The O’Fallon City Council voted 8-2 to override Mayor Hennessy’s veto of a bill approved last month that gave Republic Services a $5.1 million contract over 10 years for operation, maintenance and management of the city’s trash and recycle transfer station.
Councilmembers Rose Mack [Ward 2] and Mike Pheney [Ward 5] sustained the mayor’s veto during the Nov. 10 meeting.
During the meeting, the mayor read from his veto message: “The facts about the proposals to operate the city’s transfer state are stark and unavoidable. One proposal, from a responsible bidder and with terms guaranteeing the city against adverse consequences, was clearly in the best interests of the people of O’Fallon. For reasons which continue to be unclear and strained at best, a majority of the council rejected that obvious choice and instead decided to enter into a contract with the company that offered the worst terms for our residents.”
The mayor wrote that he tried to lead the city away from this path when he vetoed previous legislation in the summer on this topic.
“Now the council has doubled down by again approving a contract which will cost O’Fallon taxpayers money they should not have to pay. While this contract is an improvement from the terms the council accepted the first time, the simple fact is we had an opportunity to turn our transfer station from a drain on taxpayers to a profit center. Under the terms of the contract approved by a majority of the council, the city will pay Republic Services that [money]. Had the proposal by Waste Connections been approved, the city would have earned $785,000 of revenue.”
Resident Dan Glenzy spoke during citizens comments, telling the mayor and council that it’s agreements like this one that foster many people’s dislike of politicians. He encouraged the council to sustain the mayor’s veto of the bill.
“There is absolutely no justification in awarding this contract to Republic Services,” Glenzy said. He said he emailed the councilmembers who approved the contract to find out why they voted yes but none of them replied, not even Debbie Cook [Ward 5], the councilmember for whom he voted.
Resident Mary Laulo said she also wanted the council to sustain the mayor’s veto. She claimed Republic is in violation of the request for proposal, meeting just three out of eight criteria.
Finally, Patrick McLaughlin, vice president of Meridian Waste Solutions, Inc., spoke. His company was the third bidder for the contract.
“Why is this council going to throw $5 million of taxpayer money in the trash?”
He singled out councilmembers Tom “Duke” Herweck [Ward 1] and Rick Battelle [Ward 4] for approving this contract when their respective employers by day, Washington University in St. Louis and Express Scripts, would never agree to such a deal.
Battelle responded that McLaughlin hired a relative from the city the previous time the contract was up for bid and that’s why Meridian failed to get Battelle’s vote.
McLaughlin told the council that it was rumored in the trash industry that Republic has O’Fallon in its pocket now and that was just for starters. The current industry gossip is that Republic will take over waste hauling in O’Fallon as well.
Councilmember Jeff Schwentker [Ward 3] told Hennessy that his figures were inaccurate and only half-truths. Schwentker said Republic’s bid was the second best one, not the worst and that Hennessy forgot to include the royalty payments from Republic to the city. However, Schwentker was unable to cite payment amounts, causing a few people in the audience to snicker.
The next O’Fallon City Council meeting is Thursday, Dec. 8.