Welch explained that it would not leave the city shorthanded.
“It’s a good way for an officer to get some training, work with others,” Welch said.
“They’ll get some exposure to stuff we don’t have here,” Police Chief Jasen Crump said.
He said the MCS was only activated once in 2023 and there is no cost.
“We activate the major Case Squad as the city or the department that activates them,” Crump said. “Our only responsibility is for that 24 to 48 hours that we have the Case Squad activated as we feed the members of the Major Case Squad while they’re working.”
Ward 1 Alderman Patrick Fahey asked what was considered a “major case.”
Crump said it could be a homicide with no suspect, a kidnapping, etc.
“Anything where you’re going to have manpower trying to track down leads and track down suspects,” Crump said. “Instead of having one or two guys like we would typically have, you’re going to have 12 guys in the matter of an hour.”
Ward 2 Alderman Eric Bennett, former police chief, noted that they also have equipment at their disposal that Ste. Genevieve does not have.
St. Francois County and all the municipalities therein, along with Washington and Iron counties are part of the Major Case Squad.