You’ve Got Trash

A millionaire landlord from Ladue ditches the city’s refuse service in favor of Republic Services. There’s only one problem: the private company isn’t picking up the trash. 

first published in the Journal of Decomposition, Aug. 20, 2012

“They need to get them cans out of the alley,” said the city worker, who sat behind the wheel of the big orange trash truck. The “cans” to which he referred are the blue dumpsters that now compete not only for space but also business with the St. Louis Refuse Division.

Two years ago, the city began charging property owners for trash pick up. The fee is $11 a month per unit. That amounts to $462 a year in additional expenses for the owners of four-family apartments. Under the ordinance, property owners can cancel the service if they show proof that they are having a private company haul the trash instead of using the city service.

After permitting private trash pick up, the law stipulates that the city will “inspect the property thereafter to confirm that the waste in fact is being collected.” But that’s not what’s happening in the 6300 block of Sutherland Avenue in the St. Louis Hills neighborhood, where trash has been accumulating for months. Plastic bags of rotting garbage have been festering all summer. The trash is now overflowing and spilling into the alley.

When contacted on Wednesday,  Aug. 15, 16th-Ward Alderwoman Donna Baringer advised Chris Howard,  the city’s neighborhood stabilization officer, to contact Allied Waste about emptying the neglected dumpsters. Allied Waste is owned by Republic Services.

In response to a constituent’s email, Howard promised to act swiftly. “This appears to be a serious problem  and I will do my best to rectify this asap,” wrote Howard.

Since the issue was brought to the attention of Baringer and Howard, the city refuse division has emptied its dumpsters twice, according to its regular schedule. But the Allied dumpsters remain full. The continued neglect of Allied Waste to collect the trash is attracting rodents and creating a public health problem in the immediate vicinity of the dumpsters.

Spokespersons for the mayor’s office and the Street Department could not be reached for comment. Allied Waste also could not be reached for comment. The introduction of competing privatized trash services without sufficient oversight or regulation has thrown a monkey wrench into the city’s otherwise efficient trash disposal service.

The overloaded dumpsters are located behind 6325-6327 Sutherland Avenue. That building is owned by a trust in the name of G. David Voges. Voges, 64,  is the heir to a St. Louis real estate fortune. He lives at 20 Log Cabin Lane in Ladue. Voges has participated in the past in a real estate awards program sponsored with the Regional Commerce and Growth Association. The program was implemented to spur positive publicity for the St. Louis real estate market. Voges’ late father, George F. Voges, was a longtime member of the Missouri Athletic Club, the exclusive businessmen’s organization.

No one answered the phone at Voges’ Ladue residence when an effort was made to contact him.

In 1998, the city cited a rental property owned by Voges because one of his tenants was living with 56 cats. The stench from the cat feces prompted neighbors to alert the city to the problem. Voges was quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as saying that the renter was a good tenant.

Voges also owns an a four-unit apartment at 6445 Nottingham Avenue, a few blocks from his building on Sutherland. Allied Waste has a dumpster at that location, too.  The alley is shared with single-family homeowners on adjacent Murdoch Avenue, including Ald. Barginer. Unlike the mess over on Sutherland, however, Allied Waste appears to pick up the trash regularly at the Nottingham address.

Back in the alley on Sutherland, the city trash man used the controls inside the truck to grab a city recycling bin, hoist it in the air and dump it into the back of the trash truck. He then vowed to tell his supervisor about Allied Waste’s neglected dumpsters. But he expressed little confidence that the issue would be resolved in a timely manner.

“The city isn’t going to do anything,” he said. Then he drove slowly away.

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