ST. LOUIS • The St. Louis Board of Aldermen approved a $3 increase to residents' monthly garbage fees on Friday, but doubts persist from opponents that the city will deliver on its promises to buy more trash trucks and improve garbage pickup in local neighborhoods.
At issue is an aging fleet of garbage trucks, with close to 30 of the city's 79 vehicles inoperable or not functioning properly, making it difficult to keep up with trash pickup.
Trash pickup services were once provided through the city's budget, at no additional cost to residents, but St. Louis began charging the existing user fee of $11 in 2010. They'll now have to fork over $14 a month.
Aldermen who voted against the bill questioned how the money collected from the existing fee has been spent over the last seven years. Upgrades to the city's fleet of trucks were promised when the city first began charging residents, they said.
"The service never really increased in quality," said 25th Ward Alderman Shane Cohn.
Those speaking out against the bill shared complaints they'd heard about the trash service, including overflowing dumpsters, illegally dumped trash attracting vermin and other pests and a failure to separate waste from recyclables.
"You should not be required to pay for services you don't get," said 1st Ward Alderwoman Sharon Tyus. "Trash trucks are a priority. The city didn't prioritize buying them."
It's a purchase Mayor Francis Slay's administration put off, said sponsoring Alderman Stephen Conway, 8th Ward.
"Every administration continues to kick the can down the road," Conway said. "I think (Mayor Lyda Krewson) has the right perspective on trying to correct some of these problems in the short term and long term."
Krewson has supported the fee increase, pointing to provisions within the bill intended to address illegal dumping throughout the city. Some of the extra revenue is earmarked for dumpsters, so aldermen don't have to tap into the capital improvement funds they receive for ward improvements.
Some of the money would also be spent on cameras to catch dumpers, and four full-time police officers to respond to dumping complaints.
Supporters of the proposal said it wasn't an easy vote, but a necessary one.
20th Ward Alderwoman Cara Spencer said the city should avoid privatizing its garbage pickup. Residents of other cities pay between $12 and $20 a month for trash services, she argued, and a higher fee would ensure garbage collectors won't be forced to work overtime because they're stuck with poorly functioning trucks.